NHS: Stronger cannabis not more addictive

A study in the Netherlands has provoked the National Health Service of the UK to publish the news that higher potency cannabis is no more addictive than any cannabis.

One of the main arguments of prohibitionists, usually heard from the Government and seen in the mainstream newspaper pages is that cannabis is much stronger than it used to be, now that has been dismissed and proved as a fallacy. There has always been really strong cannabis available, there is just more of it on the market now because low potency cannabis tends to either be poorly grown or doesn’t meet the needs of those buying and using it. The prohibitionist logic then turns to claim that high strength cannabis is more addictive than low potency cannabis. Well, someone did a study to see if there was any correlation.

The University of Amsterdam study was undertaken by the Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrect, and the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) and was funded by ZonMW a Dutch organisation focusing on health research and development.

In short the study found out that no, the strength of cannabis does not change the level of dependence. In fact it showed that people who used a stronger product bettered monitored their use by using less cannabis in their joints and inhaling less of the smoke. The methods of the study showed that this did not decrease their exposure to THC .

Participants were recruited from “coffeeshops” and were part of a wider study including 600 adults in total.

Researchers at the University claimed that 1/10 cannabis users will form a dependency although the study does not indicate that this dependency is problematic. 50% of people who drink coffee from using as little as 100mg a day (one cup) show withdrawal symptoms that can last from a couple of days to a couple of weeks or even longer.

The percentage of people in the whole of society that become dependent on a substance is between 1/9 and 1/11.

It would be interesting to see this study done in places that do not have access to a varied range of strains, potencies and prices to see if that effects the rate of dependency, this would benefit policy makers looking at the evidence to reduce any potential harms to users. The current stance of prohibition and the war on drugs – especially cannabis consumers does not stop people using it after all.

The NHS article does point out that there are other reasons for dependency also including family background, and genes. The study does not indicate however if participants had a previous mental health problem or had previously been addicted to another substance. This would have been a reasonably useful factor to have encountered as many people, sometimes unknowingly, use cannabis as a means of reducing harder drug and alcohol use which has many more detrimental side-effects ) to it’s long term use (including to brain functioning and other vital organs like the liver and heart) than cannabis.


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