Higher-Potency Cannabis Use Associated With Cannabis Use Problems and Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Young Adults

Cannabis use is associated with poor mental health outcomes, and higher cannabis potency may be associated with greater mental health risks. This cross-sectional study examined the association of higher-potency cannabis use and substance use and mental health measures in a UK birth cohort of 24-year old participants who reported past-year cannabis use (N=1087). The main exposure variable of most commonly used cannabis type was self-assessed and dichotomized by higher potency (“skunk/other stronger types of herbal cannabis”) and lower potency (“herbal cannabis/marijuana” or “hashish/resin/solid” or “other”).

  • Higher-potency cannabis use was significantly associated with an increased frequency of cannabis use (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 4.38), and increased odds of cannabis use problems (aOR, 4.08) and generalized anxiety disorder (aOR, 1.92), compared with lower-potency cannabis use.
  • Higher-potency cannabis use was NOT associated with use of other illicit substances, alcohol use disorder, major depression, and psychotic experiences, after adjusting for childhood sociodemographic factors, mental health measures during adolescence, and frequency of cannabis use.

Comments: Higher-potency cannabis use was associated with increased frequency of cannabis use, cannabis use problems, and generalized anxiety disorder in this cross-sectional study, but the direction of causation is unclear. Given the growing availability of high-potency cannabis, further study of its risks is needed.

Tae Woo (Ted) Park, MD

Reference: Hines LA, Freeman TP, Gage SH, et al. Association of high-potency cannabis use with mental health and substance use in adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(10):1044–1051.

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