High Strength Cannabis More Likely to Cause Addiction


The question of whether or not cannabis is addictive has long been debated. New research draws a connection between high-strength cannabis and the inability of many to stop using it.

Using Cannabis with High Concentrations of THC Increases Addiction Risk

Is marijuana addictive? Or is it non-addictive? These questions have been debated for years. Researchers and scientists at the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom sought to end the debate by systematically analyzing the relationship between the types of cannabis people use and their addiction and mental health problems. The researchers examined 20 studies involving almost 120,000 people to ensure their data was reliable.

After alcohol and nicotine, cannabis is the most widely used drug in the world, with one in five people between the ages of 16 and 24 saying they use it.

But what happens when one of the most popular drugs in the world is far more potent today than it ever used to be? People who use more potent cannabis are more likely to develop an addiction to it and to experience unwanted mental and physical harm than those who use low-potency strains of the drug.

Young man addicted

In the past decade, treatment center admissions for cannabis addiction soared by 75%, even though usage rates have only slightly increased. That suggests the cannabis of today is more potent than cannabis from a decade ago.

The researchers argue that every nation needs to understand these basic truths because while each country has its unique approach to the legal status of cannabis, ALL nations have citizens who use cannabis. Public health responses must be drafted in light of the increasingly addictive nature of the drug.

The study authors also highlighted how the higher the potency of the cannabis being used, the more likely users are to develop serious mental and psychological problems and side effects of the drug. That suggests its usage at higher potencies is far more dangerous than previously known.

Finally, the researchers argued that cannabis should not be considered harmless simply because it does not create life-threatening overdose risks, withdrawal symptoms, and other critical health issues like some drugs. The researchers argue that because the drug is addictive, its consumption can set users in a direction over which they have no control, thusly inviting a host of both psychological and physical maladies.

The Side Effects of Cannabis Use

The study authors of the above research often mentioned “side effects of cannabis,” but what are the side effects of using cannabis? One can reason that side effects would be more pronounced when using a more potent strain of a drug, but what types of side effects do cannabis users open themselves up to?

According to public health institutions like the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cannabis’s short-term side effects include:

  • Experiencing the passage of time differently
  • Altered senses, including seeing colors differently
  • Changes in mood, often unpredictably or inexplicably
  • Impaired body movement, including reduced coordination
  • Difficulty with thinking, problem-solving, and cognitive function
  • Impaired memory faculty, both with short-term and long-term memory
  • Psychosis (the risk for this disorder is highest with regular use of marijuana)
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and seeing things that are not there (when taken in high doses)

Some of the long-term effects of marijuana usage include the following:

  • Vaping cannabis has been linked to long-term lung problems, which can be harmful and fatal.
  • When used often and in high dosages among young people, cannabis can affect how the brain forms.
  • In younger users, marijuana affects brain function, impairing thinking, memory, and learning faculty.
  • Marijuana use can also affect IQ, causing a drop in IQ when people use marijuana often and for long periods.
  • Social anxiety, depression, suicide, and schizophrenia have been reported as potential side effects of cannabis.
  • Smoking marijuana can also damage the lungs, increasing the risk of bronchitis, stroke, heart disease, and scarring.

The above are by no means complete lists of short-term or long-term effects of using marijuana. But one should understand that these effects (and many others) can occur under any circumstance. Still, they are especially likely to have devastating effects when people use high-strength cannabis.

Is Treatment an Option? Yes, Cannabis Addiction is Treatable.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, at least 17% of addiction treatment center admissions in the United States are for cannabis, the second-most commonly cited drug of choice. Only alcohol is cited as a drug of choice more often than cannabis.

People are receiving treatment for cannabis addiction. People should not be led to believe by supporters of cannabis use that the drug is not addictive and that people won’t need to seek treatment for it. Cannabis is addictive, and those who use it and who cannot stop should seek help at professional drug rehab centers or face serious health consequences and long-term harm.

If you know someone who uses cannabis and who cannot stop, please help them enter a residential treatment facility as soon as possible.

Sources Cited:

  • TheLancet. “Association of cannabis potency with mental ill health and addiction: a systematic review.” The Lancet, 2022. thelancet.com
  • NIDA. “What is Marijuana?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019. nida.nih.gov
  • CDC. “What We Know about Marijuana.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023. cdc.gov
  • NIDA. “Drug Facts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011. nida.nih.gov



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.