How Does Cannabis Potency Impacts Mental Health and Addiction?


Cannabis is a well-known illegal substance that comes from the cannabis plant. Although considered illegal, the influence of cannabis products continues to increase as time goes by, with people using it for various reasons. Others use it for self-medication to relieve mental or physical symptoms. Cannabis gives them temporary relief, but it can result in harmful effects in the long term. 

The use of cannabis can make someone feel happy, relaxed, and laugh more than usual. On the other hand, it can cause hallucinations, mood swings, paranoia, delusion, and disorientation. Additionally, cannabis is associated with a heightened risk of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression and increases the likelihood of psychotic illnesses developing. The researchers from the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath (UK) systematically analyzed 20 studies consisting of 120,000 people to define the link between the types of cannabis people use and the addiction and mental health problems they have. This study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, states that high potency cannabis users are more prone to addiction than those who use low potency products. The study also suggests that those who use high potency cannabis are more likely to have psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. To further discuss the valuable findings of this study, this article will summarize the important highlights concerning the association between mental ill health, addiction, and the use of cannabis.


Cannabis potency pertains to the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis, the key psychoactive drug it contains. Past studies from the same team at Bath have found that the concentration of THC in cannabis has increased significantly over time, meaning that cannabis used today is typically much stronger than before. This suggests that the risk of harmful health outcomes to cannabis users will also potentially increase.

Studies also show that THC leads to cognitive impairment, intoxication, anxiety, and similar experiences to transient psychosis. A study also stated that 22 percent of cannabis users are assessed to meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder. Since cannabis is considered the third most commonly used drug and the concentration of THC in cannabis has increased globally, it is only important to understand the health impacts of higher potency cannabis products. Learning about the link between cannabis potency and health outcomes is very important in creating effective cannabis management in the medical field, guidelines for safer use, and implementing cannabis policies globally that can help mitigate the risks brought cannabis to people who use it. 

The Association of Cannabis Potency to Mental Ill Health and Addiction

After systematically reviewing 20 related studies about cannabis and mental health association, the study was able to derive the following findings and conclusions that add to a better understanding of the said topic:

  • A higher risk of psychosis is related to the use of cannabis, which is more potent than less potent cannabis, and this risk is larger in regular cannabis users.
  • Additionally connected to an earlier onset of psychosis, more psychosis symptoms, and a higher likelihood of relapsing are higher potency cannabis use. Therefore, the results of the systematic analysis imply that more THC exposure from using cannabis with a higher potency is linked to worse mental health outcomes. 
  • The use of cannabis with a higher potency was frequently linked to a greater chance of developing a cannabis use disorder, problems with previous cannabis use, and the severity of cannabis dependency.
  • Cannabis with a higher THC content may worsen the effects of anxiety than cannabis with a lower THC content.

The findings of this systematic analysis emphasize the possibility of an elevated risk of addiction and unfavorable mental health consequences of cannabis usage. The results support advice against using cannabis products with a higher potency for low-risk situations.

Although there is strong evidence linking cannabis to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, the authors noted several review limitations, such as the lack of unambiguous relationships between cannabis potency and other issues with mental health.

Minimizing Impacts of Cannabis Potency on Mental Health and Addiction

The study findings are important in minimizing the negative impacts of drug use on a person, recognizing how prevalently used cannabis is, and ensuring that people who use cannabis can make informed decisions that can help reduce its potential risks.

The authors recommend that, in light of the findings of this study, public health recommendations and policies be enacted, considered when developing educational materials, and used to manage cannabis use in clinical settings. More specifically, when regulating cannabis in legal markets, such as through caps or prices based on THC concentration, regulators should carefully examine cannabis potency.

Using lower-strength cannabis products by cannabis users is another way to reduce the harm caused by these products. People might use cannabis more securely if correct information about product contents and access to lower potency products were made available to customers in locations where it is legal to sell the drug.

Key Takeaways

Cannabis is commonly used by people to temporarily escape reality and find relief from mental and physical conditions they might be experiencing. Although it could give someone some comfort in the meantime, it can also worsen problems in the long run. The use of cannabis can be addictive and potentially lead to several mental illnesses, affecting the user’s overall well-being and life. 

There are several ways to help reduce the risk of cannabis potency, from global policy implementations down to the user’s initiative and support from families and friends. The best thing a person can do to help is to learn about the symptoms and treatments available concerning cannabis use and mental health conditions, encourage them to seek professional help, and be more understanding of their situation. 

Journal Reference:

Petrilli, K., Ofori, S., Hines, L., Taylor, G., Adams, S., & Freeman, T. P. (2022). Association of Cannabis Potency with mental ill health and addiction: A systematic review. The Lancet Psychiatry, 9(9), 736–750. 

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