According to research out of the University of Bristol, users of high-potency cannabis are four times more likely to report associated problems, and twice as likely to report anxiety disorder. This is compared to users of lower-potency strains.

The research was published this week in JAMA Psychiatry and used data from Children of the 90s, a long-term health study that recruited more than 14,000 pregnant women and their babies born in and around Bristol in the early 1990s. The study has been following their health and development ever since.

The study looked at data collected from participants aged 24 years who had reported using cannabis in the previous year, of which 13 per cent reported use of high-potency cannabis. Participants were also asked about their usage, and those who self-reported two or more of the Cannabis Abuse Screening Test (CAST) items within the past year were classified as having recently experienced problems as a result of their cannabis use.

Researchers compared this data to reported mental health symptoms at age 24 as well as early symptoms of mental health collected when participants were younger.

Lead author Dr. Lindsey Hines, Senior Research Associate from Bristol Medical School stated, “We know that people who use cannabis are more likely to report mental health problems than those who don’t use cannabis, but we don’t fully understand how recent increases in the strength and potency of cannabis affects this.

This study gives us an estimate of the increased likelihood of mental health problems from use of high-potency cannabis, compared to use of lower-potency cannabis, and we are able to account for the effect that people’s early adolescent mental health symptoms may have on this relationship.”

Dr. Hines continued: “People who use cannabis are more likely to report mental health problems than those who don’t use cannabis, but reducing the potency and regularity of their cannabis use may be effective for lessening likelihood of harms from use. In countries where cannabis is sold legally, limiting the availability of high-potency cannabis may reduce the number of individuals who develop cannabis use disorders, prevent cannabis use escalating to a regular behaviour, and reduce impacts on mental health. In countries like the UK, where we are not able to limit the availability of high-potency cannabis, we should make sure there is good treatment and support for those who develop problems from cannabis use.”

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