Chronic, Heavy Use and the Increasing Potency of Marijuana

Marijuana Potency Increase Graph
Levels of THC in seized marijuana between 1983 and 2009

Chronic or heavy use of marijuana or use of high potency weed (which much of it is nowadays) is associated with its own more severe set of problems. Over time, the average potency of marijuana has soared. Potency is measured by how much of the plant is composed of THC. This graph shows the average levels of THC found in seized samples of marijuana between 1983 and 2009.

Some varieties of marijuana have a much higher potency than this average. Hydroponic farming (defined as “growing plants in a water and nutrient solution, without soil”) further increases potency. The highest potency on record was from a sample that consisted of 37% THC. The higher the potency, the more serious the physical and mental effects and the higher risk of developing a complete addiction to this complex substance.

Man Smoking Marijuana

Chronic use or consumption of higher potency marijuana can result in more severe harmful effects the user never intended.

These include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Strongly fluctuating emotional states
  • Paranoia
  • Fragmented thoughts
  • An illusion of insight but with a real-world dulling of attention
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Increased heart rate—up to 160 beats a minute
  • Fainting
  • Depersonalization (the state in which one loses the sense of his own identity and his thoughts when one’s feelings seem like they belong to someone else)

The 1998 report Cannabis and Cognitive Functioning noted that the impairments of marijuana can last weeks, months or even years after use stops.

Marijuana Lungs

Because of the way marijuana is smoked, with the smoke being drawn deeply into the lungs and held for a period of time, it is estimated that smoking three to four joints a day has the equivalent effect of smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes a day.

Many people mix the use of marijuana with other drugs. They sometimes follow specific formulas, trying to create a particular high that they’ve been told results from that combination. The primary drugs being mixed with marijuana are alcohol, opiates (heroin or prescription painkillers), methamphetamine, and cocaine.


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