The cannabis we have today is nothing like the kind Cheech and Chong used to toke. THC levels have soared to unimaginable heights with most strains sitting around 20% or higher. One study found that THC levels averaged about 4% in 1995 and 14% in 2014. Now there’s even concentrates with 90% THC. All of this is due to the incredible innovation of cannabis producers, but is it a positive change?
Not everyone responds well to a lot of THC. For example, since the legalization of cannabis in Colorado the number of weed-related hospital trips (due to panic from consuming too much) has jumped from 803 to 100,000. That’s a lot of people being affected.
There are other medical concerns beyond a panic attack, however. Higher THC does not necessarily mean better medicine. In fact, it can mess with your brain chemistry. For instance, cannabis increases your dopamine production which can in-turn affect the balance of your endocannabinoid system. Dopamine is involved in mood regulation, reward, and also addictive behavior.
Another neurotransmitter that’s affected is something called GABA. It’s involved in all sorts of bodily functions like mood, stomach health, anxiety regulation and addictive behavior. THC blocks this inhibitor. So when you’re exposed to a potent strain you may be more likely to have anxiety or even addiction. CBD actually increases the release of GABA, helping to protect against issues higher THC products may cause.
Cannabis addiction is a controversial subject. There are those who believe cannabis is completely addiction-free, but there’s evidence to the contrary. Increased THC means an increased tolerance and more of the plant may be needed to achieve the same effects.
The main thing to take away from all of this is that everything is better in moderation. If you are one of the people who doesn’t respond well to high-THC strains, consider trying lower THC options or add in some CBD. It’s also important to remember that quality cannabis depends on a number of elements including the presence of terpenes. So just because a strain claims to be top-shelf due to high THC content, please remember that everyone is different and high THC products may not be your best option.
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.