Myth or Fact? “Marijuana Is Stronger These Days”

Facts in red. Myths crossed out.

It’s no myth: Marijuana today is much stronger than it was in the past.

Of the more than 500 chemicals in marijuana (weed), THC is the main one that causes a person to feel high. And THC levels in marijuana have been increasing.

  • In the early 1990s, the average amount of THC in marijuana seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was less than 4 percent; in 2018, it averaged more than 15 percent.
  • The average THC potency (or strength) in products available in some state marijuana dispensaries can be even higher.

This rise in THC levels could increase the negative effects of using marijuana, especially for people who are using it for the first time—and for young people, because their brains are still developing.

Here’s what else we’ve learned about today’s marijuana:

  • Marijuana concentrates and resins, which contain concentrated THC removed from the marijuana plant, have three to five times more THC than the plant itself does.
  • Some concentrated marijuana products, like dabs or waxes, may contain as much as 80 percent THC.
  • Smoking or vaping higher-potency marijuana can cause side effects, leading some people to seek help in emergency rooms. In fact, high doses of THC can trigger psychotic episodes. That’s one of the main causes for emergency department visits associated with marijuana use.
  • A person who tries marijuana edibles may get frustrated because they don’t produce a high as quickly as smoked marijuana does. So, the person may eat more and more of the edibles until the effects kick in, leading to an overdose. (With marijuana, “overdose” usually means feeling really sick and disoriented, not dying.)

The risk of dependence, addiction, and other negative consequences increases as a person uses marijuana more often, or as they’re exposed to high concentrations of THC. And using marijuana at a young age increases the risk for addiction later in life.

The good news is that teens can find science-based information about marijuana, and get the facts about marijuana’s risks.

Learn more: What is CBD?

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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