A new study warns that many commercially available marijuana products are too strong for people seeking pain relief. Researchers said high-potency products may put users at risk of cannabis-use disorders.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that more than 90 percent of mairjuana products in medical dispensaries in the U.S. are much stronger than what clinical studies suggested. Many of these products are recommended by doctors for chronic pain relief.
“We know that high-potency products should not have a place in the medical realm because of the high risk of developing cannabis-use disorders, which are related to exposure to high THC-content products,” E. Alfonso Romero-Sandoval, lead study author and associate professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said in a press release.
The study aims to determine suitability of legal cannabis products for medicinal use based on their THC and CBD content. It also looked into the potency of marijuana offered in medical and recreational programs.
Researchers collected samples of more than 8,500 marijuana products from 653 dispensaries in the U.S. Some providers came from California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington.
Results showed that most of the commercially available products had more than 10 percent THC. Some marijuana even appeared with 15 percent or more of the compound.
“Several earlier studies showed that levels of up to 5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that provides pain relief as well as intoxication – were sufficient to reduce chronic pain with minimal side effects,” Romero-Sandoval said.
Intake of products with higher concentration of THC could increase the risk of dependency on the drug for pain relief. In some cases, people may develop tolerance more quickly, which could encourage them to increase THC levels for the same level of relief.
“Better regulation of the potency of medical marijuana products is critical,” Romero-Sandoval said. “The FDA regulates the level of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen that have dose-specific side effects, so why don’t we have policies and regulations for cannabis, something that is far more dangerous?”