Causes & Effects of High THC Marijuana Abuse

Understanding High THC Marijuana Abuse

Learn about high THC marijuana addiction and abuse

Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is most commonly referred to by the abbreviation THC, is the psychoactive element in cannabis, or marijuana. Marijuana, which is derived from the cannabis sativa plant, is a natural product, but advances in cultivation techniques have enabled growers to produce strains of marijuana with increasingly more potent THC levels. These high THC strains of marijuana are significantly more powerful than the versions of this drug that were common in recent decades.

In addition to higher THC strains of marijuana, the increased popularity of THC-infused food products, or edibles, also exposes individuals who abuse these substances to significantly more intense effects.

When a person abuses high THC strains of marijuana, either by smoking the drug or by eating it in an edible format, he or she may experience a variety of disorienting and potentially distressing effects. The abuse of high THC marijuana can lead to impaired coordination, decreased ability to perceive time and space, cognitive delays, lethargy, and hunger. High THC strains of marijuana will elicit more powerful delays, distortions, and impairments than will cannabis with lower levels of THC. Abusing high THC levels of marijuana can also put a person at risk of addiction.

As is the case with other forms of addiction, becoming dependent upon high THC strains of marijuana can be characterized by loss of control over the amount and frequency of one’s substance abuse, needing greater amounts of the drug in order to experience the desired effects, and the onset of painful physical and/or psychological symptoms when one tries to stop using high THC strains of marijuana.

A person who has become dependent upon high THC strains of marijuana may be best served by entering a rehab center. In rehab, a person will work with experienced professionals to make the lasting behavioral changes that will enable him or her to resist the compulsion to abuse high THC marijuana. The best rehab centers provide comprehensive support to prepare individuals for successful lives, free from the chains of addiction to high THC marijuana strains.


High THC marijuana abuse statistics

According to a study that was presented at the 2016 edition of the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), THC levels in marijuana have increased by as much as 300% in recent decades. This study, which involved tests conducted by state-certified laboratories in Colorado, showed that some strains of marijuana today consist of 30% THC, up from a standard of 10% THC in the 1980s. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that about 19.5% of Americans will abuse marijuana in a typical month, and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that marijuana abuse was involved in more than 455,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2011.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for high THC marijuana abuse

As is the case with most if not all forms of substance abuse and addiction, a person’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to high THC strains of marijuana may be affected by a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the following:

Genetic: Significant research strongly suggests a family component to substance abuse and addiction. For example, if your parents or siblings have abused or become addicted to high THC strains of marijuana, you may have an increased risk of similar problems. According to the American Psychiatric Association, or APA, as much as 80% of risk variance for cannabis addiction may be due to genetics.

Environmental: Using marijuana or tobacco at a young age can increase a person’s risk for developing an addiction to high THC strains of marijuana, which is known clinically as cannabis use disorder, later in life. Other environmental influences that can raise a person’s risk for a problem with high THC marijuana include having a chaotic, abusive, or otherwise unstable home life during childhood, experiencing failure in school, and associating with peers who abuse high THC marijuana.

Risk Factors:

  • Youth (abusing high THC marijuana prior to age 21)
  • Family history of mental illness and/or substance abuse
  • Abusing high THC marijuana, tobacco, or other substances at a young age
  • Conduct disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Personal history of trauma
  • Low socioeconomic level

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of high THC marijuana abuse

Substance abuse may reveal itself via a range of signs and symptoms, with no single warning sign common to all who struggle with this problem. However, the following are common signs that a person has been abusing high THC strains of marijuana:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Abusing high THC strains of marijuana when it is obviously dangerous to do so, such as immediately prior to operating a motor vehicle
  • Continuing to abuse high THC strains of marijuana even after experiencing negative outcomes related to prior abuse of this substance
  • Multiple unexplained absences from work or school
  • Diminished performance at work or in school
  • Having rolling papers, a water pipe, or other items that are commonly used to abuse high THC marijuana
  • Acting with uncharacteristic risk, recklessness, or danger
  • Being deceptive or uncharacteristically secretive regarding one’s whereabouts or activities
  • Associating with a new peer group
  • Prioritizing abuse the abuse of high THC strains of marijuana over friends, family, and significant activities

Physical symptoms:

  • Increased appetite
  • Pervasive sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Balance and/or coordination problems
  • Impaired motor functions
  • Delayed reactions

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Impaired cognition
  • Poor judgment
  • Lack of concentration and/or focus

Psychosocial symptoms: 

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Withdrawal
  • Mood swings


Effects of high THC marijuana abuse

When a person continues to abuse high THC strains marijuana, and fails to seek effective professional treatment at a rehab center or similar program, he or she may experience a broad range of negative outcomes, such as the following:

  • Damage to heart and/or lungs
  • Bronchitis
  • Diminished immune system functioning
  • Physical injury due to impaired cognition, perception, and/or coordination
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Other types of substance abuse
  • Cognitive delays
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Family discord
  • Strained or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

Dual Diagnosis

High THC marijuana abuse and dual diagnosis

Individuals who abuse high THC strains of marijuana may develop cannabis use disorder. They may also have an increased likelihood of developing certain additional mental health disorders. The simultaneous presence of multiple disorders is referred to as dual diagnosis.

Among people who have cannabis use disorder, dual diagnosis concerns often involve the following disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders

Untreated dual diagnosis can derail your efforts to end your abuse of high THC strains of marijuana. However, when you get professional help at a center that can assess the full scope of your needs, and provide comprehensive dual diagnosis programming if necessary, you increase your ability to achieve a healthy drug-free future.

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of high THC marijuana withdrawal and overdose

When a person has become dependent upon a high THC strain of marijuana, trying to stop abusing this drug may result in the onset of a number of withdrawal symptoms, such as the following:

  • Intense cravings for high THC strains of marijuana
  • Depression
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Problems with concentration or focus
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Lost appetite


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