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Dope Alarm: Pot Potency Poses New Risk

 

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Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.sacbee.com/

The marijuana kids smoke at Snoopp Dogg concerts today is not the same pot their parents or grandparents used at Woodstock. Hydroponic growing techniques, in which the marijuana plant is cultivated in nutrient-rich solutions, and the selective use of seeds have produced a more potent form of marijuana that is showing up in cities and small towns across the country. Pot confiscated by police today has 66 percent more THC, its active ingredient, than the pot seized in the 1980s. It has five times the THC of marijuana smoked in the 1970s.

As the potency has increased for one of the nation's most popular and widely used illicit drugs, there has been a correspondingly sharp increase in the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits by young pot smokers. The number of 12-to 17-year-old youths admitted to hospitals because they had an adverse reaction to marijuana tripled between 1994 and 2001, the last year for which federal officials provide figures. They cite a number of different reason for the hospitalization. "Unexpected reaction" to the drug is the most common, followed by "overdose, chronic effects and accident or injury."

It's not just young people who are affected by the new high-octane pot. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month reports an 18 percent increase in marijuana abuse and dependency over the last decade. Both young people and those aging baby boomers who continued smoking pot beyond their college and young adulthood report problems of concentration and with performing tasks that they did not have in the past, and more difficulty weaning themselves from the drug.

While overall use rates remain fairly stable among adults - 4 percent of Americans 18 years or older report using pot about the same as in surveys in the early 1990s, -use among Hispanics and blacks has increased dramatically. Researchers offer a number of explanations.

Because pot use is high among college students, increased minority college attendance may account for their greater use of the drug. Also, a crackdown on underage drinking and tobacco use and the higher costs of cigarettes may have had the unintended effect of steering low-income users to marijuana.

All of this argues that Americans should think again about the pervasive notion that marijuana is relatively harmless. A growing body of evidence suggests that today's marijuana is not just more potent than that smoked by the baby boomers, but more cause for concern as well.


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