Public Health and Safety

THC Levels in Med & Rec States: Pain Management

Pain is the leading reason cited why people use medical marijuana in the United States. Marijuana with low potency levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), i.e. under 5-10%, has shown some efficacy in pain management. However, that’s in stark contrast to the advertised high THC potency levels of marijuana products sold both in medical & recreational dispensaries. In both arenas, cannabis based products are being sold with THC levels well in excess of 15% and higher. These higher potency products may be unsuitable for medicinal use. Researchers are unclear of the role that Cannabidiol (CBD), despite its general popularity, actually has in pain management.

Researchers (Cash et.al.) examined the advertised potency levels of both THC & CBD products found in specific states with legalized programs. After reviewing over 8,000 products online, the average THC levels in medical states was 19.2% and 21.5% in recreational states. The authors expressed concerns that patients could be at risk for “acute intoxication or long-term side effects.” Given the average THC levels were 2 – 3 times higher than levels found to be effective in previous pain management studies, the authors noted additional risks of adverse mental health outcomes and elevated risks of medical complications from high potency marijuana.

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