Researchers have found that people who use strains of cannabis high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in the plant, are almost twice as likely than those using low-THC varieties to have an anxiety disorder.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data for the ‘Children of the 90s’ study. Collected since the early 1990s, the research contains data on over 13,000 people in south-west England from birth until the age of 24. At that age, the researchers asked them whether they’d recently used cannabis and what kind they had used.
The researchers also asked participants about their usage of other drugs, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety, and whether they had ‘psychotic’ experiences like hallucinations.
All in all, they found that 60% of the participants had used cannabis at least once by the age of 24. Meanwhile, 30% said they had used cannabis within the last year.
When looking at how different varieties of cannabis correlated with mental health reports, they found that those using cannabis high in THC were over four times as likely than others to report cannabis misuse. The likelihood of experiencing anxiety disorder was also twice as high for these users, as well as the likelihood of having psychotic experiences.
Although these findings may provide some insight into how different levels of THC may influence behavior, the researchers warn that their results are not conclusive. This comes as their findings were based on self-reports. Moreover, they were not able to measure the THC contents of the cannabis strains consumed by each participant and so had to rely on rough approximations.
Nevertheless, the researchers say that their findings suggest that using strains of cannabis with lower THC contents, and not using it too often, may reduce some of the harms generally associated with the substance.