Most UK cannabis 'super strength skunk'

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Most UK cannabis 'super strength skunk'

Post by notsofasteddie » Wed 28th Feb 2018 04:17 pm

Most UK cannabis 'super strength skunk'

By Michelle Roberts, Health editor, BBC News online
28 February 2018

Man in a marijuana mask
Getty Images

Most cannabis being sold illegally in the UK is super-strength skunk linked to a higher risk of psychotic mental health episodes, an analysis of 995 samples seized by the police suggests.

In 2016, 94% of police seizures were high-potency marijuana, compared to 85% in 2008 and 51% in 2005.

The drug contains more of the psychoactive ingredient THC than some other types of cannabis, such as hash.

Researchers from King's College London say users should be warned of this.

Types of cannabis

There are three main types of street cannabis - hash (hashish or resin), herbal cannabis (weed, grass or marijuana) and high-potency cannabis or skunk.

Hash is made from the resin of the plant, while herbal cannabis is made from the dried leaves and flowering parts of pollinated cannabis plants.

cannabis plant
Getty Images

Skunk is made from from unpollinated cannabis plants which naturally contain higher levels of THC - the substance that gives recreational users the 'stoned' feelings they seek from the drug, but can also cause nasty side effects, including paranoia and hallucinations.

Hash and herbal cannabis are considered to be milder than skunk. That's because they contain higher levels of a substance called CBD (cannabidiol) which experts say works as an anti-psychotic and counteracts some of the negative effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

How risky is skunk?

It's argued that cannabis with high levels of THC and no or very low CBD can lead to people developing psychiatric issues.

The skunk examined by the researchers from King's College London was high potency - about 14% THC.

High-potency skunk
King’s College London

Previous work by the same team, based on a study of 780 people, suggests the risk of psychosis is three times higher for users of potent "skunk-like" cannabis than for non-users.

The use of hash, a milder form of the drug, was not associated with increased risk of psychosis.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, there is sufficient evidence to show that people who use cannabis, particularly at a younger age, such as around the age of 15, have a higher than average risk of developing a psychotic illness, including schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

What did the study find?

The researchers say their latest work, published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, is the first comprehensive survey of cannabis strength published in the UK for nearly a decade.

They analysed police seizures of cannabis from London, Kent, Derbyshire, Merseyside and Sussex in 2005, 2008 and again in 2016.

Skunk was the dominant street drug over this time period, while the availability of weaker cannabis resin went down - from 43% in 2005 and 14% in 2008, to 6% in 2016.

THC levels in skunk remained fairly constant over the decade.

Cannabis and the law

Cannabis is a Class B drug - it's illegal to possess, give away or sell.

Possession is illegal whatever you're using it for, including pain relief. The penalty for possession is up to five years in prison.

Supplying can get you up to 14 years and an unlimited fine. Giving it to friends, even if they don't pay, is considered as supplying.

According to Home Office statistics, cannabis was the most commonly used drug in 2016/17, with 6.6% of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in the last year. That's around 2.2 million people.

What about medicinal cannabis?

A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.

Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.

Alfie Dingley and his mum Hannah Deacon
Maggie Deacon/PA Wire

MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.

Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.

Cannabis oil is a type of medical cannabis that has made the headlines most recently in the UK because of the case of Alfie Dingley, a young boy with severe epilepsy who can suffer up to 30 violent seizures a day.

His mother, Hannah Deacon, has been fighting for the courts to allow her son, who is six, to get the treatment in Britain.


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Re: Most UK cannabis 'super strength skunk'

Post by notsofasteddie » Thu 1st Mar 2018 01:12 pm

Is The United Kingdom Being Flooded With High Potency Cannabis?

Brits want better weed, a new study shows. But is the United Kingdom being flooded with high potency cannabis?

by Adam Drury
February 28, 2018

Adam Drury 


Even though the consumption of cannabis has fallen in the UK in recent years, weed is still the most popular illegal drug there. But it’s not the number of people using cannabis that’s triggering a new round of anti-cannabis concern-trolling in the UK. Instead, some are sounding the alarm over a new study that claims marijuana has become so strong it puts users at risk of developing psychotic disorders. Is the United Kingdom being flooded with high potency cannabis? And does it really pose the mental health dangers some experts say it does?

A study published Wednesday in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis is once again raising concerns about cannabis use and mental health in the UK, where the drug is prohibited. In it, researchers aimed to update the findings of a 2008 study that examined the potency of “street cannabis.”

The current study analyzed 460 samples of cannabis from the same areas of the UK assessed in the 2008 report. The gas chromatography results indicate that illicit cannabis in the UK hasn’t gotten any stronger; there’s just more of it on the market.

In 2005, one study found that THC concentrations fell around a 13.9 percent median. According to the new study, the concentration of THC was just marginally higher, at 14.2 percent. So from the looks of it, nothing has changed in terms of the potency of cannabis in the UK. And 14.2 percent isn’t that high, considering many strains in the US are capable of topping 20 percent THC.

Yet the results of the 2018 study found something else that’s interesting. While THC levels have remained essentially the same, levels of cannabidiol (CBD) dropped significantly over the last decade.

CBD, a major phytocannabinoid with no psychoactivity, is the compound researchers believe imparts many of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis use. Furthermore, CBD acts as an antagonist to THC. From a recreational perspective, this means CBD can help counteract some of the stronger effects of THC. Strains with a balanced or significant content of CBD can, therefore, provide users with a more mellow high.

Yet the samples analyzed in the 2018 study showed significantly decreased CBD contents and lower CBD:THC ratios. And this means that despite similar THC levels, the strains in the UK today could create stronger psychoactive effects. Effectively, then, they are more potent.

For American recreational cannabis users familiar with dabbing and smoking flowers with 25 percent THC concentrations, 14.2 percent THC may not seem very potent. But in the UK, this represents some of the strongest cannabis available. Colloquially, people in the UK call this kind of weed “skunk.”

In the UK, however, “skunk” has a totally different connotation than it does in the US. Instead of indicating a certain strain with a pungent aroma, “skunk” weed in the UK refers to any kind of intentionally cultivated plants. If it’s seedless (i.e. female) and flower, it’s “skunk.”

Interestingly, hyperbolic concerns over “skunk” weed have a decades-old history in the UK. Many tabloid presses will run stories about spurious studies that warn of widespread psychosis among cannabis users. Calling cannabis with 14.2 percent THC “super-weed” is, to put it mildly, a bit of an overstatement. Classic reefer madness.

However, the advent of home cultivation trends and the popularity of more potent strains has led to an influx of stronger weed on the market.

The study in Drug Testing and Analysis, though, doesn’t overreach what its evidence shows. The researchers clearly state that “high-potency varieties of cannabis […] may have concerning implications for public health.”

May have. That’s hardly “high-risk super-strength skunk,” as the headline in SkyNews puts it. Neither is it “seriously bad news” that “most of Britain’s weed is now super-strong skunk,” like Metro says.

The Final Hit: Is The United Kingdom Being Flooded With High Potency Cannabis?

So let’s sum up: is the United Kingdom being flooded with high potency cannabis? Yes, the lower CBD concentrations in cannabis available in the UK does, from a psychopharmacological perspective, make it more potent. But THC levels have remained steady for at least a decade.

And yes, official statistics do show that more Brits are consuming this kind of cannabis. But what some concern-trolling “experts” are hyping as ultra-dangerous super-duper-skunk most might see as just better weed.

Cannabis users in the UK are tired of smoking shitty weed, and the numbers prove it.

As for the concerns over mental health: ending prohibition and establishing a regulated commercial market would have the benefit of allowing researchers to comprehensively study the effects of cannabis use. Indeed, some studies show that high doses of THC can trigger psychotic disorders in people already at risk for developing them. Let’s find out more about that, instead of spreading exaggerated and unfounded claims about the dangers of cannabis.


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