Marijuana users searching for bigger highs may start injecting THC, doctor fears
For Thurstone's patients at Denver Health, 95 percent of whom are referred for issues concerning marijuana, "we felt the urinalysis ratio had been increasing, too. So we looked at our data as far back as we could -- 2007 -- and analyzed it over time. And we noticed a significant increase in the urinalysis ratios when we analyzed that data pre- and post-2009 and 2010, which is when we had the big commercialization of marijuana."
This period involved the growth of the medical marijuana industry, and while only a handful of patients under the age of eighteen have received red cards allowing them to legally use the substance, Thurstone maintains that plenty of them have been doing so anyhow. "That's right about when our kids started using medical marijuana," he says. "And that's when we saw a big jump in the THC ratio" -- from an average of 358 nanograms per milliliter of urine to 536 nanograms.
Here's a graphic depicting the difference.
"You could make the argument that increased marijuana potency is a good thing," Thurstone acknowledges, "because that would mean people were smoking less of it -- exposing themselves to the same amount of THC, but exposing themselves to it via less smoke. But the data were analyzing for publication is showing no, our young patients are actually exposing themselves to more THC."
Because of what he says is "widespread diversion of medical marijuana to teens," the patients coming to him "have more severe marijuana dependence and more symptoms than teens not using medical marijuana. And it's also consistent with the whole idea that kids are using higher potency marijuana that's probably more addictive. Anecdotally, we're hearing about patients who start with cheap, low-grade marijuana before moving on to more potent marijuana, and then other ways of consuming it: waxing marijuana, dabbing marijuana and chasing a bigger and bigger high."
Such actions echo the behavior of those using other drugs, Thurstone allows. "People who start with pills may graduate to snorting or smoking heroin -- and then to heroin injection. It's just a way to get a more intense high, because anything that's injected tends to reach the brain pretty quickly."
That's why Thurstone concludes his "Higher and Higher" article with the following line: "It is reasonable now to question how much longer it will be before we see injection use of THC -- especially as marijuana is legalized."
Thus far, however, Thurstone admits that none of his patients have taken this step.
Continue for more of our interview with Dr. Christian Thurstone about more potent marijuana and the prospect of injecting THC.