Menu Close

The roles of cannabis potency and gender in cannabis dependence and anxiety in recent cannabis users with trauma exposure histories

Thomas Snooks
Dalhousie University

Co-Authors: Phil Tibbo2, Pablo Romero- Sanchiz3, Sarah DeGrace1, Haley Bernusky4, Sean Barrett1, Sherry Stewart1
1Dalhousie University, 2Nova Scotia Health Authority, 3University of Sussex, 4University of York

Over the past 20 years, levels of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis have significantly increased while levels of cannabidiol (CBD) have increased much less in comparison. Cannabis with higher THC potency (commonly assessed via THC:CBD ratio) may increase the risk for cannabis dependence and exacerbate anxiety. However, few studies of cannabis potency effects on cannabis dependence and anxiety have examined gender moderation. Additionally, there are issues with how cannabis potency is calculated via THC:CBD ratio that may contribute to inconsistencies in the literature. To address these concerns, N = 199 (55.8% women) recent cannabis users (>1g in the past month) with trauma histories and whose biological sex and gender identity were congruent – a group at high risk for anxiety and cannabis dependence – completed an online survey including a measure of self-reported THC and CBD levels in participants’ typically-used cannabis products. Cannabis potency was measured by THC:CBD ratio (THC%/CBD%) and by relative THC proportion (THC%/[THC%+CBD%]). The Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test-Revised (CUDIT-R) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) assessed cannabis dependence and anxiety, respectively. Consistent with previous research, cannabis potency was significantly, positively correlated with cannabis dependence, p = .002, and anxiety levels, p = .020, but only when assessed via THC proportion and not THC:CBD ratio. Additionally, women reported significantly higher anxiety levels and THC:CBD ratios than men. However, no significant gender differences were found in the relationships of either potency measure with any of the outcome variables. Results are consistent with a convergence of previously reported gender differences in cannabis dependence among recent cannabis users. Findings also point to the importance of considering relative THC proportion as a superior predictor of adverse cannabis outcomes than THC:CBD ratio in both men and women.