Drug use has undergone many changes over the last few years. A growing drug supply, younger drug users and highly concentrated active principles are some of the factors that need to be brought to the forefront.
With the upcoming legalization of cannabis in Canada on October 17, 2018, one question has been raised repeatedly throughout the course of debates: what should be the highest allowable level of THC (the active principle in cannabis)? This is a vital question given the changes in drug composition and concentration. THC is the molecule responsible for the psychotropic properties of cannabis. THC temporarily alters brain function; the higher a cannabis plant’s THC level, the more aggressive its effects on the brain. Increasing concentration levels are accordingly one of the main issues surrounding drug use, especially for youth, who are particularly vulnerable to their effects.
THC concentration has increased tenfold since 1965
The World Drug Report prepared at the request of the international community in 2015 notes short- and mid-term increases in the levels of active principles. Experts ascribe these increases to two factors: technical innovations in the manufacturing of synthetic drugs and competition on the black market.
As cannabis use among youth continues to increase, (lire: Effects and Harms of Cannabis: Misconceptions among Youth), so too do THC concentrations. The alteration of the cannabis plant genome in order to boost resistance and levels of active principles is the main reason behind higher THC levels. Producers create more potent varieties in response to consumer demand. Given the adverse effects of THC on the brain, and its highly addictive nature, Portage advocates vigilance with regard to its distribution in Canada (lire:Long and Short-Term Effects of Cannabis).
The most important change on the drug market is the production of new synthetic drugs. The opioid crisis in North America (lire: Overdose Crisis in Canada) has drawn attention to new, extremely potent substances such as Fentanyl, which has been linked to an increasing number of overdoses. New synthetic ingredients are found in many drugs. They are used to reduce the amount of certain ingredients in drugs in order to lower their cost and amplify their effects.
As a result, the strength and purity of drugs available on the market must be a cause for alarm.