Marijuana poses more risks than many realize

  • Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
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Excerpt from USA Today's Marijuana poses more risks than many realize.

Q. How have the risks of marijuana changed in recent years?

A. Marijuana products today are far stronger than in the past, which may explain why more people are overdosing or getting into car accidents, Volkow says.

The concentration of the main active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – has quadrupled since the 1980s, increasing to about 12% today, according to a June article by Volkow in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Some of the new, edible marijuana products – from cookies to chocolates – can be 10 times stronger than traditional joints, Wright says.

Because smoked marijuana affects people so quickly — reaching the brain in only 7 seconds – users often feel satisfied after a few drags, so that they don't actually smoke very much, Wright says.

But because a cookie's full effects may not set in for an hour or more, people may end up consuming far more THC than they intended to, Wright says.

Read the full Q&A at USA Today's Website.