But as legal recreational sales have expanded … the suggestion that marijuana is addictive has often met with derision. Medical experts and even many proponents of legalized marijuana acknowledge it can be addictive — akin to alcohol or some prescription drugs. Estimates vary on the prevalence of what is known as cannabis use disorder. One study from researchers at Columbia University and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that nearly 3 in 10 users in 2012-2013 experienced cannabis use disorder.
In the 1990s, THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for inducing a high, constituted about 5 percent of a typical joint or smoke from a bong or pipe, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Today, the THC content in smokable marijuana in recreational products can range between 15 and 21 percent, while products popular with young people such as edibles and oils can contain well over 50 percent.
Higher THC levels could increase the risk the brain will get conditioned to want more of the high-potency marijuana, said Nora Volkow, NIDA’s director. Last year, a study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry found that higher potency THC was associated with an increased risk of cannabis use disorder.
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