You may have read articles online that depict skunk as a dangerous, ultra-strong and highly potent strain of cannabis which causes psychosis and schizophrenia.
Is that true?
In this article we explain the truth of what skunk cannabis really is and if it is dangerous strain of cannabis.
True skunk cannabis originates from the USA and dates back to around the 1970s. Mountain hashish strains from Afghanistan were crossbred with Sativa strains from central/south America. The resulting plant was then developed with modern growing methods, such as HID lamps and hydroponics, in order to produce a high THC content.
Some people seem to think skunk is an entirely different type of drug, which is incorrect. Skunk is simply a strain of cannabis with a pungent aroma and a high THC content. Cannabis containing high THC and low CBD will induce a strong high in users compared to strains with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD.
In the USA, skunk is a word commonly used to describe the aroma of certain cannabis strains, not to classify a strain as potent as many in the UK do.
Misconceptions regarding Skunk
"Skunk is 10 to 20 times stronger than 'normal' cannabis"
The average THC content of cannabis plants is somewhere near 10-15%. Skunk strains of cannabis can contain up to around 18% THC. Skunk is not a super potent strain of cannabis. There are strains of cannabis found in the USA which contain upwards of 25% THC, yet the US media do not portray high THC strains as destructive, psychosis causing drugs.
"Super high strength skunk causes psychotic episodes"
There are articles online which claim that skunk is a powerful drug which will put you at risk of developing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis and delusions. However these articles do not have any solid evidence to back-up their claims.
The evidence in the articles are only correlative and do not contain any cause-effect evidence, which is necessary to prove a point as valid. Correlative studies only establish that there is a possibility that cannabis could cause schizophrenia.
Evidence has now shown that the possible correlation does not exist: People are born with schizophrenia in their genes. If a person has schizophrenia but has not been diagnosed, THC can trigger the symptoms of schizophrenia, however it is not the cause, as they already had schizophrenia prior to cannabis use.
THC can exasperate schizophrenia symptoms, however CBD, another primary cannabinoid in cannabis, is thought to be effective in relieving the symptoms of schizophrenia/psychosis. So to say cannabis as a whole has a negative effect on psychosis is incorrect.
In 2009, Professor David Nutt, a former government adviser, noted that evidence shows a decline in psychosis and schizophrenia in British citizens, yet cannabis use has not declined at the same rate. Cannabis potency has increased slightly over the years, so it is evident that higher strength cannabis does not increase the risk of developing psychosis.
"Skunk causes hallucinations"
Some believe that cannabis strains with high percentages of THC, such as skunk, cause hallucinations. While cannabis use can alter your perception, you will not experience hallucinations as you would with other psychedelic substances like LSD or magic mushrooms.
LSD and magic mushrooms contain chemicals known as serotonergics which effect serotonin uptake in the brain and in turn produce hallucinations.
Cannabis does not contain any serotonergics nor does THC affect brain processing in the same way as hallucinogenic chemicals. Don’t mix up altered perception with hallucinations. Cannabis can affect the optic nerve and cause blurred vision or slight changes in light, however this is not a hallucination.
When smoked or vaped, even the highest THC content cannabis will not cause hallucinations. That said, if a high quantity of edibles are consumed, you may experience hallucinogenic effects. When smoking/vaping, THC is absorbed into the bloodstream, whereas edibles are broken down by the liver, which produces 11-Hydroxy-THC from THC. 11-Hydroxy-THC produces a much stronger, intense and longer lasting high than THC.
Users with a low tolerance/new to cannabis may not know what to expect when consuming cannabis and may confuse an altered perception with hallucinating, especially if they have not experienced intense hallucinations from LSD or magic mushrooms.
"Skunk is a highly addictive drug"
Cannabis, whether high or low THC is a non-addictive drug, although, a small percentage of users may become dependent. You should also be aware that while underage use does not put you at a higher risk of developing psychotic disorders, you are more likely to become dependent on cannabis.
If a user does become dependent, consuming cannabis with a higher CBD to THC ratio can aid in reducing use: CBD has been effectively used in treating opioid addictions in the USA.
One of the major problems contributing to dependence, especially in the UK, is the use of tobacco in joints. If you try having a break from cannabis (mixed with tobacco), you’ll experience nicotine withdrawal and psychologically feel addicted to the cannabis-tobacco mix.
Skunk and a legal recreational cannabis market
Under a regulated, completely legal recreational cannabis market, a wide range of cannabis strains will be available with varying THC:CBD ratios. Currently, the black market supplies cannabis to users who are unsure of the strain and THC content of the cannabis which they are consuming.
Allowing users the choice of different cannabis strains would be extremely beneficial, as a large proportion of cannabis users don’t consume cannabis solely for the high, but for the wide range of medical benefits.
A legal market would also produce more transparency between growers and buyers, by informing users of the exact THC/CBD content, lineage and how to safely consume cannabis.
With further education on the true benefits and risks of cannabis use, users will understand which strains of cannabis to consume for various conditions. For example, the majority of cannabis in the black market is grown for high THC content. People using this high THC cannabis for conditions such as depression will be at risk of worsening their condition – those with depression can benefit from strains high in CBD not strains high in THC.
Apart from claims that skunk causes psychosis, which have been proven incorrect, there are no apparent negative effects of skunk use. Skunk is simply a strain of cannabis that has a medium-high THC content. Skunk is also not 10-20 times stronger than “normal” cannabis.
Those with psychosis, depression or anxiety are thought to be at risk of worsening their condition by use of high THC cannabis, however cannabis high in CBD has been found to improve the three conditions. Only under a regulated, legal cannabis market would these high CBD strains become more widely available.
Compare the situation to alcohol. High THC cannabis = vodka and low THC cannabis = beer. You wouldn’t down a bottle of vodka, as you are aware it is a much stronger alcohol than beer. A legal cannabis market would improve the general populations knowledge of how to consume different types of cannabis, just as alcohol legalization increased everyone’s knowledge of how to drink responsibly.
Legalizing would create a safer environment for cannabis users. Those purchasing cannabis will know the strain profile of the cannabis which they’ve purchased and will be well informed of the varying effects expected from different strains.
Skunk should not be viewed as a dangerous, psychosis inducing drug, but simply as a pungent strain of cannabis with a fairly high THC content. With more transparency and education in the UK cannabis market, people will be able to make informed choices of which cannabis strain suits their condition/desire.
Have you tried skunk? If you haven’t, would you consider trying it? And if so, why? Let us know in the comments below.