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Validation of self-reported cannabis dose and potency: an ecological study

Authors


  • Sponsor: ZonMW, The Netherlands organisation for health research and development.
  • Grant number: 31160009.

Correspondence to: Peggy van der Pol, Trimbos Institute, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, PO Box 725, 3500 AS Utrecht, the Netherlands. E-mail: ppol@trimbos.nl

Abstract

Aims

To assess the reliability and validity of self-reported cannabis dose and potency measures.

Design

Cross-sectional study comparing self-reports with objective measures of amount of cannabis and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration.

Setting

Ecological study with assessments at participants' homes or in a coffee shop.

Participants

Young adult frequent cannabis users (n = 106) from the Dutch Cannabis Dependence (CanDep) study.

Measurements

The objectively measured amount of cannabis per joint (dose in grams) was compared with self-reported estimates using a prompt card and average number of joints made from 1 g of cannabis. In addition, objectively assessed THC concentration in the participant's cannabis was compared with self-reported level of intoxication, subjective estimate of cannabis potency and price per gram of cannabis.

Findings

Objective estimates of doses per joint (0.07–0.88 g/joint) and cannabis potency (1.1–24.7%) varied widely. Self-reported measures of dose were imprecise, but at group level, average dose per joint was estimated accurately with the number of joints made from 1 g [limit of agreement (LOA) = −0.02 g, 95% confidence interval (CI) = −0.29; 0.26], whereas the prompt card resulted in serious underestimation (LOA = 0.14 g, 95% CI = −0.10; 0.37). THC concentration in cannabis was associated with subjective potency [‘average’ 3.77% (P = 0.002) and ‘(very) strong’ 5.13% more THC (P < 0.001) than ‘(very) mild’ cannabis] and with cannabis price (about 1% increase in THC concentration per euro spent on 1 g of cannabis, P < 0.001), but not with level of intoxication.

Conclusions

Self-report measures relating to cannabis use appear at best to be associated weakly with objective measures. Of the self-report measures, number of joints per gram, cannabis price and subjective potency have at least some validity.

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