Dr Tom Freeman

Tom Freeman is the Director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group (AIM), an interdisciplinary research group bridging the departments of Psychology and Pharmacy & Pharmacology at the University of Bath. He is an elected Trustee and Director of the Society for the Study of Addiction, and Senior Editor for the journal Addiction. He conducts commissioned projects for the European Union drugs agency and has given expert evidence for the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Tom is internationally known for his research on cannabis and cannabinoids. His work includes: observational studies characterising changes in cannabis products and their association with addiction and mental health outcomes; novel harm reduction strategies such as standard THC units (similar to standard alcohol units) and understanding how cannabidiol influences the effects of cannabis; clinical trials of treatments for cannabis use disorder.

Can THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) inform standard cannabis units?

Cannabis is used by an estimated 192 million people each year in a variety of drug markets, ranging from heavily sanctioned prohibition to commercialised legal sale. This number may rise further as new legal markets continue to emerge worldwide. The extent of harm experienced from cannabis is associated with the frequency and quantity of use. Moreover, the harmful effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be offset by the presence of cannabidiol (CBD) in cannabis. However, current methods for measuring cannabis use are of poor quality, providing limited information on the dose of active drug users are exposed to. Additionally, there are currently no guidelines available to encourage safer use. One possible solution to this is the concept of “standard cannabis units”. Previous proposals for these have been based on the number of grams or standard joints consumed. Alternatively, standard cannabis units could be based on fixed doses (in mg) of THC (a “standard THC unit”) and CBD (a “standard CBD unit”). This proposal has the potential to be applicable to all cannabis products (which differ markedly in THC and CBD concentrations) and all routes of administration (including vaporizers, bongs, dabbing and blunts). It can also account for the potential role of CBD in harm reduction. Developing the concept of “standard cannabis units” could improve our ability to quantify cannabis use, update our current understanding of its risks, and generate evidence-based guidelines for safer use.
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