With cannabis legalization spreading, many consumers are exploring edibles as an alternative method for consuming marijuana instead of smoking cannabis or weed. While achieving the desired effects may take different forms, both partaking methods come with distinct impacts. Let’s take a deeper look at how edibles compare to smoking marijuana according to science.
As more states regulate recreational and medical marijuana programs, interest grows in novel means of experiencing cannabis beyond lighting up a joint. Edible goods provide versatility yet their manner of psychoactivity diverges markedly from lighting up a bowl. This investigation seeks to enlighten regarding mechanisms, peculiarities and contrasts between these consumption channels.
How Edibles Work
THC is broken down in the liver and converted into 11-hydroxy-THC. This metabolite has a special power – it can dissolve in fat really easily. So it slips right through into the brain and binds to cannabinoid receptors there.
Studies show 11-hydroxy-THC can be twice as strong or more compared to regular THC. That explains why eating edibles gives you a different kind of high than smoking. The THC takes a detour through your liver and turns into something even more potent before reaching the brain.
Onset of Effects
While inhalation generates an almost instantaneous marijuana high within minutes, swallowing an edible necessitates digestion and first-pass liver interaction slowing absorption. It typically takes 30 minutes to two hours for an edible to take full effect. Most people start to feel the effects in around one to three hours after consuming an edible.
This is significantly longer than the near-immediate onset experienced from smoking or vaping, where the high can be felt within just a few minutes. The delayed onset of edibles means it can be easy to underestimate the potency and consume more than intended if not waiting a sufficient amount of time between dosages.
Duration of Effects
As a result of the metabolic conversion to 11-hydroxy-THC combined with oral intake instead of inhalation, edible marijuana highs tend to persist longer, commonly lasting six to eight hours compared to just one to three hours after smoking marijuana. Multiple studies have found that oral consumption leads to a longer elimination half-life, meaning it takes longer for the THC and its metabolites to clear the body. With 11-hydroxy-THC binding more strongly to cannabinoid receptors and lasting much longer in the system, the effects of edibles are noticeably prolonged when compared to other consumption methods.
Because of the delayed and extended experience, edible shoppers face greater risks of over-eating and accidental overdose due to inability to quickly adjust cannabis dosage. One of the main concerns regarding edibles is that it is very difficult to accurately predict how potent the effects will be once they set in. For example, someone may eat 10-20mg THC worth of an edible and feel very little initial impact. Growing impatient, they decide to eat more to try and feel the desired effects. However, by the time those first 10-20mg kick in, the added consumption on top could lead to symptoms of overconsumption like extreme anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks or even passing out.
Underconsumption may leave one wasting expensive cannabis products as well until dosing familiarity develops through trial and experimentation. It is important for both recreational and medical consumers to wait at least two hours before taking more, to allow for the full onset of effects from the initial edible serving.
As a result of 11-hydroxy-THC binding to brain receptors, marijuana euphoria can be more intense, disconnected, and sometimes psychedelic than usual. Over purely relaxing effects, cannabis strains can cause physical sedation and mental fogginess when smoked or vaporized. In contrast to inhaling’s clearer physical soothing effects, edible highs alter perception in a more abstract and introspective way. To avoid over-intoxication, they require lower dosage etiquette than other methods because they have an extremely strong psychoactive effect.
While both smoking and eating cannabis can achieve the desired effects of relaxation and enjoyment, the experience of edibles is distinctly different than inhaling marijuana. When consumed orally, THC is metabolized into the more potent 11-hydroxy-THC compound by the liver before impacting the brain. This results in a high that is delayed in onset, prolonged in duration, and often more intense and psychedelic in character compared to smoking. The risk of overconsumption also makes edible dosage prediction more challenging.
However, for medical patients and social settings where smoking may be inconvenient, edibles provide an alternative that can precisely match consumption to needs when approached with proper caution, dosage control and consumer education around these inherent distinctions. Continued research maintains balance maximizing edibles’ benefits alongside responsible guidelines protecting public wellness.
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Until next time…