What are the different methods to consume cannabis?
Cannabis affects everyone differently, so it is important to find out what products and consumption methods work best for you. Factors that can affect your experience include dosage, strain (and its cannabinoid and terpene content), method of consumption, potency, personal experience with the plant, the setting in which you consume, and your current mood or mindset. You should always start with the smallest amount possible in order to achieve the desired effect.
One of the great things about choosing cannabis as a medicine is its versatility. There are many different ways to consume cannabis products, so everyone can explore the many options available and choose what’s best for them.
This is the most common way to consume cannabis. Cannabis is inhaled into the lungs, where the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the alveoli. When inhaling cannabis, the effects can be felt within 5 minutes and can last between 1-4 hours. For new users, we suggest taking one puff and seeing how you feel after about 20 minutes before taking another one.
Smoking cannabis is the traditional method of consumption, and can be done via joint, water pipe, bowl, etc. Although effective, smoking cannabis can expose the lungs to irritants such as combusted plant material and toxins.
Another method of inhaling cannabis is through vaporization. Rather than combusting the plant material, it is slowly heated at a low temperature. Vaporized cannabis gives the user a clean hit with fewer harmful toxins. Vaporizers come in the form of a pen in which you load the flower or concentrate yourself. Pre-filled oil cartridges and refill applicators are also available.
Dabbing is another form of vaporizing cannabis concentrate. This method can be very potent, so it is not recommended for new users. Dabbing consists of placing a very small amount of concentrate on a heated surface (typically made out of quartz, titanium, or ceramic) and inhaling the vapor. Dabbing is comparable to old school “knife hits” and requires a device such as a dab rig or nectar collector. The result is a clean, concentrated hit free of burnt plant material and irritants.
Oral administration gives the user the option of medicating without inhaling cannabis. Marijuana Infused Products (MIPS) is a term used to describe products infused with marijuana. This includes edibles, topicals, tinctures, transdermal products, and oils.
Edibles are cannabis infused foods, ranging from chocolates and baked goods to tinctures and capsules. With edibles, the effects have a much slower onset, sometimes taking over 2 hours. This is because rather than entering the bloodstream directly, the cannabinoids must pass into the stomach, where they’re emptied into the small intestine and absorbed into the liver. In the liver, enzymes called cytochrome p450s break down about half of the Δ9-THC into the metabolite 11-Hydroxy-THC. 11-Hydroxy-THC is much more psychoactive and crosses the blood brain barrier easier than Δ9-THC. This is why ingested cannabis can cause a much more intense high than inhaled cannabis.
Please note that inhaling and ingesting cannabis are completely different from one another and your tolerance to each are mutually exclusive. Ingesting edibles often gives the user a very different euphoric effect than inhaled cannabis. A person who smokes frequently and has a high tolerance may eat a low dose edible and feel much more intoxicated than they normally would with inhaled cannabis.
Another form of ingesting MIPS is through the lining of the mouth, called oromucosal administration. Cannabinoids are absorbed through the lining of the cheeks and inner lips (buccal mucosal) or under the tongue (sublingual). If you suck on a lozenge or use a tincture, many of the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream directly through the capillaries inside the mouth. Because this method bypasses the stomach and liver, the effects can be felt much more quickly than swallowed edibles, usually within 15 to 20 minutes. These effects typically last from 5 to 6 hours, but experiences vary depending on the individual. Keep in mind that you are most likely swallowing cannabinoids as well, which will be processed through the liver.
Transdermal products are designed to be absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. Common transdermal products include patches or gels and may offer patients an extended release of cannabinoids throughout the day. Due to the direct absorption into the bloodstream, cannabinoids absorbed transdermally are not absorbed into the liver and therefore bypass the first pass effect. The effects are generally felt quickly, between 20-30 minutes and because of their extended release can last anywhere from 6-12 hours depending on the product.
Topicals are a non-edible MIPS and offer a unique ‘spot treatment’ style application of cannabinoids. An infused product is applied to the skin where the cannabinoids are absorbed. The cannabinoids do not penetrate all layers of the skin and therefore should not have a psychoactive or intoxicating effect. The most common form of topicals are lotions and balms.