The two most common ways to use cannabis today is by either inhaling or ingesting Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While both methods will provide users with the desired effect, there are some differences in how THC makes its way to the brain to achieve those effects.
Legalization has opened the door to new product lines and delicious treats that allow consumers to benefit from the effects of THC without having to inhale smoke. With little studies on the long term effects of cannabis use, one thing doctors can agree on is inhaling smoke over time can negatively impact one’s health. By understanding how cannabis and THC interacts with the body when inhaled or ingested, users can make an educated decision on the best way to consume.
Inhaling Cannabis Smoke or Vapor
The most common way to deliver THC to the brain is by inhaling cannabis smoke or vapor. Cannabis flower, distillates, concentrates and more are inhaled into the lungs where it enters the bloodstream and makes its way to the brain.
By inhaling THC, users will feel the effects in minutes if not seconds. Full effects on the brain and body from the THC will be felt within 30 minutes in most cases. Effects can linger for as long as six hours and in rare cases as up to 24 hours. Feeling effects for even six hours is not common but cannabis plants have varying levels of THC that will impact the length of the effects from smoking. One other factor that plays a role in the length of time effects are felt is one’s tolerance. Infrequent smokers are more likely to feel effects from THC longer than every day or weekly cannabis smokers.
Consuming cannabis is becoming more and more common. If you visit a cannabis dispensary, it is likely you’ll find a menu of food and drink options that contain THC. While consuming cannabis is a great alternative to inhaling smoke, there are some key differences. The biggest difference is the time it takes to feel the effects from the THC. When you consume cannabis it first enters the stomach and passes through your liver before entering the bloodstream and moving to the brain. This is why it can take anywhere from 30 to 120+ minutes to feel the effects from consuming cannabis.
Ingesting cannabis has been known to produce a more intense high as the THC is strengthened when it moves through the liver. Full effects from ingesting cannabis may not be experienced until four hours after consumption (plan accordingly!). Effects from edibles can last up to 12 hours and linger for as long as 24 hours.
While edibles offer the benefit of avoiding inhaling smoke, effects from the THC can be more intense and long lasting. New cannabis users should always be cautious when experimenting with edibles. Pay close attention to how much THC you are consuming and start slow.
Tips for Lower-Risk Cannabis Use from the CCSA
- Ingesting and vaping are less harmful to your lungs than smoking
- If you are new to edible cannabis or cannabis, start low by consuming an edible cannabis product with no more than 2.5 mg of THC. For smoking or vaping cannabis, start with a product that contains no more than 100 mg/g (10%) THC content
- Inhaling too much THC at one time or consuming more edible cannabis within 4 hours can lead to over-intoxication
- Be sure to read the label carefully for information on the THC concentration
- Using high-strength cannabis regularly – more than once per week – can lead to tolerance and dependence. Try to limit your use of these products
- Avoid mixing cannabis with alcohol or other substances, which can lead to serious adverse health effects