Why Do Cannabis Administration Methods Matter?
While it's commonly assumed that smoking is the only route to using cannabis, there are many other ways to reap the multiple benefits of cannabis. Below I will explore different categories of administration, the pros and cons, and the recommended administration methods for certain outcomes.
Smoking is the most commonly known method of using cannabis. It can come in the form of a joint, blunt, bong, bubbler, pipe - anything you are lighting on fire. Fire is the key word - yielding smoke. When you inhale this smoke it goes into your alveoli (small air sacks in your lungs), enters your bloodstream, and crosses the blood-brain barrier where the cannabinoids and terpenes can bind to receptors in your central nervous system.
Pros: The onset of the psychoactive effects are quick, usually within 90 seconds. Some of the toxins as in carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde, ammonia, and nitrosamines can be removed from the smoke when it is passed through a water pipe.
Cons: Smoke contains harmful irritants, including carcinogens such as tars which are not removed when passed through a waterpipe.
Vaping is often thought of as the healthier alternative to smoking cannabis. If the temperature when vaping is between 180 degree C and 200 degree C it should be a smokeless delivery. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of regulations in regards to vape pens.
Pros: Similar to smoking, the onset of psychoactive effects usually occur within 90 seconds. When using the proper temperature you are not receiving the byproducts that come from combustion.
Cons: When the temperature increases the amount of byproducts of combustion also increase. This is why I prefer to use vape pens that have a temperature control on them, so I can monitor the amount of heat that is being used to vaporize the cannabis. If heated too hot, you can run the risk of a combustion reaction (creating smoke containing carcinogens) rather than vaporization.
Pot brownies are not the only type of edibles. Edibles are classified as any cannabis product that you ingest and passes through your digestive system. People typically start to feel the effects of the cannabis around 90 minutes after ingestion, and the effects last for around 4-12 hours depending on the individual.
Pros: Unlike smoking or even vaping, the edibles do not create any combustion or irritation to the lungs. Edibles also produce a very long lasting effect, which is a benefit if that is the outcome you are looking for.
Cons: One thing makes dosing edibles very difficult, which is that everyone's biochemistry is different. This means, edibles can vary in effect depending on the individual. Edibles have a higher possibility of over consumption than other administration, due to the fact that around 50% of the THC is metabolized into 11-hydroxy-THC by liver cells. 11-hydroxy-THC is around 4 times more psychoactive than THC. This is worrisome as some individuals try to consume the same amount of THC as they smoke or vape.
These types of cannabis products include tinctures, lozenges, and sprays, and are absorbed through a mucus membrane, most commonly under the tongue or inside of the cheek. This type of administration allows for the cannabinoids and terpenes to go into the bloodstream without passing through the digestive system. The onset is typically around 30-90 minutes, but all depends on the individual's biochemistry.
Pros: This methods is a good alternative to smoking or vaping as it does not cause any irritation to the lungs. It is also more desirable than oral cannabis in treating nausea as there is no worry of vomiting the product before it can take place.
Cons: The strength and time of onset can vary depending on how much of the material was absorbed vs. swallowed.
Topical cannabis is found commonly as a cream, balm, or salve, where transdermal cannabis is found typically in the form of patches. This type of administration is typically non-psychoactive as the cannabinoids do not enter the bloodstream in as high concentrations as the other administration methods. When traveling through the skin, the cannabinoids commonly activate the CB2 receptors which are found closer to the skin and are not the primary psychoactive receptors. Occasionally, transdermal patches will contain a carrier that brings the cannabinoids into the bloodstream at higher concentrations than without the carrier. When in the bloodstream, the cannabinoids can travel and bind to CB1 receptors which are primarily psychoactive.
Pros: This application works well for localized treatment of pain and inflammation
Cons: If you are looking for a high effect, this is not the ideal administration methods for that outcome.