Sales of edibles are increasing exponentially as they offer several advantages over inhaled cannabis. Edibles are smoke-free, discreet, long-lasting and can be more effective in treating certain ailments such as pain and insomnia. While there are many benefits, there are also pitfalls as well. But the best way to ensure that cannabis consumers (either beginner or experienced) have a positive edibles experience, there are a few important things to note.
First and foremost, an excessive amount of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can result in a very uncomfortable experience—especially for a first-time or inexperienced consumer. The consumption experience is amplified when eaten as the THC in cannabis is metabolized by the liver and is converted to the metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC. This metabolite passes rapidly into the brain producing a stronger psychoactive effect than smoked or vaporized THC, which, when inhaled, bypasses the liver resulting in a slower penetration into the brain and significantly lower psychoactive effects. An overdose from cannabis occurs when the consumer ingests too much THC overwhelming their endocannabinoid system—most specifically in the almond-shaped collection of cells deep within the brain called the amygdala.
Secondly, consumers should be wary of the length which an edible’s effects last. Unlike smoking cannabis, where the time for onset of the psychoactive effects is just a few minutes, the strength of an edible can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more to be felt. Consequently with smoking it is easy to titrate, or regulate the amount needed to feel the effect not controllable with edibles. It is this possibility of an overdose that has given edibles such a bad rap.
“The experience is amplified when eaten as the THC in cannabis is metabolized by the liver and is converted to the metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC.”
Despite these warnings, this doesn’t mean that one should be wary of consuming cannabis, as the cannabinoids in cannabis can provide inestimable health benefits, whether it is for pain, insomnia or as a substitute for alcohol. It doesn’t matter how cannabis is ingested, whether it is through smoking, eating, sublingual absorption or whatever—what is important is that the cannabinoids in cannabis should be consumed—they just shouldn’t be over-consumed. Whether a novice or a seasoned edible consumer, the following guidelines should always be kept in mind.
- Cannabis affects everyone differently. A single dose for one person that seems tame may knock someone else out of the ballpark. First-time consumers should start with no more than 5mg and wait at least two hours to ascertain its effects before consuming more.
- Always use products that have been properly tested and have their THC and other cannabinoid levels printed on the package. Be especially cautious with homemade edibles.
- The standard dose is considered to be 10mg of THC. California law mandates that packaged edibles cannot have more than 100mg of THC and must be divided into clearly identifiable servings of no more than 10mg each.
- Alcohol should not be consumed along with cannabis, as alcohol can significantly intensify cannabis’ effects making what might have been a very pleasant experience into a nightmare.
Mistakes do happen. Fortunately mistakes with cannabis are uncomfortable but never deadly, and there are actions that can be taken to counteract effects that are too intense. This includes but is not limited to consuming cannabidiol products, drinking water or taking a nap.