If you are thinking about trying edibles for the first time you may be wondering if it is the same as smoking cannabis? Are edible as strong as smoking? How long do edibles last?
Edibles last for 6 hours (on average) in the body, but that's just the simple answer. The why is a lot more complicated.
One of the most striking new trends that have come along with the legalization of cannabis in many states across the US is the proliferation of edibles. Edibles are cannabis products that are already activated and are eaten.
Edibles literally come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors including:
- Gourmet cupcakes
- Dutch waffles
There is a good reason why the dispensaries are stocking such a wide variety of edibles, and that is because more and more consumers are choosing that route as they learn about the negative health effects of smoking.
By eating cannabis, many users can get the desired positive medical and recreational effects of the plant without the negative side effects.
In fact, a 2005 study found that between 16-26% of medical marijuana patients preferred edibles. With all the marketing, amazing products, and so many people doing it you might think it's safe to just jump right in.
How is Smoking Different From Edible Cannabis?
The main psychoactive compound in Cannabis is ∆9- tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is a molecule that is highly soluble in fat and alcohol. THC is a cannabinoid which affects the CB-1 receptors in the brain, after arriving there through the bloodstream.
When you smoke cannabis, the tissue of the lungs absorbs the THC, and it quickly goes into the bloodstream, with effects coming on immediately, and peaking in less than 10 minutes.
From there, the effects gradually wear off for about 4-5 hours. This is the experience that most users are familiar with, achieving the desired dosage is straight forward, as you can always smoke more or just enjoy the level you are at.
Edibles, however, are a bit different and can be a bit harder to titrate or control the dose.
Edibles Stay in Your System Longer
When you consume cannabis orally there is a delay in action between ingestion and the feeling of being ‘high.’ The reason for this is that the cannabis taken orally must first travel to the liver, where it is partially metabolized and then released into the bloodstream.
Some are released as the ∆9- tetrahydrocannabinol, but a large portion is also converted to another form of THC, known as 11-hydroxy ▵9_Tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC).
While similar to THC, this compound has a slightly different psychoactive effect, making the edible high slightly different from the one you would experience by smoking it.
It takes time for the metabolic process to work, and will also be influenced by and individual’s weight, tolerance, last meal, and many other factors.
According to a review study, the average time from consumption to peak concentration of the THC in the blood was between 1-2 hours, sometimes even longer.
This means that when you eat cannabis you have to be very careful not to overdose. Novice users often make the mistake of eating a dose, then taking a second one 20-30 minutes later, not realizing the long delay that can take place.
Does The High Last Longer With Edibles?
A 2012 study from Iran looked at the amount of THC and its metabolites in blood plasma following the smoking or oral ingestion of cannabis and found that the differences were quite dramatic. As mentioned above, they found that THC levels in the blood plasma were detectable within seconds after smoking, and peaked within 3-10 minutes, then rapidly declined over the course of 3-4 hours. This confirms how most smokers would describe their experience.
They also noted that about 30% of the THC smoked is lost due to burning, and about 23-27%, if the total THC smoked, is absorbed into the blood (depending on the depth of inhalation, length of time held in, etc.)
Lastly, they noted that there is a very low concentration of 11-hydroxy ▵9_Tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC), the other psychoactive metabolite of THC.
In comparison, oral consumption of cannabis showed quite different physical effects. First in the time to detection of THC in the blood, which took around 1-2 hours. Because the THC is processed by the liver and absorbed in fatty tissues, it is released slowly, and displays multiple peaks, rather than just the one in smoking.
Another interesting find was the proportion of 11-OH-THC to ∆9-THC was much higher when consumed orally, indicated that the psychoactive effects for the user would be slightly different. While high concentrations of THC could be found in smokers for only 3-4 hours, in those subjects using edibles it lasted for more than 6 hours.
In 1980 study patients were given THC intravenously, through smoking, or orally. The results were graphed and show marked differences between intravenous/smoking and oral consumption. In the first two, peak concentrations in the blood were almost immediate and slowly declined over the course of 240 minutes (4 hours).
Oral consumption, on the other hand, did not even register any blood plasma activity for 30 minutes, peaked at one hour, and then very slowly decreased for 360 minutes (6 hours) post-ingestion.
Enjoying The Longer High From Edibles
As mentioned previously, many users are finding out that they enjoy the duration of the high received from edibles more than from smoking, and also appreciate the decreased health risks, especially among medical marijuana patients. Rather than a short, intense high, users can get a more sustained and comfortable experience, once they have figured out how to properly titrate their dosage.
This may take some time, so remember to go into it slowly, start small (5-10mg doses) and work your way up once you know how a particular product will affect you. Remember that not all products are the same and that the high from Sativa, Hybrid, or Indica strains can all be quite different. There are also differences in the concentration of THC from different brands or manufacturers, as labeling restrictions are still lacking in most states.