Are There Side Effects to Consuming Edibles?

Low and slow wins the race.

What are the side effects to edibles?

The pot brownie has a reputation that often precedes it, being one of the most well-known marijuana edibles out there, but just like anything else, too much can be problematic and come with some side effects.

Edible marijuana treats, usually referred to in the shorthand “edible,” differ from smokable marijuana in not only how you consume it but the effects it brings. Edibles are often a good choice for someone who probably won’t do well smoking it and can be good for easing first-timers into their early highs.

However, what makes edible highs different from smoking highs is often what gets people into trouble. The average time it takes for you to start feeling an edible is around half an hour to two hours, with one study saying by two hours you’ll fully feel the high. Unlike smoking, which kick starts your high about as quickly as you are toking, edible highs depend on your digestion and metabolism speeds for the THC to start.

There are some other factors that will play into your high, such as if you ate regular food first, how full your stomach is, what kind of edibles you are consuming and overall how your body reacts to THC.

Every person will feel an edible differently, but you should wait at least two hours before trying to eat some more. Overdoing it can bring some unwanted effects that you probably don’t want.

edibles and munchies.

iStock / AHPhotoswpg

Too Much, Too Late

One of the most infamous effects of too many edibles is the “marijuana hangover,” which similar to a regular hangover, comes from overdoing it. Being too high as you fall asleep will increase the likelihood of you feeling groggy and out of it the next morning.

While both the scientific and cannabis community seem split about whether or not weed hangovers actually exist,  some common anecdotal side-effects of edibles include fatigue, waking up with a headache, and feeling foggy. Some sites will include dehydration as a side effect of edible consumption, but this simply isn’t accurate. While many of the hangover effects may actually be due to dehydration, cannabis itself does not directly cause dehydration. One thing to keep in mind, for example, is that often times cannabis is used in conjunction with alcohol, which does cause dehydration.

These side effects can come from smoking marijuana, but less likely to happen because of how quickly inhaled highs can pass through your system. Edible highs can stick in your body much longer, which is why you can wake up the next morning and still be feeling the effects.

The Difference Between Dehydration and Cottonmouth

Contrary to popular belief, dehydration isn’t the cause of one of the most common side effects from THC: cottonmouth.

The feeling like your mouth has become a barren wasteland devoid of any liquid for what seems like days isn’t because you aren’t drinking enough water. Dry mouth symptoms actually occur because THC binds itself to salivary glands and causes them to stop working as much.

This reaction is the same one that causes your eyes to start reddening, as the tear glands are not working as much as they normally should. While cannabis decreases tear production, it also leads to decreased blink rate, which in turn worsens eye redness.

While these side effects are more nuisances than emergencies, the strength of these symptoms all depend on how much of that edible you ate. The stronger the dose, the more your eyes are going to look like you haven’t blinked in six hours.

Eye drops and some mouthwash brands can help ease these symptoms if they particularly grind your gears, but if you play the cannabis consuming game smarter, not harder, you should come out on a high that doesn’t leave you low.

This Isn’t Your Normal High

Young adult smoking marijuana

iStock / petdcat

Unlike smoking cannabis, eating it will make your high last an exceptionally long time. When THC is ingested orally, it passes through the liver before moving on to the bloodstream. In the liver, it is metabolized to 11-OH-THC. This may be one explanation for the fact that the psychoactive effects of edibles are stronger and longer lasting than smoking.

While there are many stories of how items with THC in them can get people in over their heads (this Vice article about a woman who drank a bottle of weed lube is a great and hilarious example of what can happen if you overdo it with your cannabis fix), the reality is that when you ingest a large amount of THC, it will probably stick in your system for way longer than you expect.

When you smoke marijuana, the THC gets flushed out pretty quickly, with most people only being high for about two hours after their smoking session.

The Risk Of Overconsumption

However, as mentioned earlier, ingesting THC instead of smoking it often takes at least two hours to fully kick in, but the intensity of your high will in part have to do with how large of a dose you ate, as well as what your tolerance is.

Those who overdo it tend to feel their marijuana high on another level, with most of the regular effects of smoking ramped up to a ten.

Aside from the increased confusion, loss of coordination, and paranoia you may feel, you can gain an intense headache and even start hearing things. Chronic marijuana users even can experience symptoms of psychosis. If you are experiencing a new onset of psychosis symptoms, you should consider this an emergency and go to the nearest ER or call 911.

Of course, cannabis-induced psychosis (the existence of which is also heavily debated) can theoretically occur no matter how you consume your cannabis.

Unfortunately for worried customers, everyone has a different reaction to marijuana and you don’t know what will happen if you overdo it unless you overdo it.

That shouldn’t stop you from trying cannabis out, but should instead entice you to do more research for the necessary information you could need to start your high life. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re already on the right track.

The Lower The Dose, The Lower The Risk

When it comes to edibles, you can usually find them available in 2.5 mg, 5 mg, or 10 mg dosed treats. If you’re new to the edible game, you’ll definitely want to start with the 2.5 and 5 mg edibles. 10 mg is good for those who are already experienced with edibles and know what their tolerance is. And then there are obviously those people who can eat a 100 mg edible in one sitting, but anyone who is experienced enough to consume that much THC in one sitting is not anyone who needs to be reading this article. If you’re newer to edibles, stick to the three measurements mentioned above.

If you do find yourself too high, that isn’t necessarily a cause for panic. You may just have to have to ride the wave and try to minimize the damage in the process. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should make your way to an emergency room:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle spasms

If you’re too high, but not experiencing any of the above symptoms, a hot shower, a quiet, dimly lit room, and a good friend can help you out.

Keep Your Edibles In A Safe Place

One of the biggest risks of edibles is that if you don’t know they contain THC, you’re at a significantly higher risk of overconsumption and suffering from these side effects. Make sure you keep your edibles stored in a separate location from your regular snacks and make sure they’re clearly labeled. If you’re a parent, making sure your edibles are secure is even more important as children are at a higher risk for overdose because of their size and weight.

Are There Side Effects to Consuming Edibles? was last modified: by