THC pills are ingestible capsules that contain botanical extracts of the cannabis plant or synthetic cannabinoids. Pills containing botanical extracts are considered whole-plant cannabis products. These soft- or hard-shell pills contain liquid concentrates or ground up flower. Because the pills contain medicine extracted directly from the natural plant, they tend to contain a combination of cannabinoids rather than an isolated one.

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Synthetic THC pills like nabilone and dronabinol(Marinol) are made with compounds that imitate the effects of natural cannabinoids. Although nabilone and dronabinol are designed to mimic cannabis, they are federally legal medications regulated by the FDA while cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug. Both nabilone and dronabinol are used to medicate chemotherapy-induced nausea. Because they lack the synergy between naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant, these synthetic cannabinoid therapies tend to have more severe side effects than whole-plant cannabis products.

Medical Marijuana Hash oil pills. iStock / smileitsmccheeze

The Effects of THC Pills

THC’s psychoactive effects have been received with ambivalence in the US since the early twentieth century. However, recent research from the University of New Mexico has discovered that the cannabinoid’s role in marijuana’s medical efficacy is more important than its reputation suggests. The authors of the 2019 Scientific Reports study came to this striking conclusion:

“Despite the conventional wisdom, both in the popular press and much of the scientific community that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits. In our study, CBD appears to have little effect at all, while THC generates measurable improvements in symptom relief.”

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Consumers of THC pills may experience one or more of the following beneficial effects anywhere from 30 minutes to up to 2 hours after consumption. These effects may last up to 8 hours:

  • Enhanced mood
  • Decreased social reticence
  • Pain relief
  • Increased appetite
  • Relaxation
  • Sleepiness
  • Creative thought

However, it is possible to overconsume THC. Too much THC can induce the following adverse reactions:

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Nausea

To avoid these effects, consume THC pills with no more than 10 mg of THC and wait at least two hours before consuming more THC. You can slide your dosage up or down the scale based on how this initial experience feels. If the high is too potent, you may need to consume less THC or CBD only products in the future. If you want more relief, you can consider increasing the THC concentration by small increments until you find a dose that works for you.

The Benefits of Ingesting THC Pills

Pill with cannabis in it, American flag Discretion. Cannabis is a stinky therapy, but THC pills are far less fragrant than inhalable weed. This makes them an appealing option for consumers who don’t want to have to worry about how their medicine will make them smell. Since one of the adverse effects of THC is paranoia, it can be beneficial to consume a product that offers discretion if you are likely to become anxious about public perception.

Convenience. In addition to their subtlety, THC pills are as convenient to ingest as a vitamin. You don’t need a lighter, blow torch, atomizer, bong, bowl, or paper sheet to get the job done. This is a particularly important consideration to make for pediatric patients who may be too young to safely attempt more complex methods of consumption. Parents should make sure not to start administering THC pills to their children without the approval of their pediatrician. Another convenience is that patients know exactly how much THC they are putting into their bodies since each capsule in a pack will have a uniform cannabinoid content.

No frills medicine. THC pills are easier to see as medicine than delicious treats that make consumers happy in more ways than one. Unlike many edibles, THC pills aren’t packaged in the empty calories offered by ultra-sweet and fatty foods. One of the challenges of consuming safe quantities of edibles is that it’s hard to resist the rest of the 100 mg THC cookie when you’ve got the munchies. But THC pills are pretty boring, so you likely won’t be tempted to take another one for its flavor.

No respiratory side effects. Because THC pills disburse cannabinoids through the digestive system, they totally avoid the risks associated with the act of inhaling combusted matter. Heavy cannabis smokers often deal with respiratory irritations including wheezing, overproduction of mucous, and coughing. This is an unfortunate irony because on its own, cannabis is a bronchilador that has been used historically to treat asthma. The adverse respiratory symptoms experienced by regular smokers are a direct result of inhaling extremely hot air. Additionally, combustion produces carcinogenic compounds called PAHs. Ingesting THC pills bypasses the respiratory irritation and exposure to toxins associated with combustion.

Potency. Finally, cannabinoids that are ingested orally can provide a much more potent experience than inhaled cannabis. For one, ingested cannabis has a more greatly enhanced bioavailability than inhaled weed because cannabinoids and terpenes are not destroyed by the heat of combustion or vaporization. Secondly, the THC metabolite synthesized by the stomach and liver (11-hydroxy-THC) is actually more potent than the THC absorbed from inhalation. The benefit of this potency is stronger and more long-lasting relief from debilitating symptoms.

The Drawbacks of THC Pills

Potency. The overconsumption of THC can trigger extremely uncomfortable physical and mental responses. One of the greatest drawbacks to ingesting cannabis orally is the difficulty in titrating the dose to mitigate the likelihood of such an episode. There is far more control over inhalable cannabis since consumers can simply stop their smoke session and save the rest of their product for another time when they’ve reached an optimal level of relief. Once a pill is swallowed, there is little you can do to alter the potency of the high.

Delayed onset of effects. Another disadvantage to using THC pills is that you may have to wait up to two hours to experience the apex of the cannabinoids’ effects. Like edibles, THC pills are absorbed through the digestive system. That means that a pill must make it all the way to small intestine before releasing cannabinoids into the bloodstream. Conversely, inhaled cannabis is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs in a matter of seconds.

Before pursuing any cannabis therapy, consult with a healthcare provider and examine current research on the effects of cannabinoids. And remember not to administer THC pills to a child without the recommendation of a pediatrician.