What are The Side Effects of Cannabis Edibles?
If you have been around the cannabis scenes for a while, you are probably very familiar with the brownie. What started out as a means to primarily conceal the use of marijuana has quickly grown into a preferred method of consumption. Though brownies were the parent edible, creativity and innovation has led to a host of other fun and convenient edibles.
Taking edibles is easy, but is it safe?
Here are some side effects that you might experience after taking edibles and what you can do about them.
What are cannabis edibles?
Also known simply as edibles, Marijuana edibles are food products which are cannabis infused.
When referring to marijuana, what instantly comes to mind is the smokable pot.
Edibles differ from these both by the method of consumption and effects.
Edibles are now found in a vast number of forms. From baked goods to sweets, to basic foods. Some high class hotels even offer five star gourmet meals infused with weed.
The most common forms of edibles are in the form of:
- Baked goods
Edibles could be prepared at home or purchased from the cannabis dispensary when made commercially.
At home, THC is mostly extracted in the form of butter or oils which are then used to cook or directly spread onto food. This is where baked edibles such as brownies and cookies are made.
Commercial edibles span from gummies and lozenges to chocolate and beverages.
What is most common about all edibles is that they are the easiest method to consume weed. What’s more, they are fun and enjoyable to take.
And herein lies the crux. One might be tempted to think that they are very harmless. And they can be if used correctly.
However, many times they cause a myriad of side effects.
Why Are Edibles Different?
As we have discussed, the most common method of consuming cannabis is through smoking either a joint or vaping. When the joint is burnt, it releases the cannabinoids which you then inhale into your lungs. THC and the other cannabinoids then enter your bloodstream and travel to the rest of your body at which point you will feel their effects.
However, when you smoke cannabis, you end up inhaling more than the cannabinoids. You might also inhale paper, plant matter and other substances that could even be potentially carcinogenic.
Experts have warned people about the negative effects of smoking from time immemorial, this makes a good case for edibles, yes?
Edibles do not enter your respiratory system, they are instead digested the same way your body breaks down regular food. As the food is broken down, and introduced into the bloodstream. It is only at this point that you will feel the marijuana effects of your edibles.
Here are some differences between the effects of edibles and smokables:
- Speed: When smoked, cannabinoids get into the respiratory system and get into the blood almost immediately. The effects of smoking are thus almost instantaneous. Edibles on the other hand have to wait for digestion to take place. Their effects are likely to be felt after roughly about 1 hour or more.
- Potency: Some studies show that edibles have less bioavailability than inhaled marijuana. What that means is your body ends up using up only a fraction of the ingested cannabis and the rest is lost in the process of digestion. As sound a s this theory is, the amount of THC in a particular edible is usually undetermined, which can end up in excessive amounts of the cannabinoid being consumed.
- Effects: It is reported that edibles result in more intense and more vividly psychoactive highs in comparison to inhaled methods. This could either be attributed to the amounts of THC that end up being consumed in the process of digestion itself, which is slow and steady.
- Duration: Though a slow starter, the edible high can last for multiple hours. This is very unlike the inhalation high which hits fast and fades fast. The quickly fading effects of THC when smoked are as a result of all the available THC immediately going into the bloodstream and being synthesized at once, as opposed to the case of edibles where the digestion process slowly releases the cannabinoids into the bloodstream.
How fast and to what extent a certain amount of THC will affect you is dependent on a number of factors. These factors range from body type, metabolism, diet, BMI and diet.
A trick to remember when consuming edibles is that fatty foods have the ability to improve the digestion of the cannabinoids found in the edibles. You could therefore incorporate some butter into your edible for that killer high.
That said, be careful to watch out for the risks of consuming edibles. Here goes.
The Risks of Consuming Edibles
Consuming edibles can give you a whole range of pleasant effects. However, they are also likely to cause you some pain. The negative effects of edibles could either be short term or long term. They also range from being very mild to quite serious. Let’s look at these effects in detail:
Short-Term Side Effects
- Dry Mouth: Associated with most types of THC high strains, consuming edibles is likely to give you a dry mouth, also known as cottonmouth.
- Red, Bloodshot Eyes: Also very common in the consumption of weed, red eyes are the result of THC over dilating the blood vessels that surround the eyes. Sometimes one can even experience dryness of the eyes alongside the redness.
- The Munchies: This is another cannabis classic. It is however said that the hunger pangs that accompany having edibles is legendary. Though certainly not dangerous, this is an effect worth taking note of.
- Anxiety/Paranoia: As with consuming high doses of THC, taking too much of an edible can result in you becoming anxious and paranoid. This is also very likely to happen as it is difficult to ascertain the amount of THC a particular edible contains, therefore leading to over consumption.
Contrary to common belief, dehydration does not cause cottonmouth, which one of the most experienced side effect of THC
Difference between dehydration and a cottonmouth
Have you ever felt like your mouth is filled with sand after a period of indulgence in marijuana? No, you are not dehydrated.
The symptoms of a dry mouth occur because the THC found in your cannabis binds itself to your salivary glands which stop them from working effectively for a period of time.
This same action of THC is why your eyes become red and dry as the tear glands also stop working as they should. The effect of cannabis is to decrease tear production, which also decreases the rate of blinking. This in turn worsens the reddening of the eyes.
The side effects we have so far discussed are more a nuisance than a real cause for concern. However it is important to note that their intensity is also affected by the amount of edibles consumed and how potent they were. The higher the dose, the more out of synch you will look.
Serious Negative Side Effects
Sometimes, the effects of consuming edibles are not as mild as one would want. Dr Nora Volkow, the director of “the National Institute of Drug Abuse” says that some medical complications are emerging that could be linked to the consumption of marijuana. Though not empirically tested, and also though there might be other factors to consider, consuming an excess of edibles could lead to:
- Panic attacks and Anxiety.
- Psychotic episodes.
- Impaired motor ability.
- Respiratory depression.
- Heart problems (irregular heartbeat and sometimes even a heart attack).
Do Cannabis Edibles Cause Aggression?
As we have earlier discussed, the delayed onset of the edible high coupled with the uncertainty of how potent it is could lead to serious adverse effects. The effects caused by an overindulgence in edibles and therefore THC could cause one to temporarily lose themselves. This could manifest in blackout periods where the user loses control of their faculties and probably not even recall anything they did. At best, the blackout could be just that, a period of intense, deep slumber.
At worst, high THC inspires violent behavior in some people. There have been cases of one putting themselves or others in harm’s way when under the influence of marijuana. This is particularly true in excessive cases of consuming edibles because the “high” is more intense and lasts for longer, giving one ample opportunity to do more harm.
These effects usually disappear as the high dissipates.
Long-Term Side Effects
- Addiction: Marijuana is generally thought not be an addictive substance. However, early studies show that over dependence can become an issue in the marijuana consuming population. It is therefore important that you monitor your consumption and ensure you do not become dependent on it.
- Mental Issues in Teens: Some studies indicate that that teens and younger adults are likely to suffer far reaching effects from consuming cannabis. This is probably because their brains are developing and the effects of cannabis can interfere with the process of maturation.
What Can You Do to Mitigate the Side Effects of Edibles?
Over indulging in cannabis will cause adverse effects, especially when the edibles are rich in THC. Though often not serious, here are a few tips for what you can do in each case:
Dry mouth: A glass of water you sip on periodically can help you keep your mouth moist. You could also use mouthwash to rinse out your mouth and make it fresh.
Dry Eyes- Nobody likes having bloodshot eyes. The simple solution to this is eye drops. They can both moisturize your eyes and help clear the redness from them.
Anxiety and paranoia- Because anxious and paranoid is a direct effect of high levels of THC. So naturally, if you want to reduce these effects, ensure that your edibles have a low dose of THC. Because you might not be able to measure this in any particular way, take a small piece of the dibble, wait a while and then take a little.
Sedation/Fatigue- Edibles should always be consumed while in the company of friends. This is because their effects can be very unexpected and very intense. If you happen to go overboard they will be there to have your back.
If you drive to a place where you are likely to indulge in edibles, ensure that you have a reliable ride back home.
Also, as you might blackout, ensure that you are consuming the edibles in a comfortable place you would not mind sleeping in.
The Lower The Dose, The Lower The Risk
When trying to determine the best dosage for edibles, it is important to know how commercially manufactured edibles are rated and what might be best for you.
Edibles are usually found in 2.5, 5 and 10 mg concentrations. When starting out, it is advisable to start with the 2,5, then 5 until you get to the point where you fully understand the effect the edible has on you.
10 mg is usually best suited for seasoned users who know what to expect.
While some people can consume 100 mg in one sitting, do not rush to be that person.
If for some reason you end up indulging too much and find yourself feeling “too high”, do not panic. Follow the steps outlined above and try to ride out the wave.
However, you should make your way to the ER if you experience:
- Extreme confusion
- Chest pain
- Muscle spasms
If you are feeling “too high” but do not have any of the above symptoms, take a hot shower and lie in a dimly lit room. As we advised earlier, make sure that you are not alone.
Keep Your Edibles In A Safe Place
Because these are treats anyone would want to indulge in, keep your edibles very far, especially if you have children around. This is a scenario where it would be better to be safe than sorry.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Edibles and Their Side Effects
Edibles are a very fun way to consume marijuana. Who doesn’t like a treat of cake, cookie or gummy whose effects are quite literally out of this world?
What is important to note is that the side effects of edibles can be quite undesirable and the best way to keep them at bay is to indulge in moderation.
After all, moderation is the mother of discretion.