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Are cannabis edibles safer than smoking?

Are cannabis edibles safer than smoking?

Cannabis-infused chocolate fountains are flocking to weddings. Budtenders serve cannabis cocktails. And like edible sales are on the rise, cannabis brands are emphasizing the idea that the products could offer a healthier alternative to bongs or blunts.

“Edibles allow you to enjoy cannabis without the negative side effects of smoking,” reads the website for Kiva, which makes cannabis-infused chocolate bars and fruit gummies.

Consumers are increasingly wondering if this is the case, but the answer is complex. There is little research comparing the health effects of edibles and smoking. What we know so far comes largely from limited data, anecdotes, and inferences from researchers and clinicians.

“There are tons of nuances to this,” said Ryan Vandrey, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine who studies cannabis. “You can’t say black and white that edibles are safer than smoking, or that smoking is worse than vaping – there are different risks along different routes.”

When someone smokes a joint, the effect comes on almost immediately, then disappears within a few hours. But cannabinoids in edibles take time to travel through the gastrointestinal tract. It can take between 30 minutes and several hours for users to feel the effects, said Daniel Barrus, a pharmacologist at the nonprofit research organization RTI International. This timing can vary even for experienced cannabis users, because the contents of your stomach affect how quickly an edible kicks in, said Dr. Collin Reiff, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

As a result, users may end up snacking on an extra bite of a pot brownie or eating another candy to feel more of a high – and ending up way too high when the drug finally takes effect, sometimes causing paranoia, delusions and panic attacks. These effects usually go away within a few hours, but people may have a racing heartbeat, leading some to seek medical attention.

“I see much more adverse outcomes in people who consume edibles,” Dr. Reiff said.

A study Marijuana-related emergency room visits at a major Colorado hospital found that people who took edibles were more likely to end up in the emergency room. (Total admissions were higher for smokers, likely because many more people smoked than edibles, according to state cannabis sales data.) People who took edibles were also more likely to experience acute cardiovascular or psychiatric symptoms than those who smoked.

Far more people safely consume edibles each day than end up in the hospital, noted Dr. Andrew Monte, professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

Edibles can sometimes cause a more intense and intoxicating effect than smoking, due to the way the body metabolizes THC, the main compound in cannabis, said James MacKillop, director of the Michael G. DeGroote Center for Research. on medicinal cannabis at McMaster University.

Even for experienced users, edibles can have a powerful effect. For some people, this effect may be pleasant; for others, fear and anxiety may set in.

Edibles may have less addictive potential, Dr. MacKillop said, because in general, the sooner a person feels the effects of a drug, the more likely they are to become addicted. A study last year found that about a fifth of people who use cannabis develop a cannabis use disorder.

Smoking any substance can potentially harm your lungs.

Cannabis smoke contains many of the same toxic and carcinogenic chemicals as cigarette smoke, and the drug, when smoked, can damage lung tissue and blood vessels, depending on the body. Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. The method is also important: When people smoke a joint or blunt, they also inhale particles from the rolling papers or wrappers, as well as particles from the cannabis itself, both of which can harm the lungs.

Vapes heat cannabis in a different method than joints, bongs and pipes, and so vapes can help consumers avoid harmful compounds like carbon monoxide and tar, Dr. Barrus said. But vapes still expose the lungs to irritants, and some evidence discovered that vapes generate hazardous emissions. Cases of vaping-related illnesses and injuries caused by contaminants in the dark have been worrying doctors for years.

People who smoke cannabis appear to be at increased risk of bronchitis, and it’s clear that smoke can significantly irritate the lungs, Dr. Barrus said. But studies haven’t conclusively proven that smoking cannabis can cause lung cancer, the way tobacco does.

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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