How Edibles Work and Why They Get you High for So Long
Susie finished up class and ran after her friends headed to the parking lot. She recently started smoking cannabis and was headed to the infamous “bridge in the woods” to go hang out as usual. When they arrived, a friend of hers offered Susie one of his brownies he had made. She puffed along with her friends and munched on her brownie, enjoying her time.
After they decided to call it an afternoon and head home, Susie gradually started feeling more and more high. She had stopped smoking half an hour ago and was confused as to why her high seemingly began to intensify. Sound was distorted, time almost slowed down, and her whole body pulsed. Susie didn’t want to frighten or alert her friends to her changing condition so she just walked home to her dorm and fell asleep, waking the next morning slightly confused but feeling 100%.
What happened to Susie has happened to countless consumers, she took an edible before building a proper tolerance. Similarly to alcohol, when we first begin consuming cannabis, it has a much more potent effect. Over time, our body creates a tolerance to the chemicals. A tolerance allows you to consume more cannabis with little to no negative side effects. Think of skydiving; the first time will be an incredible rush of adrenaline and extremely new to you. You’ll enjoy the thrill, but likely still be very scared and anxious.If you continue to skydive, in time you will find it doesn’t produce the exact same feelings it used to, your body got used to it.
This is the same thing that happens when consuming cannabis. While my tolerance is very high, think of me as a skydiving instructor, I still notice each and every time I “jump out of the plane” and get high. However, since my body is used to the substance, I don’t get caught off guard and accidentally end up like Susie did, far too stoned.
I have heard far too many stories like Susie’s from personal friends and family. I’ve even heard the crazier stories, like the pair of Toronto police officers that confiscated some cannabis concoctions, pot brownies to be specific, and took WAY too many. They ate and didn’t feel the effects within minutes so they ate more and more.
Eventually everything they had eaten set into their system and they took off on one hell of a trip. They hallucinated and heard noises, they were so high that they called their own police department on themselves. When help arrived, one officer was so paranoid from the edibles that he began running away. No one got hurt, this is cannabis after all, but it shows the propensity for what can happen when taking edible cannabis.
The typical pathway cannabis takes is through inhalation. When we light the flower on fire, the acid group from the cannabinoids (ie. THCa) falls off and we inhale THC. The THC binds to our alveoli within our lungs which soak up the chemical and distributes it to our blood. The THC travels to the heart where it is pumped throughout the rest of the body. While the onset can possibly take up to 15 minutes, maybe 30 in outstanding cases, most people feel effects right after exhaling.
This allows consumers to more accurately assess how high or “affected” they are by what they’ve consumed. If they feel nice and are enjoying themselves, they know they took the right amount and can revisit it when they come down. If they took too little, they can pack a tiny bit more to get desired effects. If someone gets too big of a hit, they can often ride out the first hour or so of the high being too intense, then it will subside in time. This is all under the pretense that the consumer has some degree of a tolerance.
Edible cannabis takes a different route, and has a few variables at play. When you eat cannabis, it is digested through your stomach as with anything you eat. The stomach absorbs around 90% of the THC. The THC is then processed within your liver where a majority of it is eliminated before ever acting on a receptor.
What’s not eliminated is processed by our liver (metabolized) into a different type of THC. This THC, commonly referred to as 11-hydroxy-THC then travels with the standard delta-9-THC to the heart where it is then circulated throughout the entire body. It is very important to note that 11-hydroxy-THC is preliminarily reported to be 5-6x more potent than standard delta-9-THC. This is what leads to such an intense high when eating edibles, you’re technically being affected by a different chemical.
11-hydroxy-THC is present when cannabis is smoked, but in a very small representation. The D-9-THC to 11-Hydroxy-THC ratio from smoked cannabis is about 10:1, favoring D-9-THC as the more prominent cannabinoid. Edible cannabis presents a ratio of 1:1. This is what causes the intense high that some people describe as more full bodied, longer lasting, and sometimes even psychedelic.
The standard bell curve representing intensity of psychological high when smoking THC shows a quick spike and a quick drop off. You go up the roller coaster quickly, and drop down fairly quickly. With edible cannabis, it takes a long time to get up to peak intensity. It can take one to six hours depending on certain variables, this is why oral dosage is very tough to estimate.
Having a tolerance of some degree allows dosing to be easier, as the drug will be less potent and you can always start slow. If you have no experience, or very little, and take too large of a dose it will be tougher to psychologically “ride it out” whereas if you have experience with the drug, you will naturally be able to relax more.
It is important to note, though, regardless of your tolerance you absolutely cannot die from cannabis. Humans have eaten, drank, and smoked this herb for over 10,000 years and no one has ever died from the plant. You cannot consume enough cannabis to kill you, it is 100% impossible. Lay back and relax, it’ll pass!
I hope the science wasn’t too thick and you were able to learn more about edible cannabis today. The last thing I want to do is frighten people, but even as a “hippie stoner” I still understand that edible cannabis is *seriously* potent and should be approached with a tolerance, and a respectable degree of caution.
My personal recommendation which is in no way legally or medically backed, is that a person should smoke daily (or every other day) for at least 30 days before taking edible cannabis. It sounds extreme, but to ensure someone has the best experience, they need to be both physically and mentally comfortable with the drug.
Taking a puff or two on the weekends does not prepare you for the intensity of edible cannabis. While microdosing is possible, it is always best practice to gain familiarity with a substance before increasing potency. Thanks for stopping by my buds, I sure had some fun.
Guest post by Austin Cobb – Find Him on Instagram @bestbudaustin