As medical cannabis prescription is ever-evolving area of medical research with varying legal availability of products in different jurisdictions, methods of cannabis ingestion used can vary widely from case to case. Despite the highly individual nature of dosing required for each patient and each respective condition, there are multiple ways to medicate to suit every patient’s personal preferences.
However, not all methods of ingestion are recommended medically. Each method of ingestion has its own pros and cons so weighing up the overall benefit in each case is essential.
Online browsing, as always, offers up a multitude of mixed messages and disreputable information that can make responsibly choosing an ingestion method a daunting task. In an increasingly ‘fake-news’, opinion-oriented culture, The Academy of Medical Cannabis is committed to providing only reputable evidence-based information.
Here, we’ve laid out a guide to the more niche and controversial methods of ingestion you’ve likely heard about online to make choosing and prescribing cannabis ingestion methods an educated and scientifically backed process.
Edibles are an increasingly popular form of cannabis ingestion, especially in jurisdictions where cannabis is still illegal.
In theory, any food product can be infused with cannabis, with butter, beers, oils and wines serving as popular edible examples.
- Edibles are a perfectly reasonable and enjoyable way of ingesting cannabinoids for people aware of the risks discussed below.
- For longer-term conditions like chronic pain, edibles can produce longer lasting effects which might make them a more desirable method of ingestion than capsules and oils.
- Despite their fun and experimental reputation, from a medicinal point of view the positive impacts of edibles is less certain than some other ingestion methods. This is mainly due to the fact that the bioavailability of edibles can be far more variable than the highly specific dosing of oils and capsules as any edible has to pass through the liver, partially metabolising some of the cannabinoids in the process. Oils, by contrast, are taken under the tongue meaning all cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream for a more certain effect.
- The biggest drawback of edibles is this delayed effect, with them taking up to 2 hours to be absorbed compared to the effects felt in minutes when vaping or using oils.
- Crucially, this delay increases the risk of overdose as individuals are more likely to feel a lack of immediate effect and may therefore eat more edibles to compensate for this.
As a highly common form of cannabis ingestion, in many countries joints are simply comprised of cannabis mixed with tobacco which is smoked as a regular cigarette.
It must be stressed that from a medical point of view, this method of ingestion cannot be recommended, despite the fact that unlike tobacco there is no hard evidence that smoking joints causes lung cancer.
On the contrary, THC is known to inhibit some of the enzymes which activate carcinogens found in the smoke.
However, cannabis is known to have some of the same carcinogens that are found in tobacco. Considering this, smoking cannabis may carry a higher risk of lung cancer than other ingestion methods.
It is also known that cannabis smoke can cause physical damage to airways and increase the risk of bronchitis. This is particularly the case for people vulnerable to such illnesses from previous smoking or due to the presence of pre-existing lung diseases.
A suppository is a solid dosage of a medication which exerts effects after insertion into the rectum, urethra or vagina. Suppositories are often used for patients with painful mouth or throat conditions. This is generally a rarer form of cannabis ingestion and has recently fallen out of popularity.
Topicals are medications mainly used for localised pain relief or to treat inflammation. Recently, various topical forms have emerged including trans-dermal patches (a medicated patch applied through the skin to the bloodstream) which provide a long-lasting effect.
Topical ingestion generally doesn’t produce the high typically associated with cannabis as far less of the product – particularly THC – is absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, this is not always the case.
For in depth information on medical cannabis and the conditions medical cannabis can treat, we recommend accessing our in depth modules available on https://learn.taomc.org/. Here, you can find up to date information on cannabis based medicinal products and how they may be prescribed. You can also explore our news section and evidence base for the latest information on this ever-changing area of research.
We urge anyone considering the use of medical cannabis products to consult with a trained medical professional prior to beginning use. We do not recommend or endorse using recreational cannabis.
For more information on various ingestion methods we recommend accessing our foundation modules which detail preparation and ingestion of forms of cannabis-based medicines in depth.
Further investigation and research into cannabis use (both recreational and medical) is thoroughly encouraged by The Academy, particularly through the use of our own online courses, evidence base and whitepapers.