*Updated: Mar 15, 2020
What exactly happens when we inhale a medication?
The news is full of horror stories about the dangers associated with inhaling cannabis vapes, so why not end the debate and administer cannabis either under the tongue or as an edible? Is inhalation really needed to use cannabis properly?
The short answer is yes. Inhalation of cannabis is an essential delivery method that is ideal when patients are dealing with issues such as nausea, anxiety, insomnia and pain. Would you want to wait an hour or more for a medication to start working when you are feeling like you are on deaths doorstep?
As referenced in my book, The Cannabis Prescription: How to Use Medical Marijuana to Reduce or Replace Prescription Medications, a 2006 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist at the University of California Los Angeles who has spent over forty years studying the effects of cannabis on the lungs, concluded that smoking cannabis does not lead to lung cancer.
Still, many patient new to consuming cannabis have no desire to smoke anything, much less something as attention grabbing as marijuana. Not to mention, it’s currently illegal to smoke in public.
Inhalation does not equate to smoking. The ideal and safest way to inhale cannabis is through the use of a vaporizer. Simply grind up the buds and place in the vaporizer oven which heat the cannabinoid-rich trichomes that coat the buds until they evaporate and are able to be inhaled.
Temperatures during vaporization are kept well below 500ºF (260ºC) and therefore do not combust (burn) the leaves. THC has a boiling point of 314.5ºF (157ºF) and CBD has a boiling point of 320-356ºF (160º-180ºC) and simply do not need to reach combustion temperatures in order to evaporate. This makes a vaporizer the perfect inhalation delivery device.
Flower vaporizers require a bit of work. They need to be cleaned and maintained and some patients require a device that is simpler to use. This is where cannabis oil cartridges enter the picture. If you prefer a simpler method of vaporization that requires no cleaning, then cannabis oil contained in an atomizer cartridge is as easy as it gets.
The problem with cannabis oil that is going to be vaporized is that it must be diluted in order for the equipment to work properly. As we have seen in the news recently, some cannabis manufacturers use inferior diluents which can harm patients lung tissues. Without essential government over-site, patients are left to fend for themselves in order to find quality cannabis oils made using only pure cannabis with safe, natural diluents. The best cannabis oils are diluted with pure cannabis terpenes, creating a total product that is derived solely from cannabis.
Whether using a flower or oil vaporizer, inhalation is a valuable way to deliver your medicine. When inhaled, cannabis starts to work within seconds to minutes. One study showed it reached its peak effects within only 9 minutes after administration. Who doesn’t want to feel better as fast as humanly possible?
Besides a super fast effect, inhaled cannabis can be titrated to the specific needs of the patient. Most new users will only require a single puff, two at the most (2-3 seconds per puff). When cannabis is consumed in excess is when people are most likely to feel anxious or overly tired. With inhalation, the dose can be as little or as big as the patient needs it to be.
Along with a fast onset, inhaled cannabis is relatively short acting. Patients can inhale a puff or two to calm symptoms knowing the strongest effects will only last an hour or two. After that, the relief will continue, but will be more mild and less intoxicating. This allows people to plan their day and avoid unnecessary over inebriation.
The bottom line is that inhalation of cannabis is a valuable delivery method for millions of patients. Fast relief, coupled with a short duration can offer people tight control of how they medicate.
As the industry continues to mature, those companies that produce safe, quality cannabis oil for vaporization will rise to the top, and those with cheap, dangers fillers will hopefully be exposed. But, there is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Inhalation is necessary, it’s the dangerous diluents which have to go.
Award Winning Author & Coach
Colleen Higgins, R.Ph.
Colleen Higgins, R.Ph. is an author, speaker, and consultant who educates patients and cannabis manufacturers on the most effective ways to deliver cannabis as a medicine to the patients who need it.
Colleen Higgins, R.Ph. has worked directly with patients in the role of pharmaceutical and cannabis distribution for over 25 years. She is certified in diabetes education (CDE), medication management (MTM) and as a Pain Management Specialty Pharmacist (PMSP).
Have you recently been prescribed medical cannabis and now feel completely lost?
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