As more and more states vote to allow the legal use of medical marijuana – MMJ – one question on patients’ minds is how best to partake of the healing herb? Available delivery methods produce markedly different results, and these vary from person to person, as well.
The common ways to ingest cannabis include:
- Vaporizing (vaping)
- Sublingual (under the tongue)
- Topicals (on the skin)
- Transdermal patches
With so many treatment options, it can be overwhelming to figure out which is the best way to ingest cannabis. To help decide, the patient should consider several factors.
First, how long does the user want the pharmacological effects to last? Consuming an edible product or capsule will ensure longer-term relief than inhaling vapors.
How fast does the user need to experience relief? Smoking and vaping cannabis produce noticeable changes in the body very quickly. In contrast, the effects from ingesting an edible, capsule, or tincture normally take longer to manifest. This can be inconvenient or even dangerous if the patient doses before driving a car or operating heavy machinery so plan accordingly.
Historically, marijuana users preferred smoking the dried flowers in a hand-rolled cigarette (reefer or blunt) or with a pipe, water pipe, or bong. However, smoking creates a lingering and highly recognizable smell on the breath and clothing. It also dries out the oral cavity, producing “cotton mouth.” Throat irritation and coughing “hack attacks” are also common byproducts of the hot smoke and embers that get inhaled.
Some patients have gotten good results from using two or more products at the same time. This method, called stacking, can cover all the therapeutic bases. A person who vapes for instant relief could also eat a canna-candy to prolong the effects. By the time the vapor wears off, the edible kicks in. Stacking can be very helpful for sufferers of insomnia and chronic pain.
Sublingual administration of MMJ is new on the cannabis scene but gaining popularity. The user puts decarboxylated cannabis directly under the tongue. This lets the cannabinoids quick access to the bloodstream through the tissues in the sublingual cavity (bottom of the mouth) without exposing the lungs to heat, tar, or other contaminants.
Advocates of sublingual cannabis delivery consider it superior to other methods due to health hazards from smoking and the “pharmacokinetic limitations of ingesting cannabis.” (Pharmacokinetics is the study of the bodily absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs.)
There are many advantages to taking MMJ under the tongue:
- Immediate relief – no waiting for digestive tract absorption
- No negative health effects – better than smoking or vaporizing
- Accuracy – nothing lost in extraction or admin more accurate than tinctures, smoking or eating
- Access and choice – pharmaceutical grade solution at home with own cannabis
- Safety – safer and more reliable than edibles and extracts
- Cost saving – patients use less, more cost-effective solution
- Discretion – less obvious
Perhaps the strongest argument for sublingual MMJ consumption is that the user can control the dosage accurately.
New MMJ patients can choose herbal cures from lots of cannabis strains at their local dispensary. Sativa plants primarily affect the mental state without wiping out energy levels and the ability to focus. Indica varieties generally induce a “body buzz” with deep muscle and body relaxation that warrant names like “Cancel Your Plans.”
Depending on what the user’s plans actually are, combining strains can reduce pain and increase appetite without destroying the ability to think logically or all ambition to get things done.
Cannabis users should also consider how flagrant their delivery method can be without attracting undesired attention. Smoking is highly aromatic and fills an enclosed space with a dense haze. Oral consumption is much more discrete, with virtually no odor or tell-tale external signs. Vaporizing produces no smoke but does produce a distinctive smell.
A diabetic takes insulin to control and regulate blood sugar levels. In a similar fashion, cannabis users should use products for specific results. For a fast, light-duty change of attitude, emotion, or energy, try smoking or vaping. More enduring or deeper pain relief can be achieved by ingesting an edible or tincture.
MMJ patients are well-advised to keep notes on how different delivery methods and types of MMJ strains affect them. Log how long it takes to experience effects, duration, dosage amount, and describe sensations and physiological responses produced by the substance.
Remember that cannabis products come in all forms and a huge variety. Self-experimentation is just about the only way to find what works best for any particular user. Keep an open mind and, if at first you don’t succeed with an MMJ product or delivery method, you always have the option to try, try again.