Why do edibles take longer to kick in than smoking?
Weed is weed, right? Not quite. While smoking and edibles both get you high, the type, onset and duration of that high varies pretty widely depending on whether you toke or treat yourself to an edible. As most cannabis users know, smoking or vaping will provide you with an almost immediate high but edibles generally vary from person to person, sometimes taking hours to hit. In fact, the same dose in an edible could hit the same person different from day to day. So, what’s the deal? Well, we’ll get to that, but in order to really understand the differences between smoking and edibles we need to talk about how our bodies process cannabis first.
How does your body absorb cannabis?
Smoking or vaping is definitely the fastest way to feel the effects of cannabis. But, why? Well, when you inhale that sweet cheeba, it enters your lungs and the THC is directly absorbed into the bloodstream and heads for your brain. Turns out our lungs are lined with millions of alveoli (tiny air sacs where gas exchange occurs) which have a gigantic surface area, like more than the skin on the outside of your body. So, they make it pretty easy for THC to enter the bloodstream. Your lungs absorb the smoke just seconds after inhalation and you begin feeling the effects almost immediately.
How does your body absorb edibles?
For traditional edibles like brownies or canna-cookies, the THC in the food enters your bloodstream through the digestive process. Instead of instantly hitting your bloodstream, edibles are absorbed through the intestines and then move through the liver before getting into your blood and spreading throughout the rest of your body. Although it takes much longer than smoking or vaping, once the THC makes its way to your liver, it’s converted into another compound called 11-hydroxy-THC, which is thought to be even stronger than standard THC. This is why the high from an edible feels unique to smoking, even for frequent smokers.
Some treats that we categorize as edibles are actually absorbed by the body in a third unique way. Anything that is taken orally but allowed to dissolve before swallowing (think sublingual mints, suckers or tinctures) skips the long process of absorption through the liver and instead enters your bloodstream through the soft tissues of your mouth. The effects of sublingual edibles are usually felt faster than traditional edibles, but not as fast as smoking or vaping.
How long does it take to feel the effects of edibles?
Do you feel anything yet? Consistently inconsistent, edibles can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours to kick in. Your personal experience will vary depending on the type of edible, as well as your age, tolerance, metabolism, and how much/recently you’ve eaten. This is why most experts recommend waiting at least two hours before taking another dose if you don’t feel anything. Although the dangers of consuming too much THC are minimal, it can produce some uncomfortable side effects like paranoia and anxiety.
Edibles absorbed sublingually hit you after about 15-45 minutes. Because the THC isn’t converted by the liver, it hits faster but not quite as hard or long as traditional edibles.
How long do the effects of edibles last?
Edibles might take a longer time to kick in when compared to smoking or vaping, but the effects also tend to last much longer. An average dose from an edible can last 6 or more hours, with the strongest effects usually hitting about 3 hours after you eat it.
As we mentioned, this will vary depending on a few factors, such as dosage, metabolism, and tolerance levels. Logically, taking a very large dose or a dose with very potent THC levels may cause a stronger, longer high as your body spends more time digesting and processing.
Unfortunately for us everyday cannabis users, individual tolerance levels also play a pretty big part in edible absorption. People who don’t frequently use cannabis products may feel the effects more strongly and for much longer than a person who regularly uses cannabis products, if they take the same dose. Tolerance levels will also fluctuate depending on how much cannabis a person has smoked or ingested recently, making it hard to know exactly how you’ll respond every time.
Metabolism also plays a role, and a person with a very fast metabolism may not feel the effects for as long as someone with a slower metabolism.
In general, if you eat an edible you can expect to be high for a few hours. Research suggests that the effects from edibles last about 6–8 hours. However, infrequent users or people particularly sensitive to edibles could experience a high that lasts up to 8–12 hours. Frequent cannabis users with a higher tolerance may only feel effects for 3 or 4 hours.
What can you do to make edibles hit faster?
Alright, now that we know that edibles are awesome but take a long time to kick in, what’s an impatient cannabis user to do? Lucky for you, we’ve got a few tips to speed up the effects of your edible.
- Try sublingual mints, hard candies, tinctures, or suckers. These are processed by absorbing into your bloodstream through your mouth and under your tongue, which makes their activation time much faster. However, if you’re looking for that classic couchlock you get from an edible, you might be missing out. Because the THC is mostly absorbed before it gets to your liver, there’s no chance for your body to convert it to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is generally what causes the unique high experienced from edibles.
- Indulge on an empty stomach or before a small meal. If you have your edible as a post dinner treat, your body has to digest a full meal before it gets to your cannabis infused goody, meaning it will take much longer to kick in.
- If you are a frequent cannabis consumer, consider taking a time-out on edible day, or maybe even for a day or two beforehand, if you aren’t a medical user that requires daily use. This will give you a bit of a tolerance break and allow your body to process the THC in the edible without being influenced by THC from other sources. It will also give you a clear picture of how you’re impacted by edibles and help you balance it with smoking in the future.
While many edibles are designed as desserts, the less fat in your edible the better when it comes to absorption. It takes our body longer to separate THC from fatty oils, which means a delay in activation. For fastest results, try a low-fat edible and avoid fatty foods right before and after consumption.