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Exploring Edibles: Understanding Their Effects and Their Implications on Drug Tests

Edibles, an increasingly common means of consuming cannabis, offer a delicate and handy way to feel the effects of marijuana without the need to smoke. These items, which are often found as baked goods, candies, or beverages infused with cannabis extracts, have grown in popularity in areas where marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational use. Nonetheless, despite their widespread use and availability, it is critical to understand not only their effects but also the possible negative impact on drug test results. 

8 Minute Read | Published Aug 21 2023 | Updated Apr 08 2024 Expert Verified
Dr. Norman Chazin
Reviewed by
Dr. Norman Chazin
Reviewed by

Which Are the Basics of Edibles?

Edibles contain cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the psychoactive ingredient that causes the "high" associated with marijuana usage, but CBD has possible medicinal advantages without intoxication.

There are significant differences between consuming edibles and smoking cannabis. When smoked, THC rapidly enters the bloodstream via the lungs, resulting in a faster onset and shorter duration of effects. When consumed in edibles, THC is processed by the liver and transformed into a more potent form, 11-hydroxy-THC. This mechanism causes a delayed onset of effects, which normally range from 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion but can continue considerably longer, often up to 6-8 hours or more.

What Are the Effects of Edibles?

Dosage, metabolism, individual tolerance, and the cannabis profile of the product taken are some of the variables that might affect the effects of edibles. Possible typical outcomes are:

Euphoria and Relaxation: 

Edibles' euphoric and sedative effects are due to cannabinoids like THC attaching to neuronal receptors. Feelings, thoughts, and reactions to stress are all impacted by this interaction's changes to neurotransmitter release. Cannabinoids in edibles are digested in the digestive system before entering the bloodstream; thus, the effects are more gradual and persist for several hours, unlike with smoking. Some people may have unpleasant side effects from edibles, while others may not, depending on factors such as metabolism and dosage.

Altered Perception: 

Edibles' intoxicating effects are the result of THC's interaction with the brain's cannabinoid receptors. The connection has the potential to enhance sensory experiences, amplify sounds and colors, and alter one's perception of time. Users may also experience changes in their emotional state and mental habits, which might spur more contemplation and originality. 

The effects of THC might differ from person to person depending on their tolerance level, dose, and sensitivity. Since THC takes longer to metabolize in the digestive tract, the effects of edibles can linger for a while.

Increased Appetite: 

Edibles create an increase in appetite because THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, stimulating hunger. Known as "the munchies," this impact causes an increased desire for eating, typically savory or sweet foods. The cravings make it difficult for those who are trying to control their food intake. Individual factors such as dose and metabolism affect the level of appetite stimulation.

Potential Negative Effects: 

Adverse effects such as anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, or increased heart rate may be experienced by edible users in certain cases, particularly when consuming high dosages or in individuals who are sensitive to THC.

What Makes Edibles So Powerful?

There are many reasons why edibles' high potency is a double-edged sword:

Metabolism and Potency: 

Following intake, THC is broken down by the liver into 11-hydroxy-THC, a far stronger metabolite than THC alone. Because of the increased strength, the effects are both intense and long-lasting, which could cause users to feel overwhelmed.

Delayed Onset: 

Edibles, in contrast to smoking or vaping, have a delayed onset, which can lead users to overconsume because they don't feel the effects right away. Because of this lag, accidental overconsumption can happen, which can cause uncomfortable and even disturbing side effects.

Dosing Difficulty: 

Because people's metabolisms and tolerance levels vary and because different products have different levels of strength, it's not easy to determine the right dosage for edibles. Because of this lack of control, there is a greater chance of taking in too much THC, which can cause negative side effects including anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Variable Strength: 

Edibles, whether created at home or in a factory, can have wildly different levels of strength, even from batch to batch. Users' physical and mental health are put in serious danger due to the unpredictable effects and probable overdose that can result from the product's inconsistent THC dispersion.

Extended Duration of Effects: 

The effects of edibles can last for hours, if not days, after consumption, which is significantly longer than the effects of smoked cannabis. Users may find it tough to control the intensity of the experience due to the protracted duration, which raises the likelihood of prolonged pain or bad reactions.

Can Edibles Produce Intoxication?

Increased Risk of Overdose: 

While cannabis overdose is not typically life-threatening, consuming high doses of THC can lead to extreme intoxication, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, nausea, and vomiting.

Unpredictable Effects: 

The psychoactive effects of edibles can be unpredictable, especially for inexperienced users or those with low tolerance. Factors such as metabolism, body weight, and individual sensitivity can influence how someone responds to edibles.

Negative Health Impacts of Edibles

Edibles can have significant health consequences, especially when ingested in excess. Edibles may have some of the following undesirable health effects:

Overconsumption: 

One of the major hazards linked to edibles is the possibility of overconsumption. Due to the delayed onset of effects and the difficulty of precisely dosing edibles, consumers may mistakenly consume more THC than intended, resulting in unpleasant reactions and pain.

Psychological symptoms: 

Consuming edibles rich in THC can cause severe psychological symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and hallucinations.

Impaired Cognitive Function: 

THC, a psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, can impair cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, and decision-making. Prolonged or frequent ingestion of THC-rich edibles may result in chronic cognitive impairment, particularly in teenagers and young adults whose brains are still growing.

Dependence and Addiction: 

Consistent and excessive cannabis intake, even edibles, can result in reliance and addiction.

Interactions with Medications: 

Cannabis may interact with some pharmaceuticals, such as blood thinners, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Combining edibles with certain drugs can cause side effects or reduce the medication's effectiveness.

Do Edibles Show Up on Drug Tests?

One major issue for people who consume edibles is their potential effect on drug test results, especially in workplaces or legal contexts where drug testing is widespread. Despite the delayed onset and longer duration of effects, THC from edibles can still be detected on drug tests.

Standard drug tests, such as urine testing, often look for the presence of THC metabolites, specifically THC-COOH, which can be detected in urine for days to weeks following cannabis use, depending on frequency and dosage. THC is processed and removed from the body at a slower pace when consumed through edibles; thus, it can be detected in urine for a longer period of time than when smoked.

The detection window for THC in urine varies greatly depending on individual circumstances, however, THC from edibles is often detectable for several days to a few weeks after use, especially with regular or high-dose intake.

The Legal and Social Implications of Consuming Edibles

Legal Vulnerability: 

Consuming edibles may result in legal consequences such as fines, arrests, and criminal records. Users may suffer legal consequences, particularly if they are discovered carrying or distributing edibles in areas where they are outlawed.

Social Stigma and Discrimination: 

There is still a stigma associated with its intake in many communities. Individuals who consume edibles may endure criticism, prejudice, and social isolation, especially in conservative or anti-drug societies. This stigma can have an impact on personal relationships, career possibilities, and overall social well-being.

Parental and Child Welfare Concerns: 

Unintentional exposure to THC-containing products can lead to medical emergencies, child protective services interventions, and legal ramifications for caregivers. This raises issues of child welfare and responsible parenting.

Employment and Legal Implications: 

Consumption of cannabis edibles can have an impact on job possibilities and legal status, especially in businesses with strict drug policies. Employers may conduct drug tests to identify THC metabolites, which can result in disciplinary proceedings, termination, or legal problems. This can have an impact on people's income and financial security.

When to Look for Treatment?

You should seek assistance if:

  • You use edibles as a means of managing your emotions or stress.

  • No one can get their job, school, or relationships done while eating.

  • Health problems, both mental and physical, can develop as a result of using it.

  • Using edibles becomes a habit that you can't seem to break.

  • Stopping suddenly can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

  • You had tried to quit before, but it didn't work.

  • People close to you are worried about your usage.

To combat cannabis use disorder and aid in recovery, seeking professional help is a good first step.

Final Thoughts About Edibles

Consuming edibles presents risks, notably that THC, their active ingredient, can be detected in drug tests. Unlike smoking, edibles' effects are delayed, leading users to accidentally overconsume. This, combined with THC's extended presence in the body, increases the likelihood of positive drug test results. Such outcomes can have legal, employment, and social consequences.

Seek treatment if edibles interfere with daily life, cause health issues, or lead to dependence. Treatment options include counseling, therapy, and medical interventions tailored to address cannabis use disorder and promote recovery.

Resources

bullet ACS
"Cannabis and Cannabis Edibles: A Review"
Retrieved on February 27, 2024
bullet Elsevier
"The imperatives and challenges of analyzing Cannabis edibles"
Retrieved on February 27, 2024
bullet Elsevier
"How four U.S. states are regulating recreational marijuana edibles"
Retrieved on February 27, 2024
bullet Taylor & Francis Online
"Consumers' Perceptions of Edible Marijuana Products for Recreational Use: Likes, Dislikes, and Reasons for Use"
Retrieved on February 27, 2024
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