May 24, 2019 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Every experience I've had with cannabis edibles has been ineffective at best and frightening at worst. Can I reasonably expect using cannabis products in any other way to produce a different result?

Medical cannabis became legal in my US state a few years ago. I enrolled in the program last summer with the hope that cannabis could relieve my chronic musculoskeletal pain. My entire history of using cannabis spans the last 9 months (I'm a cishet male in my mid-40s, for reference). So far as I can discern, I get absolutely no benefit from CBD oil when it is taken sublingually on its own, neither the subtle "non-head" high that some others seem to experience, nor a mild feeling of well-being, nor any change to my pain levels... nothing . Adding a very modest amount of THC via an edible chew, or a portion thereof, also seems to have no effect. I've experimented with various THC:CBD ratios of 1:20 to 1:10, with up to 2 mg of THC in the chews or fractions thereof, and I've felt nothing. I became frustrated and stopped making any attempt to use cannabis for several months.

Recently, I visited a dispensary to try edibles one more time. On the suggestion of an employee I purchase a tin of edible chews from a well-known and (I'm told) reliable and consistent supplier, each of which is listed as having 3.5 mg of THC and 19.3 mg of CBD (roughly a 1:5.5 ratio of THC:CBD). I ate one at about 9:00 one evening and I had the full-on Maureen Dowd in her Colorado hotel room in 2014 experience - a profoundly unpleasant head high followed by a terrible, almost psychedelic experience that lasted over three hours. The dryest cotton mouth I've ever felt, massive time dilation, tightness in the chest, intrusive and impossible-to-avoid waves of paranoia, shame, fear, and dread... it was ridiculous and awful and frightening. I went to bed, eventually fell asleep, and thankfully felt no lasting ill effects the next morning.

I'll abashedly concede that it was reckless and foolhardy of me to rely on the dispensary employee's suggestion without dosing and titrating more carefully, and I paid the price with a crappy night. I was surprised, though, that I somehow seemed to go from no effect at lower doses to a preposterous (but genuinely alarming) "reefer madness" incident with the higher dose.

Before I give up hope that this plant which apparently is tremendously helpful for many others will ever have a similar effect on me, is there any evidence to suggest that my using cannabis in any other way will produce a better result? I'm drawn to edibles for their (ostensible) potential for careful dose control and so that I can avoid vaping or smoking, neither of which particularly appeals to me. If anyone can provide some sort of evidence that some other way of using cannabis could reduce my pain, though, I'm willing to take a shot. I gather that for various good reasons there haven't been a lot of high quality double blind trials or similarly rigorous research on cannabis, THC, CBD, etc., so I imagine your replies will be largely anecdotal, but I'd be interested in reading them nevertheless.

(This question was partially inspired by this interesting recent post on the Blue and the comments therein. I'm less interested in rehashing whether CBD is snake oil than I am in trying to discern whether my subjective experience with edibles portends similarly bad results with smoking, vaping, or some other way of using cannabis.)
posted by cheapskatebay to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, you can reasonably expect to have different results from vaping or smoking pot rather than eating it. I hate the effects of eating pot. It feels like getting hit on the head with a sledgehammer. Smoking or vaping can be much less overwhelming. You also have better control of dosage with vaping and smoking, because the effects are almost instantaneous. You can take one puff and then wait five minutes before deciding whether to take another. By contrast, edibles have an onset of 1 hour to 2 hours, so there's really no way to titrate the dosage.

I don't know why eating pot has such a different effect from smoking, but it does. Some people like it, obviously. Edibles are very popular. But lots of people don't like it.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:21 PM on May 24, 2019 [12 favorites]

Best answer: If you can find a product like Quill (currently Oregon/Washington only) it’s a vaporizer that draws extract, but each “hit” is a measured dose of 2mg of THC (or some of their products that have cbd). It’s a pretty small dose too, so you can meter your consumption VERY easily. I stared using one recently to experiment with “microdosing” with cannabis, and for me at least, each pull doesn’t have a huge effect.

And fwiw, when THC and CBD are processed though the stomach (and subsequently liver) it alters the structure and you actually get a slightly different stripe of the chemicals crossing the blood/brain barrier. Inhaling produces different effects, and for some people this is drastic. I like CBD heavy edibles fine, but they are almost always harsher on my system than inhaling cannabis products. THC edibles can fuck right off. YMMV.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:26 PM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, edibles are a whole other ballgame for me. I won’t do it. Vaping or smoking so so much easier to control and handle.
posted by MountainDaisy at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: I'm drawn to edibles for their (ostensible) potential for careful dose control and so that I can avoid vaping or smoking, neither of which particularly appeals to me.

Here's the thing. Taking edibles is like trying to steer a car by shouting "10 degrees right" and then having someone else, several seconds later, turn the steering wheel 10 degrees. You know exactly how much you turned by. But that's not, in a driving situation, a useful kind of control to have. What you want is responsiveness: the ability to turn the car directly, with your own hands, and then to see how it reacted, and adjust further moment-by-moment.

Similarly, if you take an edible, you know exactly how many milligrams of THC and CBD you're going to get. But unless you already have a really detailed understanding of how your brain and body react to those chemicals, that's not a useful kind of control. And because edibles hit you very slowly, and give you everything in big units, they have terrible responsiveness.

When you're first experimenting, you want that responsiveness. And the way to get responsiveness is to smoke or vape. When you do that, each time you take a puff, you feel your brain and body's reaction relatively quickly, and you can decide in a moment-by-moment way whether you want to be higher or less high.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:44 PM on May 24, 2019 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I find that I get shockingly different experiences out of different strains of cannabis. Like, even within the broad category of indica strains, which are, broadly, the more sedating variety, I find some specific strains are great for my insomnia, and some are terrible for it and exacerbate it, and even sometimes different batches of cannabis that are supposedly the same strain can give me different effects. (Though this may also be due to other variance in my mood. I have some stuff I'm still figuring out vis-a-vis mental illness and other disorders.)

So even with regard to smoking/vaping, which gives you more control, you may have a significantly different effect from different varieties; you may simply have had poor luck with what you tried.
posted by Caduceus at 1:57 PM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I HATE edibles. I LOVE vaping. Completely different experience.

The edibles take too long to kick in and sometimes I am still high the next morning. They can be too intense for me as well. Almost psychedelic.

Vaping is much milder. Kicks in faster. Calms the anxiety and I'm not high or hungover the next day.
posted by kbbbo at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: I cut my gummy chews (the ones I'm using now are 4.5THC/.5CBD) into quarters or sixths to take shortly before bed. A quarter gets me high-quality sleep but I'm pretty sludgy for my 3am pee and I'm not getting out of bed until the absolute last moment. A sixth is good sleep, and I can be convinced to get out of bed earlier in my appropriate window, but I'm up a couple times and it can take a while to get back to sleep. I took a half once and lost the ability to speak for a couple of hours; I don't dare try a whole one.

My lightweightness does not stop there, though. No matter what the format, I can only consume a fraction of what I guess most people would consider "normal", certainly it's a fraction of what dispensary employees would consider a single use. So if you are like me (and I do not get the mystical CBD high though I think I do get some mood-regulation from it; I don't have any real ongoing pain to say whether I think it helps me in that sense), whatever you try you need to try in ridiculously tiny quantities and work your way up over the course of distinctly separate testing sessions. Yes, that means you may have testing days that are extremely disappointing, but to me that is preferable to another one of Those Nights like you had, which I find harrowing and they mess me up for a week.

Like, I have a friend who makes brownies with pretty reliably-dosed oil, and I shave a sliver off with a steak knife and have a distinct high that lasts an hour plus a mellow tail of 2-3 hours after that. I did not learn that the easy way, because who would need to do that? I have had enough incidents to know roughly how to smoke or vape without obliterating myself, but honestly I find that easier to do with edibles because they are so easy to cut into tiny pieces.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:04 PM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's my experience: the first time I used weed, it was in cookie form. My dose was half the size that my friends ate. My friends are habitual, but not heavy users, and we're about the same size. They had a relaxing evening. I...had auditory hallucinations. My heartbeat went crazy. My tongue was like a sponge. It felt like I was high all night long. By some miracle I fell asleep eventually, and I still felt high the next morning...though that was probably just a hangover.

I really detest the smell of marijuana, so I'd rather eat a mouthful of an edible than vape. If the smell doesn't bother you, though, maybe give it a try. And if you're still interested in edibles at all, go with a half-dose next time...or even a quarter-dose. I thought I'd been cautious with my first dose, but when I halved it again, it was still effective. Regular users definitely seem to have a layer of tolerance that the rest of us don't, so keep that in mind even when someone in a dispensary is recommending a dose.
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don’t like marijuana, I don’t use marijuana now. But I had a very good friend a few years ago who shared a joint with me when I had dry socket and it was the only thing that made me feel pain free... it was the best few hours I had out of a long few weeks. I would definitely keep trying because it can be such a great pain reliever .
posted by catspajammies at 2:18 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: This sounds like something that happened to my friend's parent. They had never smoked or ingested weed before trying medical edibles. The first time had no effect, the second time was Frank Zappa's Freakout Album.

Considering that people often experience no effect the first time they smoke weed, maybe it takes some time for exocannabinnoid receptors to develop after first exposure. If this is the case, it would make dosage for edibles tricky. I imagine tiny amounts might be the way to start building up to the right dosage.
posted by Morpeth at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: Heh -- apparently rather against the grain, I greatly prefer edibles to anything inhalation-based for various reasons and can confirm that smoking/inhaling gives you a WAY different high.
posted by kalimac at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, in my experience (and yours may vary wildly)

- edibles do manage pain really well, but I do need to be at least somewhat high to get the most use out of them.
- The peak hits at around three hours for me - I sometimes start to feel it about about an hour, more reliably around two. This will vary somewhat depending on how full your stomach is, etc, when you take the dose.
- Your description of the bad trip is exactly what happens when I take too much, although I definitely get the dry mouth and time dilation at levels I need to manage moderate-to-severe pain. This may not be a reasonable tradeoff for you!
- I do get some paranoia/anxiety sometimes, with some strains, moreso when I'm generally stressed. Some people always get it, and it makes pot not a solution for them.
- I used California dispensary edibles for a year or two (and learned a Valuable Lesson about comparing absolute TCH values! That was a fun night) but these days I grow my own, cook it down, and eyedropper it into capsules myself. VASTLY cheaper, and this summer I'm going to experiment with some different strains. That said, nebulawindphone's analogy for why precise dosing isn't a cure-all is very important to keep in mind.

Never smoked weed (I have a phobia around inhaling things, oddly enough) so I can't help you with the comparison. But while pot is helpful for a lot of people for pain, the side effects are a thing and, especially with the anxiety, may be dealbreakers.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:14 PM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The only thing I have to add is that for anyone whose experience with cannabis is from back when it was primarily smoked, and the associated stench, the modern oil vaporizers produce comparatively little smell even when used indoors. And the smell is sort of a vague herbal note, sometimes (I suppose based on the strain) quite pleasant.

I am an absolute anti-smoking Nazi but I've more or less decided not to yell at friends for using vape pens indoors, because they're so different and comparatively inoffensive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:16 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At this point in my life edibles are a hard pass for me. I get too high for too long and I've got shit to do. Smoking or vaping is totally different. (I'm very envious of you folks in legal states where you can buy these magical-sounding vape pens because those sound right up my alley.) Nebulawindphone is right, trying to dose with edibles sounds like it'd be more precise, but the lag in effects makes it impossible to back slowly into it. It's just, like, down the hatch and say a prayer.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:58 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really don’t enjoy pot much at all. 8/10 times, I’ll end up fainting (aka whiting/greening out thanks to low blood pressure), sleeping (although it’s like a grey zone between properly sleeping and passing out), or getting anxious. That’s off a couple of tokes.

Maybe 1/10 times is a pleasurable, friendly, low-key, recreational buzz that *doesn’t* involve my ears ringing too much and my field of vision shaking like an old tube tv on the fritz. 1/10 times, my perception isn’t too much affected and what happens isn’t a total numbing of pain so much as a kind of dissociation from it. The pain’s still there, it’s just much more easily ignorable. I think it’s about the strain - very low THC, higher CBD, max two tokes.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:52 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: Not sure where you are but you should be able to buy a disposable vape pen with a variety of THC/CBD ratios for relatively low cost. Give this a try first; cheap for an experiment (long term you'd want a rechargeable battery).

There are also patches, lotions, and bath gels -- from what you described I'd avoid these unless they're CBD/CBN *only*. At least until you're more familiar with things. Some seem like they'd help you, however, so keep in mind for future usage? Example: products from "Papa & Barkley".

...also, ymmv, but I'd suggest paying attention to the specific strain. Indica and Sativa are not really the same; different terpenes etc. I kinda suspect your failed experiment was with an Indica.

... alternative: Kikoko makes a tea called "sympa-tea" that's aimed at your specific usage. I've not tried it (pain free) but it might be worth a go? In CA you can buy a single sachet from a dispensary. It's an edible, yes, but it's formulated specifically for relief, not wacky fun times.

Also, at least in CA, the dispensary people are quite knowledgeable about the products and should be able to offer advice based on your past experience. I'm quite disappointed, by proxy at least, in the folks who sold you the materials you've used this far.
posted by aramaic at 9:55 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: Find a knowledgeable supplier and a reputable source. Obtain tincture of well-reviewed CBD-dominant strain. Administer sublingually, beginning with a low dose and gradually titrating up until the desired effect is reached.

Sublingual tincture is easier to dose and faster-acting than edibles. Think of it as vaping for your digestive tract.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:34 PM on May 24, 2019

Best answer: The amount of cbd you're taking for your size doesn't seem right. Try taking 40 or 50 mg of striaght cbd and see if it helps you. Maybe capules from a lab verifyied supplier.
posted by Kalmya at 8:42 AM on May 25, 2019

Response by poster: Thank you, all, for your thoughtful and helpful replies.
posted by cheapskatebay at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2019

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