Do Edibles Stay in Your System Longer Than Smoking
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Yes, they do. While marijuana that is vaped or smoked gets into the system faster, marijuana consumed via edibles stays in the system much longer. The amount of time it takes for the body to process an edible and how long it stays in the system depends on the specific edible, dose, and individual body mass and metabolism of the consumer.

What are edibles and what are the effects?

Edibles are foods or drinks that have been prepared adding marijuana to the recipe. Edible marijuana has been used both recreationally and medicinally for centuries. In the early 19th century western medicine began to use edibles, often in the form of tinctures, to treat chronic pain, stress, and other health conditions.

Marijuana edibles are now popular in many forms, including brownies, gummies, cakes, cookies, salsa, candies, and drinks. While there may be some therapeutic effect from eating raw marijuana, it must be heated to release psychoactive effects.

Because research has shown marijuana to have valuable medical applications, many states have legalized it for that purpose. Marijuana edibles that contain both THC and CBD deliver a “high” as well as help to decrease nausea, pain, and inflammation. Edibles containing only CBD don’t have a psychoactive effect, but are effective for reducing pain and inflammation, and controlling epileptic seizures.

How the body processes edibles and how long does it take?

  • Edibles that are chewed and swallowed, like brownies and cookies, are the slowest to take effect because they aren’t absorbed until they reach the digestive tract. Upon ingestion, the cannabis moves through the stomach, then into the liver, where it is metabolized, and finally into the bloodstream. Because it takes time for the body to digest and metabolize edibles it often takes 1-2 hours or longer to feel the effects. Depending on how much was eaten, the effects can last up to 12 hours.
  • Marijuana edibles in the form of tinctures and hard candies are absorbed through the saliva and known as oral uptake. Tinctures are a liquid form taken by placing a few drops under the tongue, while hard candies are held in the mouth for a similar form of absorption. Taking effect in as little as 15 minutes, oral uptake edibles are the most quickly felt, but also the shortest lasting, about 2-3 hours.
  • Infused drinks or chocolate bars are an increasingly common form of edible. Called a hybrid, because they are absorbed both orally and through the digestive tract, the effects are felt quickly and can last 4 or more hours.

Edibles vs. smoking marijuana

Our bodies process marijuana that’s been smoked very differently than marijuana that’s been ingested. Smoked or vaped weed is absorbed through the lungs and then goes straight to the bloodstream and brain. It’s not metabolized by the liver until later.

  • Because smoking allows marijuana to enter the bloodstream and brain quickly, the effects of the THC are felt within 5 to 10 minutes and last 1-2 hours. While smoking gives a quicker high than edibles, it tends to be less intense and doesn’t last as long.

Most consider edibles to be healthier than smoking marijuana, as there is no exposure to the carbon, tar, and other carcinogens that smoking presents. Although it hasn’t been studied to the extent cigarette smoking has, there are indications that smoking marijuana may increase the risk of respiratory problems and various cancers.

Is there a downside to edibles?

There can be, especially for new users. When marijuana is smoked, the effect is felt almost immediately so the user knows when they’ve had enough. But with certain edibles, it can take up to 4 hours to feel the full effect. New users may not wait until those effects are felt before ingesting more of the edible. This can cause the user to feel sick, and possibly frightened, from the intensity of the high. Negative side effects can include a racing heart, sweating, paranoia, and even hallucinations. The best approach is to start with edibles that have been prepared with a small dose of THC, then wait until the effect kicks in before eating more.

Can you overdose on edibles?

While it’s unlikely a user would overdose from marijuana, an unexpectedly intense high can be very scary. A study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine medical journal found an increasing number of marijuana users visiting the ER for treatment. Those who had consumed edibles complained of acute anxiety, panic attacks, and uncontrollable vomiting. In most cases, there was no lasting damage reported.

How long do edibles show up on drug tests?

Generally, edibles will be detectable in the blood for 1-2 days, in the hair follicle for up to 90 days, and in the urine for 3-30 days. The amount of time varies greatly depending on factors such as:

  • Dose of edible
  • Type of edible
  • Body mass of user
  • Metabolism of the user
  • Regular use vs. occasional use

For those who regularly consume edibles, traces can be detected up to 3 months after last use. Edibles that are eaten just occasionally may be undetectable after a week.

Marijuana that is smoked or vaped may be undetectable after 1 day for those who don’t smoke regularly. As with edibles, the length of time smoked marijuana is detectable varies according to the above factors.

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