Marijuana edibles, also known as cannabis edibles or cannabis-infused food, are food products that are mixed or made with marijuana. They can come in different forms liked brownies, candies, cookies, chocolate, gummy bears, drinks, oil, and butter to name a few. Now, even fine-dining chefs are taking advantage of the edibles trend, infusing high-end dishes like foie gras and soufflés with cannabis.
The increasing popularity of marijuana edibles in the United States is undeniable. According to a market research firm, the cannabis edibles market in 2018 was worth $2.3 billion and this is expected to hit more than $5 billion by 2022. But along with this rise, new health concerns are also being unmasked. Neuroscientist and director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse Nora Volkow said that marijuana edibles are now being associated with medical complications that were never known to be associated with marijuana.
The dangers of marijuana edibles
There is a negative stigma attached to smoking marijuana. The smoke, the smell, and the paraphernalia involved may turn off many people. So, for those wanting to get the same effect, they turn to marijuana edibles as a quick, easy, and tasty alternative. However, while a weed-infused gummy bear may seem pretty harmless, not a lot of people recognize that these may cause dangers to their health.
The delayed effect can lead to overdose
Unlike smoked marijuana that can produce a high in just a matter of minutes, it takes much longer for marijuana edibles to take effect. After an edible is ingested, it will take between one to three hours before you can feel any result. This is because when marijuana is smoked, the THC (marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient) moves quickly from the blood in the lungs straight to the brain. With marijuana edibles, the THC must first pass through the gut and metabolized in the liver before it enters the bloodstream.
So, why is this delay more dangerous for the user? Not immediately feeling the desired effect of marijuana increases the risks of overdosing on the drug because not many people are aware of the delayed reaction. People who are used to the immediate effect of smoked weed tend to take more thinking that what they’re ingesting is not working. This also makes it harder for a user to gauge the right dose to get the desired effect. Marijuana, when ingested, also takes much longer for the body to clear.
Risks of heart problems
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that cardiovascular problems were more prevalent in ER visitors who had eaten edibles compared to those who inhaled weed. According to the study, symptoms such as irregular heartbeat and heart attacks are also three times more likely to manifest in people who ingested marijuana. About 8% of ER patients who had edibles had these symptoms, compared to only 3.1% of ER patients who smoked weed. While the study did not show that marijuana edibles lead to these conditions, the correlation cannot be ignored.
Severe psychotic symptoms
While marijuana may have proven to have health and medical benefits, overusing it, especially in the form of edibles, may trigger short-term and long-term mental issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, auditory or visual hallucinations, and extreme paranoia. If you have a history of mental illness in your family, overindulging in weed edibles delivers a high risk of triggering psychotic episodes.
Mixing with other medications
Another risk that many are unaware of is that other drugs or food that you’ve recently eaten could actually affect the way the THC in the marijuana you’ve ingested is absorbed in your body. This happens because the THC apparently competes for metabolism with other chemicals in the liver.
Depending on what other substances are present in your liver, this can affect the amount of THC in the blood and can increase as much as five times more. This is a dangerous increase that may produce disturbing side effects.
Disguised taste and smell pose further risks
Mixing weed in food is not something new. In fact, marijuana brownies have existed for years. But while these pot-infused delicacies used to be cooked or prepared underground, the way marijuana edibles are prepared have become more sophisticated.
More and more products are being developed that do not taste and smell like weed. You won’t even realize that you’re eating food mixed with marijuana. While this may be an ideal alternative for people using marijuana for medical reasons and are not comfortable with smoking pot, the risk is that because these edibles taste good, people tend to take more than what is considered safe.
Another problem is it is very difficult to know how much weed is really in these edibles which again increases the risk of overdose. Because marijuana edibles are not yet regulated and are still illegal in the eyes of the U.S. Food and Drug Association, rules regarding packaging and labeling vary from state to state (if any).
Unlike other food products, manufacturers of weed edibles are not required to follow a universal guideline in putting ingredients, nutritional information, or product warnings in the labels. Plus, even if these edibles are labeled with how much THC or CBD one serving or one packet contains, most people are unaware of how the amount indicated in the label would affect them.
The risk of edibles being ingested by children is also very high especially with many food products mixed with weed resembling and tasting like candy or dessert. In fact, according to a study published in the Clinical Pediatrics journal, marijuana exposure in children under the age of 6 increased by 148% across the US since marijuana was legalized in various states. But what was more alarming was that in states where medical marijuana is legal, this number rose to 610%.
How to treat marijuana addiction
Many people may not realize that marijuana is still an addictive drug. Yes, it may be legal and may prove beneficial for certain medical conditions, however, abusing marijuana for recreational purposes can lead to tolerance and addiction. It can also serve as a gateway drug to much more dangerous narcotics.
Recovery for marijuana addiction is possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, contact Lighthouse Treatment Center to learn more about our specialized modes of treatment.