When I was in my early twenties and new to Colorado, a coworker gave me my first edible.
“Be careful with this,” she warned, handing me a glass bottle wrapped carefully in a paper bag and topped with a red bow.
I peeked inside at the contents: A cannabis-infused soda with a bright, psychedelic label that read: WARNING. Contains THC: 100mg. My coworker’s warm smile melted to stern sincerity as I excitedly fiddled with the bottle cap.
“I’m not kidding,” she insisted. “Take one sip – ONE – then wait an hour and see how you feel.”
Well, we all know how this story ended.
I woke up fourteen hours later (and four hours into my work shift) nose-to-nose with a half-eaten box of pizza I didn’t remember ordering. Sporting the same clothes as the night before and a dizzying headache to match, I was a poster child for the college walk of shame – except I hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol and I hadn’t left my home. The last thing I remembered was tipping back the entire bottle of soda in one glorious (and foolish) gulp.
Also, I was still high. I was still VERY high.
When I called work in a panic, fully prepared to beg for my job, the line erupted with applause and laughter. “Welcome to Colorado!” my entire team cheered. “We knew how this would go. Everyone’s the same when it comes to edibles.”
I never heard the end of that one – and it was a year before I had the gumption to eat cannabis in any form again.
Edibles are powerful medicine that provide intense, long-lasting effects. But for the inexperienced, ill-prepared or novice user, the experience can turn negative quickly without understanding the basics of how they work.
But don’t let that scare you away: Used correctly, edibles are highly-potent (and highly-enjoyable) additions to your canna-cabinet.
Here are the top four insights that have helped me get the most positive experience out of my cannabis edibles:
1.) Know the basics
When it comes to cannabis products, each route of administration has its own unique way of assimilating into our system.
When we smoke cannabis, for example, the active compounds are absorbed through alveoli in the lungs and enter the bloodstream almost instantly, producing a rapid onset of effects. That’s why when we smoke a joint or a bowl, we feel high almost immediately.
But when we eat cannabis, active compounds like THC and CBD must be digested before moving into the bloodstream – and this means the amount of time it takes to feel an effect varies wildly from person to person. While one individual may feel the effects of an edible in 30 minutes, it may take another several hours to notice any effect at all.
There are also certain people who cannot feel the effects of edibles no matter how much THC they consume. Researchers theorize this to be a result of endocannabinoid system deficiency, genetics, or hormonal interactions. (To learn more, check out some of the compelling research by Dr. Ethan Russo.)
2.) Know your milligrams
Your product’s milligram dosage is your golden compass in determining an edible’s dose – and surprisingly, it’s also commonly overlooked by new patients and consumers.
A milligram is the measurement used to determine how much THC is contained in the product. While individual tolerance varies, a person eating cannabis for the first time can generally tolerate between 5mg and 15mg of THC as a starting point. (This article by Dr. Dustin Sulak provides an excellent starting guide)
Consider that the typical one-serving edible sold in dispensaries can contain anywhere from 10mg – 250mg of THC, and you’ll begin to understand why so many people unintentionally overdose on THC. One brownie may contain ten or more servings!
To ensure you’re in control of your experience, always be aware of how many milligrams of THC your product contains (which should be clearly labeled on the packaging) and stay within the beginner’s window until you know your body’s level of tolerance. If you’re unsure of how many milligrams are in your product, consider making your own to control the dose, or jump to tip number three.
3.) Start low, go slow
This adage has become a common mantra in the cannabis community to steer users in the right direction when consuming cannabis edibles. In short, it means start with a low dose, and titrate up slowly.
Because a multitude of factors affect the way edibles break down in the human body (metabolism, weight, height, gender, diet, genetic tolerance, etc.), it may take time and experimenting to discover your ideal dose.
As mentioned above, don’t be fooled by the size of your edible – even small pieces of candy or single cookies can pack a punch. Don’t drink the whole soda on your first try, like I did – instead, take a small sip or bite, wait an hour, assess how you feel, and then have a bit more if necessary. As a general rule, I find it effective for my body to have 10mg, wait an hour, then have 10mg more if needed.
I know, I know: Who the hell eats a quarter of a brownie? (Certainly not me. That’s why I prefer to make my own edibles at home in doses low enough that I can enjoy an entire medicated treat. Check out this recipe on my blog for inspiration.
4.) If you over-consume, don’t panic.
Despite the very uncomfortable feelings overconsumption can cause, it is not possible to die from THC. Because cannabis’ therapeutic index is incredibly high (40,000:1), the amount of cannabis you’d have to consume to harm yourself (1,500 pounds in 15 minutes) is physically impossible.
Humans also lack cannabis receptors in the part of the brain responsible for heart rate and respiration. This means no matter how many edibles you consume, they will never make you stop breathing or cause your heart to stop beating.
However, consuming too much THC from edibles can elicit powerfully-uncomfortable feelings, including paranoia, nausea and a racing heart. If you find yourself in this position, consider the following options to lessen discomfort:
· Lay in a comfortable, safe place and remind yourself that this is a temporary sensation
· Drink plenty of water and eat a snack
· Practice deep breathing
· Call a friend for support or invite them over to monitor you
· Take some CBD – CBD can lessen the effects of THC
· Utilize a product like UNDOO Softgels, which help reduce the effects of THC at the receptor level ( https://undoo.com/ )