How long does an edible high last?

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Situational circumstances, dosage and genetics all play a role

Author of the article:

Sydney Perelmutter

Publishing date:

Jun 11, 2019  •  March 6, 2020  •  4 minute read The average edible high typically lasts six to eight hours. Photo by Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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https://www.thegrowthop.com/cannabis-news/day-29-thc-infused-edibles-and-cbd-infused-ediblesThe edibles are coming. The edibles are coming…the legal ones, that is.

With edibles set to become available this fall as part of Canada’s highly anticipated second wave of cannabis legalization, consumers will be able to legally purchase commercially made edibles, giving them a convenient alternative to home baking.

Traditional consumers may already be in the know, but those eager to try pot-containing treats for the first time might be wondering how long the high will last. The simple question does not warrant such a simple answer, as there are a number of variables involved in consuming edibles.

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How long does the average high last from edibles?

Dr. Michael Verbora, a cannabinoid clinician who is also chief medical officer at Aleafia Health Inc., says the average edible high typically lasts six to eight hours. “Some people metabolize THC differently, so it [the high] can be slightly shorter or slightly longer, but the most common window of duration is six to eight hours from ingestion to sobriety,” Dr. Verbora notes.

Anyone who has smoked cannabis would surely agree a six-hour high is nearly impossible from a couple of puffs off a joint, so why do edibles tend to last so much longer than smoking?

“When we inhale cannabis, the drug goes into systemic circulation rapidly [within three to 10 minutes] and exits the system relatively quickly,” Verbora explains. “But when we ingest cannabis, the drug goes into the stomach and liver, undergoes metabolism and slowly enters circulation.”

It can take up to four hours after consuming an edible to reach the peak THC blood concentration and feel the full effects. (With smoked cannabis, the psychoactive effects occur in minutes and the effects last approximately one to four hours. Vaping has a similar onset, peak, and duration as smoking and produces a similar high).

The delayed onset of drug effect with ingestion results in a long, persistent high. Cannabis scientist, educator, and speaker Alex Samuelsson explains that the source of the prolonged high is chemical changes that THC undergoes in the body. “Once you orally ingest THC, it goes through the liver where an enzyme will convert it to 11-Hydroxy-Delta(9)-THC,” Samuelsson says. “It has a different shape, fuller structure and it’s much stronger than inhaled THC, which is why it takes longer for your body to metabolize it.”

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What factors influence the length of the high?

Samuelsson and Dr. Verbora say that one’s individual state at the time of consumption highly influences how long the high will last. “If you haven’t slept, it will affect you differently. If you’ve had too much coffee, it will affect you differently. If you’re stressed out, it will affect you differently,” Samuelsson says.

“When you take cannabis with anything that has the potential to change your mental state, like coffee, cigarettes or alcohol, there will be a blending of effects,” he explains. “Whenever you take anything plus cannabis, it will likely be a different high than just taking either of those two things alone.”

Emotional state and satiety, Samuelsson adds, also factor into the complex dynamic of the psychoactive experience.

Just as significant as situational circumstances is dosage. Consuming a large dose of THC (say, a serving size surpassing 10.0 mg of THC) could result in a high that surpasses the six- to eight-hour window, not to mention the potential for green out.

To prevent greening out for first-time edible consumers, Verbora recommends 2.5 mg to 5.0 mg of THC to start, after which point users can adjust dosage based on their wants and needs.

But let’s not forget about another key factor: genetics. “Different people can have the same dose and cultivar, but experience different effects thanks to individual genetics and metabolisms,” Samuelsson says.

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Single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced “snips”), Samuelsson explains, are the most common type of genetic variation among people. The shape and size of an individual’s SNPs “will determine the reaction rate to the edible, which will, in turn, determine how long it stays in your system,” he says.

Combining substances can be unpredictable

“Combining edibles with other substances or alcohol can magnify effects and can be very unpleasant,” Dr. Verbora suggests. A study published in 2017 notes that edibles interact with other drugs in the body because “the liver is involved in metabolizing the THC, unlike inhaled THC that directly affects the brain.”

Alcohol and cannabis are both depressants (“downers”), which can work together to slow down the central nervous system. Using them together is likely to result in greater impairment than when using either one alone. Additionally, combining cocaine and other stimulants (“uppers”) with cannabis can confuse the body and potentially cause increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure or overdose.

Since mixing cannabis with drugs or alcohol can often have unpredictable effects such as paranoia, anxiety and health issues, Dr. Verbora and Samuelsson do not recommend it.

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