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What Are Edibles? How Long Do They Stay in Your System?

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

What are Edibles?

Edibles is short for Marijuana Edibles, referring to food products that contain cannabis in various forms such as brownies, cookies and chocolate bars. Edibles can be homemade or commercially bought, which are typically prepared in accordance with legal restrictions with regards to the ingredients and doses. Although edibles are most often ingested as a food product, they may also be available in the form of beverages such as tea, coffee or soda.

Types of Edibles

Here are some common types of cannabis edibles:

  1. Brownies and Baked Goods:

    • Brownies are a classic example of cannabis-infused baked goods. Cookies, cakes, muffins, and other baked items can also be infused with cannabinoids.
  2. Gummies and Candies:

    • Gummies and various types of candies are popular choices for cannabis-infused edibles. They come in a variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes.
  3. Chocolates and Truffles:

    • Cannabis-infused chocolates and truffles are widely available. These products often provide a discreet and tasty way to consume cannabis.
  4. Hard Candies and Lollipops:

    • Hard candies and lollipops infused with cannabis are another option. They come in various flavors and can be enjoyed slowly.
  5. Beverages:

    • Cannabis-infused beverages include teas, coffees, sodas, and fruit drinks. Some are formulated with both THC and CBD, while others may focus on one cannabinoid.
  6. Snack Foods:

    • Various snack foods, such as pretzels, popcorn, chips, and nuts, can be infused with cannabis. These products offer a savory alternative to sweet edibles.
  7. Tinctures:

    • While not traditional edibles, tinctures are liquid extracts of cannabinoids that can be consumed orally. They are often placed under the tongue for sublingual absorption or added to food and beverages.
  8. Capsules and Pills:

    • Cannabis capsules and pills are pre-measured doses of cannabinoids in pill form. They are similar to traditional pharmaceuticals and provide a precise dosage.
  9. Cooking Oils and Butters:

    • Cannabis-infused cooking oils and butters can be used in home cooking. They allow individuals to incorporate cannabis into their own recipes.
  10. Protein Bars and Energy Bites:

    • Protein bars and energy bites are available with added cannabinoids, providing a convenient and nutritious way to consume cannabis.

It’s important to note that the effects of cannabis edibles can take longer to onset compared to smoking or vaping, often ranging from 30 minutes to several hours. The delayed onset is due to the digestive process and the liver’s conversion of THC into its more potent form, 11-hydroxy-THC. Users should start with a low dose and be patient to avoid consuming too much too quickly.

Edible Dosages

Here are some general guidelines for dosages, but it’s crucial to start with a low dose and gradually increase as needed while monitoring your body’s response:

  1. Start Low:

    • Begin with a low dose, such as 2.5 to 5 milligrams of THC. This is especially important for individuals who are new to cannabis or have a low tolerance.
  2. Wait and Assess:

    • After consuming an edible, wait at least 2 hours before considering additional consumption. The onset of effects for edibles is slower compared to smoking or vaping.
  3. Titrate Slowly:

    • If the effects are mild or not felt, consider increasing the dose by small increments (e.g., 2.5 to 5 milligrams) in subsequent sessions.
  4. Consider THC:CBD Ratios:

    • Products with a balanced THC:CBD ratio or higher CBD content may provide a less intense psychoactive experience. CBD can help mitigate the potential anxiety or discomfort associated with high doses of THC.
  5. Understand Product Potency:

    • Pay attention to the potency of the edible, usually expressed in milligrams of THC per serving. Edibles can range from low potency (e.g., 2.5 mg THC) to high potency (e.g., 100 mg THC or more).
  6. Read Product Labels:

    • Carefully read the product labels to understand the THC and CBD content per serving. Some products may contain multiple servings, so be mindful of portion sizes.
  7. Consider Individual Factors:

    • Factors such as body weight, metabolism, and overall health can influence the effects of edibles. Individuals with lower body weight may be more sensitive to cannabinoids.
  8. Avoid Overconsumption:

    • Consuming too much THC can lead to uncomfortable side effects, such as anxiety, paranoia, or nausea. Start low, go slow, and avoid overconsumption.
  9. Keep a Journal:

    • Keeping a journal of your experiences, including the type of edible, dose, and effects, can help you find a dosage that works for you.

Edibles Legal Status

Here are three general categories that describe the legal status of cannabis and cannabis edibles:

  1. Legal for Recreational and/or Medicinal Use:

    • In certain jurisdictions, cannabis is legal for both recreational and medicinal use. This means that individuals of legal age can purchase, possess, and use cannabis products, including edibles, for recreational purposes. Medical cannabis may be available for individuals with qualifying medical conditions.
  2. Legal for Medicinal Use Only:

    • Some places permit the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes with a prescription or recommendation from a healthcare professional. In these cases, the use of cannabis is typically restricted to individuals with specific medical conditions.
  3. Illegal:

    • In many parts of the world, the use of cannabis, including both recreational and medicinal use, remains illegal. Possession, distribution, and use of cannabis products, including edibles, may be subject to legal penalties.
  4. Decriminalization:

    • In some locations, cannabis may still be technically illegal, but there are policies of decriminalization. This means that certain offenses related to cannabis possession may be treated as civil violations rather than criminal offenses, resulting in fines rather than imprisonment.

It’s important to emphasize that laws and regulations surrounding cannabis can change, and they can vary not only between countries but also within different regions or states of a country. Before using or purchasing cannabis products, including edibles, individuals should be aware of and comply with the legal requirements in their specific location.

THC Statistics

  1. Market Growth:

    • The edibles market, including cannabis-infused edibles, has shown significant growth in recent years. This is driven by changing regulations surrounding cannabis use in various regions.
  2. Consumer Preferences:

    • Edibles have gained popularity among cannabis consumers who prefer alternative consumption methods to smoking. This includes a diverse range of products such as gummies, chocolates, beverages, and more.
  3. Legalization Impact:

    • The legalization of cannabis in certain areas has contributed to the expansion of the edibles market. Legalization often leads to increased accessibility and a broader consumer base.
  4. Health and Wellness Focus:

    • Some edibles are positioned as wellness products, emphasizing CBD content for potential health benefits without the psychoactive effects associated with THC. This has contributed to the acceptance of edibles in mainstream markets.
  5. Dosing and Regulation:

    • Dosing accuracy and regulation have been important topics in the edibles industry. Proper labeling and standardized dosages are crucial for ensuring consumer safety and preventing unintentional overconsumption.
  6. Cautions and Challenges:

    • There have been concerns about the delayed onset of effects with edibles, leading to instances of overconsumption as users may not feel the effects immediately. Education on responsible consumption is an ongoing challenge.

For the most recent and specific statistics on edibles, including market trends, consumer behavior, and regulatory changes, it’s recommended to check reliable sources such as industry reports, market research studies, and government health agencies for the latest updates in 2024.

How Do Edibles Work in the Brain and Body?

Edibles work in the brain and body by delivering cannabinoids, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), into the bloodstream through the digestive system. Once ingested, these cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters involved in regulating various physiological processes.

Here’s a simplified explanation of how edibles work in the brain and body:

  1. Ingestion: When you consume an edible containing cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, it enters the digestive system.

  2. Absorption: The cannabinoids are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and then metabolized by the liver. This process converts THC into its active metabolite, which can be more potent than THC itself.

  3. Distribution: The cannabinoids enter the bloodstream and are distributed throughout the body, including the brain.

  4. Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS): THC and CBD interact with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. THC primarily binds to CB1 receptors, which are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system. This interaction is responsible for the psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria, relaxation, altered perception of time, and changes in mood and cognition.

  5. Effects: The activation of CB1 receptors by THC produces various effects on the brain, including alterations in sensory perception, memory, mood, appetite, and pain perception. CBD, on the other hand, interacts with CB2 receptors and other non-cannabinoid receptors, exerting its effects through different mechanisms, such as modulation of neurotransmitter release and anti-inflammatory properties.

  6. Duration: The effects of edibles typically last longer compared to smoking or vaping because the cannabinoids are metabolized and absorbed more slowly. The onset of effects can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, with peak effects occurring around 2 to 3 hours after ingestion. The duration of effects can last anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on factors such as dosage, metabolism, and individual sensitivity.

Edibles Side Effects

Here are some general considerations for short-term and long-term effects:

Short-Term Side Effects:

  1. Euphoria and Relaxation:

    • Many users experience feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and heightened sensory perception.
  2. Altered Perception of Time:

    • Time perception may be distorted, with a sense that time is passing more slowly.
  3. Increased Appetite:

    • Commonly known as “the munchies,” cannabis can lead to an increased desire for food.
  4. Dry Mouth and Red Eyes:

    • Dry mouth (cottonmouth) and red eyes are common side effects due to changes in salivary gland function and blood vessel dilation.
  5. Impaired Memory and Concentration:

    • Short-term memory and concentration may be affected, making it challenging to retain information.
  6. Impaired Coordination:

    • Cannabis can impair motor coordination, leading to a decline in fine and gross motor skills.
  7. Paranoia or Anxiety:

    • Some individuals may experience heightened anxiety or paranoia, especially with high-THC products.
  8. Increased Heart Rate:

    • Cannabis use can temporarily increase heart rate, known as tachycardia.
  9. Sleepiness or Fatigue:

    • Depending on the strain and individual response, cannabis can cause sleepiness or fatigue.

Long-Term Side Effects:

  1. Cognitive Effects:

    • Long-term cannabis use may be associated with subtle cognitive impairments, particularly in memory and learning functions.
  2. Psychiatric Effects:

    • Some individuals may be at an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, and in rare cases, psychosis.
  3. Respiratory Issues:

    • Smoking cannabis, including the combustion of cannabis edibles (e.g., in baked goods), can lead to respiratory issues similar to tobacco smoking.
  4. Dependence and Withdrawal:

    • Long-term use may lead to the development of dependence, and abrupt discontinuation can result in withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, and changes in appetite.
  5. Social and Occupational Functioning:

    • Chronic cannabis use may impact social and occupational functioning, especially if use interferes with daily activities.
  6. Reduced Motivation:

    • Some individuals report a reduction in motivation or initiative with long-term cannabis use.
  7. Cardiovascular Effects:

    • Chronic cannabis use may have cardiovascular effects, including an increased risk of cardiovascular events in vulnerable populations.

It’s important to highlight that research on the long-term effects of cannabis is ongoing, and not all individuals experience the same outcomes. Additionally, cannabis use may carry different risks for certain populations, such as adolescents, pregnant individuals, and individuals with a history of mental health disorders.

When Do Edibles Kick In?

The onset and duration of effects for edibles can vary widely based on several factors, including the individual’s metabolism, tolerance, the specific cannabinoids present, and the dosage. However, here’s a general outline:

  1. Onset: The onset of effects from edibles typically ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours after consumption. This delay is because the cannabinoids must pass through the digestive system and be metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream. Factors such as an empty stomach or the presence of fats in the edible (which can aid absorption) can influence onset time.

  2. Peak Effects: The peak effects of edibles usually occur around 2 to 3 hours after consumption. This is when the concentration of cannabinoids in the bloodstream is at its highest, leading to the most intense effects.

  3. Duration: The duration of effects from edibles is generally longer compared to other methods of consumption like smoking or vaping. Effects can last anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, with some residual effects potentially lasting even longer, particularly for individuals with lower metabolisms or those who consumed higher doses.

It’s crucial to start with a low dose when trying edibles, especially for beginners, and to wait a sufficient amount of time before consuming more. This helps avoid overconsumption and the risk of experiencing unpleasant effects. Additionally, always follow product recommendations and guidelines provided by healthcare professionals or dispensaries.

How Long Do Edibles Stay in Your System?

The half-life of edibles, specifically referring to cannabis-infused edibles, can vary depending on factors such as the dosage, individual metabolism, and the specific cannabinoids involved. Generally, the effects of edibles can last significantly longer compared to smoking or vaping because the cannabinoids are metabolized differently when ingested.

In most cases, the effects of edibles can be felt for 4 to 12 hours, with the peak typically occurring within 1 to 3 hours after consumption. However, traces of cannabinoids can remain in the body for much longer, especially in cases of frequent or high-dose consumption.

How Long are Edibles Detectable in Your System?

Here are general estimates for how long THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) can be detected in various testing methods:

  1. Urine Testing:

    • THC metabolites are often detectable in urine for an extended period, especially in chronic users. Typically, THC metabolites can be detected for up to:
      • Occasional use (once a week): Up to 1-7 days
      • Moderate use (several times a week): Up to 7-21 days
      • Heavy use (daily): Up to 30 days or more
  2. Blood Testing:

    • THC is detectable in the bloodstream for a shorter duration compared to urine. It is usually detectable for a few hours to a couple of days, depending on factors such as individual metabolism and frequency of use.
  3. Saliva Testing:

    • THC can be detected in saliva for a relatively short period, typically up to 1-3 days after use.
  4. Hair Testing:

    • THC metabolites can be present in hair follicles for an extended period, potentially months to years. However, standard hair tests usually focus on the most recent 90 days.

It’s important to note that these are general estimates, and individual variations can occur. Additionally, newer testing methods with increased sensitivity may detect cannabinoids for longer periods.

Are Edibles Addictive?

Cannabis, including cannabis edibles, has the potential for psychological dependence, but physical addiction is less common compared to substances like opioids or nicotine. The addictive nature of cannabis is a subject of ongoing research and debate among experts.

Here are some key points regarding the addictive potential of cannabis:

  1. Psychological Dependence:

    • Cannabis use can lead to psychological dependence, where individuals develop a habit of relying on the substance for relaxation, stress relief, or mood enhancement. Some people may find it challenging to cope with certain situations without cannabis.
  2. Tolerance and Withdrawal:

    • Regular cannabis use can lead to the development of tolerance, where higher doses are needed to achieve the desired effects. Withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, and changes in appetite, may occur when a heavy cannabis user abruptly stops or reduces their use.
  3. Risk Factors:

    • Certain individuals may be more susceptible to developing problematic patterns of cannabis use. Factors such as a personal or family history of substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and environmental factors can contribute to the risk of cannabis dependence.
  4. Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD):

    • In severe cases, where cannabis use becomes problematic and interferes with daily life, it may be diagnosed as Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD). CUD is characterized by compulsive use, difficulty controlling use, and continued use despite negative consequences.
  5. Gateway Drug Debate:

    • The concept of cannabis as a gateway drug, leading to the use of more harmful substances, is a topic of debate. While some individuals who use cannabis may go on to use other substances, the causal relationship is complex and influenced by various factors.

It’s important to note that the majority of cannabis users do not develop problematic patterns of use, and many people use cannabis responsibly without negative consequences.

Can You Overdose on Edibles?

While it is generally uncommon to experience a fatal overdose from cannabis alone, it is possible to consume too much cannabis, leading to unpleasant and potentially harmful effects. Unlike substances such as opioids or alcohol, cannabis does not have a well-defined lethal dose, and fatal overdoses are extremely rare.

Symptoms of consuming too much cannabis, often referred to as “cannabis intoxication” or “greening out,” may include:

  1. Extreme Anxiety or Paranoia:

    • High doses of THC can exacerbate anxiety and lead to feelings of paranoia.
  2. Rapid Heart Rate:

    • Cannabis can cause an increase in heart rate, which can be particularly noticeable at higher doses.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting:

    • Some individuals may experience nausea and vomiting, especially with high THC doses.
  4. Coordination and Motor Impairments:

    • Impaired coordination and motor skills can occur, making tasks more challenging.
  5. Hallucinations or Psychosis:

    • In rare cases, very high doses of THC can lead to hallucinations or temporary psychosis.

It’s important to note that these symptoms are generally not life-threatening, and the effects of cannabis intoxication typically subside with time. However, it can be distressing for the individual experiencing them.

To reduce the risk of adverse effects and “overconsumption,” individuals are advised to start with low doses, especially when trying edibles, as the onset and intensity can be delayed. It’s crucial to be aware of the THC content in edibles, as the effects can be more potent and longer-lasting than with inhaled methods.

If someone appears to be experiencing severe symptoms or if there are concerns about their well-being, seeking medical attention is recommended. While fatal overdoses from cannabis alone are exceptionally rare, complications can arise if cannabis is used in combination with other substances or if an individual has pre-existing health conditions. Responsible use, understanding personal tolerance, and being aware of the potency of products are essential for minimizing potential risks associated with cannabis consumption.

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