Is there any difference in terms of pain management if I use edibles or vaporize?

"I heard something about the blood / brain barrier. Can you explain this please?
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The answer is yes. Since the subject of pain a topic we discuss often, this is an excellent question. If you suffer from pain from a medical condition, it is something that you want immediate relief for. vaporizing is an excellent way for cannabis to help with pain relief in a very short time. The THC and CBD in whatever your vaping immediately goes to the lungs and then does cross the blood brain barrier as you mention. This helps with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and central nervous system which also contributes to the psychoactive effects of cannabis. For example, a study at the University of California San Francisco showed that a 4% THC concentration while vaping reduced neuropathic pain by 61%.

Edibles can also help with pain, however they take between 1-2 hours to start to work. They are best used, for example, in the evening prior to sleep to help with pain relief through the night.

Perry Solomon, MD

There are differences in edibles versus vaporize cannabis. Whether inhaled or ingested end, cannabinoids cross the blood- brain barrier. The differences mainly have to do with the amount of time necessary for the medication to start working, and then the length of time that the medication remains effective. Vaporized cannabis enters the bloodstream almost immediately, and begins working with in minutes. It’s peak effectiveness occurs around an hour later but it’s effects on decreasing pain last about 2 to 4 hours, depending on the variety. Edibles are another story. The absorption of edibles through the gastrointestinal tract is unpredictable and somewhat unreliable. It can take up to two hours for medication to become effective, but that varies. On the other hand, the effect from edibles lasts much longer, commonly 6 to 8 hours. Using edibles to treat pain is risky because you never know how much medication is going to be absorbed, and if your symptoms are not relieved quickly, the tendency is to increase the dose. Often times people do not wait the full two hours to reassess their pain scale. What commonly happens, is that people tend to take more edible medicine, before giving the first dose enough time to work, thus increasing the likelihood of taking too much and experiencing adverse side effects – anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, etc. If not using a tincture, I much rather have patients titrate their dose with vaporized medicine, thereby reassessing their pain scale every 10 to 15 minutes, and adding a puff of medication every 15 minutes, as needed until the pain is relieved or is, at least, bearable. Vaporizing cannabis is more cost effective. A lot of medication is lost through the process of digestion. Edible cannabis has more psychoactivity because when ingested, THC passes through the liver and is metabolized into a more psychoactive form. That can be a problem for patients who need to be clear minded and productive. That being said, some patients find cannabis teas to be especially effective in treating their painful symptoms and prefer it over inhalation. It is probably best to try both methods and decide what works best for you.


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