Marijuana has become the most popular drug in the world, and now eight states in the US have voted to legalize its use recreationally with another 21 maintaining legal status for medical use.1 However, as availability has increased over time, so have its forms of consumption.
Marijuana is the most common drug used in the U.S. and the world. In a 2016 Gallup poll, 13%of adult respondents indicated that they use marijuana on a regular basis. This is up seven percent from 2013.2 Another Gallup poll reported that 60% of adults in the U.S. favor its legalization.3 Given this popularity, it is no surprise that marijuana growers and enthusiasts have been innovative in finding alternative methods of consumption and sales.
Edible marijuana is a popular alternative to smoking it. Instead of being smoked, the herbal or resin form of the marijuana is used as an ingredient in baked goods, such as cakes, cookies or brownies. Edible marijuana also tends to be much stronger than marijuana cigarettes. THC is one of the active chemical compounds in marijuana and what gives the drug its psychoactive properties. THC from smoked marijuana moves through the body quickly in a matter of minutes, but THC in edibles is processed by the liver and stays active in the body for six to 10 hours.4
Those who have experience with edibles are familiar with how to factor its different effects; however, those who are only familiar with smoking marijuana could easily consume too much. After Colorado legalized non-medical marijuana, two people died after overdosing on cannabis edibles.5 This has been a common trend in which emergency calls centers have seen a sharp increase in emergency reports following decriminalization regarding edibles. Whereas those who smoke will intuitively quit once they are high, it’s much easier to keep eating a dessert-like snack.
Another concern with edible marijuana is that many products are made to very closely resemble mainstream, non-infused snacks and candy. The Huffington Post listed 10 marijuana-augmented foods that could pass for real food. The list included the following:
- Kit-Kat bars
- Jolly Ranchers
- Barbecue sauce
- Butane Hash Oil6
Another popular method of consumption is through dabbing, or extracting resin from the marijuana plant. The extraction process includes dissolving the marijuana in a solvent like butane (or alcohol or acetone), producing a thick, brown liquid known as hash oil. The solvent extracts chemical compounds (like THC) from the cannabis. Later in the process, the solvent is evaporated, leaving behind a purer form of cannabis with a very high potency.7 A very small amount—a drop or two—of butane hash oil induces the same effect as that of a single joint of marijuana.8 On top of oils and waxes being extremely potent, they are also flammable creating an extra danger.
Another way to get high on marijuana is through vaping. By using a vape pen with the same mechanism as an e-cigarette, highly concentrated marijuana oils are vaporized and inhaled. There is no smoke associated and very little odor. Users can discreetly smoke without drawing attention to themselves. The sleek presentation of a vape pen is attractive to many people who may not be attracted to the traditional ways of taking in cannabis, further boosting their popularity.
However, for all their adaptability, vaping pens carry their own risk. It is impossible to regulate the potency of the oils used in a vape pen, and there have been reports of users passing out after one inhale. As with any marijuana oils or wax, they are also very flammable. Not to mention with the discreet design, it is very difficult to monitor who has access to marijuana in this form.9
Signs of Marijuana Abuse
Despite the secrecy of vaping pens and other advantages of alternative marijuana, the effect on the human body is still the same. When users consume too much marijuana, they expose themselves to a number of dangers from the marijuana itself and other related factors.
People who are prone to feeling anxious and paranoid may have their conditions worsened by the presence of THC in their bloodstream and brain. While cannabis is a relaxant that can cause drowsiness (which in turn can cause its own problems), THC can make the brain overreact to normal stimuli. Thus, if a user is sensitive to paranoid thoughts or ideas, smoking marijuana might simply increase their paranoia.
Marijuana can build up a dependency in its users. If a smoker gets hooked on the drug but doesn’t use for a few days, they can exhibit classic signs of withdrawal, including the following:
- Loss of appetite10
Getting Help for a Cannabis Problem
Marijuana may not be the most dangerous drug on the spectrum, but it does have serious and likely dangers. Like alcohol, it can present itself innocently, but it can ruin families, careers and lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with marijuana abuse and addiction, please call us. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day at our toll-free helpline to talk with you about how we can help you or your loved one start a new life in recovery. Please call now.
1 “State Marijuana Laws in 2017 Map.” Governing.com, September 14, 2017.
2 McCarthy, J. “One in Eight U.S. Adults Say They Smoke Marijuana.” Gallup, August 8, 2016.
3 Swift, A. “Support for Legal Marijuana Use Up to 60% in U.S.” Gallup, October 19, 2016.
4 Wishnia, S. “Smoke vs. Snack: Why Edible Marijuana Is Stronger Than Smoking.” The Daily Beast, June 13, 2014.
5 Frosch, D. “Colorado Grapples With Risks From Edible Marijuana.” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2014.
6 Ferner, M. “10 Marijuana Edibles That Could Pass As ‘Real’ Food.” The Huffington Post, January 23, 2014.
7 “Marijuana.” NIDA, August 2017.
8 “THC Extractions.” US DEA, Accessed September 27, 2017.
9 Bryan, M. “Pot Smoke And Mirrors: Vaporizer Pens Hide Marijuana Use.” NPR, April 18, 2014.
10 “Marijuana.” NIDA, August 2017.