For patients dealing with symptoms like chronic pain, using the fastest medical marijuana treatment method is crucial to their comfort. We’ve ranked the three most popular ingestion methods in order based on how long it takes for the effects to kick in — from fastest to slowest — and included the options patients have for each technique.
As the fastest ingestion method, smoking your medical weed is also the most popular way to use cannabis — you will feel the effects within a few minutes. Due to this, there are several options within this category for how to smoke your marijuana, including:
Vaping: If you’re looking for the smoking method that’s best for your health, you need to invest in a vaporizer. These tools heat the marijuana rather than burn it, so you don’t inhale any burnt organic matter into your lungs. However, you must put more money into this method of smoking than others, as vaporizers are not typically cheap.
Joints and Blunts: Joints and blunts both involve rolling your crushed marijuana flower like a cigarette or cigarillo, respectively. You use two different types of paper for each, with blunts typically being bigger than joints. After a few hits of a joint or blunt, you will feel the effects almost immediately — these methods are the worst for your lungs, though.
Pipes and Bowls: Using a pipe or bowl is perhaps the easiest way to smoke your cannabis medicine. You don’t have to buy expensive equipment — you can easily find one for around $20 — and there is no tedious rolling involved. Simply pack the bud, light it and inhale.
Bongs and Bubblers: A step up from pipes and bowls are water pipes, such as bongs and bubblers. A bubbler is more like a bowl, but with a small chamber for water attached to it. A bong, on the other hand, has a longer neck, which can make the hit less irritating on the user’s throat. The water in both of these contraptions also achieves that same effect.
Dabs: Dabbing is without a doubt the most efficient way to use cannabis medicine because you use an extremely concentrated form of marijuana. But, like vaping, dabbing can be expensive initially. You need some elaborate equipment, including a nail, a blowtorch and a dab rig, to name a few. The process is also somewhat complicated.
Of course, although this is the fastest ingestion method, the effects also wear off after between two to four hours depending on the potency and how often you smoke.
2. Topical Creams
Topical creams are lotions that have been infused with medical marijuana cannabinoids. This is the second-fastest ingestion method patients use, but it’s best for specific purposes. Do you have localized pain throughout your body? An aching shoulder, a sore back or even a pounding headache are a few examples of symptoms you can treat with cannabis-infused topical creams. Topicals can also treat inflammation and other skin-related symptoms.
Since they’re only applied to the exterior of the body and not consumed, topicals are not suitable for patients seeking to treat mental conditions like depression and anxiety. Though topicals may be soothing, they cannot get into the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to interact with receptors and affect the mind.
Due to this and the fact that topicals are made with cannabidiol (CBD) and not tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), these medications also do not create the “high” or psychoactive effects some people associate with marijuana. THC is responsible for these side effects, while CBD does not alter your state of mind at all.
Though the effects of taking cannabis orally will take the longest to kick in, they will also last the longest out of any other ingestion method. This is because your body must break down and digest the food or liquid as usual.
On average, patients can expect to feel the effects of edibles as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, or up to over an hour later. The effects typically peak between two to three hours after ingestion and can last six hours or more, depending on the user and the potency of the medicine.
Your options for taking marijuana orally include:
Snacks or Drinks: Marijuana-infused baked goods and drinks are perhaps the most popular form of oral medicine patients take. You can find a variety of edible snacks at dispensaries, from brownies and cookies to gummies and candies. Drinking your cannabis gets a bit more complicated — your options include brewing weed tea, coffee, beer or wine. Some dispensaries will offer already brewed concoctions, but not all. That’s why drinking marijuana isn’t quite as popular.
Capsules or Pills: Cannabis pills and capsules are perfect for patients who also have other medicines to take. This form makes taking all your medications at once simpler. They have the same characteristics as other edible products — the effects take longer to set in, but they also last longer throughout the day. You can get these medicines from most dispensaries, and it’s easy to tell exactly how much you’re taking because they will be marked.
Tinctures or Sprays: Tinctures are extremely concentrated cannabis in liquid form. You can take them by just dropping a bit of it on your tongue and letting it dissolve. Sprays are essentially tinctures in a spray bottle, which you can use like breath spray. These are a bit more inconspicuous than dropping a liquid onto your tongue. A benefit to this type of oral medication is that it kicks in within around 15 minutes. It also has no smell, making it easy to use in group settings without others knowing. Strangely, this is one of the least popular methods of ingestion.