Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
The world of cannabis is changing and growing at an exponential rate. New strains offer targeted relief to patients struggling with a variety of different medical conditions, and innovative ingestion methods make smoking marijuana unneeded and passé. From vape bags and cartridge pens to edibles, patients realize there are more effective means of finding relief for their medical conditions and symptoms — the options are seemingly endless. One such cannabis innovation is transdermal patches.
By applying these self-adhesive cannabis doses to the skin, the medication releases directly into your bloodstream. Plus, they’re a more subtle and controlled method of self-medicating while you’re out and about. If you’re interested in these small yet powerful medication patches, here’s everything you need to know.
Transdermal patches are a truly unique method of using cannabis. You may have seen them before — such as in nicotine or birth control patches — but the marijuana patch has been around since 2001. With transdermal patches, you no longer need to worry about dosage or messing with different buds. All the cannabis medication required is packed into a small square adhesive. Medical marijuana is released directly into your bloodstream via patch-to-skin contact.
Whether you apply a patch at night or during the day, it slowly releases medication over an extended period. This is perfect for those who feel that the effects of smoking or vaping wear off too quickly.
A variety of marijuana treatment options are out there, so it makes sense that transdermal patches are not one-size-fits-all medications. Some are available in isolated cannabinoid profiles like THC and CBD. However, you can also find more rare cannabinoids, like THC-A and the elusive CBN. Opt for equal ratio patches, with 1:1 quantities of CBD and THC, or choose your patch based on the effects you’d like it to produce, such as:
One of the most significant benefits of transdermal patches is their subtlety. You can place these flesh-colored patches discretely onto your body and hide it under your clothing out of sight, allowing you to experience the medicinal effects of cannabis anywhere at any time.
To use a transdermal patch for your cannabis treatment, simply find a veinous area of your body, unwrap the packaging and stick it on. However, be sure to read the directions included with your patch to ensure you’re applying the medication correctly. Even though the application process is simple, there’s a science behind them that explains why transdermal patches are so helpful.
Each patch has additives included with the cannabis medication called permeation enhancers. When you apply it to your skin, these induce the cannabinoids to migrate from the patch and into your bloodstream. The skin is an effective barrier against toxins and other harmful contaminants, so permeation enhancers allow the cannabinoid medications to bypass this and enter through the skin.
Over time, you receive controlled, accurate doses of medical marijuana that give you ultimate control over your medicating.
These unique options offer patients a variety of medicating advantages that other ingestion methods can’t provide, including:
In many ways, using a patch is comparable to an extremely slow smoke — if that were possible. You get all the benefits without the adverse side effects smoking can produce, such as the inhalation of smoke particles which irritate the lungs.
Because transdermal patches are specifically designed to either highlight the characteristics of a specific cannabinoid or to target a particular symptom, they may be the treatment method of the future. Pretty soon, we could see transdermal patches for every condition possible. As it is today, however, these small patches seem to treat a few disorders and symptoms more effectively.
You should consider several different options when finding the right patch for you. For example, if you’re looking at a patch with a particular cannabinoid profile, you need to know what symptoms or disorders they are useful for treating. The normal options include:
Depending on the brand of cannabis transdermal patch you purchase, the effects last for varying amounts of time. You can feel some for up to eight hours, while others deliver relief for as much as 96 hours. Certain brands of patches include other soothing ingredients alongside cannabis medications, such as coconut, lidocaine, menthol and more.
Some of the best cannabis suppliers and industry leaders in the nation are creating cannabis transdermal patches that supply patients with targeted, fast-acting relief. Unfortunately, unless you live in a state where the recreational or medicinal use of cannabis is legal, you probably won’t be able to purchase these transdermal patches. However, with more than half the states in the U.S. recognizing the effectiveness of medical marijuana, you may not have to wait long before your state updates its views on cannabis medications.
If you’d like to take advantage of this innovative form of medicating, you need to have a medical marijuana card that will give you access to a dispensary near you. The first step, however, is visiting a marijuana doctor. They will assess your medical condition to determine if cannabis treatments are appropriate for you. Find a physician near you with our user-friendly database of approved medical marijuana doctors.