Updated on February 29, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
If you’re a medical marijuana patient, or thinking about becoming one, you may be wondering about how vaporizing cannabis oils will compare to smoking “bud” or “flower.” Vaporizing cannabis concentrates, also known as vaping, can be done with products containing cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—or both compounds at the same time. But are the two inhalation methods equally effective at delivering medicine?
At least when it comes to THC, a new study suggests that vaping cannabis is actually more efficient than smoking it. According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and other collaborators in a 2019 study, users showed greater concentrations of THC levels in blood and saliva samples after vaporizing. The double-blind study used a number of sophisticated methods such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass-spectrometry (LC-MS-MS) for testing THC levels in blood and saliva.
Unsurprisingly, researchers found the highest concentration of cannabinoids in participants’ blood and saliva ten minutes after they had smoked or vaped. The results were dose-dependent, meaning that higher THC concentrations were found in those who consumed more—regardless of how they consumed it. But, when compared to smoking THC-containing marijuana products, vaping appears to deliver medicine more efficiently—which actually may impact the cost of taking your medicine over time.
Vaping has gotten a good deal of press lately because some vape oils—obtained on the illegal market and containing additives like vitamin E acetate—can harm the lungs when inhaled. But there’s little evidence that legally-obtained THC cartridges are contributing to the vape health scare and many people still consider vaping THC safer than smoking it.
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