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How Do THC Edibles Work and Are There Risks?

With marijuana legal in more than half of the United States, many consumers are turning to thc edibles (marijuana-infused foods or drinks). These can include candies and gummies, baked goods like brownies and cookies, as well as ready-to-drink beverages. They offer a more discreet way to consume THC than smoking marijuana, and require no tools or supplies such as pipes or rolling papers. But how do thc edibles work and are there any risks?

Edibles deliver a high from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in different ways, depending on their structure and how they’re eaten. A cookie, for instance, may contain a higher concentration of THC than a gummy. That’s because THC is absorbed in the mouth (sublingually or bucally) or through digestion. The latter route can be more dangerous for children, as it can take 30 to 60 minutes for the THC in an edible to reach the bloodstream and can produce a more powerful effect than smoking.

A higher THC dose in an edible also may take longer to kick in, making it more difficult for kids to know how much to consume or when to stop. This delay in the onset of effects can make it easier for kids to accidentally consume too much, which can result in the unpleasant side effects of THC or even a cannabis overdose.

In fact, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that more than 3,000 exposures to THC in children 12 and under occurred in 2020, with most of those exposures from edible products. And because edibles can be made to closely resemble popular brand name candy and snacks, it’s not always possible for parents or adults to tell how much THC is in an edible. In a 2015 study, researchers tested 75 THC food products and found that only 17 percent were accurately labeled.

Another risk of edibles is that the effects can last hours or even days, depending on the dose and the active ingredient. More research on short- and long-term side effects is needed.

Finally, edibles often can be mistaken for a normal food or beverage, making it easy for children to unintentionally eat them. And because edibles can interfere with some medications and supplements, people should talk to their doctor before using them.

THC edibles may also interact with other substances and drugs in the body, including alcohol, opioids, and some antidepressants. That’s why it’s important to store any marijuana products away from other medicines and out of sight and reach of children, in a locked cabinet or medication box, for example.

THC edibles can have a wide range of effects, from mild to very strong, and it may take time for the THC to kick in after consuming them. So, it’s best to start with a small amount and wait at least two hours before taking more. If you’re taking a high dose, it is recommended that you wait even longer before consuming more.

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