Bioavailability / Pathway / Decisions

Bioavailability, Pathway, and Decisions—A Comprehensive Guide to the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis Consumption Methods

Choosing a method of cannabis consumption involves understanding the bioavailability, onset, and duration of effects, among other factors. The mode of consumption—whether topical, pulmonary, or oral—determines not only the systemic concentrations of cannabinoids but also their local concentrations at target sites. This guide delves into the intricate pharmacokinetics of these methods, their predisposition for euphoria, regionality, dosing flexibility, safety in combination, and the variety of options available.

Bioavailability: What Gets Absorbed?

The bioavailability of cannabinoids varies significantly depending on the route of administration. Pulmonary methods, such as smoking or vaporization, offer rapid systemic absorption with bioavailability ranging from 10-35% (Huestis, 2007; PMID: 17679602 ). Oral ingestion, on the other hand, faces first-pass metabolism in the liver, leading to lower bioavailability, around 4-12% (Zgair et al., 2016; PMID: 27574199 ). Topicals generally provide localized effects and are not well-absorbed systemically.

Onset and Duration of Effects

Pulmonary methods offer the quickest onset, usually within minutes, and last for approximately 2-4 hours. Orally ingested cannabinoids may take 30 minutes to 2 hours to set in and can last up to 8 hours. Topicals usually act within 20-40 minutes and provide localized relief for several hours (McGilveray, 2005; PMID: 16237477).

Euphoria: How High Will You Get?

Pulmonary and oral routes are more likely to produce euphoric effects due to systemic absorption of THC. Topicals, on the other hand, are less likely to cause euphoria as they often do not reach the bloodstream in significant concentrations.

Regionality vs. Systemic Impact

Topical applications are designed for localized relief and do not usually have systemic effects. Both pulmonary and oral routes result in systemic concentrations of cannabinoids but may also offer localized relief depending on the condition being treated (Stinchcomb et al., 2004; PMID: 15190034).

Dosing Adjustability

Pulmonary methods allow for more precise titration of doses, given the rapid onset of effects. Orally ingested cannabis, with its delayed onset, poses challenges in dose adjustment. Topicals can be easily titrated for localized effects.

Combining Methods: Safety and Discomfort

There is limited research on the safety of combining different methods. However, combining oral and pulmonary methods could lead to additive effects and may risk overconsumption or increased side effects. Combining topicals with other methods is generally considered low-risk for systemic effects but should be done cautiously (MacCallum and Russo, 2018; PMID: 29307505).

Variety of Optionality

Pulmonary methods offer various tools like vaporizers, pipes, and joints. Oral consumption comes in the form of capsules, tinctures, and edibles. Topicals are available as creams, balms, and patches, providing various options based on individual needs and preferences.

By understanding these intricate details, consumers can make more informed choices for their cannabis treatment, enhancing both its efficacy and their experience.

📗 Note: If you’re still scratching your leaf—I mean head—check out “The Doctor-Approved Cannabis Handbook” for more info 📗.

Cover of The Doctor-Approved Cannabis Handbook featuring a green medical plus symbol
Unlock the world of medical cannabis with The Doctor-Approved Cannabis Handbook.

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