D43: cannabis consumption methods: onset, strength, duration of effects over time

Cannabis Consumption Methods: Timing and Intensity of Effects


The pharmacological effects of cannabis differ not just due to the cannabinoid profile of the product used but also the method of administration. The chosen consumption method can significantly impact the onset, peak, and duration of effects. This article elaborates on these aspects for various cannabis consumption methods, including inhaled, oral, sublingual, topical, buccal, suppository, and transdermal applications.

Comparison Table

Method of ConsumptionTiming of OnsetTiming of Peak EffectsTime Course of Effects DecliningDuration of Experience
Inhaled1-3 minutes15-30 minutes1-2 hours2-4 hours
Oral30-120 minutes2-3 hours4-8 hours6-10 hours
Sublingual15-45 minutes45-90 minutes2-4 hours4-6 hours
Buccal20-40 minutes60-120 minutes2-4 hours3-6 hours
Suppository15-45 minutes45-90 minutes4-8 hours6-10 hours
Transdermal30-60 minutes2-4 hours8-12 hours12-24 hours

Detailed Discussion

Inhaled Cannabis

Inhalation leads to the quickest onset and is often used for rapid relief. Peak concentrations can be reached within 15-30 minutes, with effects waning after about 1-2 hours (Huestis, 2007).

Oral Cannabis

Edibles have a longer onset time but produce more sustained and often more potent effects due to the first-pass metabolism, which converts THC into 11-hydroxy-THC (Grotenhermen, 2003).

Sublingual Cannabis

Sublingual administration offers a relatively quick onset and is often used for conditions requiring steady therapeutic levels throughout the day (Pavlovic et al., 2018).

Topical Cannabis

Topical applications rarely produce systemic effects but are useful for localized symptoms (Huestis, 2007).

Buccal Cannabis

The buccal route allows for a moderate onset and duration, making it suitable for conditions requiring extended release but rapid onset (Pavlovic et al., 2018).

Suppository Cannabis

Suppositories offer a quicker onset compared to oral routes and can be particularly useful in instances where oral consumption is not feasible (Russo, 2018).

Transdermal Cannabis

Transdermal patches offer the most extended duration of effects and are often used for chronic conditions requiring constant plasma levels (Paudel et al., 2010).

Special Medical Considerations

Patients with the following conditions should exercise caution:

  • Cardiovascular Disorders
  • Liver Conditions
  • Renal Issues
  • Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
  • Psychiatric Illnesses

For such individuals, consulting Dr. Caplan at CED Clinic is recommended for a tailored, evidence-based treatment plan.


  1. Huestis, M. A. (2007). Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 4(8), 1770-1804.
  2. Grotenhermen, F. (2003). Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cannabinoids. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 42(4), 327-360.
  3. Pavlovic, R., Nenna, G., Calvi, L., Panseri, S., Borgonovo, G., Giupponi, L., … & Giorgi, A. (2018). Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules, 23(5), 1230.
  4. Russo, E. B. (2018). The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9, 1969.
  5. Paudel, K. S., Hammell, D. C., Agu, R. U., Valiveti, S., & Stinchcomb, A. L. (2010). Cannabidiol bioavailability after nasal and transdermal application: effect of permeation enhancers. Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy, 36(9), 1088-1097.

Contact Dr. Caplan at CED Clinic for specialized guidance, particularly if you have any of the mentioned medical conditions. Dr. Caplan offers expert advice based on individual medical histories and needs.

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