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Cannabis products come in a variety of forms, which include unprocessed plant for smoking or vaporization, liquid or oil for vaporization, liquid or oil for administration in the mouth or under the tongue, capsules, rectal suppositories, ointments, creams, lotions and edibles. The time of onset and duration of effects are dependent upon the route of administration.
Inhalation is the most rapid route to achieve effects of cannabis. It also has the shortest time of duration of its effects. Taken orally, cannabis takes longer to achieve effects, but has a longer time of effect duration.
When cannabis is combusted several things occur. There is a loss of approximately 40% of the active ingredient in the side stream and due to other factors only about 27% of the remaining active ingredient can actually be absorbed. This makes it very difficult to standardize dosing using this route. Also, combustion will release bronchial irritants, carcinogens and toxins such as acetaldehyde, ammonia, nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (tar). The use of a water pipe does not remove the tar and other similar toxins.
Vaporization involves the use of warm air or heat rather than a flame. It is a smokeless delivery system. It converts the cannabinoids and other compounds into a fine mist that is then inhaled. The temperature of the vaporization devices allows the cannabis to be vaporized and not combusted, therefore there are few byproducts. A study has shown that vaporization of cannabis will produce similar levels of phytocannabinoids in the body compared to smoking cannabis.
At present, in the State of Florida, smoking cannabis is not currently allowed. Vaporization of cannabis oil is allowed.
When a person ingests cannabis, the onset of effects takes longer to achieve due to the variables of digestion and absorption. This route will however, give the longest duration of effects.
When administered to the oral mucosa, the blood levels of THC and the other cannabinoids are lower as compared to the inhalation of smoke or vaporization route. This is due to the slower absorption rate as well and metabolism of the compounds. It is a desirable route of administration when nausea is an issue.
As with all drugs or supplements, there are contraindications. The use of cannabis should never be administered, unless the benefits outweigh the risks, in people with a history of psychotic illness (unless there is a clear indication and active engagement and collaboration of a treating psychiatrist); a family history of a first degree relative with schizophrenia; active, unstable ischemic heart disease; a previous hypersensitivity to cannabis or its constituents and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There are also other issues, which your treating physician might consider.
There are many drugs and supplements on being used by people today. Many of these have the potential to interact with each other and cause untold side effects or changes in the levels of current medications you are taking. It is imperative you let your healthcare provider know of all the prescribed medications and over the counter supplements you are taking.