The COVID-19 pandemic saw scores of cannabis consumers switching from smoking flower to consuming edibles as uncertainty over cannabis' impact on virus symptoms and the lungs lingered. Since that initial shift took place over a year ago, many remain loyal to edibles, be it for pandemic concerns or other preferences. Regardless, edibles seem to have gained their fair share of fans this past year.
The popularity comes at a time when edibles brands are improving their potency, providing more accurate dosing and diverse consumption options. The long trial and error process has seemingly paid off.
The surge in popularity leaves some edibles consumers unsure over crucial aspects of the experience. No sweat if you're one of those people. Consider this your primer on how long THC and other cannabinoid-infused edibles last in your system.
Those wondering how long edibles stay in their system may not like this answer, but here it is: It depends.
The effects of an edible vary drastically depending on a series of factors. They include:
While we can't pinpoint how long edibles last in the bloodstream, most consumers report feeling the effects within 30 minutes to two hours after consumption.
Keep in mind that those first effects are unlikely to be the most intense. Most experiences peak around the fourth hour after eating, with their own factors varying how long it'll last. Overall, the effects of an edible should last anywhere from six to 12 hours.
Each person's edible experience will vary. Be careful with dosing, especially when first starting. It's always best to begin with a low dose and slowly work into larger amounts. Start by eating a small piece and assessing after 30 to 45 minutes. Build up from there at a slow pace, 5mg per increase or less should do the trick.
If you know you might have to take a drug test, obviously it's important to avoid THC edibles entirely. For an unexpected test, take a look at our guide on how to pass a drug test to help your chances.
After learning how long an edible lasts in the bloodstream, most want to know why the effects go on for a more extended period than when smoking.
The short answer is that it takes a longer period for the body to metabolize THC in edibles than when smoked or vaped. Edibles are first broken down by the body's digestive system, eventually moving onto the liver. Once in the liver, the cannabis is metabolized into Delta-9-THC, the compound produced from smoked cannabis. It also makes 11-OH-THC, a more potent compound of sorts.
The process helps the effects of edibles last longer than smoking because the body breaks down this type of THC at a slower rate, making it release at a slow pace. Instead of the near-instant effects of smoking, edibles are more of a slow burn. Simultaneously, more cannabinoid types with more potent effects are created, enhancing the intensity.
To simplify things, consuming an edible provides consumers the total dosage compared to a pipe or pen, which expects to lose some of its profile while burnt or heated.
One of the more frustrating aspects of consuming edibles is that they aren't created equal. A 10mg edible made by one brand may produce the desired effects while another brand falls short. When trying to figure out how long edibles last, it's best to understand bioavailability and dosage, which are critical components in creating the desired effects.
Several variables play their part in altering experiences. Some factors, like body composition, are the same here as when assessing the effects' longevity. Other factors play a role, especially if you've recently eaten, which tends to lessen the effects. The strain and method consumed can also play their part--be sure to learn about the plant profile before consuming.
Above all else though is bioavailability, or how much THC your body can absorb. Simply put, your edible's bioavailability dictates how much of the THC dosage is available to your body. A 20mg edible can't be entirely metabolized. Typically, the bioavailability range for an edible is around 4-12%, with factors like strain and edible type playing a role.
Assuming that an edible's bioavailability is 10%, a 20mg dosage would result in 2mg reaching the bloodstream. Bioavailability range makes a world of difference, making it easier to see how edibles of the same concentration can produce varying results. Essentially, top-produced products are likely to see their effects tripled as the body metabolizes them. Meanwhile, a low-end edible may only produce a fraction of those effects.
The varying nature of edibles means no one should assume the dosage of a new product. Remember, 20mg of one product doesn't mean the same for the following 20mg product. It's a mistake newcomers make often, and one should be wise to avoid. Instead, start low and go slow when trying new products, being patient to find the correct dose.
If you'd like to speak to a doctor about what dose and form of edibles is best for you, NuggMD's state-licensed medical marijuana doctors are always happy to help! No appointment needed.