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Edibles vs Smoking: Which Affects You More? Your Guide to THC Use

Brie Lowrey

When it’s time to sit down and relax with your favorite cannabis product, what do you reach for? The answer likely depends on your preferences, of course, but also your intention. You might hunt for an edible if you want something that will last all night. But if you want hassle-free, fast results, a nice joint might complete your evening. 

Why is it that edibles and smoking differ, though? How do edibles feel vs smoking weed in terms of potency and effects? There are certainly differences between these two product options that make them suit some users better than others. Below, we’ll dive into what you need to know to make the best choice for you.

How Strong are Edibles vs Smoking? The Basics

Both edibles and smoking are potential methods of administration for THC. While edibles rely on oral consumption, smoking delivers THC via inhalation – when a vapor or smoke containing the molecule is inhaled into the lungs, THC crosses into the bloodstream. 

Edibles are overall associated with delayed yet longer-lasting results than smoking. This is because each method comes with a different onset time and bioavailability, which refers to how much of a substance can be absorbed within a certain amount of time.

THC consumed via inhalation has an average bioavailability of around 30%, meaning that only around a third of the molecules in a product actually make it into the bloodstream. THC levels typically peak after around 10-15 minutes and dissipate over the next one to four hours. 

For oral THC consumption, however, bioavailability levels fall to around 4 to 12%. This makes sense; THC that’s eaten must pass through the digestive tract and face obstacles that break it down over time. Despite this, the extra hours THC takes to move through the body means effects last longer. The onset of an edible’s effects usually takes about 30-60 minutes, but effects peak after a whopping three hours and can last over six to seven hours. 

Edibles vs Smoking: Pros and Cons

Considering how edibles and smoking impact the body in unique ways, both options have pros and cons. For fast results that are easier to control, smoking takes the cake. But for effects that last all day and grow in intensity over time, edibles are hard to beat. 

To help you decide which is best, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of edibles and smoking below. Consider your goals and limitations as you navigate your options to make a decision you won’t regret.

Pros of Using THC Edibles

Perhaps the biggest perk of oral THC is that you can make your own THC edibles using flower, tinctures, or oils. This means creating products with the dose that best suits you is possible. 

Beyond this plus, though, there are many other potential benefits to consider, including:

  • Duration. It takes the body around six to eight hours to process and digest a THC edible, which means the cannabinoid is slowly released into the blood throughout the day. This makes edibles an ideal option for those who use THC medicinally or who could benefit from long-lasting effects. 

  • Consistent Doses. Unlike smoking, which is subject to a ton of variability (how much you smoke, how large your inhales are, etc.), edibles come with a consistent dose. There may be some error between doses, particularly if your edibles are homemade, but they’re still generally more reliable than other consumption methods.

  • Safe for Lungs. There’s no need to expose the lungs to any potential adverse health consequences with edibles. Those who can’t smoke or simply prefer not to can find a safer alternative in edibles.

Cons of Using THC Edibles

While edibles are one of the most popular ways to consume THC, they aren’t without their downsides. Some potential cons of using THC edibles include the following:

  • Difficult to Predict. Once you’ve consumed an edible, you’ve strapped into a hypothetical rollercoaster – there’s no getting off until things start to die down. If you smoke too little or too much, it’s easy to adjust; not so when dealing with edibles. 

  • Easy to Overdose. The delayed onset time of edibles can be deceiving. Some may believe their dose is insufficient because it takes so long for the effects to show up. This misinterpretation of effects makes it easy to take too much and experience symptoms like paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. 

  • Potential Risks for Others. Many edibles are innocuous – cookies, brownies, gummies, and even candy worms packed with THC come in all shapes and sizes. But these attractive and yummy-looking treats are also tempting to children, pets, and unwitting family members who may accidentally ingest products. 

Pros of Smoking THC

If you decide to vape or smoke cannabis with THC, you get access to its potent effects almost instantly. The lungs offer a quick and easy route to the bloodstream, granting benefits like:

  • Fast Results. Once smoke enters the lungs, it crosses into the blood and is carried to the brain and body within just a few minutes. You’ll feel THC at an increasing intensity that peaks around 15 minutes after smoking.

  • Easy to Control. Because you can change how much you smoke – i.e., how much you pack in a bowl or roll into a joint – you can take charge of the experience you want. Not enough? Smoke a bit more after your results have peaked.

  • Flexibility. You’re the budmeister when it comes to smoking cannabis; you can mix strains as desired to produce certain effects or add new cannabinoids to the equation. Creating a customized experience is easy every time you sit down to smoke.

Cons of Smoking THC

Smoking isn’t for everyone, largely because it has some notable downsides. Examples of potential cons of smoking THC include:

  • Adverse Effect on Lungs. Combustion, the process that transforms plant material into smoke, also creates many carcinogenic materials that can harm lung health. While researchers disagree over the long-term health consequences weed smoke can pose, it’s clear that smoke of any kind can weaken your lungs, even if THC does not. Smoke itself is also hot and harsh enough to damage the soft, delicate tissue lining the throat and airways. 

  • More THC Loss. Smoking burns up much of the THC and other vital compounds in cannabis, causing waste that can’t be replenished. The more times you light the flower and allow it to cool, the more you may burn away without inhaling.

  • Imprecise Dosing. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know how much THC is in any given smokeable, especially flower. A smoke session might deliver a 5 mg dose of THC one day and 10 mg the next, even with the same product and tools.

  • Risk to Family Members. Secondhand smoke – smoke particles found in the air and on furniture, clothing, etc. – poses serious health risks for children, older adults, and pets. Smoking indoors can be unsafe for those who live with at-risk populations.

Risks & Side Effects

Any cannabis product comes with the risk of interacting with prescription medications or existing health conditions. 

That’s why it’s crucial to speak with a doctor before adding any new CBD, THC, or other cannabis products to your routine. It’s also important to be honest about your consumption; it may feel uncomfortable to be transparent, but it’s the best way to protect your health.

Edible Side Effects

Since they’re consumed orally and are mostly broken down in the stomach and gut, edibles are more often associated with gastrointestinal side effects. Examples include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Paranoia or anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling disconnected from reality; hallucinations, delusions, and loss of self-perception

Smoking Side Effects

Smoking THC can cause any of the side effects that come with edibles, but they’re more likely to manifest as symptoms like those below:

  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Confusion or disorientation

Final Thoughts: Making the Right Choice

So, between edibles and smoking, which consumption option affects people the most? The answer is frustratingly simple: it depends. Edibles undoubtedly deliver a stronger punch but take longer to kick in. Not everyone experiences edibles the same way, either, and the same goes for smoking.

Nonetheless, with all the knowledge you need about edibles vs smoking in your system, you can decide which product type is best for you. If you want long-lasting, powerful effects, opt for edibles. But smoking is probably for you if you want something easier to manipulate, and that gets to work almost immediately. 

Of course, there’s a lot more nuance to this question than what’s presented here. You could choose to vape, for example, or use another product type entirely. Navigating the vast world of cannabis products can be tricky, but with advice from the team at The Green Dragon CBD, finding your ideal solutions is simple. Contact us today for a consultation or to learn more about the THC options that fit your needs.

Edibles vs Smoking: Which Affects You More? Your Guide to THC Use
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Edibles vs Smoking: Which Affects You More? Your Guide to THC Use
March 11, 2024
Edibles
Vaping
THC Education