Like any medicine, cannabis can be misused. Excessive or inappropriate use can contribute to problems including sleeplessness, overeating, and time management issues. Due to the political climate surrounding cannabis use research, clinical studies have produced widely conflicting conclusions about the true benefits and potential side effects of cannabis use. Always listen to the advice of your doctor and use good judgment when using medical cannabis. These guidelines help identify ways of using medical cannabis in a positive way.
Adults should only use cannabis as part of a healthy, balanced, and responsible lifestyle.
The decision to use cannabis should be made freely, and not as a result of social pressure.
Cannabis users should be well informed about its effects on themselves and others. These effects include legal risks, health risks, and personal consequences.
Never use cannabis as an excuse for antisocial or irresponsible behavior.
Cannabis users should model and reward responsible use, particularly with new users.
Develop sensible cannabis use limits for yourself based on personal, health, situational, and cultural factors. It is important to be objective about your personal cannabis use and listen to the constructive advice of others.
Avoid cannabis use that puts you or others at risk, such as when driving, at work, or in public places. Remember, personal use of cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and penalties are stiff.
Use of cannabis by children is inappropriate.
Cannabis use should contribute to, rather than detract from, a patient’s health, well-being, creativity, work relationships, and social obligations.
Methods of Consumption
There are many ways to ingest medical cannabis, and patients may find that one method is more effective than another for their specific needs. The effects often vary with each method, sometimes affecting the length of time it takes for the medicine to take effect, or the length of time that it remains effective. Each patient should find which manner is best for them.
Historically, the most traditional form of ingestion is smoking the dried flowers or leaves of the cannabis plant. Hash and kief are also ingested this way. Cannabis can be smoked through a pipe, rolled into a joint (or cigarette), or smoked using a water pipe (bong). When smoking dried cannabis, the patient will most likely feel the medicine take effect immediately, and depending on the particular strain and its strength, it can last anywhere from an hour to several hours. Regularly smoking any plant material can have a negative impact and Harborside Health Center recommends patients use vaporizers or edible forms of medicine whenever possible.
A vaporizer is a device that is able to extract the therapeutic ingredients in the plant material, called cannabinoids, at a much lower temperature than required for burning. This allows patients to inhale the active ingredients as a vapor instead of smoke, and spares them the irritating effects of smoking and its toxic byproducts. Those patients who are used to smoking may not feel like they are “getting anything” at first because it does not “burn” the throat. It is advised to use caution and wait a few minutes to feel the full effects. Many patients say that half as much medicine will provide twice the effect when vaporized.
Cannabis can be infused into butter or oil that is then cooked in food. Edibles, as they are typically called, usually take longer to take effect than smoking or vaporizing, often 20 minutes to an hour or more. Doses can be difficult to judge, so it is recommended to eat only small portions of an edible at a time, and wait at least an hour to assess its effects so you do not over-medicate. Edibles will kick in significantly faster if eaten on an empty stomach, rather than after a meal. In general, the therapeutic effects from eating cannabis last much longer than other consumption methods, often up to four hours or more, and then slowly begin to wear off. Many patients report that this method provides more of a relaxing body effect than the cerebral high that is often accompanied with vaporizing and smoking.
Some cannabis infused oils are meant to be applied to the skin or are used with massage. These oils will have a local effect as well as a more general effect, depending on how much is used and on what part of the body.
A tincture is a concentrated form of cannabis in an alcohol solution. Tinctures are highly concentrated and require careful dosage levels, starting out small and waiting to feel the effects before adding more. They can be taken under the tongue or mixed into water or other beverages.
Eating cannabis can be an excellent alternative to smoking, especially for some patients who prefer to avoid smoking. Here is some information that you should be aware of and may find helpful. Many members use edibles as a sleep aid, consuming about an hour before bedtime for a sounder sleep.
Food-based cannabis medicines affect patients differently than inhaled methods of medicating with cannabis.
Eating too much cannabis can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, diminished ability to focus, rapid heartbeat, increases or decreases in blood pressure, need for sleep, and feelings of euphoria.
How can you ingest cannabis medicines safely?
Learn to manage your dosage effectively… 1. Begin with a ¼ of a “dose” or small portion of product. 2. Wait for at least one hour and analyze the effects. 3. If necessary, consume another ¼ dose or small portion. 4. Wait for at least one more hour. 5. If necessary, consume part or all of the remaining product.
Do not operate heavy machinery, motor vehicles, boats, or motorcycles while taking edible medication. Do not use if you are pregnant, nursing or caring for an infant. Do be are of your surroundings and possible hazards, and prepare for your needs before taking medication.
Remember: Edibles can vary greatly in potency. Products often contain multiple doses or lesser doses of medicine. Weight, metabolism, and eating habits can alter dosage effects. Taking medication on an empty stomach can intensify medicinal effects. Learn dosage management that works for you when ingesting cannabis medicine.
If you feel you have eaten too much of a food-based medicine, do not panic, your symptoms will subside within a few hours. Remain calm. Stay hydrated and eat food to help symptoms pass. Edible cannabis is safe and will not cause any long-term toxicity.