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February 15, 2010

Edibles and the “Body High”

That there are considerable differences between smoked and orally ingested cannabis is emphasized by use of the term “body high” to describe the effects of “edibles.” That federal policy makers still don’t understand either those differences or their physiologic bases is made clear from their failure to discuss them and from their subsidization of Marinol.

Whatever its basis, the general silence on those issues adds up to an indictment of both American drug policy and the intellectual honesty of our species as well as a suggestion that our tendency to deny unpleasant reality may be a serious human weakness.

To start with basic anatomy and physiology: taking "drugs" into the body (ingestion) is possible through a variety of mechanisms. When they can be volatilized by heating and then inhaled as vapor (“smoked”) the lung becomes an organ of ingestion. Since pulmonary venous blood drains directly into the heart, there's no faster way for cannabinoids to reach the brain. That’s also true of the nicotine in cigarettes and cocaine when it was processed into “crack” after ether extraction proved so unsafe.

Unlike drugs ingested by smoking, those we swallow must be digested in the gut and absorbed into the hepatic portal circulation thus delaying their arrival at the brain and exposing them to modification by the liver before they get there. It's slowest of all when the stomach is full and also explains why the effects of edible pot can’t be readily titrated.

There are other differences, all added by the liver, which not only receives the lion's share of pot’s pharmacologically active ingredients after an edible is consumed, but also adds three of its own, presumably by the same process of molecular deconstruction that characterizes its major function in other animals.

1) Pot’s duration of action is extended to three hours or longer after oral ingestion.

2) A degree of muscle relaxation that seems significantly greater than after smoking is noted by nearly all. Intense enough to interfere with most physical activity, it's the most common reason cited for avoiding edibles.

3) The nocioceptive (pain relieving) properties of smoked pot are intensified; an observation made most commonly by those with neuropathic pain (pain of nerve origin).

That these differences have not been addressed by either Big Pharma or Academia becomes readily understandable within the current setting of criminalization in which all “legal” cannabis intended for research must first be approved by the DEA and can then only be obtained from the federal marijuana farm in Mississippi.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 15, 2010 06:47 PM