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June 28, 2014

Drug War Insanity; Ms Dowd's Rocky Mountain High: Part 1

Relatively early in the unauthorized study of cannabis users I began 10 years ago, I discovered several differences between the "high" produced when pot is inhaled as smoke vs consumed by mouth. Those differences were well known to chronic users, but– as I also discovered– the reasons for them remain obscure.

In a nutshell. one can get high either way, but the "head" high produced by smoke comes on faster, is over sooner, and– perhaps most importantly– can be titrated (measured) on a toke-by-toke basis. That ability to titrate is important, because contrary to cherished beliefs of the DEA and many pot naive people, "stoners," don't always want to be stoned; they simply want to relax, which brings up a critical difference in terminology.

While being under the influence of marijuana and alcohol are both considered being "high," the marijuana high is most often a therapeutic (anxiolytic) state, under the control of its experienced users, especially when it is inhaled. That's because the quickest route to the brain is by inhalation. The experienced user feels the 1st toke and is thus able to follow the progress of the high, toke by toke. There is no alcohol equivalent because alcohol cannot be inhaled. Thus alcohol is always treated as an "edible;" consumed by mouth and processed by the gastrointestinal tract.

Other drugs inhalable drugs are nicotine, heroin, meth, and more recently- crack. All are sensed almost immediately by the brain with the 1st toke (inhalation) thus giving the user a degree of control over the "high." But when we compare the various “highs,” we find significant differences. That produced by nicotine delivered by a cigarette is of the shortest duration and is now conceded to be the most addictive and dangerous to user health. Nevertheless, cigarettes are still legal everywhere and despite their well-recognized dangers, are used chronically by approximately 30% of people in the US and most modern nations.

On a purely rational basis, if a prohibition policy were really effective, cigarettes should be the first "substance" listed on "schedule one." However that's not the case. Despite relatively huge increase in cigarette taxes intended to discourage their use, approximately 1/3, or more of the world's population still smokes. In fact, China, which has a government monopoly on cigarettes and thus profits from their use, is estimated to consume 3 out of every 10 cigarettes smoked the world today. The long term adverse health consequences of such a situation would seem obvious.

As mentioned earlier, edible marijuana affects all users a lot differently than smoke. That's because its processing by the body is entirely different. The gastrointestinal tract does not provide instant feedback because pot digestion products take longer than smoke to reach the brain thus eliminating any rapid titration benefit. Another big difference is that the breakdown products of cannabis digestion have not been studied in significant detail since 1973, nor have they ever been studied as completely as they might have been to which compounds are produced by hepatic processing, a step that smoke is not subjected to.

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd had a typical edible experience during a recent trip to Colorado.

A self-confessed pot novice, the normally unflappable Ms Dowd was still clearly distraught when she reported on her "bad trip" to readers in a column written the next day. Of considerable interest to me was that the explanations offered for her distress were just as uninformed as I have come to expect from both novices and seasoned heads. In the interests of clarity, I will try again to explain the edible mystery in terms of its pertinent anatomy and physiology.

However, this lesson has already become too long and complicated, so in the interests of clarity, I'll complete the explanation of the "edible" difference in another entry.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 28, 2014 09:41 PM