Introducing The Great American Smokeout By The American Cancer Society
Today is The American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout. The organization marks the third Thursday of November as a day to encourage Americans to quit smoking or make a plan to quit smoking. Although The American Cancer Society is targeting tobacco smokers, even cannabis users can be encouraged to find healthier alternatives to smoking on this day.
Why is Smoking Bad?
When you smoke cannabis or tobacco you are burning plant matter. When this happens cancer-causing chemicals called carcinogens are released. Although research shows that smoking cannabis may be less harmful than smoking tobacco, carcinogens are still formed. These carcinogens travel into the lungs in tar which is deposited on the lung’s membranes. The toxic compounds can coat the cilia lining the lung’s membranes causing them to stop working and eventually die. Carcinogens can also alter cellular DNA which may lead to cancer.
There are lots of ways to reap the medicinal benefits of cannabis without smoking. Understanding how each method works will help you choose which method is right for your lifestyle and medicinal goals.
Cannabis Infused Tinctures
Cannabis infused with a liquid base, often glycerine or alcohol, is called a tincture. Tinctures come in glass bottles with eye droppers so patients can easily measure a dose. The liquid cannabis is either placed directly in the mouth where it can be absorbed sublingually or it is added to another liquid like juice or water before consumption. Tinctures are often quickly absorbed by the body, bypassing the digestive system and thus resulting in a shorter activation time than many edibles. Nevertheless, it may take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour to feel the effects.
Many patients with special dietary needs prefer tinctures because they are less caloric than many edibles and are often gluten-free and vegan. Patients that have difficulty eating or swallowing will also find that tinctures are easy to ingest. Glycerine based tinctures may be placed directly under the tongue, while alcohol based tinctures should be mixed with another beverage to reduce the burning associated with alcohol. Patients often add alcohol based tinctures into hot tea as another way to reduce the taste and burn of the alcohol.
Vaporizing has become the fastest growing new method for consuming cannabis. Like smoking, vaporizing heats the plant matter releasing the medicinal cannabinoids into a vapor. Unlike smoking, the plant matter is not burned avoiding carcinogen formation. Many vaporizers work by pulling hot air through the dry herb which releases water vapor and cannabinoids from the plant material. There is no direct flame applied to the cannabis. Although patients will exhale what looks similar to a cloud of smoke, it is only vapor being expelled.
Vaporizers come in many sizes. There are larger units made for at-home use and smaller, portable vaporizer pens that are discreet and convenient for use on the go. Vape pens are available that work with dry herb, waxy concentrates and liquid cannabis oil. Patients with a higher tolerance are also vaporizing cannabis concentrates like wax and shatter using a dab rig. These rigs work by placing concentrates on a hot surface and inhaling the vapor that is formed. The key to any vaporizer is to heat the cannabis to temperatures that release cannabinoids without burning the plant matter.
Edibles are a popular way to get long-lasting medicinal effects. Cannabis is often infused with oil or butter and is then incorporated into recipes. Where smoking or vaporizing cannabis gives patients a more immediate onset of effects, edibles have a much longer onset delay. When an edible is consumed it first travels to the stomach. Here the fats and carbohydrates are broken down the same way all food is processed. Then the cannabinoids make their way to the liver. Here delta-9-THC is metabolized into 11-hydroxy-delta-9-THC. This compound is pumped via the bloodstream throughout the body and is responsible for the “body high” edible users experience. This process may take anywhere from 15-75 minutes, so be patient while you wait to feel the effects.
Another difference between inhaled and ingested cannabis is the duration of the effects. While the effects of inhaled cannabis may last 1 to 2 hours, edibles may be felt for up to 8 hours. For patients looking for medicinal effects that last all day, edibles are a great choice. There are also many options available including sweet or savory snacks, beverages, and even enhanced teas. To avoid overdosing on ingested cannabis, many recreational states are recommending that new users consume no more than 10mg of THC at a time.
Cannabis may also be applied topically. Cannabis is dissolved in a fat-soluble compound such as Shea butter, almond oil or even alcohol to make a topical solution that is massaged into the skin. These topicals may be in the form of lotions, balms, salves or alcohol rubs. There are also transdermal patches on the market that aid in the absorption of cannabinoids through the skin. Generally speaking, the psychoactive effects associated with ingesting or inhaling cannabis are not felt when topical cannabis ointments are used. Some transdermal patch makers, however, do report that their products allow cannabinoids to reach the blood system through the skin which would give users an experience similar to ingesting cannabis. Many patients suffering from conditions such as arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, and muscle soreness have reported relief from topical cannabis use.
Making Healthy Choices
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in American men and women. Although no studies have shown a direct link between marijuana and lung cancer, it is important to reduce your exposure to carcinogens. When choosing to incorporate medicinal cannabis into your life, be sure to opt for ingestion and inhalation methods that reduce your exposure to cancer-causing agents. It’s also important to select cannabis that has been tested and shown to be free of pesticides and added chemicals. Join the Great American Smokeout and vaporize or ingest your medicine!