Side Effects of Edibles: THC vs. CBD, Dangers & More
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Marijuana edibles come with the risk of both immediate and long-term side effects.
Side effects include paranoia, mood swings, memory loss, and increased blood pressure, among others.
Effects of Edibles
People consume edibles for the pleasurable effects they hope to experience. They may hope to lessen their anxiety, improve their sleep, and feel more relaxed. But there is the potential for negative effects with edibles.
Short-Term Side Effects
Temporary side effects may include the following:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Increased blood pressure
- Faster heartbeat
- Mood changes
- Difficulty solving problems
- Memory loss
These unpleasant side effects can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous. These side effects wear off as the “high” from edibles does with their intensity lessening as the body processes the edibles.
Long-Term Side Effects
Most often, side effects from edibles are tied to the dosage level. The more edibles you take with higher THC levels, the more likely you are to experience side effects.
If you regularly take edibles at high doses, you may develop long-term side effects over time. These include the following:
- Brain fog
- Memory issues
- Reduced motivation
- Learning issues
- Attention difficulties
Adolescents are especially vulnerable to these side effects as habitual use affects brain development. This can result in lower IQ scores and increase the risk of chronic psychiatric disease if the person is already susceptible to it.
Approximately 9 percent of people who have used marijuana in any form develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Some studies confirm that long-term cannabis use can be a gateway drug.
What Are Edibles?
Edibles include food, snacks, and beverages that contain marijuana. While these products are legal in many states and often look like standard food items, they come with a variety of risks.
Edibles do not have an instant effect like smoking marijuana. These foods are often infused with THC, the chemical component that makes a person feel high, although there are CBD-only edibles.
The effects of edibles can last for a while, up to 12 hours. It takes longer to feel the initial effects of edibles compared to smoking marijuana. Due to this delay, an inexperienced consumer may keep eating the item believing that they haven’t taken enough to get high.
Types of Edibles
Common edibles include baked goods, chocolate, candy, mints, gummies, beverages, ice creams, and beef jerky. As legalization is increasing in the United States, so are the availability and use of edibles.
- Baked goods: Any baked food can include marijuana. Common choices include brownies, cookies, and cupcakes.
- Chocolates and hard candy: These may be bars, individual chocolates, truffles, lollipops, hard candies, or mints.
- Gummies: Soft chewable candies or gummies are often infused with CBD and combinations. It’s possible to buy CBD-only gummies, and gummies are available in different dosing combinations of THC and CBD.
- Beverages: Marijuana-infused drinks include sports drinks, juices, and water.
- Other foods: Beef jerky, butter, oil, and ice cream can contain marijuana. Manufacturers are inventive, and new varieties of edibles appear regularly.
Side Effects of CBD Edibles vs. THC Edibles
THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, while CBD does not create the “high” we associate with the drug. CBD can trigger positive effects, but it is also associated with some negative side effects.
The side effects of CBD edibles tend to be non-hallucinogenic and less intense than THC edibles. Unpleasant side effects of CBD may include the following:
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Rapid heartbeat
- Facial flushing
- Dry mouth
Conversely, the side effects of THC edibles may include the following:
- Psychedelic hallucinations
- Dizziness and vomiting
- Increased heart rate
Dangers of THC Edibles
While THC edibles continue to grow in popularity, they are associated with various risks. As they become legal in more states and use increases, increased instances of these risks occur.
For people who have not eaten THC edibles before, there is a high danger of overconsumption. THC has a lag time before the effects are felt. People who are unfamiliar with this delayed onset may consume more. Once the effects kick in, they may feel overwhelmed.
One instance of overconsumption occurred in 2014 when a Colorado man jumped off a building and died after consuming a marijuana-infused edible.
The amount of THC listed in items is poorly regulated. This leads to inconsistent labeling as well as varying requirements across the United States. Due to this poor regulation, it is hard to rely on labeling to get accurate information about the contents.
Homemade items are unregulated.
Variations in Potency
The potency of THC varies widely across different growers, manufacturers, and food producers across the country. Variable potency makes it nearly impossible for users to rely on labeling to regulate how much they are consuming.
THC-infused candies, chocolates, and edibles often look like common products that do not contain THC. This can lead to accidental consumption by children, pets, or people who don’t wish to take in THC or CBD.
THC edibles are often packaged in multiple doses per container. If children mistake edibles for standard gummies or chocolate, they may be eating multiple doses at once.
Adolescent & Teen Use
According to a recent study, teens are likely to consume edibles to reduce their chances of getting caught using marijuana. Edibles are also appealing to teens who don’t want to smoke or want to avoid smelling like marijuana smoke.
Increased Poisoning Reports
In 2020, there was a rise in reported poisoning incidents from edible marijuana. These instances involved children under 12 years old, mostly 5 years old or younger.
A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine compared emergency room visitors who consumed cannabis edibles with visits from those smoking marijuana. The study found that 8 percent of people who had consumed edibles had irregular heartbeats compared to 3 percent of people who smoked marijuana.
Increased Risk of Driving Accidents
According to the NIH, use of cannabis before driving increases the risk of being involved in an accident.
Higher Risk of Psychotic Disorders
According to Mental Health America, marijuana use may increase the risk of developing psychotic disorders. It can also worsen conditions of psychosis.
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