Edibles are food products that contain cannabis. The many forms of edibles include baked goods, candies, chocolates, and beverages. People can purchase ready made edibles, or make their own, such as oils, butters, brownies, and ice creams.

Edibles are apopular method of delivery for both medicinal and recreational cannabis.

Many people consider edibles to be a safe and discreet way to take cannabis. However, there are also risks that people should know.

Find out with this article about the effects and side effects of cannabis edibles, including how these differ from smoking cannabis.

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People need to know the possible risks before consuming cannabis edibles.

Edible cannabis products typically provide the same benefits as other forms of cannabis. People ingest them to achieve certain effects, such as relaxation, or to treat medical conditions, such as chronic pain.

The effects of edibles depend on the dose a person takes. Typically, the effects increase as the dose increases. However, consuming too much cannabis through edibles is easy to do, and it can cause adverse effects, such as nausea and vomiting.

Some of the beneficial effects of cannabis edibles include:

Relaxation and anxiety relief

Cannabis contains a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

THC is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effects of edibles and other forms of cannabis. An older study suggests that THC can cause feelings of relaxation and euphoria.

Cannabis also contains the compound cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has anti-anxiety effects.

A 2019 study reports that more than 79% of people with anxiety or sleep problems who took CBD experienced a decrease in anxiety over the course of the study. Scientists need more studies, but this shows significant hope.

A further study on teenagers with social anxiety supports the findings of CBD significantly decreasing anxiety levels.

Pain management

CBD may also work as a pain reliever, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a popular treatment among those who experience chronic pain.

Research suggests that medical cannabis patients with chronic pain report improved pain management when they consume cannabis products.

Conditions that people treat with edibles and other forms of medicinal cannabis include:

Muscle spasm control

Doctors may also recommend medicinal cannabis for muscle spasm treatment.

Research from 2013 indicates that people experience significant improvement in muscle spasticity and other types of pain when they take cannabis.

An oral preparation derived from cannabis is available to treat muscle spasticity and pain. Other forms of edibles may have similar effects, although research in this area is lacking.

Antiseizure effects

CBD has also demonstrated antiseizure effects, which suggests it could be a potential treatment for epilepsy.

A 2017 study cites evidence for the use of CBD to improve seizure control in those with specific epilepsy syndromes.

Edibles may be one way to ingest cannabis to reduce seizures. However, more research is necessary before people with epilepsy consider treating the condition with cannabis.

Other effects

Edible cannabis products may also treat other health issues, such as appetite loss and weight loss, for those who have cancer.

While edibles are a discreet and tasty way to consume cannabis, they are not without risk. Potential side effects and risks include:

Adverse health effects

Research indicates that regular cannabis use can have adverse impacts on:

Long-term cannabis use may be especially worrisome in adolescents, where it may increase the risk of schizophrenia as well as learning and memory.

Accidental ingestion

There is the possibility that children, pets, and others can accidentally consume candies, cookies, and other goods containing cannabis. Researchers do not know if there is a danger to pregnant women and the baby.

Between 2005 and 2011 in the United States, there was an increase of 30.3% in cannabis-related calls to poison control centers in states that decriminalized cannabis. Accidental ingestion of edibles was a common reason for many of these calls.

Interactions with medications

Edibles and other forms of cannabis can interact with alcohol and some medications, such as blood thinners. These interactions may intensify the effects of THC, or interfere with the actions of the medicines.

Overdose

Overdose is another risk when it comes to cannabis edibles.

Concentrations of THC vary widely in ready made cannabis products. Likewise, it is difficult for people to know the strength of THC in homemade edible products. As a result, it is hard for someone to know how much they are consuming.

Edibles also take longer to have an effect than other consumption methods for cannabis, such as smoking.

The effects of smoking cannabis take minutes to occur, while edibles take 1–3 hours. Individuals may end up consuming larger amounts of the drug while waiting for the effects to begin, thinking they need more.

Additionally, the symptoms of overdose from edibles may often be more severe than overdose symptoms from smoking cannabis.

An overdose from edibles can involve:

  • paranoia
  • nausea
  • hallucinations
  • panic attacks
  • impaired mobility

Many individuals consider edibles to be safe, discreet, and effective, especially when they compare them to smoking cannabis.

Indeed, edibles do not expose users to some of the potentially harmful effects of smoking.

Cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke appear to have similar levels of toxicity, and both contain various toxins and carcinogens (agents that cause cancer).

Cannabis smoke also causes lung inflammation and bronchitis, and some research links regular cannabis smoking to several forms of cancer.

Ingesting edibles does not appear to have these effects on lung function or cancer risk, which means they may be safer in these ways.

However, edibles pose their own risks, including the increased risk of accidental ingestion or overdose.

More research is necessary to understand the full effects of edible use and how these compare to smoking cannabis.

Edibles are a discreet way to ingest cannabis, and they do not appear to carry some of the risks of smoking the drug. However, people should exercise caution when using edibles, especially for the first time.

The effects of edibles may not emerge for up to 3 hours after ingestion, and there is a risk of overdose if people do not carefully limit the amount they consume.

Individuals should always adhere to the recommended dosage and stop ingesting edibles if adverse reactions occur.

Long-term, frequent use of cannabis can also have negative effects on mental and physical health.