Which is more potent, Vaping Cannabis or Smoking Joint?

The use of Vaping Cannabis is increasing in popularity. Linda Gilbert, BDS Analytics’ Managing Director of Consumer Insights says “the two main reasons vaping is popular is that it is discreet and portable. Vaping emits less odor than bongs or marijuana cigarettes”.

Vaping propels cannabis concentrates market to $3 billion. In 2014, concentrates made up about 10 percent of legal cannabis sold, according to the report. Now it is up to 27 percent.

Troy Dayton, CEO of the Arcview Group predicts other cannabis categories will soon grow rapidly as well. The jump in concentrate sales are “just the beginning of a revolution in how cannabis is consumed, now that it’s becoming legal around the world,” he said.

According to a new study published in JAMA that examined “Acute Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis in Healthy Adults Who Infrequently Use Cannabis”, Vaporized cannabis produced greater pharmacodynamic effects and higher concentrations of THC in blood compared with equal doses of smoked cannabis.

It was a crossover trial of 17 healthy adults conducted from June 2016 to January 2017 at the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Cannabis containing THC of mg, 10mg and 25mg was vaporized and smoked by each participant.

This study extends prior research by examining multiple doses of THC across inhalation methods, enrolling individuals with infrequent cannabis use patterns (defined here as no use in the past 30 days accompanied with a negative urine toxicology test result), and including a comprehensive pharmacodynamic test battery (i.e., subjective drug effects, cognitive and psychomotor performance, and vital signs).

The mean (SD) age of these individuals was 27.3 (5.7) years and their mean (SD) weight and body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) were 77.9 (15.5) kg and 26.2 (3.3), respectively.

The vaporized and smoked cannabis were compared at the 10mg and 25mg doses. The qualitative effects of the cannabis were higher when it was vaporized.

Whole-Blood THC Concentrations:

The concentrations of THC level in blood was higher when cannabis was vaporized than it was smoked. At dose of 10mg the blood concentrations for THC was 7.5(5.5ng/mL) and 14.4(9. 4ng.mL) when cannabis was vaporized. But when it was smoked the level at the 10mg dose was 3.8(5.9ng/mL) and at the 25mg dose level was 10.2(12.4ng/mL).

The current study gives a comparison between vaporized and smoked cannabis effects at multiple THC doses, among healthy adults. Unlike prior controlled examinations of acute cannabis effects, participants in this study were not regular cannabis users. On average, participants last used cannabis about 1 year prior to enrollment, and none had used cannabis in the 30 days prior to enrollment. After inhaling smoked and vaporized cannabis containing 25 mg of THC, participants experienced pronounced drug effects, substantial impairment of cognitive and psychomotor functioning, and marked increases in HR. Notably, the highest dose of cannabis administered in this study (25 mg of THC: 0.19 g; 13.4% THC) is substantially smaller and has a lower THC concentration than what is typically contained in prerolled cannabis cigarettes available for purchase in cannabis dispensaries, which commonly contain roughly 1.0 g of cannabis with THC concentrations often exceeding 18%. Thus, individuals who initiate cannabis use can readily access products that contain far greater amounts of cannabis, with higher THC concentrations, than administered in this study. Regulatory and clinical entities should consider these results in decisions involving cannabis accessibility, dosing recommendations, and education for novice cannabis users.

In contrast to previous controlled comparisons of smoked and vaporized cannabis effects, in the current study, vaporized cannabis produced significantly greater subjective drug effects, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, and higher blood THC concentrations than the same doses of smoked cannabis. These discrepant results may be because procedures used in former studies enabled users to titrate their THC dose, whereas the current study required participants to self-administer a fixed amount of cannabis. Therefore, holding THC dose constant, vaporizers appear to be a more efficient cannabis and THC delivery method, likely because with traditional smoked preparations, more THC is lost as a result of pyrolysis (combustion) and/or side stream smoke. Vendors and consumers of cannabis products should be aware that inhaling cannabis with a vaporizer could produce more pronounced drug effects and impairment than traditional smoking methods.

Interestingly, the time course of effects differed across outcome measures such that increases in blood THC concentrations and HR returned to baseline more rapidly than subjective drug effects and cognitive and psychomotor impairment. In several instances, cannabis-induced effects and/or impairments persisted for several hours after blood THC concentrations had fallen below the LOQ. Additionally, blood THC concentrations were only moderately correlated with subjective drug effects and weakly correlated, or not correlated at all, with cognitive and psychomotor performance. Collectively, findings from this study and others indicate that blood THC concentrations are not a valid indicator of a user’s intoxication and/or impairment from cannabis use and highlight the need to explore other biological and behavioral means of detecting acute cannabis impairment.

The current study has some noteworthy limitations. First, a limited range of doses, 1 type of cannabis (raw plant material: high THC/low CBD), and 1 type of vaporizer held at a fixed temperature were used. Future studies are needed to determine the generality of the effects found in the study to other forms of cannabis (e.g., cannabis extracts and those with varied THC:CBD ratios). Additionally, vaporizer characteristics (e.g., temperature and power output) could mediate THC delivery and should be explored further. In this study, participants experienced dose-orderly increases in subjective drug effects, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, acute cardiovascular effects, and blood THC concentrations following inhalation of smoked and vaporized cannabis. Notably, vaporized cannabis produced greater changes in study outcomes relative to smoked cannabis. As the legal cannabis marketplace continues to expand, future studies should further explore the effects of vaporizers and other novel methods for cannabis administration in users with different degrees of experience with cannabis, as the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles will likely differ substantially across products and users. rful Shadi

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