Edibles are known for a lot of things – an accurate way to dose THC, a tastier alternative to smoking weed and a great way to introduce beginners to cannabis, but are really healthier than smoking? A common concern that many new edible consumers are the health complications that come with it, namely the question of “are edibles bad for your heart?”
Edibles, like any other cannabis product, can cause complications when proper dosing instructions aren’t being followed. With that being said, do edibles pose large enough of a health risk for users to be concerned? If you’re worried about the connection between edibles and cardiovascular health, here’s what science has to say about the health risks of edibles.
Are Edibles Healthier?
We know there are fewer health risks associated with edibles vs smoking cannabis. While it doesn’t carry the same personal health risks as smoking tobacco, there is still a danger of lung damage and lung and heart disease when smoking marijuana.
Even vaping, often touted as a “healthier” way to inhale cannabis, is not without its risks.
Certain additives in vaping products are shown to lead to a condition known as “popcorn lung” (bronchiolitis obliterans to you sciency folk).
Surely edibles, which bypass the respiratory system entirely, must be better for our health than smoking or vaping?
While there is definitely some truth to this statement, it does not mean that cannabis edibles are risk-free.
Though your lungs are safe with edibles, cannabis can impact cardiovascular health in several ways.
For starters, edibles are several times more potent than dry flower. Since THC is metabolized by the liver and not directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, THC actually transforms into a different compound called 11-Hydroxy-THC.
Also known as 11-OH-THC, this metabolite of THC is several times more potent than THC and is able to bypass the blood-brain barrier with ease, which is why 10mg of ingested THC often feels stronger than 50mg of smoked THC.
So yes, edibles are healthier than smoking, but they can also cause greater distress when improperly consumed, which is why so many novice users who literally bite off more than they can chew end up suffering from a green out!
What Science Says About Edibles and Heart Health
Cannabis in high potencies raises blood pressure, which can be detrimental for individuals who already suffer from high blood pressure. It dilates blood vessels, making the heart pump harder to get blood circulating through the body. Cannabis may also amplify the irregular heartbeat in anyone with heart arrhythmia.
These cardiovascular risk factors exist whether you smoke, dab, or eat cannabis.
However, it’s much easier to overdo it with edibles due to poor dosing knowledge!
While most people would not comfortably sit and smoke multiple grams of cannabis in one sitting, most of us could eat an entire brownie in one sitting.
If that one brownie happened to contain 100mg of THC, it could spell disaster for someone with a lower tolerance for edibles.
In very rare cases, massive overconsumption of cannabis edibles could lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack).
One documented case reports a man being admitted to the hospital with difficulty breathing and “crushing chest pain” after consuming a particularly potent edible.
When looking at this particular case, it’s important to note that, in addition to being 70-years-old, the man was not a regular cannabis user.
He ate most of a 90mg lollipop, which is significantly more THC than the recommended 5-10mg dose that people who are new to edibles should begin with. This example should be taken as an anecdotal tale of what cannabis edibles can do, but not as a warning of the effects they typically cause.
Assuming you’d prefer not to end up in the hospital like our friend in the story above, what are the things you should watch out for when trying cannabis edibles?
What to Watch Out for When Consuming Edibles
Most people find their THC tolerance increases as they consume cannabis products already.
Where a few puffs on a joint used to get you sky high, years down the line, you have to smoke the entire thing just to feel a buzz.
However, while tolerance will increase with consistent cannabis consumption, studies show that THC can have adverse effects as we age. Older people who consume cannabis report greater feelings of anxiety, stress, and paranoia compared to adolescents.
Cannabis can negatively interact with certain pharmaceuticals, including beta-blockers and other cardiovascular medicine, anti-depressants, and sedatives.
Check with your doctor (or research online if you don’t feel comfortable discussing recreational cannabis with your doc) about whether any medications you’re taking could react poorly with pot.
We discussed above some of the ways cannabis can impact the cardiovascular system. THC raises the heart rate, dilates blood vessels, and kicks the heart into overdrive, which can be very dangerous for someone with a heart condition.
Research suggests that THC can have a triggering effect on certain psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. If you have concerns about how recreational or medical marijuana could affect your health, it’s always best to consult your doctor.
Dosage and Tolerance
If you’re new to edible cannabis, it’s best to start with a 5mg dose. Wait for a couple of hours to gauge how you feel, as it usually takes at least an hour for edibles to kick in, and they often don’t peak until the 2-3 hour mark.
Even if you’ve been smoking pot since high school, you should still exercise caution when you start exploring edibles. The effects of edibles are felt differently, so even if you’re used to hitting a bong all night and feeling fine, you may be taken by surprise by even a low dosage edible. Don’t assume your tolerance for smoking marijuana will be the same as your tolerance for edible marijuana.
Are Edibles Bad For Your Heart? Not Really
To say that edibles are bad for your heart wouldn’t be the right answer. Under certain circumstances and conditions, edibles can potentially carry some risk if the proper precautions and dosing instructions aren’t followed.
However, this isn’t to say that edibles are any more dangerous than eating a sugar-packed breakfast every morning or sitting for ten or more hours a day – everyone’s body is different. What’s important is to respect yourself and your body by asking for and following medical advice from a licensed medical professional.
When used properly, the accurate, convenient and smoke-free dosing that edibles provide can be of great medicinal benefit. For a good experience, be sure to start with a low dose and wait until it “kicks in” before consuming another dose!