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Ways to use cannabis (for pain)

I use edibles (mostly) to get my cannabis – Mindy’s Gummies 5 mg CBD/5 mg THC, to be exact. This is one of many ways you can use cannabis. I am giving you my review of the different methods of taking cannabis.

Smoking

Smoking cannabis is the traditional way that most people took it for years. Smoking is one of the most “natural” ways to take cannabis, in that the weed is minimally processed. It is also one of the ways to access the greatest number of varieties or strains. Each variety feels different in the body and the mind, so this allows you to finely tune your cannabis therapy.

Smoking comes in several forms. Rolled cigarettes and cigars are popular. To take smaller doses a pipe – regular or water – is handy. But remember marijuana smoke is carcinogenic, but less so than tobacco smoke.

Effects come on fastest with smoking, but they also go away the fastest. It takes 10-15 minutes to feel the effects and you need to re-dose every half hour or so to maintain pain relief. This is not good for most pain control, unless your pain is spiky and doesn’t hit you often. I want a product that lasts as long as possible.

Additionally, smoking comes with all the lung problems. I smoked cigarettes for 18 years before I quit. Now, when I try to smoke anything I cough, wheeze, and have problems. So no smoking or vaping for me. If breathing is at all an issue with you or those around you, do not smoke the weed.

Vaping

I have problems with vaping or, more correctly, people who vape. I remember (unwillingly) riding in a car with someone vaping. She blew her smoke right in my face to prove that it was nothing but water vapor. Bad way to make a point, plus I got stuff more than water from smelling it.

Vaping does have several benefits over smoking. It does not contain the combustion that causes some of the problems with smoking. You are inhaling a vaporized version of a cannabis oil. There are ways to vape with crushed cannabis as well as dabbing or super-heating a resin.

Vaped cannabis does hit fast and leave fast like smoked cannabis. It still harms the lungs. And the oil it uses can have added ingredients (like vitamin E acetate) that are causing new sets of problems.

Tinctures and oils

Tinctures are mixtures of alcohol and water into which cannabis plants (or their constituent parts) are infused. Oils are similar, where cannabis oils are mixed into carrier oils.

These can be dosed through a dropper, a spray, or put into capsule form. Capsules tend to work well for pain management. You can use these oils and tinctures in baking or creating your own edibles. The most popular way is to mix the oil into oil or butter. You can also mix them into tea, water, or another drink.

Many people place oils and tinctures directly under the tongue to go quickly into the bloodstream. This placement allows the cannabis to affect you faster than taking edibles, but slower than smoking. It’s a good choice for those folks are not ready for how long edibles last. I generally place my edible gummies under my tongue, with the theory that some of the relief will happen faster,

Edibles

Edibles are one of the healthiest ways to take cannabis, as long as you do not take too much too fast. Edibles generally take two hours to start working and three to peak. The cannabis effects last 6-8 hours and provide full-body relief. This lasting effect is the largest reason I use edibles.

People do have problems navigating around this slow start. Folks tend to think that the weed is not working and take more before the dose kicks in and take too much. Overdose can involve paranoia, increased heart rate, and panic attacks – not fun. You have to trust the edibles maker that they contain the amount of cannabis they say they will. Start small, at about 2 mg of THC and initially give it about 4 hours between doses, so you can trace how it affects you. I take 5 mg of THC, once or twice a day. Check with your doctor if you go over 15 mg, because some people have bad side effects at higher doses.

Edibles come in many forms: gummies, drinks, chocolate, honey, butter, even ranch dip mix. You can even make your own, but know that cannabis needs to be heated to certain temperatures for certain times and do your research before you start. Decarboxylated is the technical term.

Topicals

Many pain-people get relief from topical application. They use cannabis salves or lotions to apply it directly where the pain is. This method is good for when your pain is limited to a small area. Topical application will not bring on a “high”. This is a good choice for those who want to avoid that side of marijuana entirely.

Unfortunately, I am not one of the folks who can get relief this way. And I am not the only one. have tried a number of creams and rubs and felt no relief at all for my pain. I did discover, on the side, that hemp oil is great for my dry skin – so I still use it that way.

Transdermal

Transdermal patches look promising at delivering a steady dose over time, however my store doesn’t sell these. Many of these seem to be tied up in the maze of deregulation and medicalization of cannabis, at least in Illinois where I live. I expect to see these more in the future as they maximize the cannabis you receive over time by getting it directly into the blood stream and delivering whole-body relief. It also minimizes the psychoactive effects of the drug.

By Johanna

Writer, reader, person living with a disability, cat-mom, learner, mystic. J.D./Ph.D. from Ohio State. Can be found writing a speculative fiction novel, or about women's soccer and life with chronic pain.

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