What are the risks of consuming cannabis edibles? Expert weighs in
TORONTO -- With new regulations on cannabis edibles and extracts now in effect, one expert is warning users and parents of the risks involved with these new products and strategies on how to consume them safely.
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Edibles is the broad term for cannabis-infused products, which can include beverages, cotton candy, dissolvable strips, gummy candies or baked goods.
But unlike smoking cannabis, the latency period after consuming edibles can range from half an hour to six hours before the "high" from the THC effect fully kicks in.
Dr. Amy Porath, director of research at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, told CTVNews.ca over the phone that “it takes a lot longer for people to experience those effects.”
“And that’s because the product has to go through the digestive system,” she said. One of the biggest mistakes people can make is to accidentally consume too much and experience a stronger, unpleasant and unintended high.
EFFECTS CAN LAST UP TO 24 HOURS
“What we want individuals to know is to expect that it’s going to take a bit longer before you feel the effects,” Porath said. “And not just wait 20 minutes and then take more because you think it’s not working or you didn’t take enough.”
Porath said residual effects could even be felt between 12 and 24 hours after consumption.
“It’s important to keep that in mind if say you’re using the product on a Sunday evening and you have to go to work on Monday,” she said.
EDIBLES CAN HAVE A MORE POTENT EFFECT
Porath also warned new users of cannabis extracts or edibles to be aware of potentially potent THC levels, which are placed on all product labels. She reiterated the government’s advice to “start low and go slow.”
She added that “it might be helpful -- if it’s your first time – to use with a trusted individual.”
Health Canada also strongly warned people not to consume cannabis edibles and get behind the wheel.
Although the government has regulated products to have plain packaging and child-proof caps, Porath advised people to ensure edibles are safely stored away from both children and pets.
“To them, it’s just a cookie or a brownie,” she warned. “If there are children in the house it may be wise to invest in a lockbox.”
She also advised people to get edibles from legal vendors because “there is that quality control. And you know you’re getting a product that isn’t contaminated that doesn’t contain mold.”
TRY NOT TO MIX WITH OTHER SUBSTANCES
The Canadian government has also warned users to avoid eating cannabis edibles with nicotine, alcohol, prescription medication, illicit substances or other health products.
Porath explained this was, in part, because “we know that there’s an additive effect when you’re mixing substances together.”
She also cited studies which show that for “individuals -- who are using cannabis on a regular basis or frequently -- there is a higher risk or increased risk of psychosis. And that risk is enhanced for those who have a family history of psychosis.”
Psychosis is an abnormal condition where sufferers have trouble determining what’s real and what’s not. Some other symptoms include incoherent speech, sleep problems and lack of motivation.
Porath also mentioned there were studies “suggesting there is a relationship between anxiety and depression but we don’t know the nature of the relationship.” This means people are potentially using cannabis to deal with those issues or those issues could be causing cannabis use.
“We still have a lot of research to understand what some of the effects are,” she stressed.
'CANNABIS IS AN ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCE'
Porath lastly made a general warning that “cannabis is an addictive substance.”
This means that for adolescents who start consuming cannabis frequently and regularly, “they have a much higher risk of developing what’s called a cannabis-use disorder or an addiction to cannabis.”