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Are Edibles More Credible?

Posted 8/24/2017 by UHBlog

Do you turn to pot-laced “snacks” to get you through the day? We can help you curb the cravings and gain control of your life.

Are Edibles More Credible?

What’s the harm in taking a small bite of a brownie or sampling a couple of the cute, brightly colored gummies your friend offers? You could be putting yourself at risk of developing mental health issues and addiction if the treats are “edibles,” meaning any type of marijuana that is ingested.

“Edibles are really a different drug than smokeable marijuana and have a different impact on the brain,” says addiction specialist Ray Isackila, LPCC, LICDC. “They’re stronger than smoking and a different high.”

Edibles include any baked product made with parts of the marijuana plant or a confection, beverage, lip balm or even pizza sauce infused with THC, the chemical in cannabis that creates euphoria.

“Extracts are potent forms of THC that, chemically or through heat processing, have been distilled out of the marijuana plant,” Isackila says. “These are usually called wax, butter or shatter. Shatter tends to be a yellow, crystal-looking substance like glass. These are the most potent forms of cannabis. Extracted THC is really almost a different drug, it’s so powerful.”

Taking a few hits on a joint creates a quick high that peaks in 20 to 30 minutes and wears off within two hours. By contrast, it may take as long as two hours to feel the effects of ingested pot and the high may last up to six hours.

“Eating these products causes a longer and more intense high, and it’s more likely the person could have a brief psychotic episode,” Isackila says. “They may get paranoid, hallucinate, get frightened, their heart may beat faster and they may have panic attacks and have to go to the ER. You won’t die from a marijuana overdose, but you can have some uncomfortable experiences.”

Complications are more likely to arise when users don’t know how much pot an edible contains (if, say, their neighbor baked it as opposed to buying it from legal dispensaries where the industry “dose” is generally 10 mg). Problems may also occur when people continue to ingest edibles when they don’t experience the instant high they’re used to when smoking a joint.

Isackila says the biggest concern is with teenage users because daily use may:

  • Interrupt brain development
  • Reduce IQ by as many as eight points
  • Affect short-term memory
  • Create amotivational syndrome, or the tendency to ignore or put off responsibilities and social interactions
  • Increase the chances of developing mental health issues

“It defies logic that a lot of these (edibles) are being made to be attractive to children – the popsicles, lollipops, goldfish crackers,” Isackila says, noting that edibles are now legally sold in many states. “It looks as if the retailers are doing their best to hook young people with these drugs.”

Whether teenagers or adults, about 10 percent of daily users become dependent on cannabis, meaning they don’t feel “normal” unless they’re smoking or ingesting marijuana. When they run out of product or decide to quit using, Isackila says they experience withdrawal symptoms that may include several weeks of:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Cravings

Recovery can be difficult, but it’s possible through a variety of interventions. Isackila says these may include:

  • Individual or group therapy
  • Medication
  • 12-step programs
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Other psychosocial approaches

Ray Isackila, LPCC, LICDC, is manager of Addiction Recovery Services at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Isackila or any other health care provider online.

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