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Marijuana Edibles | Health Risks & Warnings

Published on April 15, 2021
Marijuana Edibles | Health Risks & Warnings

Marijuana (cannabis) is one of the most commonly used psychotropic drugs in the United States.  The gradual legalization of marijuana has increased its popularity for recreational and medicinal use, especially in the form of edibles. 

The increased accessibility of edibles from dispensaries and shops may contribute to the misconception that marijuana is not dangerous. However, these products are not federally regulated and high amounts pose serious health risks. 

What Are Marijuana Edibles?

Marijuana is derived from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis plants contain several cannabinoids (chemical compounds), including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). 

Cannabis edibles are produced by infusing food and drink products with THC extracted from the cannabis plant. Retail shops may also sell THC oil that can be used in homemade consumable products. 

THC is a mind-altering substance and produces the “high” that some may experience when marijuana is ingested. A marijuana high may cause euphoria, relaxation, and heightened senses. 

Marijuana edibles may come in the form of:

  • gummies
  • baked goods
  • candies 
  • chocolates
  • lozenges 
  • beverages 

Edibles may be used medicinally or recreationally, depending on individual state laws.

Health Risks & Dangers Of Marijuana Edibles

Despite its growing popularity as alternative medicine, marijuana edibles are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The labeling of products, including ingredients and warnings, may be inconsistent and increases the risk of marijuana-related health risks.  

Inconsistent Dosing

The general recommended dose of THC is 10 milligrams but many products contain multiple doses. If you purchase a THC-infused brownie, you may only need to consume a small amount of the product. 

However, inconsistencies in dose recommendations and labels increases the risk of consuming toxic amounts. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, Colorado initiated a regulation that each product can contain no more than 100 milligrams of THC. Their products must also clearly define each serving size on the packaging. 

However, some medical marijuana dispensaries do not have limits on the amount of THC in their products. 

Misleading Labels

Many edible products may be attractive to young children, such as lollipops, cookies, and chocolate bars. If edibles are not properly secured and out of reach, it increases the risk of unintentional consumption. 

Some edible food labels may have unclear warnings or excessive information that could be overlooked. Following a study of individuals in Denver and Seattle, researchers concluded that labels on edible products need to be improved and simplified. 

Delayed & Extended Effects 

Edibles can take between 30 and 90 minutes to produce effects because they must first pass through your digestive tract. Psychoactive effects peak within the first few hours after ingestion and can last for several hours. 

The delayed onset of effects increases the risk of consuming toxic amounts before the drug has kicked in. This can cause severe adverse reactions because edibles contain high concentrated amounts of THC. 

Adverse effects of cannabis may include:

  • anxiety
  • fear
  • paranoia
  • panic
  • increased heart rate
  • cognitive impairment
  • memory impairment
  • difficulty maintaining attention
  • impaired coordination

Edibles may also increase the risk of other significant health risks, including:

Overdose

Although you are unlikely to experience a fatal overdose from marijuana edibles, toxic amounts increase the risk of causing harm to yourself or someone else.

Signs of marijuana overdose include:

  • psychosis
  • hallucinations
  • delusions 
  • paranoia
  • agitation 
  • nausea
  • vomiting

If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing marijuana-induced psychosis, seek medical attention immediately. 

Dependence & Addiction

You may develop a tolerance to the effects of edibles after frequent use and high amounts of edibles. Increased tolerance can lead to dependence and addiction, which may require professional treatment. 

If you continue to consume edibles despite negative consequences or adverse reactions, you may be addicted. If you think you are addicted, there are several effective treatment programs that will help you safely recover. 

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

Your addiction treatment plan will depend on your individual needs, including your health and severity of your addiction. 

Addiction treatment options may include:

Inpatient/Residential Treatment

These programs are highly structured to help you safely recover in a supervised environment. You may have access to group therapy, individual counseling, and wellness activities (like yoga and meditation). 

Outpatient Programs

This type of program allows you to commute to a specific number of treatment sessions each week. If you have a supportive and stable home environment, this option may be a good fit for you. 

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is offered at many treatment facilities and can be extremely effective. This type of therapy teaches you to identify negative thought patterns and learn to safely cope with triggers and cravings. 

If you would like more information about treatment options, please contact Ark Behavioral Health to speak with a specialist.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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