There are tons of ways to get your cannabis fix these days, ranging from what we already know, like smoking, vaping, topicals, and edibles. To more obscure, but still useful methods, like injections, nasal sprays, and suppositories. But what if you use a topical and smoke a joint? Or eat an edible and then vape a bit? Or what if you use a patch, eat an edible, and then do some dabbing? Sometimes using different cannabis delivery systems at once can work in tandem. Sometime it can create some pretty awful effects. Let’s take a look.
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Let’s go over cannabis delivery systems
First off, the term ‘delivery system’, for those I am currently confusing, is simply the method in which the cannabis is gotten into your system. Though when first thinking about it, most people will gravitate toward the more well-known and appreciated methods, like smoking and edibles, the world of cannabis is a big, wide place, and there are so many other ways to do this.
Smoking & vaping:
Vaping is a slightly more modern invention, but smoking cannabis has been done for millennia, and there is even plenty of evidence of historic vaping, though people back in Ancient Egypt weren’t sucking on vape pens, but rather using hot rocks to vaporize liquids to breathe in. Both smoking and vaping have a near immediate effect since cannabinoids travel directly to the lungs when inhaled, where they transfer to the blood stream, and then onto the brain, where they bind with CB1 receptors, giving the user a high feeling. The effects for this type of ingestion method are only 1-2 hours, which is why users will often smoke multiple times in a day.
Another super old-school cannabis delivery system is edibles. Edibles include food stuffs infused with cannabis extracts, though the term edibles can also include oils and capsules as well. The reason they all go together, is because they’re all being processed in the same way. Cannabis that goes down the throat takes an entirely different journey from cannabis that’s smoked. When ingested, the cannabis travels down to the stomach, where active components are transferred to the liver for metabolization. In this process, the standard delta THC: (C₂₁H₃₀O₂) is converted to a slightly different version: (C21H30O3), called 11-Hydroxy-THC. This form of THC is stronger than its predecessor, and can give a high that lasts 4-6 hours+. Popular edibles include gummies, chocolates, baked goods, and infused drinks.
Pills, capsules, tablets, tinctures, syringes:
Technically these are also edibles because they too go down the throat, through the digestive tract, and are converted to 11-Hydroxy-THC. But they aren’t food, so I’m separating them out. Cannabis can come in hard pills, or capsules which contain flower or oil, extracts, full-spectrum cannabis, or just a specific cannabinoid. Tinctures are alcohol, glycerin, vinegar, or oil extractions, and are taken in liquid form. Syringes are simply large plastic syringes with no needle, that can be filled with oils. The oils can be swallowed down, or taken sublingually, with the syringe acting as a way to measure out the correct amount with more accuracy.
When an edible like an oil or tincture is put under the tongue instead of swallowed, it’s called sublingual administration. This is useful because there are tons of blood vessels under the tongue that can quickly absorb the active compounds, thereby allowing them more direct uptake to the bloodstream, and bypassing the whole digestive tract and conversion to 11-Hydroxy-THC. When taking something sublingually, some of the material will likely still be swallowed down and go through the digestive tract.
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This is becoming another popular method, and was also seen in history with the use of cannabis balms and salves. There are two main ways to get your cannabis fix dermally. The first is with patches. Cannabis patches, much like nicotine patches (used to quit smoking), are adhesive coated plastic, that is infused with a specific amount of medication, which is released over a period of time. This time-release aspect means patches are often good for 12 hours of relief. Though they are primarily used for pain management, they can be used for other purposes as well.
The other dermal application is through skin creams, lotions, and oils. Many of these products offer medical benefits without any psychoactive effect, as the lotions, creams and oils do not necessarily have heat applied during production, meaning minimal amounts of THC will be in the product. This allows users the medical benefits without getting high. This is not true of all products, and interested consumers should be clear on the product they are buying, and what is in it. These skin treatments can be used for skin rashes or other skin ailments, or simply to moisturize and promote healthy skin. They can be used in localized areas, or across broader regions.
Granted, these are currently used more in a medical setting, but that is not a hard and fast rule, and this form of administration could become more commonplace for an important reason. Injections can be done IV – intravenous, or IM – intramuscular. The former means injecting the drug into a vein, and the latter means injecting the drug into a large muscle. In medical settings injections have been used for around 50 years. One of the main benefits of injections, is the ability for full absorption, without worrying about personal differences in bioavailability, or the body’s ability to absorb compounds. This makes it the most precise way of dosing.
The idea of home self-administration for injections isn’t a thing right now, but could be in the future. In this Reddit post, a guy talks extensively and in detail about self-injecting cannabis keef. This is not a standard or advisable process, even according to the guy who did it, but the guy was able to give a pretty good description of what kinds of effects might be felt. The idea he was able to at all, and the large amount of illicit drug users who are more than fine sticking needles in themselves, does give credence to the idea that injections could be a standard practice in the future.
Inhalers, inserts, eye drops, and nasal sprays:
These are some of the newer ways of getting cannabis in you, though this doesn’t rule out similar historic applications. To start with, inhalers are similar to smoking and vaping, but I separated them from that group. Inhalers are more specific, coming in highly precise, metered dosages, that are inhaled like an inhaler would be in a long puff that gets held in the lungs. Much like a vape, inhalers produce a vapor, but literally nothing else, which means they don’t have any smell.
Nasal sprays are also what they sound like, with the first one hitting the market in 2017. This method of ingestion is cited as having higher bioavailability than some other methods, through using transmucosal delivery – meaning, absorbed through the skin of the inner nose. This kind of delivery does come with a strange caveat, according to Duke University’s Palliative Care Chief, Dr. David Casarett. Cassarett informs that there are tons of nsal enzymes in the nasal membrane that can be deactivated when they come into contact with CBD. This actually has the effect of temporarily halting the body from metabolizing other drugs like THC, so using this method involves understanding how to dose correctly.
Eyedrops are yet another way to get your cannabis, although they are not commonplace at all. However, they are great for specific ailments related to the eyes, like glaucoma, since they offer localized treatment to the eyes. The main issue is making sure the eyes are not damaged by having unnecessary, or superfluous ingredients in eyedrop medication.
Last on the list is inserts and suppositories, not the most comfortable sounding solution, but certainly necessary under some situations. These can be ideal for medical ailments like yeast infections, or genital herpes outbreaks. Suppositories have been used in this way for quite some time, the only difference now is that they can contain cannabis.
Different cannabis delivery systems for different times of day
Some of the methods listed above are for specific ailments. After all, eye drops probably won’t be used to try and get high, and neither will suppositories. Some of these methods are therefore highly specific, and would be used as needed. On the other hand, some of these methods will be employed at specific times. For example, if a capsule is taken for sleep, it will be taken in the evening. If an edible is meant to give many hours of coverage for a day, it will be taken at the beginning of it. If a person is trying to ease hurt muscles after a workout, they might apply a cream after they are done with exercising.
Some products and delivery methods are meant for whenever though. A person can light a joint, smoke a vape, or eat an edible whenever they please, and sometimes these things happen together.
Mixing cannabis delivery systems
The effects of using eyedrops while smoking a joint, are hard to say because the combination isn’t terribly well known. Same with eating an edible while using a suppository. Not much information available on how they will interact. When it comes to mixing delivery systems, there is one main place where problems can be encountered, and that’s will edibles.
Edibles come with the designation of having the longest time before they kick in, and this often makes people ingest more than they should, which can give a THC overdose, and a general not good feeling. This could be similar to taking an edible, and then smoking a joint on top of it. When taking edibles, any other form of cannabis (particularly high-THC products) could cause a negative reaction if too much is taken. On the other hand, and I can attest to this personally, it feels kind of good to vape cannabis while on an edible.
This might be because the two forms of THC – so long as they are NOT in excess – can compliment each other well. As of yet, mixing edibles and smoking/vaping has been the only personal example I can give of mixing delivery systems, apart from mixing just smoking and vaping, which also wasn’t a negative experience in any way. Since smoking and vaping do the same basic thing, a person can literally switch off between the two and be fine.
I think one of the big questions is whether things like topicals and smoking or eating edibles, can interact badly. One thing to keep in mind, is what’s in a product, and if it’s meant for localized relief or if it effects the whole body. If a CBD lotion is used, smoking THC on top should cause no problem for the user, since they aren’t running any risk of overdosing on THC. However, it’s possible that a high CBD strain could give enough CBD to couchlock a person a bit. If a person has a THC patch on their back to help with localized pain, they will probably want to make sure not to consume large amounts of THC along with it, or not outside what they can handle. Products with no psychoactive effect, won’t add to THC buildup, and shouldn’t affect another delivery method that involves THC.
In terms of longer lasting cannabis delivery systems, like edibles and patches, using a different delivery system at the same time can give the added benefit of an extra kick, if one is desired during the time the first system is active.
A lot of what goes on now in the world of cannabis products is new inventions. As such, there isn’t a lot of information out yet on how exactly these different systems can interact. But the thing to remember, is that the best way to encounter a problem with mixing cannabis delivery systems, is not knowing the amount being used. When using just one, we can measure how much we’re getting more easily. When mixing them up, it’s harder to know the full amount going into the body.
If you want to mix your cannabis delivery systems, know the products you’re dealing with and what’s in them, and know yourself. Start with low doses, increase slowly to stave off negative effects, especially if its the first time mixing. And above all else, if you are unsure of any of this, please consult a medical professional for further guidance.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.