By DEANNA DEBARA
Photo courtesy of Mellows
You buy a cannabis edible like a gummy or a bar of chocolate. You get home, excited to give it a try and experience its effect. You ingest the edible, sit back, and wait for it to kick in so you can enjoy your high.
What gives? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might not feel your edibles kicking in (and what to do about it):
How does the body process edibles?
Before you can understand the reasons why you might not feel your edibles kicking in, it’s important to first know how your body processes them —and how that differs from other consumption methods.
When you smoke or vape cannabis and inhale the smoke into your lungs, all the active compounds—including THC—are absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, it travels through your bloodstream straight to your brain, where the THC binds to receptors in your endocannabinoid system (a cell-signaling system in your body that plays a role in a variety of functions, like sleep and mood), including the CB1 receptors. Those CB1 receptors are responsible for producing the euphoric “high” feeling that is commonly associated with THC.
The time between when you inhale the cannabis smoke or vapor and the THC hitting your brain is virtually immediate—which is why you feel the effects of smoking or vaping almost instantly. Edibles, on the other hand, are metabolized in a completely different way.
“When you eat cannabinoids, they’re absorbed through the intestines and then move through the liver before going into blood and spreading throughout the rest of your body,” says Matt Elmes, PhD, Director of New Product Development at CannaCraft. Once the THC makes its way to your liver, it’s converted into another compound called 11-hydroxy-THC, which is potentially even more intoxicating than your standard THC.
So, unlike smoking or vaping, which puts THC almost immediately into the bloodstream and the brain, when you take an edible, it has to be digested and metabolized by the liver before you start feeling any effects. This process takes significantly longer, but can also be significantly stronger thanks to the 11-hydroxy-THC.
Clearly, the way edibles interact with your body is completely different from other consumption methods. But what are some reasons you might not feel an edible kicking in?
You’re not giving them enough time
As mentioned, it takes a lot longer to feel the effects of edibles than it does other consumption methods like smoking or vaping. So, if you don’t feel your edible kicking in, it could be because you didn’t give it enough time to kick in.
“Onset for cannabis edibles is usually 45 minutes to two hours due to the nature of the digestive process,” says Elise McDonough, Brand Manager of Confections at CannaCraft. “Typically, it takes about an hour to feel effects when edibles are eaten on an empty stomach—or up to three hours when edibles are eaten along with food.”
Patience is key when ingesting edibles. If you don’t feel your edible kicking in after 30 minutes or an hour, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not going to kick in. Give your edibles at least a few hours to work their magic and then see how you feel.
Your dose was too low
If ample time has passed since ingesting your edible and you’re still not feeling anything? It could be because you took too low of a dose.
“There’s a huge amount of person-to-person variability in the perceived effects of cannabis edibles,” says Elmes. “The dose you tried may simply have been too low for you.”
While it can be frustrating to take an edible and not feel any effects, if you want to figure out the right dose for you, it’s best to start low and slow—especially if you’re new to edibles.
“Most new users feel mild psychoactive effects after eating 3 mg of THC,” says McDonough. “Due to the long duration of an edible high— it lasts anywhere from 4 to 6 hours—new users should become comfortable with small doses of 2.5 - 3mg before using stronger edibles.”
If you suspect the reason your edible isn’t kicking is that your initial dosage was too low, wait a full two to three hours before ingesting any more —and keep your second dose on the low side to avoid overconsuming (and getting higher than you intended).
“If someone eats 3mg and doesn’t feel anything after two [or three] hours, they could ingest another 2 - 3mg for added effects,” says McDonough.
You took the edible on an empty stomach
You might think taking an edible on an empty stomach would make for a stronger high. But as it turns out, the opposite may be true.
“If you ingested on an empty stomach, you may not be absorbing as much of its THC content as you think,” says Elmes. “Cannabinoids have relatively poor bioavailability [the proportion of compound that enters circulation after consumption and creates the psychoactive effects] when consumed orally, but it can be improved by eating your edibles with fatty foods.”
If you want to make sure you feel the full effects of your edible, pairing it with a high-fat food could help the edible kick in—and make for a stronger high. “Eating cannabis edibles along with fats like nut butters, avocado, cheese or high-fat dairy can increase the bioavailability of the cannabinoids, making effects feel more intense,” says McDonough.
What to do if you accidentally over consume—and your edible high is just a little too much?
Clearly, there are plenty of reasons why you might not feel an edible kick in. But what should you do if you feel your edible kicking in just a little too much—and all of a sudden, you’re higher than you want to be?
First off, don’t panic. No matter how intense the high you’re experiencing, it’s not going to last forever. Look for something to take your mind off of how high you’re feeling. “Distracting yourself by watching a funny movie or TV show can be helpful if you are too high,” says McDonough.
There are also remedies that may help to take the edge off—and get you back to a comfortable place (instead of a “too high” place). “Drinking water is recommended, as well as ingesting CBD or chewing on black peppercorns, which contain a terpene that helps negate overwhelming highness."