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How Long Do Edibles Last: THC, CBD & More

Dr Abraham Benavides

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

A quick search on “how long do edibles last” will redirect you to 11,600,000+ results on Google. Wow, a munch-on-ithot topic, right?

We’re going to dive in deep here, but if you want the quick answer based on current research:

1 – The onset time for edibles to kick in is about 30 mins – 2 hours on average.
2 – The cannabis edibles high can peak for 2 – 3 hours after consumption. 
3 – In total, the effects can be felt for up to 6 – 9 hours.

But there’s more! Join us below for easy-to-digest, curious bits of (in)valuable information.

THC edibles illustration

How Long For Edibles Take To Kick In?

Usually, the high effect with edibles starts between 30 mins2 hours following ingestion.

After the first onset of the high, the effect proceeds to build. 

But why does it take so long for edibles to kick in?

That’s because it can take hours for your body to fully digest the active compounds.

You’ll start feeling the effect only once the compounds are digested.

More importantly, the “waiting time,” or better said high-peak-time, can be as long as 2 – 3 hours.

Yet these are rather general rules of thumb and vary from one user to another.

The secret to understanding THC edibles is embedded in human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics – aka how long it takes for your liver to break down the edible, extract the THC content into THC-COOH. 

In research and scientific publications, edibles are referred to as “oral” cannabinoids and differ from “oromucosal”, or sublingual, methods.

Ultimately, how long do edibles last depends on the one-of-a-kind:

  • chemistry and metabolism of your body,
  • currently present stomach content (each food item you have consumed can play a role),
  • digestive system health status,
  • potency of the edibles consumed.

High THC Edibles VS High CBD Edibles: Which Route To Take?

Both THC and CBD possess a variety of potentially beneficial properties. Medical marijuana users and recreational cannabisseurs alike should mind the concentration of active cannabinoids in edibles.

Ultimately, picking the best edibles for you is a strictly individual matter of choice. It depends on the potential effects you want to feel. 

It is actually quite easy for novice consumers to take too many edibles, which increases the risks of side effects. 

High THC is associated with adverse effects such as anxiety, vomiting, and fast heart rate. High CBD is associated with fatigue, diarrhea, and sleepiness. However, taking CBD can reduce the unpleasant and temporary side effects of THC. 

For example, research suggests that munching down on pure THC gummies will be much more intense than something counterbalanced with CBD. Although, you’ll feel no ‘buzz’ from something which doesn’t contain any THC. 

What Do Studies Reveal About The Onset and Peak With Cannabis Edibles? 

A 2016 study discussed the differences between smoking, vaping, and eating cannabis, in line with a shifting view of medical cannabis. The study used survey data from 2838 individuals to yield some interesting insights. 

Including the fact that: “the method of administration can impact the onset, intensity, and duration of psychoactive effects, effects on organ systems, and the addictive potential and negative consequences associated with use.”

Yup, the same study linked here and above confirms that the edible high is pretty different from smoking cannabis. After all, edibles break down the active cannabinoids into your system through a different route of administration than smoking.

The outcome? A different and longer kind of buzz. 

Most importantly, how edibles affect you depends on a wide array of factors that are UNIQUE to each individual.

Furthermore, the study linked above highlights the potential risk of consuming too much without realizing it. While it’s near impossible to deliver a fatal dose of cannabis in adult populations, having too much too quickly is indeed a common issue in edibles due to the delayed onset. 

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Diving Deeper To Separate Myth From Fact

A 2020 paper shares valuable health information regarding the safety and potential side effects of cannabis edibles. 

Experts highlight that edible cannabis products may not be as safe as most of us think. 

Why?

Because of the delayed onset, dose differentials when compared to other consumption methods and the sheer potential potency of an edible vs a joint. Leading to a whole host of potentially related side effects. 

But, it’s not merely about potential side effects. Instead, it’s about the importance of taking a well-calculated dose, so that each serving size matches your personal needs.

The risks mentioned in the paper above have to do with a common misperception among users of cannabis-infused food products. Many of them quickly jump to the conclusion that the initial dose has failed to produce the desired effect.

This can quickly lead to taking another dose. Meanwhile, the effect of the first dose is still being broken down by the liver. And so, many cannabis consumers end up with a double dose. 

Consequently, the length of time with the edible high can feel quite overwhelming. 

Outside of the THC realm, when it comes to CBD edibles and potential overdosing, studies documenting potential toxicity of CBD are still rather limited.

The trickiest part with taming the potent psychoactive experience with THC edibles? Being able to find the right dose for you. This gives you a good idea of when the high will kick in.

All in all, it takes some practice, patience, and self-reflection to determine the best THC levels with cannabis foods. 

So, now you are most probably asking yourself…

Edible High VS Smoking Or Vaping

Simply put, edibles take so long because they are metabolized in a different way than smoking. Yup, the high with edible products differs much from smoking and vaping weed.

Why is that so?

It’s the liver that breaks down edibles. This is called the “first pass effect”, and reduces the bioavailability of edible cannabis.

When it comes to smoking or vaping methods, our lungs do the job.

The active compounds in cannabis smoke are directly absorbed as the smoke passes through the bronchi. Then it enters the air sacs (alveoli), where THC passes freely into the bloodstream.

From there, it quickly finds its way to the brain, after which the effect is felt once THC enters the endocannabinoid system via ECS receptors. 

So what’s the data say about the relationship between metabolism and cannabis?

Here’s an excerpt from a 2012 study on the topic:

Following inhalation, ▵9-THC is detectable in plasma within seconds after the first puff and the peak plasma concentration is attained within 3-10 minutes.”

Other factors that influence the onset of the high when smoking cannabis include:

  • potency of product (i.e. flower vs concentrate)
  • routes like smoking vs vaporizing vs flash vaporization or “dabbing”,
  • the depth of inhalation,
  • puff duration,
  • breath-hold.

With oral ingestion, “systemic absorption is relatively slow,” as it affects the

▵9-THC plasma concentration, taking about 1-2 hours”. Furthermore, the absorption can be delayed by “a few hours.”

This delay is due to something called first-pass metabolism. This is the reason bioavailability can vary depending on the consumption method, when consuming either THC or CBD.

The thing is, the body needs to break down the edible before it’s metabolized. And so once the active cannabinoids enter the bloodstream, you start feeling it.

too much thc illustration

Marijuana Edibles: Other Influencing Factors 

Our digestive systems don’t necessarily work at the same pace for everyone. This also rings true to each person’s:

  • weight,
  • biological sex,
  • age,
  • stomach contents,
  • cannabis tolerance.

The internal systems of people with a quick metabolism could potentially digest any kind of food much faster than someone on the other side of the spectrum. The same goes for cannabinoids.

Experienced cannabis consumers often have a higher tolerance to weed. This means that a newbie consumer may feel the effects of a dose much faster and stronger than a veteran cannabis user.

An intriguing 2019 paper revealed that the effects of THC edibles can also vary based on the subject’s sex. Researchers conducted a one-of-a-kind study with mice who ate a dough high in THC. And the mice did so voluntarily!

The study is among the first to examine voluntary oral THC consumption in animals.

The great news here?

Soon enough there will be more insights on edibles. In return, edible product development is bound to reach new levels.

A Short Edible Cannabis Survival Guide

The author of “Weed: The User’s Guide,” David Schmader, is one of the first cannabis experts to sum this topic down.

Here is what he shares in his book, Weed: The User’s Guide

“Even aspirin can kill you if you take too much, but a fatal dose of marijuana would require ingestion of fifteen hundred pounds in fifteen minutes — a physical impossibility for any human, even Snoop Dogg.”

Important Note

One must practice utmost care and personal prudence when consuming any form of cannabis, be it smoking or edibles.

The truth is, many of us have felt the will-it-ever-end edibles scenario. Usually, it is coupled with a please-make-it-stop type of edibles double-dosing episode. 

Get ready for more juicy details and practical “survival” tips on this topic below!

But first, time to highlight other edible products known for their faster-acting effects.

The Secret Of Mucus Membranes Cannabinoids Pathways Aka: Sublingual Candy Is Quicker!

New cannabis products rise on the global ganja stage everyday. 2020 stats reveal that edibles have become the most popular product category. 

Cookies and brownies are among the first edible products on the market.

But there are new superstars joining the party. And they offer some pretty fantastic uses!

Sublingual candies like lollies and lozenges kick in quicker.

Why?

They are absorbed through the mucous membranes under your tongue.

Thus, they travel directly into the bloodstream. This decreases the waiting time and reduces some of the first-pass effect associated with liver digestion of the cannabinoids, as in the case with cookies.

As you skip the digestive tract, the effects are much quicker. Hence, it’s easier to control the experience with sublingual sweets. Typically, sublingual products may start working within 15 – 30 minutes after ingestion but can still take up to 90 mins to peak.

What About Microdosing Edibles?

Microdosing refers to taking an extremely low and precise dose of CBD and/or THC; so low that the possible intoxicating effects are barely there.

It’s possible to microdose your smoking routine. However, edibles offer much better consistency and control. That’s because the cannabinoid content in each dose is strictly measured.

Gummies and hard candy are fantastic for microdosing. You know the exact amount of active cannabinoids in each gummy bear. So, it is easy to establish the best working dose for your needs. This allows you to gradually increase it over time when and as needed.

Oh well, a cannabis gummy bear a day keeps all the evil at bay.  

How Long Do Edibles Stay In Your System?

How long edibles stay in your system depends on several factors. And much like with smoking or vaping weed, the whole process is unique for each individual.

One-time users may be able to clear cannabis metabolites within a few days.

Yet regular users may still have traces in their system that persist for longer.

It depends on how long it will take for your system to clear away THC metabolites leftovers.

In this study on human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics, users were found to flush out about 80-90% of THC within 5 days following consumption.

But traces of the active compounds can remain typically for 30 to 60 days, or even more. This depends on the amount and regularity of weed consumed, as well as biological variables like body fat and metabolism.

Fast metabolism, for instance, is a great asset in flushing THC from edibles much more quickly.

Note that both CBD and THC are highly lipophilic. Fats are the perfect vessels to bind with, as well as to carry cannabinoids across the cell membranes and barriers.

So, people with a high percentage of body fats may have a harder time getting rid of THC metabolites. Ultimately, some extra sweating can be helpful to get rid of the leftovers.

Edibles Golden Rule: Start Low, Go Slow, AND If In Doubt…Wait!

If you’ve taken an edible, it’s best to wait for up to 3 hours before you attempt to consume another dose.

It’s easy to consider you’ve had enough to feel the effects you desire. But that’s a tricky situation. It can lead to the nasty double-dosing scenario discussed above. 

The highest risk with double dosing is the much larger compounded effect that you end up experiencing.

If you find yourself in the I-took-too-much-edibles-HELP rollercoaster…

What Is The Fastest Way To Recover From Edibles? 

These tips may be helpful in mild cases of taking too many edibles. 

However, if you have repeated vomiting, new or severe symptoms, or worsening of depression or mood then you should contact local emergency medical services right away to avoid potentially serious complications or outcomes of other conditions.

1. Hydrate

Whether it comes to alcohol or marijuana (over)-use, staying hydrated is always a great move.

Bonus points for coping with dry-mouth too.

2. Remember It Will End Shortly

Yeah, this one is easier said than done. But really, this too shall pass.

It’s important to focus on something else than the when-am-I type of time warping sensations.

Also, you can try listening to some soothing music. Or give some breathing exercises a try.

3. Take Some CBD

CBD interacts with different receptors in the brain as compared with THC. But researchers don’t have enough information on how exactly CBD interacts with THC.

Yet several animal studies showcase that CBD may benefit different forms of anxiety, including THC-induced anxiety.

Also, studies relate CBD’s properties to sleep aid. Hallelujah, for the much-needed high-as-a-kite-finally-goes-to-dreamland cat nap.

Heads Up!

In some cases, CBD is shown to reduce the effects of THC. But in other cases, it is shown to exacerbate these effects. So, don’t go overboard with your CBD-for-taming-THC remedy routine.

4. Try A Pinch Of Black Pepper

In 2011, the British Journal of Pharmacology published a paper whose author is Dr. Ethan Russo.

He is a well-known neurologist and pioneer in cannabis research. The paper examines the synergistic effects between cannabinoids and terpenes. Black pepper is rich in terpene Caryophyllene. This terpene may help in taming down the potent experience with THC.

5. Taste A Squeeze Of Lemon

Lemons contain the terpene Limonene. It is known in research for its potential calming, anti-stress, relaxant, and sedative effects.

You can squeeze some lemon juice into your water and/or you may also add a pinch of black pepper to the magic concoction.

Bonus Tip

Pine nuts and pine needles are high in Pinene. This terpene is also known for its calming effects.

Wrapping Up 

From gummies and pasta sauce to drinks and beyond, marijuana edibles are here to stay. More products with high THC levels hit the market daily. It’s more important than ever to enjoy it responsibly.

Edibles offer beautiful benefits that differ from smoking. How to taste these benefits at their finest? We simply need to start low, go slow, and never stop learning.