How High? Researchers Test Smoking Pot vs. Vaping to Find Out

With the increased legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use, there are more ways to experience the effects of marijuana than smoking it. Vaporizers for cannabis oil have become increasingly popular due to the decreased amounts of toxic particles in comparison to combustible smoking.

A small study approved by the Johns Hopkins Medicine Institutional Review Board analyzed participants who infrequently used marijuana and with at least 30 days since their last use. Researchers wanted to determine the differences in effects from marijuana when smoked or vaporized.

Seventeen healthy adults participated in the double-blind trial, which involved six 8.5-hour outpatient sessions over the course of six weeks. The cannabis used for the trial was obtained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Supply Program and was given to each participant in three balloons of vapor or a pre-filled hand pipe. They self-administered the marijuana dose over the course of 10 minutes. Once the participants were “high,” researchers assessed the subjects at 0.17, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 hours after inhaling. They analyzed the effects of the cannabis by using the Drug Effects Questionnaire to determine if the patients felt “drug effects, pleasant drug effects, unpleasant drug effects, sick, heart racing, anxious/nervous, relaxed, paranoid, alert, irritable, vigorous/motivated, restless, hungry/munchies, sleepy, dry mouth, red/irritated eyes, throat irritation/coughing, difficulty performing routine tasks, and memory impairment.”

Researchers found greater effects in the active doses of marijuana (10 and 25 mg THC) when compared to the placebo. They also found vaporized marijuana to have larger effects at smaller doses compared to smoked marijuana. While this research gives insight into the effects of marijuana, much more research needs to be done with a much greater sample size before results can be accepted.

Sarah Rosenthal

Sarah Rosenthal is an intern at MedShadow. She is majoring in Biology and Society in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University with a concentration in food, health, and sustainability, and minoring in Viticulture and Enology.

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