Topicals, vape pens, flowers, edibles – cannabis products can come in many forms. Each of these methods of delivery is designed to achieve certain effects in a certain timeframe. For example if a person has chronic pain one might provide a patient with an infused product to create a baseline of cannabinoids, and add a vaporized product as needed for any kind of breakthrough pain.
But how do we choose our delivery methods and more importantly why does the method of intake matter? With this guide to cannabis products, you will be able to pick an appropriate route of administration for a given malady and understand why this method is the appropriate choice.
The Concept of Bioavailability
To understand why different routes of administration cause different effects, one must understand the concept of bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the amount of the compound available in the blood to achieve effects. Each route of administration will interact with the body differently and hence will cause a varied amount of bioavailability of the active ingredients (cannabinoids, terpenes, etc).
Different Routes of Administration (ROA) and Their Bioavailabilities:
Ingestion ≠ Inhalation
An important factor when considering how different routes of administration vary, is the effects of the liver which can transform the cannabinoids into other, sometimes more potent metabolites. One such instance is the metabolism of THC. During the first pass, THC is converted into a compound called 11-OH-THC which is considerably more potent than THC itself and more readily crosses the blood-brain-barrier. This makes for a much more psychoactive and lengthier experience for the consumer. This ROA is also much less predictable due to variations between consumers in body mass, stomach contents, etc.
Dosages and Bioavailability
Since different ROA’s have different bioavailability it is important to modify the dosage accordingly. Let’s consider the following example comparing the effects of a concentrate versus an infused product:
It's important to acknowledge that we are comparing a rapid delivery method with that of a delayed method. Firstly, lets convert that 100 mg dab into actual dose of THC administered:
Next using the bioavailability, calculate the actual amount of THC entering the blood:
Now we have a better understanding of what we’re comparing –
21 mg of THC is instantly delivered compared to 25 mg being metabolized over a longer duration with different metabolites.
What to ask when choosing an ROA for a patient
Now that you have an idea of what the different ROAs are its important to know what questions to ask the consumer to make the right suggestions. Some questions that come to mind are:
Different ROA's achieve different results per dosage and active chemical contents. For Cannabis products, we've barely scratched the surface of what types of solutions could be conceived. When you consider the vast number of available Cannabinoids, Terpenes and other active Compounds found in the plant, coupled with a perpetually increasing understanding of the Endocannabinoid System, the possibilities are virtually endless.