How Much THC is REALLY in that Brownie?
While I do not personally partake in its use, I do believe medical marijuana under the appropriate supervision and with a knowledgeable and responsible consumer has its place in complementary alternative medicine. As a health professional and citizen, it’s my duty to be informed of the laws, to not pass judgement and understand the effects THC has on the patients I treat.
In states where marijuana is legal, pot comes in cookies, mints, gummies, protein bars — even pretzels. These commercial products are labeled with the amount of high-inducing Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC. That information helps medical marijuana consumers get the desired dose to treat their ailment and allows recreational consumers to target their buzz.
But scientists are finding that a chocolate edible brownie labeled as 10 milligrams of THC could have far more and send someone to the emergency room with hallucinations.
Chemists say there’s something about chocolate that interferes with potency testing. Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD and they’re posing problems when they’re processed with other products – such as chocolate. The more chocolate, the less accurate the test results. It’s believed that THC is clinging to the fat in chocolate, effectively hiding it during testing. And because of that, one could be consuming more THC than they asked for.
The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, yet more than 30 U.S. states allow it for at least medical use and many others allow recreational use. Even in those states, there are no recognized standard methods for testing products for safety and quality. Chemists working for marijuana companies and testing labs are developing those standards and some are legally protecting their ideas.
The process in how THC content is measured varies due to the lack of regulation and standardization within the cannabis industry. Unlike other industries there isn’t an overseeing agency directing how testing should occur, which methods or machinery should be used or what settings should be in place for laboratory equipment – and this is what leads to discrepancies. How one lab tests for potency may be different from how another lab tests. In addition to variations in how THC potency testing occurs in commercial products, there is also the knowledge deficit in how THC is absorbed by consumers. Smoking cannabis versus ingesting it are two totally different things. Smoking it allows for the consumer to feel the effects in a matter of a few seconds. When someone digests it, the onset of effects takes longer but it lasts longer.
Since everyone has a different metabolism and tolerance level, the length of an edible high can vary from person to person. But one thing is for sure — the high from eating marijuana lasts longer than the high from smoking it. Since edibles typically contain a much higher level of THC and take longer to be metabolized in the body, the effects can last for several hours and make it difficult to function properly throughout the day.
Ingestion of low doses of THC generally cause one to laugh a lot more and feeling giddy, in some cases you can become anxious or paranoid. However, hallucinations can occur in high doses. And this can happen when people eat more than they would smoke or vaporize. Hallucination can also happen from the possibility of it also be laced with hallucinogens.
People find themselves in physical and/or mental distress after consuming too much cannabis. They eat one brownie, and frustrated that 10 minutes has passed and they’re not getting high yet – they eat another thinking the first one didn’t work. It just takes longer for the edible high to take effect unlike smoking it which can get you high in seconds because of its immediate absorption from your lungs into the bloodstream.
These people can present as feeling hot, dizzy, paranoid, having visual and auditory hallucinations, extremely anxious, have nausea and vomiting, can become violent and irrational, and even complain of problems breathing and chest pain as if they’re having a heart attack.
When patients with these symptoms present in the ER we monitor their blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen levels, heart rhythms and treat their symptoms. There is no antidote for THC overdose. Depending on their symptoms we may do any or all of the following:
- Place them on cardiac monitors and administer oxygen.
- If severely hallucinating administer an antipsychotic like Zyprexa.
- If severely agitated or anxious administer for sedation a benzodiazepine like Ativan.
- We may even have to put them in restraints if they’re combative and pose as a danger to themselves or others.
- We may administer intravenous fluids for hydration and anti-nausea medications such as Zofran.
And then, they sleep it off for several hours. And most times when they wake up they have NO IDEA what happened and when you tell them – they don’t or can’t even believe it. This information isn’t to bash the cannabis industry or plant fear into potential users. The intention is to inform you of what could happen if you aren’t a cautious and informed consumer. I hope this helps.