We know there are a lot of ways to take different drugs, but that not every way works for every drug. When we think of something like a hypodermic needle, chances are, heroin will come to mind, and probably not cannabis. But should it? As we (thankfully) start moving away from smoking these compounds, other ways of ingesting them arise. When it comes to cannabis and compounds like delta-8 THC, here are some of the best delivery methods available today that don’t involve smoking or vaping.
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How is it usually done?
The most common way that cannabis has been used throughout history, is as a smokable product. Long before there were laboratories to create all kinds of high-tech vaping devices, and before there were cookbooks full of edible recipes, or the ability to make tablets, there was smoking. Even back then, vaping was a thing, although vapor would have been created the good old fashion way, by heating a substance over time until it vaporized.
There is plenty of evidence that cannabis was used in other ways through history. For example, as a topical treatment for skin ailments. But none of these other ways would have detracted from lighting the plant on fire as the primary way to consume it. And so, for something like cannabis, the idea of smoking it, goes hand-in-hand with the drug in general. This means that the majority of people using it, are subjecting themselves to the detriments of breathing in smoke, which is bad regardless of the material burning. While vaping is often weirdly demonized, and called unsafe, the sheer injury and death statistics of smoking vs vaping say otherwise.
After all, since the beginning of vaping back in the early 2000’s, right up until early 2020, there were all of 68 confirmed deaths related to vaping, and 2,807 hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The comparative number is the number of cigarette deaths per year, and that in the US is 480,000, also according to the CDC. Somehow, the CDC has turned this comparison into vaping being an ‘epidemic’. It seems the only ‘epidemic’ here, is an ‘epidemic’ of people choosing a safer smoking method, and causing themselves less harm. It’s an epidemic of people doing the generally smarter thing.
In fact, when using words like ‘epidemic’, its best these organizations stick to where the problems actually are. Like opiates, which killed in the neighborhood of 50,000 people in 2019 alone – a trend which was started by our very own pharmaceutical companies and the government regulatory bodies that were supposed to look out for us. Or alcohol, which is essentially the leading cause of preventable death in the world, accounting for as many as three million deaths worldwide each year, and 95,000 deaths in the US alone from excessive alcohol.
Cannabis delivery methods
When thinking of cannabis in general, any relevant delivery method will be viable. However, when dealing with something like delta-8 THC, which is an oxidized version of delta-9 THC, only occurring naturally in very small amounts, the idea of how it can be consumed becomes more relevant. So, let’s check out delivery methods other then smoking and vaping.
Oral methods – pills, oils, edibles, and syringes
Apart from smoking and vaping, oral administration is most popular. However, there is way more than one way to do this. Let’s take a look at the options:
Pills/tablets/capsules/soft gel capsules/tinctures – Like with any other medication that’s taken in this way, cannabis, and derivatives like delta-8 THC, can be taken in standard medication form – as a solid pill, or as a capsule containing decarboxylated flower or oil, that can be strain specific, full spectrum, or a specific cannabinoid like delta-8 THC or CBD.
The other option is for sublingual administration. Sublingual administration means putting an oil, tincture, or dissolvable tablet under the tongue for quicker uptake into the blood stream through the massive connection of blood vessels under your tongue and in your cheeks. This also allows a compound to bypass the digestive system, like it will have to do if it is swallowed down as an edible or pill. This digestive process turns it into C21H30O3, which is called 11-hydroxy-THC, whereas allowing it to absorb sublingually means a quicker onset, since it hits the bloodstream faster. Bypassing the digestive system makes it closer to the high obtained through smoking.
Edibles – Edibles are the other form of oral administration, and instead of looking like medicine, they look like food. Edibles can range from a batch of home-made chocolate-chip weed cookies, to well-portioned lab-made gummies. Regardless of what form the food takes, the main aspects of edibles are that they taste good, are easy to get down, and portioned specifically.
With more precise laboratory ways to measure portions, newer cannabis companies are creating edibles with very precise amounts, often segmented within the piece of food. I’ve had chocolate CBD bars where every square was exactly the same, and cannabis gummies that were segmented with each segment being 5mg. Edibles can be candy, liquids, baked goods, sauces, butter, and more. You can find edible products for whatever aspect of the cannabis plant you want most, in whatever form you want it.
Syringes – The idea of cannabis and syringes is a new concept, but it’s not exactly how it sounds. While the term ‘syringe’ might conjure pictures of junkies shooting heroin, cannabis syringes, which are one of the best delta-8 THC delivery methods, are simply large plastic syringes with no needles, in which oil can be put. Why is this method beneficial? Oils are often dense, and it can be hard to know the exact amount being used. The syringes don’t do anything particularly special, but they have a measuring scale so users can be more precise in their usage. Generally speaking, syringes are used for sublingual admiration, and make that process much easier.
As the word dermal implies, these are methods that have to do with having the compound come into contact with – and be absorbed into the bloodstream through – the skin. Most people probably don’t think of it this way, but you can actually put a cannabis application on your skin, and have it absorb into the bloodstream.
Patches – Patches can be seen in medicine for different reasons and for different ailments. One of the predominant reasons is for pain management, though we’ve gotten very used to seeing them in today’s culture for nicotine administration as a way to avoid smoking. Most patches are a piece of plastic with an adhesive coating, which is infused with some amount of medicine in a specific amount. Patches allow slower release for absorption, meaning they can last a long time – all day, or all night. Though cannabis patches are often used for pain in a specific area, they can also be used for any other benefit of the plant.
Topicals – Creams/lotions/oils – Cannabis, and it’s derivatives like delta-8 THC are often used with skin delivery methods, using products like creams and lotions. Many of these products offer relief or benefits that don’t include psychoactive effects, as these products have not necessarily been decarboxylated to turn THCA into delta-9 THC. As with other delivery options mentioned, this is not a hard and fast rule, with some products containing high amounts of THC, and some containing other cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, or delta-8. Topicals can be used for medical benefits like skin rashes or pain, or simply to moisturize, and promote healthy skin.
Injections – IV and IM – You’ll most likely never do this, or maybe that’s me speaking to the truths of today, without considering the changes of tomorrow. Whether it will actually become a ‘thing’ to do outside of a medical setting, is hard to say, but it certainly gives a good option. To be clear, cannabis injections have been used for around 50 years, so it certainly isn’t anything new.
IV administration has been used mainly for delta-9 THC, and a major benefit of it is that it gets rid of the problem of variation in bioavailability between people. Active compounds are not always available for the body to absorb, even if in the body, and different people will have their own physiological aspects that can lower or raise bioavailability. With IV injections, everything is absorbed, and this is no longer an issue. In that sense, this is the most precise way to dose.
IV injections relate to sticking a needle in a vein. IM, or intramuscular injections, relate to sticking a needle in a large muscle for administration. If you ever had to take a shot in the butt, this is why.
Is it possible for people to do this on their own? Well, maybe, but it would have to become a much better process first. This reddit post was made by a guy who was able to self-inject cannabis kief. It is not a standard process, its not even advisable by the guy who did it, and there are probably better ways to do it. However, it gives an idea of what a person might expect from doing such an activity, and brings up the real possibility of cannabis injections being a more mainstream application measure in the future.
Nasal sprays, eyedrops, inhalers & inserts
The idea of injections might still be too extreme for the recreational population, but there are already plenty of products for cannabis and delta-8 THC administration through other delivery methods like nasal sprays, eyedrops, and inserts.
Nasal sprays – Starting in 2017, with the release of Vera Wellness’s ‘nasal mist’ spray, it’s been possible to snort your cannabis products as well. It is said to increase bioavailability by being taken in through transmucosal (through the skin of the inner nose) delivery, and that some of the negative products produced from heating, like pyrolytics, wouldn’t be an issue. Dr. David Casarett, the palliative care chief at Duke University, explained how the nasal membrane has a lot of enzymes that can be deactivated by contact with CBD, which can actually halt the body temporarily from metabolizing other drugs like THC. For this reason, users are prompted to start with a low level and up the dose slowly.
Eyedrops – Much like IV and IM injections, eyedrops are not a common form of administration, and might not ever be. But they are great for specific ailments, like glaucoma. As a form of delivery that doesn’t involve inhaling a substance, it also ranks as a safer way to take the drug, so long as the eyes are not damaged. More than needles, this actually could become a popular way to get cannabis in the system.
Inserts/Suppositories – What if you had a yeast infection, and wanted to treat it with a cannabis medicine? Or perhaps a herpes outbreak where an anal suppository might be useful? Well, these things are possible to. Cannabis suppositories can be found for the vagina, anus, and penis. And this isn’t anything new. Inserts have been used to combat yeast infections, herpes infections, vaginal infections, and a host of other diseases whether sexually transmitted or not. Now they can be done with cannabis.
Inhalers – Though these can go under oral administration, I’m putting them here. Cannabis inhalers are exactly what they sound like, an inhaler where a metered amount of cannabis, or cannabis derivative, is given per breath. Inhalers actually produce a vapor, which is inhaled, while not producing any other cannabis-related odor.
When it comes to how to get cannabis, or specific cannabinoids like CBD, delta-8 THC, or CBC in your system, there are several different delivery methods that don’t involve any sort of smoking or vaping. Not all of these are popular – though the popularity of all will likely grow. For anyone looking for alternate methods of consumption, these are some of the options to consider.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a medical professional, I have no formal legal education, and I’ve never been to business school. All information in my articles is sourced from other places, which are always referenced, and all opinions stated are mine, and are made clear to be mine. I am not giving anyone advise of any kind, in any capacity. I am more than happy to discuss topics, but should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a professional in the relevant field for more information.