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Give It a Puff with Cannabis Inhalers

cannabis inhalers
Written by Sarah Friedman

There are a ton of different ways of ingesting cannabis these days from standard smoking, to vaping, to eating edibles, to applying patches, to drinking down tinctures and oils, to rubbing creams on the skin, to sticking it up body parts, to puffing it in an inhaler. So what’s with this inhaler thing? Is it useful, or beneficial in some way? Read on to find out more about cannabis inhalers, and if they’re the right product for you.

Cannabis inhalers are a new and interesting way of getting your weed fix, whether you want it for medical or recreational purposes. We’re all about covering the world of weed, so check out The THC Weekly Newsletter to keep on track with all the important stories of the industry today, and to get exclusive access to deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and many more products! We’ve also got great deals on cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC. Find them in our “Best-of” lists!

What is a delivery method?

Cannabis inhalers make up one method of the many different cannabis delivery methods that exist today. A delivery method is just a fancy way of saying ‘how to get it in you’, though which delivery method you use will determine how the drug might affect you. In this way, delivery methods were not created equally.

Consider that when you smoke or vape, cannabinoids get directly into the blood stream by way of the alveoli in the lungs. The cannabinoids bind to endocannabinoid receptors, and very little goes through the gastrointestinal tract to get metabolized by the liver. This is not the case when eating an edible or swallowing down tincture or oil.

In these cases, the cannabinoids go to the stomach, and through the digestive tract, where the THC binds to a glurononide compound to form another version of THC called 11-hydroxy-THC. 11-Hydroxy-THC is often thought of as being more intense, and certainly lasts for hours longer, while also possible having a better chance at crossing the blood brain barrier due to being more water soluble than standard THC.

delivery methods

What about putting it on your skin, via a patch or cream? In these cases, it also bypasses the digestive tract, much like with smoking, being absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This is also the case with suppositories which are generally inserted into a vagina or anus, and not only get medicine directly to where a problem might be, but allow for quick absorption through areas with lots of blood vessels.

What is a cannabis inhaler?

When we speak of cannabis inhalers, it’s what it sounds like, to a degree. It looks like an inhaler an asthmatic might use, and is used in the same way. When the inhaler bulb is pushed down, it creates a vapor that the user very quickly sucks into their lungs. This means it operates like a smoking or vaping delivery method, allowing the cannabinoids access to the bloodstream via the lungs.

Cannabis inhalers don’t produce smoke, but instead are more like vaporizers, producing a vapor, but without the application of heat. Unlike with standard vapes – either dry herb or oil, cannabis inhalers offer the ability for specific dosing. This is similar to, or even better than, the ability to get a specific dose by way of a needle used for oil or tinctures, which can measure in units, or a capsule with a set amount within. However, those methods compete with the idea of bioavailability, the idea of how much of the substance we’ll actually be able to absorb in the end.

Inhalers provide very specific dosing by way of letting out a metered amount of vapor in each pull. This way, it’s always known how much medicine is being ingested. These inhalers have been pointed out as being a possibly useful treatment for people suffering from asthma, as well as a generally good way of simply delivering cannabinoids into the body, regardless of lung issues. In terms of using it as a delivery method, inhalers provide a discreet way of getting medicine or getting high, which literally masquerades as a medical device regardless of how its being used. Plus, as an added bonus, it creates absolutely no weed smell.

Are cannabis inhalers useful?

Inhalers provide a highly bioavailable way to get cannabinoids into your system, and to do it very quickly, just like smoking and vaping. How bioavailable? One study called The pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and safety of a novel selective-dose cannabis inhaler in patients with chronic pain: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, investigated the Syqe inhaler. It was found by investigators that apparently tiny dose differences caused pretty big effect changes.

“Such subtle microgram dose differences potentially indicate that the ∆9-THC dose–response effects are extremely sensitive and require very high dosing precision. It is assumed the reasons for such promising drug delivery performance are the bioavailability and adherence-enhancing technologies of the Syqe Inhaler platform in addition to the electronic selective dosing capabilities.”

cannabis ingestion

While an IV injection is generally considered the method with the highest bioavailability, which gets it closer to a 100% absorption rate, inhalation via smoking has shown a lower rate of closer to 30%, while oral ingestion is much lower at 4-12%. Inhalers might not produce a more bioavailable form than a standard joint or vape, but certainly are on par if not better. In one study that looked at nicotine bioavailability in short puffs vs deep inhalations (the equivalent of a joint vs an inhaler), both methods showed about the same equivalency.

Dry powder inhalers

When we think of inhalers, we generally think of an aerosol mist that’s released. This is the standard method of inhalers, although now there is a new kind being released, dry-powder inhalers. These inhalers, as it sounds, deliver medication to the lungs in powder form. These inhalers can also provide a specific dose, but sometime require a bit more work on the part of the consumer to get it correct.

The powder is typically held in a capsule which is manually loaded, or in the inhaler itself depending on the proprietary technology. Much like a regular inhaler, once it is ready to go, the consumer takes one deep inhale, and holds their breath for 5-10 seconds. Since powder can irritate the lungs in big amounts, each dose is usually not more than a few tens of milligrams.

These inhalers generally rely on the patient very forcibly breathing in, as a way to get the powder from the device to the lungs, and to break up the particles into small enough particulates. Those who can’t sufficiently inhale, might not get the correct dose. In fact, its been shown that 50-100% of users use these inhalers incorrectly, which doesn’t say much for them. On the other hand, as they become more well known and available, perhaps how to use them will become more standardized.

Powder inhalers have been shown to be good for treating respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. These inhalers require the correct storage which involves a dry place, not more than 77 °F (25 °C), and for the package to be sealed. Any moisture can affect the powder, and the ability to use it.

Recreational or medicinal?

Truth is, when it comes to weed, nearly any delivery method can be either for recreational or medical use. The main exception here are IV administration and IM (intramuscular) administration, which are generally only administered in a medical setting, making them really only for medical use. This could change if the idea of injectable weed ever became big, but I don’t see that being the case for now.


Cannabis inhalers could prove very useful for people like asthmatics that need to get medicine directly to the lungs, and without the irritation and harm of smoking. But it doesn’t mean that others can’t benefit. Not only have they shown to be good for pain as well – likely because of the high bioavailability, but they can also just be used for fun, as a discreet way to get high in public places.

While I don’t often see people puffing on inhalers recreationally, they are being sold in this way. Case in point, EOS Labs which sells Inspire, the 100% smoke-free inhaler, offered for both CBD and THC. These inhalers can be found in dispensaries in Oregon, but are not currently sold in other states due to regulations. Hopefully in the future this will change.


Perhaps cannabis inhalers will remain a more medically used device. Or, perhaps the next big thing will be for everyone to walk around with what looks like asthma medication. Either way, this method of ingestion is becoming more popular, giving a smoke-free, heat-free way of getting cannabinoids like THC and CBD into the system, and to do so undercover.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.