Cannabis can be consumed in different ways. Two common ways are inhalation (smoking or vaping) and ingestion (eating or drinking). Each way carries different risks to your health and your safety.
Whether cannabis is inhaled or ingested will influence when and for how long the effects (intoxication or feeling ‘high’) of cannabis are felt.
Inhalation (smoking or vaping)
When cannabis is inhaled into the lungs it passes directly into the bloodstream and then the brain.
The effects are usually quickly felt by the brain and body, from seconds to within minutes of inhaling. The full effects from one inhalation can take up to 10 to 30 minutes to peak. Consuming more within this time can increase the risk of adverse effects.
The effects of cannabis inhalation can last up to 6 hours after use. Some remaining effects could last up to 24 hours after use.
Ingestion (eating or drinking)
When cannabis is ingested, it travels to the stomach first, then to the liver before getting into the bloodstream and brain. The body turns it into a stronger form called 11-hydroxy-THC.
Since it takes longer to be absorbed into the bloodstream, it can take 30 minutes to 2 hours for the effects to be felt by the brain and body. The full effects can peak up to 4 hours after ingestion. Consuming more within this time can increase the risk of adverse effects.
The effects of cannabis ingestion can last up to 12 hours after use. Some remaining effects could last up to 24 hours after use.
There are risks associated with cannabis use. The best way to protect your health is to avoid using cannabis or cannabis products completely.
To lower your risk of the harmful effects of cannabis, it helps to know the differences between the two most common ways of consuming it: inhalation (smoking or vaping) and ingestion (eating or drinking). Each way carries different health and safety risks.
Everyone's response to cannabis is different, depending on:
Everyone's response to cannabis can also differ from one time to the next.
Research suggests that there are ways to reduce the risks:
For more information, please see the lower-risk cannabis use guidelines developed by Canadian experts in mental health and addiction.
Consuming too much cannabis at one time or accidentally consuming cannabis can lead to over-intoxication or cannabis poisoning.
It can be very unpleasant and potentially dangerous, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention and, in some cases, hospitalization. The effects, however, are usually temporary and are not known to be fatal.
Pay attention for symptoms of over-intoxication which can include:
Anyone who has consumed cannabis and is not feeling well or is experiencing symptoms of over-intoxication should:
Legally sold cannabis products will be marked with a label, which will have the amount of THC and CBD they contain, and health warnings listed. Always read the label to check the amount and concentrations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) to understand the strength of the product being used.
The higher the THC content in a product, the more likely it is to experience adverse effects/poisoning, especially for people who are inexperienced with cannabis or are using cannabis for the first time.
It is easier to be poisoned when ingesting (eating or drinking) cannabis compared to inhaling cannabis (smoking or vaping).
Children and pets are at greater risk of accidental cannabis consumption and cannabis poisoning. The effects of cannabis are stronger and last longer for children. To prevent them from being harmed, store all cannabis products safely locked, and keep them out of reach of children, youth, and pets.