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5 Ways to Take Medical Marijuana

different ways to take medical marijuana

Medical marijuana is an effective treatment for a variety of ailments, ranging from cancer and epilepsy to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, while cannabis (the plant that produces marijuana) has been used for thousands of years, relatively little has been known about how it works – until now.

Researchers recently uncovered a vast network of neurotransmitters and receptors in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In addition to producing chemicals that play a primary role in human development, the ECS allows the body to make use of two compounds present in the cannabis plant: cannabinoids and terpenes.

Cannabis and the endocannabinoid system

Cannabinoids are specific to cannabis and a handful of other plants; however, cannabis has the highest concentration of any known species. Cannabinoids interact with the ECS by binding to endocannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2). Terpenes –  plant molecules associated with smell – also work with cannabinoids to create what researchers call the entourage effect: a modulating mechanism between psychoactive and non-psychoactive cannabis compounds.

According to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist who first isolated the active compound in medical marijuana, the ECS influences every aspect of the human biological system (including pain, appetite, and cognition). While research is just getting started, early studies suggest cannabis may work through the ECS to stop seizures, reduce tumor size, and remove Alzheimer’s plaque from brain cells.

Fortunately, Florida is on the forefront of the medical marijuana movement – offering relief to over 100,000 patients to date. To find out if you qualify for a medical marijuana certification, fill out an easy application.

Methods of taking medical marijuana

While smoking is currently prohibited in Florida, national methods of taking medicinal cannabis are as diverse as marijuana’s therapeutic effects. Below, CannaMD takes a closer look at how patients consume medical marijuana across the country – and how each form of treatment works.

1. Inhalation

When inhaling cannabis through smoking or vaping, the lungs rapidly absorb cannabinoids and terpenes and transport them into the bloodstream.  This route of administration has the fastest onset of any treatment, with shorter effects.  Inhalation is great for acute relief of pain, as well as neurological and psychological symptoms.

2. Oral

Oral administration has the slowest onset of effects, but longest duration.  Edibles can last up to eight-hours or more, depending on the patient and dosage. (Note: While pills/capsules are allowed, Florida currently prohibits the use of medicinal edibles.)  When taken orally, the active ingredients in cannabis undergo a transformation during digestion. Throughout this process, Δ9-THC is converted into Δ11-Hydroxy THC – which is a stronger, longer lasting version of Δ9-THC. Edible medical marijuana is great for maintaining symptom relief and for very severe pain.

3. Sublingual

Sublingual is a reference to anything administered under the tongue where the sublingual gland is located.  This route of administration has a fast onset – close to that of inhalation – with a longer duration of effects. Normally, these preparations are made with a carrier such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil or vegetable glycerin.  Tinctures based with food-grade alcohol are also a popular choice.

4. Topical

A fairly new method, topical formulas such as pain patches, creams, and sprays have a fast onset of symptom relief and moderate duration of effects (depending on formula strength and carrier compounds, which affect absorption rate through the skin.) Note: Cannabis is not easily absorbed through the skin without some form of carrier.

5. Suppository

Cannabis suppositories for vaginal and rectal use have proven to be quite effective.  The bioavailability of cannabinoids and terpenes is much higher than any other method of administration. Onset of symptom relief is fast, while duration is long.  The amount of active ingredients absorbed is typically two to three times that of oral administration.

Editor’s Note (3/18/19): Edibles are also allowed, but no rules have been developed for their use. As of March 18, 2019, smoking marijuana is also legal.

Medical marijuana experiences

As new research adds to the established efficacy of medical marijuana, preferred treatment methods are likely to evolve. At CannaMD, we’re anxious to hear firsthand from patients – both in and outside of Florida:

  • What has been your experience with medical marijuana?
  • What treatment methods have you tried?
  • What are your thoughts, questions, and/or concerns surrounding the process?

Let us know in the comments below!

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26 Comments

  1. Thank you Canna MD for changing my husband s life. My husband is a transplant patient and cancer survivor. Along with all of the medications and treatments comes chronic pain. After 2 years of seeking relief for my husband we got him registered and he now has no pain. Thank you! This is life changing.

    1. We love hearing patient stories like this, thanks for sharing. We are so very happy your husband is getting his life back. Here’s to living pain free!

  2. I have diffuse neuropathy and have been subscribed methadone for the past 15 years until my pain doctor demanded that I have epidural injections or physical therapy(along with methadone) I declined since it is not an appropriate therapy for my disease so she stopped subscribing the methadone. How could marijuana help?

    1. So sorry to hear about your condition! According to researchers, cannabis “significantly” lowers neuropathic pain – primarily due to its relationship to the ECS (peripheral nerves that detect pain contain cannabinoid receptors). We’d definitely recommend talking with one of our doctors to learn more – they’re extremely knowledgable and dedicated to helping any way they can!

  3. I have found that vaping oil does not work for me. It’s too harsh. I’d rather simply smoke it, but I can’t use it during the day before it makes me too high. Suppositories sound like.

    1. I suggest trying a different battery, one that you can adjust the voltage on, it could help with the harshness. Most of them will have the 510 thread needed for the products at the dispensaries. Also, strains are different so I would suggest buying a few smaller cartridges to find the one you are comfortable with. Suppositories, oral capsules and drops will have a slower onset but a longer duration over vaping. Good luck!

  4. I have had rheumatoid arthritis for most of my life. The pain has been present for years during which I developed various methods for coping, but the pain now is extraordinary because of nerve damage during replacement surgery on so many joints. The wonder is that cannabis is relieving the extreme pain by a combination of administration methods which I am still learning and experimenting . Finally, RELIEF!

    1. Hi Alicia,

      Unfortunately, medicinal cannabis is not currently covered by insurance. However, CannaMD is committed to providing affordable care to patients in need. Please give us a call to see how we can help!

  5. I’ve been smoking medical marijuana for a few years and since I started to I’ve had no seizures, my anxiety and my depression is rarely an issue, my insomnia is very minimal as well as my loss of appetite. My migraines and muscle spasms in my back are also no longer an issue. Smoking helps me for that day or up to 2 days whereas eating edibles helps me for 3 to 4 days or longer depending on the strength of them. I can also focus better and no longer have to force myself to eat due to stomach pains. Before I chose this route I was swallowing an average of 10 pills a day to medicate for everything. I’m glad I chose this route it’s less draining and helps everything and best of all I’m not eating pills 3 times a day.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! And so glad to hear you’ve had such positive results! Marijuana does wonders for all of the conditions you described. Florida courts are currently considering whether patients should be allowed to smoke medical cannabis; countless patients have expressed stories similar to yours, so we have our fingers crossed in Florida!

    1. Hi Lauren,

      It really depends! Many patients with chronic pain report enjoying capsules, as they’re fairly long-acting. However, we have a number of knowledgable medical professionals who would be happy to answer your questions in more detail. Please feel free to give them a call at 1 (855) 420-9170!

  6. 50 years I have had JRA,every bone,joint,ligament,muscle in my body is affected by the aggressive destruction rheumatoid arthritis. I have had joint replacements where I was a candidate, my disease after 50 yrs is still destroying and painful, I recently obtained my license for medical marijuana, it definately helps me I thru my day,and if I can say that….its a true story.

    1. We’re so glad you’ve found relief and that medical marijuana has been able to help! Thank you for sharing your story!

  7. This article and responding statements will greatly help me with my essay on the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana. Carmen V Gary.

  8. All the statements from patient’s will be my testimonials of medical marijuana as a medicinal medicine/ conclusion. Carmen V Gary.

  9. Thanking you in advance for the helpful information and broad outline of subject/ medical marijuana. Carmen V Gary.

  10. I’m A 55 yr old male suffering from several different diseases. I’m a retired NYPD police Officer who spent over 551 hrs on the pit at ground zero. Afte 9/11. Not to long after I became ill with ILD Pulmanry Fibrosis, asthma, emphysema, and a host of other issues.from a non smoker.On top of that I have multiple cervical bulging disk received 5 epidurals over the past year and have a ton of arthritis on some of the disk. I’ve been taking pain medicine but nervous to keep taking it for long periods of time, and willing to try medical marijuana if it would relieve my every day pain. But can’t smoke it cause of my lung issues. If you could get back to me and maybe go over a plan I’d listen. Thank you Jim Philbin

  11. As I live in New Jersey, would I be able to avail myself of your Products? I have had 5 whiplashes and have been in chronic shoulder pain for over 20 years. Ibuprofen no longer helps. I would of smoke or cap.

    1. Unfortunately, CannaMD is just in Florida at this time. We suggest checking with your state department of health for more options!

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