Why Research is Right About Smoking vs. Eating Medicinal Marijuana

marijuana smoke

Kent Mao, Contributor
Waking Times

So you might have heard about a healthier or better alternative of smoking marijuana these days, well I think this would be good news for you. Late last month, a new study on medical marijuana peaked my interest after making headlines around the world. . Covered by major media outlets such as NBC and WebMD, the story was reported along the lines of: Marijuana Pills Are Better Pain Killers Than Marijuana! (1,2)

Disregarding the ironic way in which the news was reported and the fact that coverage failed to extend to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) sponsors’ potential conflicts of interest, the actual findings reveal some truth behind the benefits of consuming marijuana orally instead of by more traditional methods, such as smoking, when it comes to dealing with pain (3).

As the NIDA researchers demonstrated, the infamous marijuana pill (dronabinol) seems to last a couple hours longer than a cannabis cigarette) in terms of pain relief — 4.5 hours verses 2.5 hours.

But what many patients have found out for themselves is that dronabinol and similar marijuana pills that contain pure THC are not nearly as therapeutic as medical marijuana itself. Most likely because cannabis contains over 60 cannabinoids, many of which are believed to hold more promise than THC in medical application (4).

For instance, cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that has recently taken the spotlight in cannabis research, is believed to possess the same medical properties as THC, but without the high (5). On the other hand, the use of dronabinol often leads to intolerable levels of psychoactivity, despite the fact that it remains light years ahead of medical marijuana in FDA hurdle-jumping.


  • Still, patients who have braved the waters of questionably-legal marijuana have already discovered alternative ways of taking their medicine in order to maximize its effectiveness.

    Indeed, medical marijuana patients have been using marijuana brownies and other edible preparations for ages. These preparations are absorbed by the digestive system and provide a longer and more consistent release of cannabinoids, allowing patients to forgo smoking a joint every few hours or so. And while the high may not be nearly as brain-numbing, an extended period of cannabinoid activity is definitely preferable from a medical standpoint.

    Another good reason to consume marijuana orally are the harmful effects associated with smoking pretty much anything. Indeed, while studies have failed to link marijuana smoke to impaired lung function or an increased risk of lung cancer, marijuana still deposits a hefty amount of tar into the lungs and can even cause a mild pulmonary condition known as bronchitis (6).

    Because of this, doctors who support the use of medical marijuana advocate the use of small premium vaporizers over traditional smoking methods such as a joint or a pipe (7). Vaporizers operate at a much lower temperature, which allows patients to avoid the toxic byproducts of combustion while still receiving the active medical compounds of marijuana in vapor form (8).

    What’s more, studies show that vaporizers are not only more efficient when it comes to overall cannabinoid delivery — vaporizers convert 46% THC verses less than 25% THC being converted by a joint — but also seem to offer significant benefits to the lungs. In fact, a 2010 study found that the use of a vaporizer could even help to reverse damage done by traditional methods of smoking (9).

    In light of the fact that doctors and patients are fully aware of the alternative ways that medical marijuana can be taken, it seems like the NIDA’s efforts to convince us that marijuana-based pharmaceuticals are the better way to go is not purely driven by a desire to improve public health.

    Perhaps it is political or economical motives that are perpetuating the negative stigma associated with medical marijuana, because — as thousands of patients around the world will tell you — cannabis is a powerful medicine that takes healthcare out of the hands of profit-driven pharmaceutical companies and places it into the hands of patients themselves.

    About the Author

    Kent Mao is a contributor to Waking Times and the editor of TruthOnPot.com, an online resource for medical marijuana facts, information and research. TruthOnPot.com actively engages in the online discussion of marijuana research and policy. You can learn more by visiting www.truthonpot.com. Kent is also a contributor to Waking Times.

  • Sources:

    (2) http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20130422/using-marijuana-to-treat-pain-a-pill-may-outlast-a-puff
    (3) http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/vaop/naam/abs/npp201397a.html
    (4) http://www.truthonpot.com/2013/03/22/the-endocannabinoid-system-an-overview/
    (5) http://www.truthonpot.com/2012/11/29/what-is-cbd/
    (6) http://www.truthonpot.com/2013/01/27/does-marijuana-cause-lung-damage/
    (7) http://www.truthonpot.com/2012/11/29/exclusive-interview-with-dr-donald-abrams-aids-pain-and-cannabis-expert/
    (8) http://www.truthonpot.com/2013/01/28/how-vaporizers-can-improve-your-health/

    (9) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20451365

    Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of WakingTimes or its staff.

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