When most people think of medicinal cannabis, smoking comes to mind. Though smoking works quickly and allows users to regulate their intake, it’s hardly a scientific approach: Cannabis quality is often unknown, and inhaling burned materials is bad for the lungs. These and other drawbacks have spawned new ways to consume medical marijuana.
Some people inhale cannabis by using a device that heats the plant without igniting it. This vaporization unleashes many of the same cannabinoid compounds as smoking does, without the combustion by-products, researchers say. Anecdotally, patients report that the effect is prompt, on a par with smoking.
Because cannabis derivatives can pass through the lining of the mouth and throat, a company called GW Pharmaceuticals has devised a spray product called Sativex. This drug contains roughly equal amounts of two key cannabinoids – THC and CBD – plus other cannabis components in an alcohol solution. A dose of Sativex is sprayed under the tongue; no smoking required.
In the face of these options, the “pot pill” seems almost passé. But capsules of synthetic THC exist. One called Marinol has been approved in the United States since 1985, and another called Cesamet was cleared more recently. Doctors can prescribe the drugs for nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. Though sales of capsules have increased recently, many users complain of psychoactive side effects and slow action.