The findings suggest that vaping is a more efficient method for consuming cannabis compared to smoking.
New research from scientists at the John Hopkins Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit in Baltimore suggests that vaping marijuana causes much more intense effects than smoking the same amount.
To study the differences between the two methods, researchers tested the effects of smoked versus vaporized marijuana on 17 participants who have a history of smoking cannabis, but not in the 30 days before the study’s launch.
In single visits once a week over a six-week period, participants either smoked or vaped marijuana containing 0, 10, or 25 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabinoid that elicits a high.
In each session, the research team observed and assessed the effects. They took blood samples and measured vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure. They also had each participant complete a self-reported questionnaire and three computerized tasks to measure attention span, memory, motor movement, and physical reaction time.
While smoking or vaping the 0 mg control substance had no physical or psychological effects, the effects of vaping proved much more potent at both 10 mg and 25 mg doses.
Results showed that vaping “produced significantly greater subjective drug effects, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, and higher blood THC concentrations than the same doses of smoked cannabis.”
“Our participants had substantially higher impairment on the tasks when vaping versus smoking the same dose, which in the real world translates to more functional impairment when driving or performing everyday tasks,” said Tory Spindle, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow and study author.
Vaping Vs. Smoking
Vaping and smoking are both inhalation methods commonly used for consuming cannabis.
Vaping utilizes a personal device called a vaporizer to heat cannabis at a lower temperature, releasing active compounds in clouds of vapor. Vaping is thought to be safer, because it doesn’t produce the same toxins and other harmful byproducts like smoking does.
Marijuana is now legal in some capacity in 32 U.S. states. With legal marijuana expanding and more adults now using cannabis for recreational or medical purposes, the researchers hope their findings will help new or periodic users be aware of how consumption method can influence the intensity of effects.
“In light of increased legalization of cannabis, we designed our study to be more representative of the general population’s exposure to cannabis, namely someone who has never smoked it and wants to try it for medical or recreational purposes, or someone who does not use it regularly enough to understand or predict its effects,” said Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Their findings indicate that infrequent or new cannabis consumers should utilize the “start low and go slow” tactic when vaping.
“What our study suggests is that some people who use cannabis infrequently need to be careful about how much cannabis they use with a vaporizer, and they should not drive, even within several hours after use. It could be dangerous for themselves and others, and on top of that, they may experience negative effects such as anxiety, nausea, vomiting and even hallucinations,” Vandrey added.
The full text of the new study, “Acute Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis in Healthy Adults Who Infrequently Use Cannabis: A Crossover Trial,” is available to access in the November 30 issue of JAMA Network Open. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funded the study.