Scientists have proved that inhaling vaporized marijuana will get you, like, way higher than smoking the exact same amount of weed.
The new research, led by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit in Baltimore, tested the effects of smoked versus vaped marijuana on 17 participants who had smoked marijuana before, though not in the 30 days before the study's start (participants had smoked once in the last year, on average). Over the course of six 8.5-hour sessions, these participants got very, very high for science.
The study was funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, though one of the study's authors reported that he has previously received fees from, or consulted for, companies with ties to cannabis. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]
During each session, participants either smoked or vaped a dose of marijuana containing 0 milligrams, 10mg or 25mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the primary psychoactive component in cannabis. While each participant ended up both smoking and vaping all three possible doses over their six sessions, they were blind to how much THC they were consuming each time. The participants were kept in the dark in order to prevent bias while filling out a subsequent drug-impairment questionnaire — which, as every pot enthusiast knows, is the most fun thing you can do while super-high.
In addition to self-reporting how stoned they felt via questionnaire, participants were also subjected to a battery of physical and cognitive tests throughout the duration of each high. The stoners had their heart rates and blood pressures measured 10 times over 8 hours, and were asked to complete computerized tasks that involved replicating shapes on a screen, solving simple addition equations and responding to two different stimuli simultaneously with a mouse and a computer keyboard. Again: The apex of weed-enabled fun.
The results of these tests showed that, first of all, inhaling a 25mg dose of THC will get you really, really high, regardless of whether it was smoked or vaped. (After taking this dosage, two participants vomited, and another experienced hallucinations.) Likewise, for both smokers and vapers the majority of drug effects — including high heart rate, dry mouth, red eyes, paranoia and the munchies — peaked within the first hour after getting high, and sometimes did not return to baseline levels for more than 8 hours. (Often, these effects persisted for hours after the participants' blood THC concentration returned to normal.)
Overall, the effects of vaping proved much more potent at every dosage.
"Vaporized cannabis produced significantly greater subjective drug effects, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, and higher blood THC concentrations than the same doses of smoked cannabis," the researchers wrote in their study, published today (Nov. 30) in the journal JAMA Network Open.
At both the high and low doses, vaped weed resulted in significantly higher concentrations of THC in participants' blood than smoked weed. And the vapers made roughly twice as many mistakes on the cognitive tests and felt greater negative drug effects, including dry mouth, itchy eyes and paranoia, than the smokers did.
Simply put: Vaporized weed got people higher. And, according to the researchers, their doses weren't even that strong compared to what's commercially available.
"Notably, the highest dose of cannabis administered in this study (25mg of THC: 0.19 g; 13.4 percent THC) is substantially smaller and has a lower THC concentration than what is typically contained in pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes available for purchase in cannabis dispensaries, which commonly contain roughly 1.0 g of cannabis with THC concentrations often exceeding 18 percent," the study authors wrote.
With recreational weed now legal in nine American states and all throughout Canada, it's important to remember that even moderate amounts of THC can have significant impairing effects on casual consumers, and that not all methods of consuming cannabis are created equal.
- 7 Ways Marijuana May Affect the Brain
- Mixing the Pot? 7 Ways Marijuana Interacts with Medicines
- Why Do People Vape? Reasons Have Changed
Originally published on Live Science.
Sign up for the Live Science daily newsletter now
Get the world’s most fascinating discoveries delivered straight to your inbox.
Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.