What are edibles?
Cannabis edibles can come in many forms and when eaten, alter your mood. There are increasing numbers of reports in the media of cannabis edibles being available in the form of familiar household sweets. Although cannabis edibles contain an element of cannabis, they do not have the smell or appearance of cannabis. Instead, they look and smell like a shop bought item but are much stronger than other cannabis products.
These illicit edibles claim to contain cannabis, especially THC, which is still a Class B drug in the UK. They are strong ‘sweets’ aimed at young people and teenagers and can come in many forms as sweets, chocolates, cakes and drinks or shakes.
Active ingredients of edibles?
Usually contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
- THC can produce pleasurable effects, but in other people it can cause anxiety and paranoia.
- CBD works on the pain and mood areas of the brain, so can help to balance out the unpleasant effects of THC .
Cannabis edibles may contain other ingredients which could make them more harmful. Sweets and other products are often made in unsafe surroundings so can contain a wide variety of other ingredients.
Although many cannabis sweets and edibles are labelled on the packet, they don’t always contain what it says is inside. Empty packaging can be bought online and anything placed inside for onward re-sale. Sweets may contain THC, “spice” or amphetamines or at the opposite end of the spectrum they may just be sweets with no active ingredients. The truth is that you simply cannot tell from the packaging. There may be tell-tale signs to look out for. If the items differ in appearance, spelling or poor-quality packaging then you could be looking at something that has been made in a person’s kitchen rather than in a quality-controlled factory.
What are the risks?
Regular cannabis use may cause unwanted effects, including memory impairment, poor sleep, mental health changes and problems with thinking and understanding.
A short term overdose from cannabis edibles can involve paranoia, vomiting, hallucinations, panic attacks and impaired mobility but are not likely to be fatal on their own.
Problems are more likely to occur if edibles are taken in large amounts or at the same time as other substances.
- Cannabis edibles are unregulated and vary widely in appearance, strength and contents.
- They may not always contain what you are told.
- It’s difficult to know what the ingredients are without testing.
- Edibles take much longer to have an effect than smoking.
- Effects can be stronger and last longer for the same amount taken in other forms.
- It can take a few hours to feel the full effects.
- Young people are likely to eat too many due to the delayed effect.
- Eating one sweet is equivalent to smoking one cannabis joint.
- It is inadvisable to mix with alcohol or other drugs.
- Interactions between substances can’t always be easily predicted and unwanted effects are more likely to occur.
Minimising the risks
- Start low. Don’t take a lot at once. It’s difficult to know what those active ingredients are or how much you’ve actually taken.
- Go slow. Edibles take much longer to have an effect than smoking. It can take a few hours to feel the full effects. Wait at least an hour before taking more.
- Avoid mixing with alcohol or other drugs. The effects may be stronger and more unpredictable when eating rather than smoking.
- Avoid using alone. Try to be with people that you know and trust in a safe place, especially if it’s your first time.
- Look after friends, if they are sleeping or unconscious, put them in the recovery position. If in doubt, get help straight away.
- If you are honest about what you (think) has been taken then it will be easier to get the right medical help quicker.
If someone is feeling unwell after eating edibles
If in doubt get help straight away. Call 999, put the individual into the recovery position and stay with them so that you can continue to monitor any changes to their symptoms.
Let the medics know what you think has been taken and provide as much information as you can so it will be easier to get them the right medical help quicker.