Medical Marijuana & Vape Pens: The Danger of Too Much Dab

Medical marijuana is slowly moving forward to become a reality in Ohio. Patients who meet the requirements can smoke cannabis as early as September without much fear of arrest, though obtaining legal marijuana is not as clear. Under the law, medical marijuana may not be fully permitted for sale for more than a year. The law established a two-year timeline for implementing legal sales under the program.

Many of our Cincinnati patients who are considering medical marijuana for back pain or nerve pain often ask us about vaping. Ohio’s medical marijuana law allows qualifying patients to use flowers, edibles, and vaping extracts to treat their condition. But how much vaping is enough and are there any associated dangers with vaping?

What Does Concentrate Mean?

If you are vaping a concentrate (as opposed to loose flowers), it’s important to remember that “concentrate” is the keyword. “Most solvent-based hash oils will land in the range of 60-90% total cannabinoids, with a few special examples exceeding 90%,” an article in Leafy reports. Furthermore, “cartridges are a fantastic way of dosing a quick dab without having to over-complicate the work by offering a ‘one hit=one dose’ option.”

The Danger of Over-consumption

But if you are an experienced smoker of cannabis, it can be very tempting to use beyond the first hit and puff on a vape pen like Old Humphrey Bogart going at a cigar. This can lead to over-consumption, i.e. overdosing. While there is no risk of fatality, you may find yourself over-intoxicated, experience hallucinations, and overwhelming disruptions in your sense of place and time.

Plus, you also run the risk of developing a higher tolerance, meaning you need more and more to experience the same effects. This can also increase the negative side effects of cannabis use, including memory disruption, motivation, and thought clarity.

Essentially, the general rule with using concentrates in a vaporizer is “easy does it.” One to two hits should do you. Be aware that consuming cannabis concentrates via a vape pen is much more powerful than traditional smoking.

Is Vaping Dangerous?

In theory, vaping is healthier than smoking since you aren’t technically inhaling any smoke. The catch is it’s very difficult to determine what exactly you are inhaling. The entire vaping industry, both marijuana and nicotine, is very much in a “Wild West State” at the moment. There is little to no regulation and many times the companies producing the products are not fully aware of what’s in them. Many vape pens contain propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol which a number of studies indicate break down into the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, especially at high temperatures.

Amanda Chicago Lewis in Rolling Stone sums it up pretty nicely:

“Your vaping safety is a total crapshoot. You don’t know what’s in the oil you’re vaping, and you don’t know how it’s going to affect your health. But at this point, I’m of the opinion that if vaping works for you, then …. Go ahead and vape. Certainly I am — and considering all that I know about what goes into the pens I see on the shelves at my local dispensary, that’s a little nuts.”

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