Should you be concerned about the rising popularity of edibles? The mainstream acceptance of THC edibles raises some questions about public health. Edibles are food products that have been infused with a component of the marijuana plant called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Due to its ability to create psychoactive effects, THC is associated with producing a “high.” An edible can look like an ordinary brownie, cookie, gummy candy, or other sweet treat. Here’s what you need to know if you’re noticing an increase in edibles in your town or city.
Can an Edible Be a Gateway Drug?
The frank truth is that there is some research indicating that marijuana usage is likely to precede use of other illicit and illegal substances. Additionally, a comprehensive study released by the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders found that adults who reported marijuana use were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years compared to adults who did not use marijuana.
There may also be higher risks when edibles are consumed at an early age. When researchers exposed adolescent rodents to cannabinoids, they found that this created decreased reactivity in the brain’s dopamine reward centers. Other animal studies also found that THC use may actually prime the brain for heightened responses when other drugs are taken later in life. Unfortunately, this could be linked with increased vulnerability for substance addiction and misuse later in life for people who begin using marijuana products early.
However, the debate over edibles and other THC products being gateway drugs isn’t perfectly settled. According to information shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), researchers disagree on marijuana’s status as a “gateway drug.” Most people who use marijuana don’t actually go on to use stronger drugs. Researchers also suspect that those who do move on to harder drugs may have higher risks for dependency that stem from family history, social isolation, mental illness, and socioeconomic status.
Some research shows that legalization of marijuana products actually does the opposite of creating a gateway to heavier drug use. A study published by the University of Colorado found that legalizing recreational cannabis at the state level does not increase substance use disorders or use of other illicit drugs among adults. This study found that legalization may actually reduce alcohol-related problems.
Can Edibles Lead to Bad Behavior?
The effects of long-term edible use are essentially unknown. Most people don’t have negative reactions when using edibles. However, there are risks for increased reckless behavior, impaired cognitive function, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. Some people may also be at elevated risk for developing psychosis when taking edibles. Generally, negative side effects come from overconsumption of edibles. Due to the slow-release nature of edible products, many people take more than recommended because they assume that the edibles aren’t working properly.
Benefits of Edibles
If you’re researching the negative effects of edibles, you may be wondering why there has been such a push to make these products legal. The answer is that edibles can produce many benefits for the people who take them. Cannabis in edibles is used by people to manage pain, anxiety, and depression. Some people find that cannabis products help to prevent seizures.
It’s understandable if you have concerns that it feels like edibles are taking over the neighborhood. You may be surprised to see that edible shops are popping up where you live. However, stepping back to get a realistic perspective on how the benefits and risks of edibles balance out can help you to feel prepared to work with others in your community to ensure that edible use is being handled safely and responsibly.