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Vaping Causes Stronger High Than Smoking Marijuana, New Study Finds

Researchers find more THC in vape than flower.

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A new study has found that vaping can cause a more powerful high than smoking -- at least among the small group of infrequent marijuana users involved in the study.


The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on JAMA Network Open, was conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine. It involved 17 subjects at an average age of 27. Most of them had not used marijuana for almost a year.

The results were somewhat surprising. Researchers found that vaping provided higher levels of THC in the blood, the chemical in marijuana that causes the “high” feeling. For some subjects, this meant an increase in short-term anxiety, paranoia, memory loss and distraction over what they experienced when smoking marijuana.

Related: Flower, Vape or Edible? Survey Offers a Glimpse of What California Cannabis Users Prefer

Why People Vape

As cannabis sales continue to boom around the country where both recreational and medical use cannabis is legal, both vaping and edibles have become more attractive to many consumers. But much like eating a cannabis edible, the study found that vaping can provide a more intense and longer lasting experience.

Many also are attracted to vaping because it does not involve combusting cannabis, helping them avoid residues such as tar and associated toxins. Vapes heat cannabis to a temperature below the level of combustion, but hot enough to vaporize and release the chemicals in the plant.

Related: #8 Things to Keep in Mind Before Launching a Vaping Start-up

How Pot Makes You Feel

In the Johns Hopkins study, the subjects went through three eight-and-a-half hour sessions. In each session, they smoked or vaped marijuana at different THC doses. Those doses were zero (a control for the study), 10 and 25 milligrams. Each session was held a week apart.

After smoking or vaping, each participant had their motor skills and cognitive abilities tested. They also filled out a questionnaire that asked about the subjects’ experience with:

  • Pleasant and unpleasant effects
  • Sickness
  • Heart racing
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Level of relaxation
  • Level of paranoia
  • Alertness
  • Irritability
  • A feeling of motivation or lack thereof
  • Restlessness
  • Hunger
  • Sleepiness
  • Level of dry mouth feeling
  • Whether their eyes were irritated
  • Whether they were experiencing throat irritation of coughing
  • The level of difficulty performing routine tasks
  • Level of memory impairment
  • Any cravings they were experiencing

As anyone who has used marijuana will tell you, that pretty much covers the waterfront of most cannabis effects. Of course, many can also be influenced by what subjects bring through the door before they ever use cannabis.

The Conclusion? Know Your Dose

The researchers decided to study subjects who don’t typically use marijuana because they felt there will be many people like them who will try marijuana for the first time. The researchers even asked cannabis dispensaries to take note of the findings.

The lead researcher on the report told NBC News that “more people are coming into cannabis dispensaries and using for the first time in a while or for the first time ever...we found there was a fine line sometimes between a dose that produced the desired effects and one that was too strong.”

For both consumers and entrepreneurs in the cannabis business, the study found that -- as with edibles -- less is more until people find the level of THC they are comfortable experiencing.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About Edibles

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