Article written by
Melissa CampbellSEO Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Determining how to use cannabis beverages is not an exact science; it’s an individualized approach considering various factors, including your body chemistry, cannabis tolerance, and product potency.
Ultimately, it’s best to “dose low and go slow” — start with a low dose and slowly increase your intake until you’ve reached your desired effects.
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Understanding Cannabis Beverages
While available in various formats, cannabis beverages have one thing in common: they are liquid edibles infused with marijuana extract.
These elevated libations come in a spectrum of formulas containing a potent blend of cannabinoids, including:
- Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Delta-8 THC
- Delta-10 THC
Cannabis-infused beverages offer various benefits. For one, they provide a simple, discreet, and refreshing way to consume marijuana.
They also deliver effects lasting up to eight hours and are a great alternative to harmful inhalation methods such as smoking and vaping.
Lastly, most weed drinks contain nanoemulsifiers that enhance the bioavailability of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, allowing for better dose control.
The Science Behind Cannabis Absorption in Beverages
Marijuana extracts are fat-soluble, making them very difficult to mix with fluids such as water.
Many cannabis beverage brands have overcome this hurdle by using a process called nanoemulsification.
Nanoemulsification reduces cannabinoids like THC to nanoscopic particles that can be dissolved in water.
These particles are then easily transmitted into the bloodstream through the soft tissues in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach, allowing for maximum absorption and bioavailability.
Unlike traditional edibles that may take up to two hours to kick in, the effects of cannabis drinks can occur quite rapidly due to this process, as Leafwell’s resident pharmacist and Provider Operations Manager, Mark Kasabuski, tells us.
“Sometimes, with nanoemulsified technology, you can feel the effects as early as 15 to 30 minutes,” Mark says, noting that results may still vary from person to person.
Importance of Correct Dosing
Whether you use marijuana drinks as a social lubricant or for therapeutic purposes, determining the correct dose is crucial to your health and well-being. It can help to prevent adverse reactions due to overconsumption and allow for optimal results.
Potential Effects of Underdosing and Overdosing
The side effects of consuming too much cannabis may vary. But generally, signs of over-consumption include:
- Dry mouth
- Rapid heart rate
- Red eyes
- Shortness of breath
Overexposure to THC may also cause paranoia, intense anxiety, disorientation, delusions, and hallucinations.
As for underdosing, while its implications are less severe for recreational use, it can be particularly problematic for those who use cannabis to ease pain or treat certain medical conditions, Dr. Kasabuski explains.
“If you underdose, you wouldn’t feel the effects if you’re using cannabis medicinally, and you’re not going to get the relief that you’re looking for either. At times it takes a little trial and error for patients to see what type of dose is in that ideal therapeutic zone.”
Before you take that first sip, Mark recommends consumers read the product label to understand the cannabinoid content of the beverage.
The Role of Individual Tolerance and Body Chemistry
In addition to cannabis tolerance (or lack thereof), your body chemistry is a significant determinant when uncovering the optimal dose of marijuana beverages.
Common among frequent users, cannabis tolerance occurs when the body adjusts to cannabinoid exposure and becomes resistant to its effects over time.
Body chemistry refers to your unique cellular makeup and its impact on vital body functions.
One such example involves metabolism. Those with a high metabolic rate may process cannabinoids (like THC) much faster than consumers with a lower metabolism and may experience their effects more intensely.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) also plays a critical role in influencing cannabis’s effects.
The ECS is a body-wide signaling network that maintains homeostasis (balance) and regulates essential bodily functions. Cannabinoids are thought to interact with the endocannabinoid system and produce a range of effects per your distinct chemical makeup.
Additional factors, such as medication interactions, must also be considered when determining the correct dose.
“We’re always looking at liver function and particular medications you might be on,” Dr. Kasabuski says. “If you have some difficulties with your liver or liver impairment, then the dosing may be altered because cannabis is metabolized by the liver.”
To safeguard your health, talk with your pharmacist or healthcare provider before combining cannabis-infused drinks with any medication.
How to Dose Cannabis Beverages
Whether you’re a first-timer or a marijuana connoisseur, miscalculating the dose can negatively impact your cannabis beverage experience.
While the effects of cannabis vary from person to person, the following tips can help guide you to attaining the optimal dosage.
Read the Product Label
Before you take that first sip, read the product label to understand the cannabinoid content and overall potency.
Drinks with high concentrations of psychoactive compounds, such as THC beverages, are best consumed in small doses, particularly for new or infrequent users.
Calibrate Your Desired Dose
Typically, pre-dosed cannabis drinks contain 5 to 10 milligrams of THC per serving, which can be excessive for some users.
Dr. Kasabuski recommends starting at a dose of 2.5 mg for first-time users. “Most patients will start feeling effects around the 2.5 mg mark of THC. That’s where some people can start to feel the euphoric or psychoactive effects.”
For best results, he suggests gauging the effects after two hours to determine if an additional dose is needed.
Adjusting Dosage Over Time
Tolerance breaks can be instrumental in this circumstance. It’s a simple technique that involves abstaining from cannabis consumption briefly.
“T-breaks help to reset the endocannabinoid system,” Mark says. “Your tolerance should be somewhat lowered after 48 to 72 hours or so.”
After an adequate T-break, long-term users may experience the efficacy of cannabis at lower doses.
Personal Factors Influencing Cannabis Beverage Effects
There’s an array of personal attributes that influence your cannabis experience, the most common being:
- Individual tolerance
- Overall health
While these elements may play a significant role, additional factors directly impact the cannabis onset time and duration of effects.
The Role of Food and Hydration
Food and hydration levels are thought to influence the overall efficacy of cannabis drinks.
When consuming cannabis on an empty stomach, you may experience a rapid onset of effects, as cannabinoids take less time to digest and enter your bloodstream.
Conversely, consuming a cannabis beverage on a full stomach can facilitate a gradual onset and longer-lasting results.
Your hydration level can also fundamentally impact your cannabis beverage experience.
Not only is it vital to maintaining good health, but staying well hydrated may affect your body’s reaction to cannabis.
Using cannabis while dehydrated can result in a range of adverse reactions, such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased psychoactive effects
Proper hydration allows your body to digest and metabolize the active ingredients, allowing you to get the most out of your cannabis-infused drink.
Mixing Cannabis Drinks With Alcohol
While cannabis can be combined with alcoholic beverages, it’s best to proceed cautiously.
Both mind-altering substances are known depressants that, when consumed together, can heighten feelings of intoxication and increase the risk of bodily harm.
“You might feel a little more of that dizziness, lack of coordination, [etc.] that you want to watch out for if you are combining both products,” Dr. Kasabuski explains.
Mixing marijuana with alcoholic drinks also carries certain health risks. It may increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, and strain your cardiovascular system.
Frequent use can also lead to more severe health issues like alcohol poisoning or liver damage.
That said, cannabis cocktails can be enjoyed safely in moderation. Just remember to start low and go slow when combining these intoxicants.
Tips and Precautions
By practicing safe and responsible cannabis habits, you can significantly reduce the risk of adverse effects while enhancing your cannabis beverage experience.
Here are a few fundamental guidelines to keep in mind:
- Start low and go slow: While this method is relevant for all cannabis consumers, it’s critical for first-timers. Start with the lowest effective dose, then wait one to two hours to observe the effects and increase as needed.
- Check the cannabinoid content: Before starting any cannabis drink, you should understand its potency. The product label contains information about the cannabinoid profile and the amount of active ingredients per serving.
- Use caution when mixing cannabis drinks with other substances: Whether it’s alcohol or prescription medication, be mindful of potential drug interactions with cannabis.
- Take T-breaks as needed: If chronic use has significantly raised your tolerance, a brief pause can help reset your endocannabinoid system and lower your resistance.
- Understand the cannabis laws of your state: Be aware of legal guidelines concerning the use of cannabis in your state and potential dosage restrictions for liquid edible products.
What To Do in Case of Overconsumption of a Cannabis Drink
Accidental overconsumption is a common mistake among inexperienced cannabis users, which can lead to a series of unfortunate side effects.
Fortunately, there is a handful of methods that can help you weather the storm:
- Don’t panic: If you’re experiencing a “bad high,” excessive worry will only worsen matters. Remember, as uncomfortable as it may seem, it won’t last forever.
- Rest and relax: Assume a relaxing position, take some deep breaths to center yourself, and allow your mind and body to rest.
- Eat and hydrate: Give your body fuel to process your cannabis-infused drink.
- Take some CBD: The soothing properties of CBD have been known to lower anxiety levels and may counteract the intense psychoactive effects of THC to some extent.
- Shift your focus: Rather than letting your mind carry you away, focus your awareness on safe, enjoyable activities like taking a walk or listening to music.
The Bottom Line
There is no “one size fits all” approach to dosing cannabis beverages.
Determining the “correct” amount involves a fair share of experimentation as you observe your body’s response to marijuana. Always remember to start with the lowest effective dose and gradually increase until you achieve your desired result.
Safe consumption habits can help ensure the best possible outcome when consuming cannabis drinks. And, as always, if you are on any prescription medications, talk to your healthcare provider before adding medical cannabis into your routine.
For more information on how to dose cannabis products correctly, schedule a personalized cannabis guidance appointment with a Leafwell cannabis counselor today.
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