Nursing Note: Vaporization as a Delivery System

One of the prime benefits of cannabis is its ability to be consumed in multiple forms—tasty edibles, sublingual drops, hard candies dissolved in a beverage, and inhaled flower and oils are a few of the most common delivery methods. In this nursing note, Liz Verdes Nurse Educator helps you understand vaporizing and its benefits.

Onset and Effects of Vaporizing

The effects of cannabis, including its time of onset and duration of action, can depend a great deal on the method of consumption. For example, edibles can take 1-3 hours to take effect and last 5-10 hours in the system. Vaporization typically takes effect in 0-10 minutes, with effects lasting 1-4 hours. For this reason, vaporization is an ideal route for anyone seeking immediate symptom relief.

Vape Cartridge full of cannabis oil

Vaporization is what I refer to as a “quick in, quick out” delivery system. Because it does not get processed in the stomach (GI tract) and instead travels through the lungs directly into the blood stream, THC and other cannabinoids and terpenes can rapidly bind to receptors in the brain and body. This means that effects can occur within seconds to minutes when immediate relief is needed. Another result of avoiding the GI tract is the tendency for the effects of vaporization to subside relatively quickly; this can be useful for those who need relief fast but who don’t want prolonged effects.

Vaporizing vs. Smoking

For many patients, vaporization of either flower or cannabis oil can be intimidating because it is often equated to smoking, which may be contraindicated in those with certain lung diseases. Some people may simply not wish to smoke. For this reason, it is important to distinguish smoking from vaporizing.

Simply put, smoking involves combusting (burning) the cannabis flower, whereas vaporizing involves warming the flower or oil to a temperature that releases the beneficial compounds in the form of a water vapor cloud, which contains no smoke.

Cannabis vaporization has not been shown to be carcinogenic (a cancer-causing agent). According to most pulmonologists, concern lies more in the heat produced by the vaporization device rather than the inhalation of the cannabis compounds themselves. If there is a concern that the heat of the inhaled vapor cloud might irritate the airway, a device with variable heat settings can be beneficial, and a low or medium heat settings can be utilized.

Vaporization allows for temperature adjustments that change or enhance the effects of the cannabis. Different temperatures release different terpenes and cannabinoids — for example, patients who are new or sensitive to THC may best tolerate vaporization temperatures between 290-330 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered a low temperature. Those who require stronger effects may benefit from vaporizing at 360-430 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered a high temperature. (For more on vaporization and temperature click here.)

Vaporizing is Nurse Recommended

Vaporizing cannabis flower or oil is a favorite delivery method among the Verdes nursing team.  We frequently recommend this method to patients who are seeking immediate symptom relief. Vaporization can be used to quickly and effectively alleviate pain, quell nausea, initiate sleep and relaxation, reduce anxiety, and uplift the mood. Interactions with many home medications can be avoided by inhaling vaporized cannabis.

A final benefit to vaporization of both flower and oil is because combustion is not a factor and smoke is not produced. This means that typically there will not be a lingering scent from the vapor cloud, making this method appealing to those who enjoy discreet use of their medicine.

The Verdes Foundation offers several oil and flower vaporizers to suit all needs and budgets. Additionally, we have a variety of cannabis oil cartridge and flower choices. During your next visit to Verdes ask our knowledgeable staff about which vaporizing option works best with your needs.

The Pax 3 can vaporize at 60+ heat settings

Some patients report feeling less intoxicated when vaporizing their cannabis vs smoking it. Part of this reason is due to the lack of smoke suffocating your brain. Smoking anything makes people feel “high” just because the brain is being restricted from oxygen. As you convert to a healthier method you may notice that you do not feel as mentally effected since it is not suffocating your brain the way smoke does. We recommend you always use ground flower when vaporizing dried herb because it is important to increase the surface area of the flower for the best possible effect. This will make your cannabis feel stronger and more effective when you use it.

And remember, if you ever have questions about the interactions of cannabis and pharmaceuticals, please contact your provider or one of the Verdes Nurse Educators.

-Liz, Verdes Nurse Educator