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October 20, 2017

Study: E-Cigarettes Prove to be Safer Method to Deliver Medicinal Cannabis


[Study] A team of Swiss scientists from Université de Lausanne have developed a cannabis liquid for electronic cigarette devices to be used solely for medical use. They believe vaping marijuana is safer than smoking it and definitely better than pill form. The scientists call it therapeutic cannavaping and believe it to be an excellent alternative to current treatments that are in the form of a syrup, pill, mouth spray, skin patch, suppository or a cigarette.

According to the study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the team was inspired by the practice of dabbing Butane Hashish Oil (BHO). They extracted cannaboids from cannabis with butane gas and atomized the extract using vaporizing devices. This method of extracting BHO contains up to 70-80% Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) which when lightly heated produces tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive agent.

The Study

When used for recreational purposes, dabs are burnt and the fumes are inhaled. However, for the study, scientists mixed their BHO extract with e-cigarette liquids at different concentrations and then vaporized the liquid with an e-cigarette machine and tested the vapors for THC content. The scientists believe this method for using medical marijuana would be safer than conventionally used oral administrations in the form of pills and tinctures that are erratically absorbed in the body and have a poor biodisponibility. The scientists also discuss the safety of this method because of the carbonyls and volatile toxic compounds present in the vapors are formed during the heating. Generation of contaminants from glycerin and propylene glycol and toxic effects from inhaled flavorings have to be considered. Their conclusion:

Cannavaping appears to be a gentle, efficient, user-friendly and safe alternative method for cannabis smoking for medical cannabis delivery. Its expected benefits very likely overcome the advantages of oral administration because ingestion is characterized by its erratic absorption and poor biodisponibility. Ingested compounds that undergo first pass metabolism could be less active than inhaled compounds, which would have direct access to the bloodstream without being metabolized first. Moreover, cannavaping could avoid emesis due to strong doses of therapeutic cannabinoids when smoked or inhaled through vaporization. However, potential misuse of cannavaping has been identified, based on dabbing practices and widespread accessibility to more sophisticated e-cigarette devices. BHO can be easily extracted at home, and electronic devices specifically designed for dabbing or vaping are available on the market, as well as edible solvents to produce homemade liquid refills enriched with cannabinoids. Consequently, recreational or addictive cannavaping is theoretically possible. However, the poor solubility of BHO in commercial liquid refills (especially those with high glycerin content) prevents achieving high BHO concentrations, which are very likely preferred by recreational cannavapers and dabbing consumers. Illegal cannavaping is suspected to present a low risk of becoming popular among cannabis smokers. Public health actors and stakeholders must pay attention to this potential misuse, but safety surveys and police work should be more focused on cannabis dabbing than cannavaping. Therefore, the likelihood of misuse of cannavaping seems to be very limited, whereas therapeutic applications of cannavaping have undeniable benefits over other administration routes, with the controlled dosage of cannabinoids-enriched liquid refills. Similarly, the electronic devices commercialized for therapeutic cannavaping should be carefully studied to prevent potential overheating and contaminants generation.


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