Smoking V’s Vaping Weed, What’s The Difference?
When Cool Teens started vaping weed at increasingly higher rates, they inadvertently exposed a scientific grey area: Is there actually a difference between smoking weed and vaping it? A study published Friday in JAMA Network Open has an answer, though it may not be that comforting to vape enthusiasts.
This small study, overseen by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is really all about the delivery of THC — the psychoactive compound in weed. The various ways THC gets into the body produces effects on radically different timescales (as anyone who’s experienced edibles can attest).
Vaping, the authors demonstrate with results from 17 participants, turned out to be a more efficient way of delivering THC to the blood, but it also changed the study participants’ experience of the THC dose. The significant differences they found weren’t exactly positive: The vapers noted more intense feelings of paranoia and had drier mouths and eyes than the smokers did.
For the smokers, blood THC levels peaked around 3.8 nanograms per milliliter of blood when they received 10 milligrams of THC. The vapers, on the other hand, ended up with much more THC in their bodies, peaking at 7.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. This pattern was repeated when the participants got higher doses: vapers had 14.4 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, and smokers only had 10.2.
Taken together, the results provide evidence that vaping is at least a more efficient method of THC delivery than smoking, says University of Wollongong psychologist Nadia Solowij, Ph.D., in her accompanying commentary. Vaping, she says, avoids combustion, which tends to burn off THC (and produce harmful byproducts), and also produce far less “sidestream smoke” — the kind that doesn’t end up in a person’s lungs.
The team concludes that vaping marijuana may reduce exposure to some contaminants that come from combustion, which is basically the same argument that’s always being made in favor of e-cigarettes. Whether this means that vaping is actually safer, however, is still out for debate.