Consuming more THC doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more stoned, according to a new study that compared the immediate effects of cannabis flower with concentrates.
While the consumption of cannabis concentrates does produce much higher THC levels in the blood, as you might expect, both flower and concentrate consumers showed similar neurobehavioral patterns after consumption.
In fact, the study found that concentrate consumers “demonstrated similar or lower levels” of subjective intoxication and short-term impairment than those who consumed lower-potency flower.
Published in JAMA Psychiatry, the study looked at 121 people who have used cannabis at least four times in the previous month.
After an initial appointment to measure the subjects’ baseline, participants were randomly assigned a cannabis product to buy at a local dispensary.
They were assigned one of four products: 3g of strain A flower (16% THC), 3g of strain B flower (24% THC), 1g of concentrate A (70% THC) or 1g of concentrate B (90% THC).
Because of federal laws restricting the administration of cannabis in the lab, subjects were asked to consume the cannabis product at home.
The participants were given 5 days to familiarise themselves with the product before a mobile laboratory travelled to their place of residence to conduct the experiment.
Participants, who were asked to abstain from using cannabis the day of the experiment, then consumed their flower or extracts, took a quick break, before being tested on a number of measures, including balance, cognition, blood-cannabinoid levels, and subjective mood/intoxication.
The study found that the participants that used concentrates had “strikingly” higher blood levels of THC and its active metabolite 11-OH-THC in the short term and overall.
“However, despite this higher THC exposure, concentrate users did not show greater short-term subjective, cognitive, or balance impairment,” the authors wrote.
“Given the marked differences in THC blood levels between concentrate and flower users, it is interesting that the self-reported levels of intoxication were not significantly different.
“The observation that the concentrate users achieved much higher THC blood levels but the same intoxication level as the flower users requires explanation.”
The study authors suggest that it’s possible the concentrate users had a greater tolerance to the effects of THC, that cannabinoid receptors may become saturated with THC at higher levels, or that individual differences among users account for the similar results.
While both concentrate and flower consumers had similar results on cognitive and impairment tests, impairment was certainly seen in both groups.
In general, across most cognitive measures, performance changes following cannabis use were minimal. With one exception – delayed verbal recall performance was notable after use.
The neuromotor effects of cannabis were observed in balance tests the participants underwent.
People in both groups showed a modest decrease in performance on a moderately challenging balance task (quiet standing with no vision), which dissapeared within an hour.
The degree of balance impairment seen in the cannabise consumers is similar to that seen after moderate alcohol consumption.
The study suggests that “these results provide evidence that balance impairment could be a useful marker of recent cannabis use” similar to the use of a field sobriety test used to measure alcohol intoxication.