How hard and how fast an edible high will take to kick in depends on a large variety of individual factors, and answering “how long does an edible last” varies widely from person to person as well. Most importantly, actions taken after taking the edible can greatly influence whether the effects last longer, and for anyone either seeking to make their THC last as long as possible (or potentially come down a bit after taking one bite of brownie too many) we have a bevvy of helpful information and handy tips below.
That being said, if you need a quick answer because you’re 30 minutes into your edible adventure, not having a good time, and you’re starting to worry how long this is gonna last? Buckle up because you’ve likely got another 4-6hrs to go depending on the factors we’ll cover below.
How Your Metabolism Affects Your High
Our body’s metabolism plays a very large role in answering the question of how long do edibles last, and it’s primarily due to what happens to THC when it enters the body and what it is converted into…
Enter 11-Hydroxy THC
As detailed in our article on “11 Hydroxy THC” when Δ9 THC (“Delta 9 THC”) is eaten, it passes through the digestive system, where metabolic enzymes transform it into 11-OH-THC.
11-OH-THC (11-hydroxy THC) has a much higher bio-availability thanks to its ease in passing through the human blood-brain barrier; this is why edible cannabis products tend to hit both harder and longer than cannabis that has been smoked.
But that’s not the full story…
However, dependent on both our individual metabolic rates and genetic code, this may not be entirely true for every person. As each person has their own metabolism, so will each person have their own answer to the question of how long do edibles last.
Our metabolic system dictates the amount of energy the human body both has and uses – Roughly 70% of the energy we use each day is purely devoted to the body’s metabolic processes. From pumping our hearts to filtering through our livers, a massive amount of the energy sources we take in every day are devoted to simply keeping the internal gears turning.
When we ingest food or intake oxygen our metabolic system sets to work breaking down the complex chemicals we take in, releasing the energies stored inside and further transforming them into either waste or useful byproducts. The rate at which this occurs (our “basal metabolic rate” or “BMR”) is the rate at which our bodies produce energy, and can vary wildly between individuals.
This rate effects how fast Δ9-THC is turned into 11-OH-THC, and also how fast 11-OH-THC will turn into THC-COOH, the inert byproduct of cannabis use. Typically a speedier metabolism is considered good when it comes to making an edible high last longer, as the THC will break down into its desired form more quickly and make the effects of your edibles take hold much faster. But too much efficiency can be a bad thing, and depending on your genetic makeup this might be the deciding factor on whether or not the world of edibles has much to offer you at all.
How your Genetics Factor Into It
Contained in every person’s genetic code is a gene called CYP2C9 that produces an enzyme also named CYP2C9. When we speak about the metabolic system breaking down and absorbing cannabis it’s CYP2C9 that does this job, first transitioning D9 THC into 11-OH-THC, and then further into the inert 11-OH-THC. Interestingly, there are variations of this gene that then lead to variations of the CYP2C9 enzyme… and some of them are more effective at their job than others.
The CYP2C9 Enzyme Variants & Its Consequences
There are three types of CYP2C9 variants among humans: AA, the most effective; CC, the least effective; and AC, which is roughly halfway between the other two in effectiveness.
The more effective a person’s CYP2C9 enzyme is at metabolizing THC the less effect they’ll feel – Those unlucky enough to have the AA variant of CYP2C9 will more rapidly convert ingested the THC of ingested cannabis into the inert THC-COOH, giving edibles shorter and less potent effects (thankfully the effects of the CYP2C9 enzyme are reduced when it comes to smoking cannabis). Folks with the CC variant of the enzyme will feel the strongest effects from edibles.
Strain, Strength, & Amount Consumed
Though it seems like a simple answer the strength and dosage amount of your cannabis edibles will play a large role in answering how long does an edible last. What may seem like it has a large influence is choice of strain, but that can be less important than you think.
As we talk about in our article on “Indica vs. Sativa” the old line of thought that indica strains are sedating and more “heavy” than lighter, more cerebral sativas is swiftly becoming an outdated notion. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t strains with more pronounced, noticeable effects than others, though, and while a lighter strain with “classical sativa”-style effects may not make you feel completely couch-locked that doesn’t mean you aren’t still high.
There are plenty of studies that show how cannabis use may have effects on short-term acuity, mental faculties, and motor skills. While partaking of lighter, less drowsy cannabis products can leave the user feeling more confident about their aptitude it’s important to remember that even if you think you feel fine after 1 or 2 hours have passed it’s best to treat yourself as still intoxicated and incapable of functioning at peak performance – Your chainsaw juggling practice session can wait until after you’re certain you’ve sobered up.
Dosage Strength & Amount Eaten
Of course an edible high in THC will have stronger effects than edibles without as much THC inside. But when it comes to making your edibles last longer it’s less a question of “how much?” and more a question of “how often?”.
Once you’ve eaten any amount of any edibles there will be THC in your system, until completely cleared away by your metabolic enzymes; as noted before this is highly dependent on each individual’s metabolic rate, but eating more or less of the same edible at the same time won’t necessarily decrease/extend the duration of the high beyond a certain extent.
Eating more of the same cannabis edible in one go may increase the duration of the high but only by a fractional amount; this may place more THC into the metabolic system but the length of time it takes for the system to process a large load over a smaller load isn’t vastly increased.
Conversely, eating a smaller amount of a cannabis edible in one sitting will still leave you high for the same amount of time, just not as high as you would have been eating a larger portion of an edible. The effects will be less noticeable, and may diminish somewhat sooner than if more had been eaten, but don’t expect differences of more than 45 minutes to an hour either way.
Instead, if looking to increase the duration of your high, try to make your edibles stretch. Most store-bought edibles aren’t designed to be eaten in one go, instead directing the consumer to take half or a quarter of the whole edible – This dosage advice is usually pretty solid, and can be a good way to not only increase how long your edible high will last but also prevent you from taking too much in a single go.
Dose Form: High Fat vs. Low Fat
In our article on “How Long Do Edibles Take to Kick In” we discuss the role fats play in carrying (or concealing) THC after entering the digestive system. To briefly summarize: THC is a fat-soluble chemical, meaning it will be absorbed by any fat it comes in contact with. This is why so many edibles rely on cannabis-infused fats such as coconut oil or butter, as they make an excellent medium for stripping the THC away from cannabis flower.
After being ingested the THC molecules from edible products are still enrobed in fat, adding another layer for the metabolic system to break through before getting to the THC molecules nestled within. Again, the length of time this process takes is highly dependent on the individual metabolic rates of each individual, but as the fatty products take additional time to break down the duration of the high can be extended.
However, this is only true for edibles that are high in fat, or made with a cannabis-infused oil. Edibles made with alcohol-based tinctures or even just pressed, decarbed kief bypass this additional layer of protection, making their THC more directly available to both the digestive system and the bloodstream. This not only means the production of 11-OH-THC begins sooner, but more of the Delta 9 THC is absorbed into the body, helping shorten the length of time it takes to feel the edible effects settle in.
So, How Long do Edibles’ Effects Last?
Of course none of this directly answers the question of how long edibles last. And, unfortunately, as so many questions when it comes to marijuana effects are answered, it depends.
As we’ve said above there are a plethora of reasons as to why an edible may effect one person more or less than another, and the experience is likely to be highly subjective.
However, unless you’re one of the mentioned unlucky ones with the AA variant of the CYP2C9 enzyme, you can typically expect an edible to last roughly 4 to 8 hours in total, with 6 hours as the average baseline for an experience.
Does THC Stay In The Body After The Effects Are Gone?
The answer to this is a resounding “yes” – Again, THC edibles are eventually metabolized into THC-COOH, a psychoactively inert form of THC that remains in the human body for quite some time after consumption. For more information on how long THC will stay in your system on average, make sure to check out the next article in our Cannabis Edibles 101 series, “How Long Do Edibles Stay In Your System?”.
As with many things when it comes to the use of cannabis products, the end result is dependent on a large array of factors. How long and heavy edibles effect you may be very different from how edibles effect anyone else you know, and that can be down to your physical stature, tolerance, and even genetic makeup. When it comes to edibles the only real way to answer the question of “how long does a high last” for you is through personal experience.
We hope our guide has given you a bit more information on exactly what are edibles, and how these unique cannabis products may effect you. Don’t forget to check out other articles in our Edibles 101 series, handily linked below. Happy munching!
Want to learn more about the world of edible cannabis products? Make sure to check out our companion articles on “How Long Do Edibles Stay In Your System?” or “How to Make Cannabis Edibles” for more information and other great reads!