Today we kick off a short series by our Vice-President of Patient Advocacy, Philippe Lucas, on vaporization, or vaping, a method of consuming cannabis that becomes more and more popular year after year.
In 2015, Tilray conducted a global Patient Survey, collecting data on many aspects of our patients’ experience with medical cannabis. One of the most interesting results that came out of last year’s survey was that the both the primary and preferred method of use identified by our patients was vaporization (see below). This was truly a revelation; in over 10 years of conducting patient surveys this was the first time that a non-smoked method of use beat out joints, pipes, and waterpipes (bongs). This represents a very positive shift, reflecting a more health-conscious approach by patients.
While evidence suggests that smoking cannabis does not lead to respiratory cancers, it is not recommended because of the toxic by-products of combustion, such as carbon monoxide, tar, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Vaporization is an alternative, non-smoked, rapid-onset delivery system of the active ingredients in cannabis. Vaporization heats cannabis to a temperature that forms active cannabinoids (that is, the decarboxylated versions of Δ-9 THC and CBD), but is still below the point of combustion that produces smoke and its associated toxins.
Research suggests that cannabis users who administer by vaporizer, rather than smoking, are less likely to report respiratory problems. In fact, a pilot study conducted with 18 healthy subjects using a Volcano vaporizer found that plasma levels and subjective experiences were comparable to those obtained when the cannabis was smoked.
Choosing the right vaporizer can be a tricky matter. Part of my work at Tilray includes assessing new vaporization technologies, and despite a significant proliferation of new vaporizers, it’s all too rare to see real technological innovation in this area. Patients should ensure that vaporizers use medical-grade material, as off-gassing from industrial metals and plastics may prove to have negative health impacts in the long term. Reliability has also proven to be an issue in low cost devices. Tilray currently makes the Pax vaporizers available to registered Tilray patients. In addition, we also carry the Mighty Medic and Volcano Medic, the only approved medical vaporizers for the inhalative application of cannabinoids in Canada.