Vaping THC - What You Need to Know Before You Start

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Jun 17, 2024
Last updated:
Jun 18, 2024

When it comes to cannabis, most people have heard of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects or ‘high’ often referred to in pop culture. 

However, there are still many misconceptions around THC, especially with the arrival of new forms of both medical and recreational cannabis products. This range of cannabis-based products includes the relatively new THC vape cartridges or ‘pens’. In this article, we’ll explore THC as a compound and the various forms in which it can be vaporised or ‘vaped’.

What exactly is THC? 

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid found in cannabis, making it one of at least 113 cannabinoids known within the plant.

It works by interacting with specific parts of your brain and body known as cannabinoid receptors. Imagine these receptors are like tiny locks, and THC as the key that fits into them. When THC unlocks these receptors, it can change how you feel, think, and even how your body senses pain.

While most people only associate THC with its psychoactive properties, it has notable medicinal uses too. It can help people who are suffering from chronic pain, nausea or muscle spasms from conditions like multiple sclerosis. THC along with other cannabinoids can also have calming and sedative effects, which can help promote sleep and potentially alleviate symptoms of insomnia. 

When prescribed by a UK medical cannabis clinic, like Alternaleaf, THC is prescribed in the following forms:

  • THC Flower (to be used in a dry herb vaporizer)
  • THC Vape Cartridges (to be used with a 510 battery)
  • THC Oils (to be used sublingually)
  • THC Edibles or 'Lozenges'

THC Flower & THC Vape Legalisation

Many people in the UK are still unaware that medical cannabis was legalised in 2018, meaning that you can access THC flower and THC vape carts through private clinics like Alternaleaf. It is important to note that possession of THC based products which have not been prescribed by a specialist doctor are illegal within the UK.

The basics of vaping THC

Why do people vape THC?

For many patients who may struggle to ingest or digest THC in oil or edible form, inhalation can become a strong option. This may sound puzzling to somebody who has never had any issues consuming medication orally, but there are many conditions in which inhalation of THC becomes a more desirable option. 

For instance, individuals with chronic gut conditions may opt for inhalation if they have difficulty absorbing medication through their digestive tract.

Consumption of THC via vaporisation is also desirable due to its rapid onset of effects. This is particularly crucial for conditions or symptoms which require spontaneous and prompt medication, such as acute pain or anxiety attacks. 

What THC products can I vape?

The two main vapeable products currently available in the UK are cannabis flower and vape cartridges. 

Cannabis flower (the natural buds that grow on the plant) is the most recognisable form of cannabis. Users typically process these buds by grinding or shredding them in a herb grinder. The ground bud is then placed in a dry herb vaporiser and heated to temperatures ranging between 180°C to 210°C for vaporisation.

Instead of dry flower, vape cartridges, also known as 'THC vape carts' or ‘THC vape pens’ come prefilled with a liquid cannabis concentrate. These cartridges are used with a vape battery, which are portable and easy-to-use devices that heat the concentrate to a temperature at which the plant’s active compounds begin to vaporise. 

The name ‘vape pen’ comes from the long, narrow batteries attached to the cartridge, creating a pen-like appearance. 

These cartridges are typically produced from a single strain, ensuring that the THC vape consumption, effects, flavour, and overall experience mirror those of the dry flower equivalent. Some vape carts contain distillate that is dominant in a specific cannabinoid, such as THC or CBD.

What are the benefits of vaping THC?

THC Vape Vs Smoking

Vaping THC offers significant advantages over smoking, primarily in terms of safety. When cannabis is consumed through combustion, harmful toxins are also inhaled and absorbed by the body. Vaporisation helps cannabis users and patients mitigate these risks.

Advantages of THC Vape Cartridges

When considering vape cartridges, the THC vape effects are often rapid in both onset and in preparation of medication. Unlike dry herb flower vaporisation, which requires additional steps such as grinding and preparation, THC cartridges bypass this. 

This convenience can be crucial for patients requiring instant, prompt relief. For example, individuals suffering from insomnia who frequently wake during the night can use a vape cart without the need to fully get out of bed, minimising further disruption to their rest.

As research into THC vape products progresses, scientists are gaining a deeper understanding of how varying concentrations of THC, terpenes, and other cannabinoids can be blended or processed to optimise the treatment of specific symptoms.

Advantages of THC Flower

While it does involve more preparation, vaporising THC flower is often praised for its ability to customise effects at specific temperatures. This is likely due to a range of specific terpene boiling points - the component of cannabis which not only gives it its smell, but also influences the effects.

Many cannabis patients express the idea that they can achieve different levels of symptom relief at different temperatures. For example, vaporising the same strain at 180°C can produce significantly different effects compared to vaporising it at 210°C. This level of precision is not typically found with vape cartridges, which often have only one main heat setting.

Are there any risks associated with vaping THC?

While specialists in the UK have deemed cannabis vaporisation as the safest method of inhalation, it's important to acknowledge that, like most medications, there are still associated risks. However, these risks are generally considered to be lower compared to other methods of cannabis consumption, such as smoking. 

The main bulk of THC vape risks are often associated with cartridges purchased on the illicit market. These cartridges are often unverified and have been found to contain harmful substances, such as xylazine. By accessing your vape cartridges through a UK medical cannabis clinic, like Alternaleaf, you can assure that the THC vape ingredients are safe and have been tested for anything that could cause harm. 

Strict THC vape regulations also ensure that no matter where the medication has been imported from, all risks and safety precautions have been taken to ensure the THC vape safety is top priority. 

Choosing the right THC product to vape

Your Alternaleaf doctor will work with you to prescribe the most suitable medication or form based on your condition and symptoms. While some individuals may benefit from using flower, others may find vape cartridges more suitable. In certain cases, a combination of both may be recommended to provide enhanced treatment plan flexibility.

If you’re interested in vape carts, it's crucial to ensure that your THC vapes are purchased and prescribed by a reliable and trusted source, such as a medical cannabis clinic, to prioritise THC vape health and safety.

Summary

In summary, we’ve learnt that:

  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, available in various forms including flower and vape cartridges.
  • THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, offering medicinal benefits such as pain relief and improved sleep.
  • Medical cannabis, including THC flower and vape cartridges, can be legally accessed through specialist clinics like Alternaleaf in the UK.
  • Risks associated with THC vaping primarily stem from illicit market cartridges, highlighting the importance of obtaining products from trusted sources like medical cannabis clinics.
  • Patients can work with their healthcare provider to determine the most suitable THC product for their needs, whether flower or vape cartridges.
  • It's crucial to ensure that THC vapes are purchased from reliable sources to prioritise health and safety.