While cannabis is commonly smoked or vaped, it is becoming increasingly popular to consume cannabis edibles as an alternative way to ingest this substance.

However, this method of cannabis use also comes with a number of risks, side effects and dangers that you need to know about.

What are cannabis edibles?

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Cannabis can be ingested in several ways, and the most common method is smoking or vaping this drug.

But you may not be aware that you can also consume cannabis as a food or drink product.

Cannabis edibles are a type of food or drink that contains cannabis. In most cases, these edibles contain both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC and CBD are the active ingredients found in cannabis. THC is the compound responsible for making you feel high, while CBD can cause feelings of relaxation. [1]

Some people purchase pre-made cannabis edibles, while others make their own.

Cannabis edibles have been used from as far back as 2000 BC, but this doesn’t make them risk-free.

Many people see edible cannabis as completely safe, however they come with their own risks and side effects that can make them potentially dangerous.

What are the different types of cannabis edibles?

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To make cannabis more enjoyable to eat, some people infuse the drug into various food products.

These may be both sweet and savoury depending on each person’s preferences.

Some of the most common types of cannabis edibles include:

  • Brownies
  • Biscuits
  • Cakes
  • Gummy sweets
  • Chocolate bars
  • Caramels
  • Lollipops
  • Mints
  • Jerky
  • Crackers
  • Drinks

In addition to the above products, some people also add cannabis indiscriminately to their regular meals.

Other types of cannabis edibles include cannabis oils and liquid, which are consumed either on their own or within a food product.

How do cannabis edibles work?

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You may be wondering how consuming cannabis can make you feel relaxed, as this substance will travel directly to your gastrointestinal system instead of straight to your brain.

After consuming cannabis edibles, the THC will travel down to your stomach along with the edible food where it will be digested.

During this process, it will arrive at your liver before making its way to your bloodstream and eventually your brain. [2]

This means that if you consume cannabis edibles on a full stomach, it will take longer for the effects to be felt when compared to someone with an empty stomach.

Once in the brain, THC binds to cannabinoid receptors and encourages more dopamine to be produced, which is why many people report feeling relaxed and content after using cannabis.

Your brain wishes to repeat this behaviour to experience the same sensation over and over again, which is why cannabis has been found to be addictive.

Are cannabis edibles addictive?

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It is possible to become addicted to cannabis edibles, which could then potentially lead to an addiction to other substances such as alcohol.

Cannabis edibles are easy to consume, often tasty and can make you feel relaxed. For these reasons, it is more common than you may think to develop a psychological dependence on this substance.

An addiction to cannabis can lead to many issues including financial, legal, relationship and health problems.

Symptoms of a cannabis addiction may include:

  • Weight gain
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Poor performance at work
  • Lowered grades at school
  • Feeling lethargic and unmotivated
  • Frequent mood swings

While cannabis edibles may appear to be fun and have few consequences, they can have lifelong effects on your physical and mental health along with many other aspects of your life.

How do cannabis edibles differ from smoking cannabis?

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It’s easy to imagine that there are few differences between consuming cannabis and smoking it – after all, it’s the same substance.

However, the way you ingest cannabis can change its effects.

The time it takes for the effects of cannabis to kick in is usually longer when you consume cannabis edibles as opposed to smoking or vaping this substance.

It’s also easier to know how much cannabis you have ingested when it is smoked, as it takes effect much more quickly.

The amount of THC absorbed into the body is lower when cannabis edibles are used, and smoking cannabis can come with other side effects such as coughing and lung damage due to the smoke.

What is the law in the UK around cannabis edibles?

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As the use of cannabis is prohibited in the UK, cannabis edibles are also illegal.

This means that you cannot legally purchase cannabis-infused food products, or make your own.

Some types of CBD edibles are legal in the UK, as long as they conform to strict rules and regulations.

You may have seen many companies touting the supposed heath benefits of CBD gummies, for example. These products must each legally contain less than 1mg of THC and conform to strict food laws.

There are also many rules in the UK regarding the advertising and marketing of CBD products.

What are the risks and dangers of cannabis edibles?

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While cannabis edibles are usually seen as a fun and harmless way to ingest cannabis, they also come with many risks and dangers that may surprise you.

1. Higher chance of hurting yourself or others

While rare, there have been recorded cases of people seriously injuring themselves or other people while under the influence of cannabis edibles.

This may be due to the delayed onset of cannabis edibles, leading people to consume more than they usually would due to impatience.

This can lead to suicidal urges, violence towards others and even murder in rare cases.

2. Increased risk of overdose

As mentioned above, it can take longer for the effects of cannabis edibles to kick in when compared with other methods of ingestion such as smoking.

Many people are used to the fact-acting effects of smoking cannabis and may become impatient while waiting, leading to them eating more edibles than they originally intended.

This can increase the risk of overdose, also known as cannabis intoxication, which can be dangerous if not promptly treated.

3. Trouble determining the dosage and potency

Cannabis edibles are less regulated than other products, and as a result the information on the label may not be correct.

It is also very difficult to measure the THC levels in food, and this means you may be consuming more than you think.

Even if you make your own cannabis edibles at home, it can be difficult to determine how much cannabis to add and how strong the end product may be.

4. Remains in your system for longer

Many people are not aware of the fact that the effects of cannabis edibles last much longer than other forms of ingestion.

This means that they may be putting themselves and others in danger by driving while under the influence, managing heavy machinery or taking care of children while still experiencing the effects of cannabis edibles.

As cannabis edibles remain in your system for longer, you are also more at risk of testing positive for cannabis during a routine drug test which could risk your job or even have legal repercussions.

5. Paranoia, psychosis and hallucinations

When strong cannabis edibles are consumed, the risk of experiencing negative side effects is greatly increased.

Psychosis is a condition in which you lose touch with reality – you may suffer with delusions where you believe things that are not true or experience visual, tactile or auditory hallucinations which means you may see, feel or hear things that are not there. [3]

You may also suffer from paranoia, which can make you think that other people are out to get you or that you are the centre of unwanted and negative attention.

Not everyone will experience these side effects, but it is not possible to know exactly how you will react to cannabis edibles even if you have consumed them before.

What factors can influence the effects of cannabis edibles?

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Not everyone will experience cannabis edibles the same way. While some people may feel relaxed and lethargic, others may feel paranoid and on edge.

It’s not possible to know beforehand how your brain and body will react to cannabis edibles, and there are several factors that can influence the effects.

These include:

  • How much cannabis is in the edible
  • How often you use cannabis
  • How much cannabis you usually use
  • Your general physical health
  • The quality and potency of the cannabis

Some factors can also influence how long it can take for the effects of cannabis edibles to begin.

These include:

  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • How much you weigh
  • The amount of time since your last meal
  • The other ingredients in the food

It’s important to remember that it can be extremely difficult to gauge how much cannabis you have ingested when you use edibles, as the effects do not kick in straight away.

What should I do if I have accidentally ingested cannabis edibles?

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It is becoming more common than ever to accidentally ingest cannabis edibles – perhaps your roommate left a chocolate bar in the kitchen that you consumed without thinking, or you consumed food at a party without knowing that it was contaminated with cannabis.

It’s understandable that you may feel concerned, but the first thing you need to do is take a few deep breaths and try to calm down.

If you are pregnant, you should speak to your doctor immediately and let them know how much you have taken and what type of edible it was.

They will be able to provide medical treatment if necessary as well as advise you on the next steps to take.

If you are not pregnant, the best thing to do is to try to relax. Ask someone trusted to watch over you to ensure that you don’t experience any of the more severe effects – namely, paranoia and hallucinations.

Make sure not to drive or operate any heavy machinery during this time, and avoid going swimming and undertaking any strenuous or dangerous activities.

What should I do if a child has accidentally ingested cannabis edibles?


With their colourful packaging and tasty appearance, cannabis edibles can appear particularly attractive to children. If they come across them, it is likely that they may mistake them for a regular snack.

However, it can be very dangerous if a child ingests this substance.

If you are concerned that your child has accidentally consumed a cannabis edible, call emergency services and the poison hotline straight away.

Your child may appear completely fine, but the effects of cannabis edibles will usually take a while to kick in.

You will need to find out the type of edible they consumed and how much they ate or drank, as this will help the medical team decide on the best course of action.

Let emergency services and poison control know as much information as possible, even if you are concerned that you could get into trouble. This information could save your child’s life.

Many cannabis edibles come in the form of a larger cake or chocolate bar, which are intended to be consumed in small pieces. However, a child may eat the entire thing.

For this reason, it is extremely important that all cannabis edibles are kept out of reach of children.

What should I do if an animal has accidentally ingested cannabis edibles?


Animals, particularly cats and dogs, are likely to consume any cannabis edibles that they find. This is because these items appear to be regular food items which are often appealing to a household pet.

If you are concerned that an animal has eaten cannabis edibles, you should take them to the vet immediately. You may also wish to call poison control, particularly if you are unable to get an emergency vet appointment.

As with children, you will need to inform the vet of the type of edible that was consumed as well as how much they ate. The vet is only interested in treating your pet and saving their life, so you don’t need to worry about getting into trouble.

In most cases, the vet will attempt to make your animal vomit or in extreme cases will arrange to have their stomach pumped.

Many of the ingredients in cannabis edibles, such as chocolate or raisins, are not suitable for animals to consume and will likely require additional treatment on top of the treatment they are already receiving for cannabis intoxication.

Frequently asked questions about cannabis edibles

Below, we include some frequently asked questions about cannabis edibles:

1. How long does it take for the effects of cannabis edibles to begin?

Many people who use cannabis edibles are not aware that it can take much longer to feel the effects compared to smoking or vaping cannabis.

This can lead to an increased risk of overdose, as people may take more than intended while waiting to experience the effects.

It can take between 30 to 90 minutes for the effects of cannabis edibles to begin, with these effects lasting between 4 and 12 hours depending on how much you have taken.

It can be easy to ingest large amounts of cannabis when using cannabis edibles, particularly if they are baked into a moreish snack such as brownies or biscuits.

This is another reason why some people take too much and can increase the risk of overdose.

2. Can I be prescribed cannabis edibles?

You will not be prescribed cannabis edibles in the UK under any circumstances, both through the NHS or through private practice.

Some people are prescribed specific types of cannabis oil including Epidyolex, Nabilone and Nabiximols to treat certain conditions, although this is still a rare occurrence.

These cannabis oils contain varying levels of CBD but do not contain THC.

They are only prescribed to the following groups of people:

  • People with certain forms of epilepsy
  • People who are undergoing chemotherapy which makes them vomit
  • People who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS)

Cannabis edibles are not a routinely accepted form of medication in the UK, so if you are hoping to receive a prescription for this substance then you will very likely be disappointed.

3. Can I use cannabis edibles if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

You should not use cannabis edibles if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as this could harm your baby.

Several potentially dangerous chemicals including THC are able to pass from you to your unborn baby through the placenta, as well as through your breast milk. [4]

If you use cannabis edibles while pregnant or breastfeeding, the risks to your baby may include the following:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Increased risk of stillbirth
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Increased risk of cognitive and behaviour issues including problem-solving skills, memory and impulse control
  • Increased risk of addiction as a teenager or adult

Many experts believe that using cannabis edibles while pregnant or breastfeeding may be even more dangerous than smoking this substance, as there is no way of knowing exactly how much THC an edible item contains.

It can also take longer for you to experience the effects of edible cannabis, so it’s more likely that you may take more than intended while waiting for the effects to kick in.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260817/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7030881/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/psychosis/overview/

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/marijuana.html