Hey, have you heard the news? Thanks to the THC patch, now you can get your daily dose of tetrahydrocannabinol without the need for blunts, joints, bongs, edibles, creams, or tinctures. We know it sounds like science fiction, but it’s not.
In fact, transdermal patches (a.k.a. transdermal delivery system or TDDS) have been around for almost 40 years. Way back in 1979, the FDA approved a scopolamine patch for motion sickness. Not long after that, the FDA approved the nitroglycerin patch for individuals with heart problems.
Other transdermal patches followed shortly thereafter. The most famous TDDS is the nicotine patch introduced in 1991 to help tobacco users kick the smoking habit.
With the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in the early part of the 21st century, the next logical step was the THC patch. And now, they’ve finally arrived. But what are THC patches? And how exactly do they work?
The experts at Honest Marijuana will answer those important questions and many others. We’ll also talk about what strains work best and the difference between a THC patch and a THC cream (topical).
First, though, it’s vital that you understand what you’re getting when you slap on a THC patch.
What Is THC?
It’s hard to believe we even need to answer this question anymore. But for the sake of thoroughness—and for those you who have lived in the Bornean rainforest for the past 80 years—we’re going to do it anyway.
THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of a group of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are found exclusively in the cannabis plant (indica, sativa, and ruderalis) and are responsible for the myriad of psychedelic and medicinal effects. Common cannabinoids include:
THC is most famous (infamous?) for its ability to get you high, but it can also be used to:
- Kill cancer cells
- Relieve chronic pain and inflammation
- Stimulate appetite
- Reduce/eliminate nausea and vomiting
- Treat PTSD and other neurological disorders
We’ll talk about whether a THC patch will get you high in a later section. But first, let’s get to know the THC patch a bit better.
What Is A THC Patch?
Put simply, a THC patch is a thin piece of plastic coated with adhesive (like a Band-aid) and infused with the cannabinoid THC. Because of the way they work, THC patches can offer all-day or all-night relief to those suffering from chronic issues like pain and anxiety.
To get this relief, you simply apply the THC patch to a venous part of your body, like your ankle, your arm, or the inside of your wrist. Your body heat activates the patch and causes it to release a small amount of THC through your skin and into your bloodstream.
We’ll get into the specifics of how the THC patch works in just a moment. Now, we’re going to answer the question on everyone’s mind: will a THC patch get you high?
Will A THC Patch Get You High?
The short answer is no. A THC patch won’t get you high because your body absorbs the cannabinoid slowly over a number of hours rather than all at once (like it is when you smoke or dab). This is great news for those who need THC’s medicinal effects without the intense psychoactive high.
So as you can probably guess, THC patches are not for those who want to go flying in a Blue Dream. Instead, they’re for those with real medical issues who need the healing effects of THC.
For the recreational user who enjoys a bit of couchlock now and again, your best bet is still a strong weed strain and a movie from this list. Leave the patches for those who need them, and try a Thai stick or some moon rock weed instead.
How Do Transdermal THC Patches Work?
We’re going to drop some science, son, but don’t let that scare you off. THC patches provide a unique method of cannabinoid delivery, and it’s essential that you understand how they work. So buckle up; here we go.
When you apply a THC patch to your skin, you set up a drug concentration gradient. That just means that at one point (in the patch), there’s a lot of the cannabinoid, while at another point (in your skin), there’s not a lot of the cannabinoid.
When your skin’s heat activates the patch, the cannabinoid begins to spread out into your skin (this is technically known as “moving down the gradient”). This concept is very much like pouring boiling water into a coffee mug and leaving it sitting on your counter.
The hot water contains a lot of heat (212℉ worth), while the atmosphere around it doesn’t. Because of this difference (the gradient), the heat naturally “spreads out” into the air around it.
As the drug moves further into your skin, it’s absorbed into your bloodstream and transported to your brain and throughout your body. The nice thing about transdermal delivery is that it bypasses your lungs, liver, and stomach (places where the cannabinoid is filtered or broken down). That means you get 100 percent of the medicinal value of the THC.
Are All THC Patches The Same?
At first glance, one THC patch may look like every other patch. But let us assure you that there are significant differences. The primary difference lies in how the patch is constructed. Here’s a breakdown of each.
In a matrix patch, the THC is infused into the matrix of the patch itself (often in the adhesive). When the adhesive comes in contact with your skin, the THC begins to move from the area of higher concentration into the area of lower concentration (as described in the section above).
The dose of THC you get depends on the amount of the cannabinoid held in the matrix and the size of the patch (and the area of skin it covers).
Reservoir patches get their name from the fact that the THC is—drum roll, please—contained in a reservoir within the patch. The reservoir holds the THC in solution (most often with a gel) and releases it through a rate-controlling membrane between the reservoir, the adhesive, and your skin.
People have been using reservoir patches successfully for almost 40 years. In addition, reservoir patches provide tighter control of delivery rates. For these reasons, many feel that reservoir patches are better than matrix patches.
What Are The Benefits Of Transdermal Delivery?
THC patches provide a whole host of benefits over other methods of cannabis consumption. Here are just a few of the most notable.
Because the THC is absorbed directly into your bloodstream with a THC patch, transdermal delivery can provide whole-body relief instead of just targeted (spot) relief.
Transdermal delivery releases THC slowly over a number of hours (four to six on average). This is in stark contrast to other methods of consumption, which peak quickly and then taper off.
Specific Cannabinoid Options
Transdermal patches make it possible to deliver specific cannabinoids in order to target specific problems. When you smoke a joint, you’re getting a whole mix of different cannabinoids. With the THC patch, you’re only getting THC. So, the medicinal effects will be stronger.
THC patches are probably the most discreet consumption method on the market today. You simply apply the patch to a venous part of your body, like your arm or wrist. Depending on how long the patch lasts, there’s no need to administer another dose for quite some time.
What Are The Specific Physical Benefits Of The THC Patch?
Transdermal delivery is a very useful and effective way to get THC into your system. But what are the specific physical benefits you can look forward to? We’ve listed them below.
The chief physical benefit of the THC patch is pain relief. If you’re suffering from cancer, a bad back, neuropathy, or other chronic pain, a THC patch may be the solution you’ve been looking for.
That’s not to say that the THC you get in your doobie or bong won’t numb the pain too. It’s just that the pain relief comes with a host of other physical “side effects” like euphoria, panic, and intense hunger.
That brings us to the other physical benefits of the THC patch.
As mentioned, the THC patch is not as psychoactive as other methods of consumption. You might feel a hint psychotropic effects, but, for the most part, you’ll remain high functioning and productive.
One of the seven key stages of getting high (i.e., toking THC) is paranoia. This is the feeling you get when you’re convinced that everyone — and we mean everyone — is out to get you.
We’re not saying this paranoia can’t be fun, but if you need pain relief but still have to go to work, that feeling that the world is watching can be a major drag.
The slow absorption of the THC in a THC patch keeps paranoia at bay so you can get on with your day.
Edibles are a quick, easy, and discreet way to ingest the THC you need, but the dosing can be hit or miss sometimes. One brownie might have you seeing sounds, while the very next brownie might do nothing but add to your waistline.
A THC patch delivers an accurate dose all the time, every time. You really can’t say that about most of the common ways to get THC into your system.
Have you ever tried to un-smoke a joint or un-drink a cup of weed tea?
Once you’ve toked to the roach or drained your cup dry, you can’t stop the THC from interacting with your body and brain. Barring some pretty drastic measures, you’re on that ride to the end, my friend.
But with a THC patch, if you don’t like how you feel, you can easily de-administer your medicine by peeling off the patch. Sure, we probably invented a word there (we’re working on a copyright: De-administer ©), but you get our drift.
One of the nice side effects of THC is that it stimulates hunger. This is especially useful for people who are dealing with serious illness and nausea that prevent them from eating (lack of calories can compound an already bad situation).
But for some, THC on the brain pushes hunger into uncharted territory. This is called the munchies and can lead to some interesting (and horrifying) meals.
Cheetos and Sour Straws? Check. Spicy pickles and whipped cream? Uh-huh. A peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and caramel corn sandwich? Yes, please!
With a THC patch, there’s none of that. You might feel a little hungry — like you haven’t eaten in a few hours — but you won’t be convinced it’s been a week since your last meal.
So why exactly does the THC in a THC patch make you slightly hungry but not ravenous? The answer has three parts.
The Science Behind The THC Patch And Hunger
The question we’re really asking here is, “Why does THC make you hungry in the first place?” Put simply, THC makes you hungry because:
- It heightens your sense of smell and makes food taste better
- It increases your craving for carbohydrates (sugar)
- It produces ghrelin
So you’ll be able to smell food from farther off, and you’ll be more motivated to eat that food because you know it will taste good.
You’ll also experience a need for more carbohydrates (sugar) in whatever form you can get them.
And, finally, the cannabinoids in your THC patch mimic the endocannabinoids in your body (yes, your body makes its own cannabinoids). Those invader cannabinoids (exogenous cannabinoids if you want to get really fancy) interact with the hypothalamus and cause it to produce ghrelin.
First, ghrelin is pronounced with a silent “h.” Second, it’s the stuff that signals your body that you’re low on fuel. Too much ghrelin and you’ll feel famished.
So even if you just ate, taking a big ol’ dose of THC can make you feel like you skipped about seven meals. But there is a catch to all this science.
That empty feeling is directly related to the amount of THC you put into your system. With a doobie or a bong (or even an edible), you get a large dose all at once. That shoves those physical processes — smell, craving, and ghrelin — into overdrive. So your hunger goes from 0 to 100 in a matter of minutes.
But with a THC patch, the amount of THC you put into your system is small and steady. So, to extend the metaphor from above, instead of your hunger going into overdrive, it might only hit 5 or 10 miles per hour.
Breaking It Down
We’ve touched on a lot of technical subjects, particularly as it has to do with hunger. To help you process all that information, we’ve broken everything down into four basic steps:
- You get hungry (naturally) after your digestive system releases ghrelin. The ghrelin signals your hypothalamus to release endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids, in turn, activate the feelings of hunger in your body. We might illustrate it like this: Ghrelin → Hypothalamus → Endocannabinoids → Hungry
- Cannabis contains cannabinoids (of the phyto- variety) that are similar in structure to the endocannabinoids in your body.
- When you consume cannabis in any form, you introduce A LOT of cannabinoids into your brain (Woohoo!).
- These cannabinoids mimic the endocannabinoids that are already there and turn on every neuron they can find. That makes you super hungry. Welcome to the munchies!
But, again, it’s essential that we reiterate the point that THC patches release cannabinoids slow and steady, not all at once. That reduced absorption keeps the munchie monster at bay and allows you to function normally.
What Strains Work Best For THC Patches?
When producing a THC patch, it’s not so much the specific strain that matters, but rather, the purity of that strain. Patch manufacturers isolate THC by subjecting the plant matter to some form of extraction (e.g., CO2, alcohol, butane, ice water). The extraction process removes the cannabinoids (in this case, THC), terpenes, and trichomes from the plant matter.
The purer the strain, the more THC, terpenes, and trichomes will be available for use in the patch. Organic marijuana is some of the purest product on the market and provides the best raw material for transdermal patches. Make sure the patches you use are made with 100-percent organic cannabis.
Is There A Difference Between THC Patches And Topicals?
Many people wonder if there’s a difference between a THC patch and a THC cream (a.k.a. a topical). There is.
Because of the way topicals are made, they only affect the first three layers of skin and are really only good for spot treatment. This is because those top layers of skin don’t have a lot of veins, so the THC isn’t absorbed into your bloodstream.
With THC patches, the cannabinoid does reach your bloodstream and can circulate throughout your entire body. As mentioned, this provides a whole-body effect rather than a spot effect.
Are THC Patches Right For You?
The only way you’re going to know if THC patches are right for you is to give them a try. There’s really no downside because the patches won’t get you high and they don’t have any discernible side effects.
And if you don’t like your experience with THC patches, you can always switch to one of the many other forms of cannabis on the market today. That’s the beauty of cannabis: there’s no right or wrong way to use it.
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