[Canniseur: The results of this research are not surprising. I’ve always believed that cannabis consumption is self regulating. Once we understand how cannabis works in our own system, we inherently know when to stop. The research has many nuggets of information that are important for a better understanding of the effect…and self regulation…of cannabis consumption.]
Super-strength cannabis edibles have a small but passionate legion of defenders. In certain cases, for instance, there is a wholly valid medical justification for a 1000-milligram brownie — but the truth is, marijuana-laced goodies are not for everyone.
And this is particularly true at high doses.
Whenever “extreme adverse effects” result from cannabis, it seems an edible (or a plateful of them) is involved. This is why most states with legalized adult-use cannabis have passed laws limiting the amount of THC in edibles, and why these limits haven’t been overturned.
It turns out preferring a mild buzz to a days-long, edible-triggered, near-psychedelic odyssey may be wired into our brains. Because as researchers at Indiana University and Purdue University recently found, this preference appears to be absolutely wired into the brains of mice.
In a study, results of which were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers at the Department of Psychology and Indiana Alcohol Research Center, Indiana University – Purdue University in Indianapolis fed a cohort of mice dough infused with THC, in variable amounts.
Know Thy Limits
Doses in the dough ranged from 1 milligram of THC per kilogram of bodyweight to up to 10 milligrams of THC per kilogram. The mice also had access to “normal” food and water, which suggests they were not attacking the dough out of hunger. (For comparison’s sake: a 180-pound man would be eating an edible with roughly 800 milligrams of THC were he to match the mightiest mouse dough.)
The mice ate the dough — as lab mice are wont to do — but the more powerful the dough, the less the mice ate, researchers found. When the dough was at 5 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg, some of the mice ate “significantly less” than 100%, suggesting there was something in that dough that disagreed with the mice.
“The simple fact that mice self-administered THC dough could be seen as evidence that it is rewarding,” the researchers wrote. “However, inspection of consumption patterns indicates that THC might have been aversive at higher dose.”
But not every mouse shied away from the highest-strength dough. Some mice ate it all, no matter how strong. After eating the dough, effects included less movement and a decrease in body temperature — you know, typical stoned mice things. Interestingly, the impact was most pronounced in the male mice, the researchers found.
The study “demonstrated what appears to be THC-induced conditioned taste aversion,” the researchers wrote, adding that the mice did not appear to be stressed and were otherwise perfectly fine, if very blazed.
The study is notable for a few reasons. There is limited scientific data on self-administration of THC, even among animals. And since there are still legal and “ethical” barriers to performing such experiments on humans, as the researchers noted, mice — who, like rats, provide something of a yardstick for understanding biology and functions like the immune system in humans — are the next-best option. And this study is one of few where an animal subject had access to self-administered THC at all, meaning it’s one of the few where desire for THC could be gauged.
It’s neither accurate nor fair to say that edibles are a liability. But among the problems that have arisen during the cannabis legalization era, powerful edibles — and eating too much of them — has absolutely been one of the marijuana movement’s biggest challenges.
The good news is that edibles are relatively easy to manage, because this is what labeling is for. And if you are a human who prefers a microdose to a heroic macro-brownie, just know that you are not alone in the animal kingdom.