Nowadays, cannabis is available in all sorts of forms, including edibles that you can swallow or chew, similar to a tablet of medicine. Despite aspirin and edibles being taken similarly, it is nothing like ingesting cannabis, and in this article, we will break down why.
Pharmacokinetics is a branch of pharmacology dedicated to determining the movement of substances or drugs administered in the body.
Absorption and Distribution
Cannabis: The method of consumption plays a significant role in how cannabis is absorbed. When consumed as edibles, cannabis compounds, especially THC, have to pass through the digestive system. This subjects these compounds to the "first-pass effect," where the liver processes them before reaching the systemic circulation. Due to this process, the onset of action is delayed, usually taking between 30 minutes to 2 hours, or even longer in some individuals. Smoking or vaping cannabis bypasses the digestive system, allowing THC to enter the bloodstream directly through the lungs, leading to quicker onset and higher peak concentrations.
Aspirin: Once ingested, aspirin gets absorbed primarily in the stomach and small intestine. Its absorption is rapid, quickly reaching therapeutic levels in the bloodstream. It then gets distributed throughout the body, readily crossing biological membranes due to its acidic nature.
Cannabis: The liver plays a pivotal role in the metabolism of most drugs, and THC is no exception. When THC reaches the liver, enzymes convert it to various metabolites, including 11-hydroxy-THC, a potent compound. This is part of the reason why edibles can sometimes produce stronger and more prolonged effects than smoking or vaping cannabis.
Aspirin: Aspirin undergoes rapid metabolism in the body. In the liver, it's deacetylated to form salicylic acid, which is responsible for its therapeutic effects.
Cannabis: THC and its metabolites are primarily lipophilic, meaning they tend to accumulate in fatty tissues. Due to this, their elimination from the body is relatively slow. Some metabolites can remain detectable in the body for weeks after consumption, especially with chronic use.
Aspirin: The salicylates resulting from aspirin metabolism are primarily eliminated through the kidneys. Depending on the urinary pH, the rate of elimination can vary, with alkaline urine slowing down the process.
Mechanism of Action
"Mechanism of action" refers to the specific biochemical interactions through which a drug produces its pharmacological effect. Both cannabis and aspirin have unique mechanisms that underpin their varied therapeutic effects.
Cannabis: THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system, specifically with cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). The intoxicating effects result mainly from THC's binding with CB1 receptors in the brain. CBD, another major component of cannabis, does not produce intoxicating effects and works by influencing various receptors and enzymes in the body.
Aspirin: Aspirin works primarily by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase, reducing the production of prostaglandins — chemicals in the body that promote inflammation, pain, and fever.
Therapeutic Uses and Effects
Both cannabis and aspirin have been utilized for their therapeutic properties.
- Pain Relief: Cannabis is often recommended for chronic pain management, including neuropathic pain and pain associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis and cancer.
- Anxiety Reduction: CBD has shown promise in reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders by modulating serotonin levels and acting on the brain's limbic and paralimbic regions.
- Appetite Stimulation: THC is known to stimulate appetite, making it beneficial for conditions where appetite loss is a concern.
- Sleep Improvement: Cannabis can assist with sleep disorders by reducing sleep latency and increasing the duration of deep sleep.
- Other Therapeutic Uses: Cannabis has shown potential in alleviating symptoms of conditions like epilepsy, glaucoma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
As one of the oldest used drugs globally, aspirin's therapeutic scope is broad.
- Analgesic: Aspirin's ability to reduce the production of prostaglandins, which mediate pain signals, makes it a useful tool in managing pain.
- Anti-inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin are due to its interference with the inflammatory cascade, especially the reduction of prostaglandins, beneficial for conditions like arthritis.
- Antipyretic: Fever is often a result of increased prostaglandin production in the brain so by inhibiting this production, aspirin can reduce fever.
- Antiplatelet: Aspiring can prevent blood clot formation, crucial in preventing cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.
While both cannabis and aspirin offer therapeutic benefits, it's crucial to recognize and respect their differences. As with any substance, it's essential to use cannabis responsibly and under the guidance of a medical professional, especially if used for therapeutic reasons. Always be aware of potential interactions, side effects, and the unique ways each substance affects your body.