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Some Cannabis Lotions Can Give You the “High”

You can inhale, eat, and drink cannabis, and feel the intoxicating effects of the THC it contains. Can the same thing happen when you apply THC-infused topicals to your skin? You may be surprised to learn the answer.

How cannabis topicals work – and why some might make you feel “high”

Most cannabis topicals do not cause intoxicating effects. That’s because most topicals have a localized effect, which means you’ll feel them where you apply them on your body. It’s only when cannabis is systemic, or the phytocannabinoids enter your bloodstream and make their way throughout your body, that you’ll feel the intoxicating effects of THC.

In most cases, cannabis topicals are localized, mainly intended to help soothe irritated skin or used in conjunction with other systemic cannabis products, like vape cartridges or capsules, to help manage acute pain spikes. There’s one significant exception, however, and that’s transdermal topicals.

Transdermal products work differently than other cannabis topicals1. These products penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream, so you feel the systemic effects of THC and other phytocannabinoids just like you would if you inhaled your cannabis. Transdermal products are used for their slow and consistent release of phytocannabinoids, providing long-term relief for patients with chronic pain and other conditions. Transdermal patches that contain THC can, indeed, make you feel high.

Notably, this effect also depends on what cannabinoids are in your transdermal product. There are some products, for example, that only contain CBD. These are intended for consumers who want to avoid THC, either due to drug testing considerations or because they prefer a non-intoxicating experience. These patches will not make you feel high, despite introducing phytocannabinoids into your bloodstream.

Why transdermal products?

Transdermal cannabis products offer some unique benefits, including:

  • Fast-acting: Transdermal products deliver phytocannabinoids directly into circulation, rather than being metabolized through the liver first, like when eating or drinking a cannabis product. This means transdermal products get to work right away, interacting with your endocannabinoid system (ECS) to elicit all types of effects – including feeling “high.”
  • Targeted: Like their localized counterparts, transdermal products provide exceptional relief to targeted areas. Research has shown transdermal products are effective in treating inflammation and blocking pain locally2. Moreover, they can promote muscle relaxation for those with chronic pain3.
  • Potency: The bioavailability of transdermal products is significantly greater than other types of cannabis products.
  • Discretion: You can’t get much more discreet than transdermal products. These products can be applied in private (or hidden under clothing when it comes to a patch) and nobody would be any the wiser. 

Types of transdermal cannabis products

You can find transdermal cannabis products in several forms:

  • Patches: One of the more common transdermal products are patches, which can be placed directly on your skin to facilitate the gradual, consistent release of phytocannabinoids into your bloodstream. “Gradual and consistent” is no exaggeration: Patches can last from 24 hours to a couple of days, depending on the quality of the product4
  • Lotions, creams, and gels: Just like their localized counterparts, these classic topicals are applied to the desired area and thoroughly absorbed. Transdermal products provide the targeted relief that localized cannabis topicals offer while offering systemic relief without reaching for another product.
  • Bath bombs: Products like bath bombs use essential oils as carriers. Cannabinoids bind to these oils, which are absorbed by your skin and begin to take effect when they make contact through the water. Some terpenes, like limonene, can even improve the penetration of phytocannabinoids5

While these products won’t be available on every dispensary shelf, they can be found in most markets. Ask an Ethos associate at your local dispensary which transdermal products might be in stock. 

When to use transdermal cannabis products

Transdermal cannabis products are versatile and can suit a variety of use cases. Here are a few common ways in which people use transdermal cannabis products.

Targeted pain relief

One of the primary use cases for transdermal products (and, indeed, all topicals) is targeted pain relief. Whether it’s consistent joint pain, back pain, or knee pain, transdermals excel at providing fast, potent relief to the areas on which they’re applied. Someone with arthritic knees could apply a cannabis topical to provide quick, direct relief that helps decrease discomfort, for example. 

Skincare regimen

Transdermal products can be used as part of a skincare or self-care regimen. Many transdermal lotions contain other compounds that hydrate skin. Some can even soothe itchy bug bites, flaky skin, and other uncomfortable skin issues. And if you’re the type to enjoy a bubble bath at the end of the day, adding a transdermal bath bomb can liven things up with a blast of phytocannabinoids and essential oils. 

Long-term relief

Transdermal patches in particular are useful for people who rely on cannabis to manage their symptoms but can’t frequently stop to consume cannabis. Working for hours or days at a time, transdermal patches enable consumers to place their patch on when needed and then go about their day without any further thought towards it. 

For example, a contractor with lower back pain could apply a transdermal CBD patch at the beginning of a 10-hour shift to provide consistent relief without any intoxication. That way, the workday can be a success without the soreness.

Transdermal products: Experience cannabis in a whole new way

Transdermal products offer fast-acting, targeted relief along with the systemic benefits of other cannabis products. For medicinal and recreational consumers alike, transdermal cannabis products offer a unique, discreet, and even relaxing way to consume cannabis. Just be sure to give transdermal products a “test run” before you head out, so you can properly gauge how your body and mind react to this new product. If you are curious about whether transdermal cannabis products could be right for you, ask an Ethos Associate about which might be best for you. 



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