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Ask A Pharmacist: Should I Try Concentrates?

If you’re a longtime cannabis consumer or medical cannabis patient, you’ve likely considered trying concentrates — or, at least, you’ve seen these products in the dispensary. Concentrates can take a bit of practice to get just right, as there are multiple product formats to choose from, each of which behaves a little differently. Actually consuming them has a bit of a learning curve, too: The dab rigs and electronic dabbing devices they require work differently than the pipe or vaporizer you’ve used with flower. It can be a lot to learn, but is it worth it?

To learn more about who may be a good candidate for concentrates, as well as why a patient may want to try them, we spoke with Ethos Philadelphia pharmacist Sarah Hassinger, PharmD, to hear her take and approach to recommending this potent product.

Four reasons to try concentrates

According to Hassinger, patients with acute symptoms or a high tolerance may benefit from incorporating concentrates alongside their tried-and-true flower, or replacing flower altogether. She identifies four major reasons to give concentrates a try:

1. More relief for those with a high tolerance

A consumer’s tolerance levels to THC and other phytocannabinoids increases over time. As a result, the same amount of flower they would normally consume gradually becomes less effective, requiring more inhalations to achieve the same effect. That’s a lot of product to consume each session, not to mention more inhalations in a session that some patients simply don’t want to take.

“For some people, flower or even vape carts won’t provide the relief they’re looking for anymore,” Hassinger said. “Concentrates are much more potent and can provide that relief, [particularly] if someone has been inhaling cannabis flower for a significant amount of time or wants to reduce the amount of flower or number of inhalations they need to feel the effects,” Hassinger said. 

On the flipside, those new to consuming or who have low tolerance should not turn to cannabis concentrates out of the gate.

“Someone with lower tolerance shouldn’t start out with concentrates — it will ramp up way too fast and increase tolerance too quickly,” Hassinger said.

2. Concentrates take effect quickly

Concentrates consumed via inhalation means that patients can still benefit from a consumption method that works for them; inhalation takes effect quickly, making them ideal for acute symptoms. With concentrates, they can continue with inhalation while getting more THC and other phytocannabinoids into their system. Inhaled concentrates are also better suited for addressing acute symptoms, such as pain spikes or episodes of anxiety, because the effects are felt within a few minutes.

“Because products like RSO and capsules take some time to kick in, they can be timed out and taken at regular intervals,” Hassinger said. “[Non-activated] concentrates are inhaled and take only a few minutes for their effects to be felt, which makes them great for sudden and severe symptoms as they arise.”

3. A little goes a long way

According to Hassinger, consumers can use much less product and achieve the same or stronger effects when they switch to concentrates. The reason why is in the name “concentrate” — phytocannabinoids and terpenes appear in much higher levels in these substances. For reference, cannabis flower’s THC content generally ranges anywhere from 10% to 30%. Concentrates typically clock in between 60% and 90% THC content, packing a lot more potency in a much smaller amount of product.

4. Many concentrates have robust terpene profiles

Hassinger said that concentrate products often have a much more robust terpene profile than that of flower, as terpenes begin to evaporate the moment cannabis flower is harvested. When producing concentrates, manufacturers add terpenes back into the final product, so they do not have a chance to degrade like they would with flower. The final product often mimics the cultivar from which the concentrate was sourced. Some other concentrates may be formulated with a terpene ratio ideal for achieving a certain effect, such as linalool for relaxation or beta caryophyllene for pain relief.

Choosing the right concentrate

According to Hassinger, much of the difference between concentrate types comes down to texture. This can directly impact the type of concentrate that’s best for your needs. For example, Hassinger said that some concentrates are much more conducive to breaking off and measuring, which can make it easier for patients new to concentrates to dole out the amount they want to inhale. 

Certain product types like vape cartridges come ready to consume: They don’t need to be loaded into a dab rig or electronic dabbing device that all other concentrates require.

“Vape cartridges and disposable vape pens have much fewer moving parts,” Hassinger said. “You don’t need to open a jar, work with tiny amounts of product, or set up a dab rig or portable vaporizer. It’s much easier for some patients.”

Learn more about concentrates with Ethos

If it sounds like concentrates may fit your needs, there’s no better time than 7/10, or “Dab Day,” to explore your options at your local Ethos dispensary. At Ethos, Dr. Hassinger and other pharmacists are here to answer your questions, explain the difference between products, and offer helpful tips for using a dab rig or electronic dabbing device to consume them.

To learn more about concentrates, check out these Ethos guides:

  • Cannabis concentrate options: This overview explains how concentrates are made and the main differences between them.
  • New to concentrates? These 8 tips can get you started: Ethos team members share their tips and tricks for selecting and consuming concentrates.
  • How to clean cannabis accessories: This guide shows you how to clean your preferred dabbing device.
  • All about RSO: Learn more about Rick Simpson Oil, its history, and how to orally consume this famously viscous concentrate.
  • The Ethos guide to vape cartridges: This article takes you through the advantages of vape carts and reviews your options at the dispensary.

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