Can You Get High From THC in Topicals?


Topicals are the latest craze in cannabis culture. Whether you consider yourself a stoner or not, you almost certainly have heard of the beauty industry’s interest in integrating cannabinoids, or compounds derived from cannabis, in products like moisturizers, lotions, creams, salves, balms and a variety of bath supplies.

For the most part, CBD is the most common compound included in skincare. CBD is the second-most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis, and though it does not provide psychoactive effects, it does seem to offer various health benefits, like pain relief and inflammation reduction, among others.

However, there are some topicals that include THC, which is the compound responsible for making marijuana users high. If you aren’t that familiar with weed science, you might be wondering: Will I experience psychoactive effects by using THC topicals?

The Answer: It Depends

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as black and white as many topical users might hope. As is commonly true for questions concerning the effects of cannabinoids, researchers simply don’t have the data to confirm or deny whether THC can seep into the bloodstream after topical application. Thus, most topical users must operate with only anecdotal evidence, which can vary from person to person and from topical to topical. Based on user experience, it seems that a person could begin to feel psychoactive effects based on three variables:

It depends on THC content. Topical products with higher doses of THC are more likely to allow a greater amount of THC to permeate the skin and reach capillaries, which means more THC will flow through the bloodstream and cause psychoactive effects. Though some CBD products have minute traces of THC, there almost certainly isn’t enough THC content there to make you feel high.

It depends on topical exposure. The longer your skin is in contact with a THC topical, the more opportunity the THC has to seep into your blood. Lotions and creams dry too quickly to have much effect, but bath bombs and soaks with THC allow your skin to remain in contact with THC for a longer period, increasing the likelihood that some cannabinoids reach your bloodstream.

It depends on your physiology. THC interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system, which functions differently in every person, impacting which psychoactive effects manifest. What’s more, THC tolerance can vary; if you are particularly sensitive to small doses of THC, you might feel the compound’s effects from topicals, whereas a person with a hardier tolerance might not.

You Probably Shouldn’t Worry

Almost regardless of the THC content of the product, your exposure and your discrete sensitivity to the substance, you probably will never feel out-of-your-mind stoned from a topical. The skin is a strong barrier between your internal workings and the outside world; it doesn’t let compounds pass through to the bloodstream very easily.

If you need doses of THC to manage a health condition, there are many more efficient methods of getting THC into your blood, like inhaling smoke or vapor or administering drops or oil or tincture under your tongue. If you live in a state like Arkansas with medical marijuana dispensaries, you can always talk to budtenders at your pot shop of choice to determine the best THC method of use for you.

If, on the other hand, you are not interested in having any THC in your system, topicals are almost certainly safe. Especially if you are utilizing CBD topicals, which have only the smallest traces of THC and other cannabinoids, not only are you not likely to feel high, but you aren’t likely to get any of those compounds in your blood.

Cannabis topicals are a hot trend, and if CBD or THC is helping you feel calm and obtain the skin of your dreams, you shouldn’t stop using cannabis skincare products for fear of feeling high. Over the next few years, cannabis researchers are almost certain to reveal important findings about your favorite weed products, to include everything to do with CBD. When that happens, we can revisit the issue of whether the THC in topicals will get you high — but the answer will probably still depend on you and the products you use.

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