Hey, have you heard the news? Thanks to the THC patch, now you can get your daily dose of tetrahydrocannabinol without the need for blunts, joints, bongs, edibles, creams, or tinctures. We know it sounds like science fiction, but it’s not.
In fact, transdermal patches (a.k.a. transdermal delivery system or TDDS) have been around for almost 40 years. Way back in 1979, the FDA approved a scopolamine patch for motion sickness. Not long after that, the FDA approved the nitroglycerin patch for individuals with heart problems.
Other transdermal patches followed shortly thereafter. The most famous TDDS is the nicotine patch introduced in 1991 to help tobacco users kick the smoking habit.
With the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in the early part of the 21st century, the next logical step was the THC patch. And now, they’ve finally arrived. But what are THC patches? And how exactly do they work?
The experts at Honest Marijuana will answer those important questions and many others. We’ll also talk about what strains work best and the difference between a THC patch and a THC cream (topical).
First, though, it’s vital that you understand what you’re getting when you slap on a THC patch.
What Is A THC Patch?
Put simply, a THC patch is a thin piece of plastic coated with adhesive and infused with the cannabinoid THC. Because of the way they work, THC patches can offer all-day or all-night relief to those suffering from chronic issues like pain and anxiety.
To get this relief, you simply apply the THC patch to a venous part of your body, like your ankle, your arm, or the inside of your wrist. Your body heat activates the patch and causes it to release a small amount of THC through your skin and into your bloodstream.
We’ll get into the specifics of how the THC patch works in just a moment. Now, we’re going to answer the question on everyone’s mind: will a THC patch get you high?
Will A THC Patch Get You High?
The short answer is no. A THC patch won’t get you high because your body absorbs the cannabinoid slowly over a number of hours rather than all at once (like it is when you smoke or dab). This is great news for those who need THC’s medicinal effects without the intense psychoactive high.
So as you can probably guess, THC patches are not for those who want to go flying in a Blue Dream. Instead, they’re for those with real medical issues who need the healing effects of THC.
For the recreational user who enjoys a bit of couchlock now and again, your best bet is still a strong weed strain and a movie from this list. Leave the patches for those who need them, and try a Thai stick or some moon rock weed instead.
How do transdermal cannabis patches work?
Transdermal patches are certainly unique and have staked out their own popular niche in the market, but how exactly do they work?
Dr. Noel Palmer, chief scientist of Mary’s Medicinals and one of the industry’s most well-known patch developers, took the time to speak with Leafly about the company’s renowned patches and the science behind the medicine. Dr. Palmer is an award-winning laboratory scientist with a specialization in plant properties. He joined Mary’s team in March of 2015.
How are transdermal patches able to deliver cannabinoids into the bloodstream?
“There are two effects really going on. You want to create a patch where the cannabinoids don’t really like living in the patch, so they want to get away. So you try to create conditions for them to migrate from the patch into a place that might be more favorable. In the transdermal scientific world we use what are called permeation enhancers and carriers; those are general words that describe additives put in patches to help them transfer into the blood.
With all transdermal drugs there’s always some kind of carrier, a permeation enhancer, and that’s because the epidermis is insanely effective at keeping out contaminants, dangerous toxins – so what we’re trying to do is bypass this protective layer we have. The balancing act with any transdermal product is finding a mixture that’ll work where it’s stable enough to be an effective product, but it’s unstable enough that the cannabinoid will want to migrate into the blood and that environment with the permeation enhancer.”
In your opinion, what is the benefit of using a cannabis patch?
“The reason why you use a patch is it’s direct to the bloodstream, it’s a slow timed release, and it’s a fairly benign way to administer a drug for someone who may be adverse to taking a pill, to vaporizing, to those kinds of things.
Especially with THC, when ingested, it goes through your liver and all of a sudden you get these THC metabolites floating around in the body that are totally different pharmacologically. When you eat [cannabis], you get a spike of 11-Hydroxy-THC – which is actually very strong and might be stronger than the Delta-9. This may be why people are having these kinds of psychedelic experiences when they eat cannabis.
But with the patch, in theory, you don’t get that because you’re going direct to the bloodstream, so you’re not going to get these kind of secondary metabolites that you would when you ingest. So, it would be more akin to a very, very slow smoke, and that’s with any patch – not just a THC patch. I think the patches offers a very safe way for people who might not want to try cannabis [traditionally] to try it.”
Are there specific strains that you default to when isolating cannabinoids for the patches?
“We honestly just find the cleanest, best material we can. “
Dr. Palmer went on to explain that after alcohol extraction and molecular dissolution, all that’s left is the cannabinoids – no terpenes or other individual markers of strains. Therefore, purity of the strain becomes more important than factors such as indica, sativa, or terpene profiles.
Do you have a favorite cannabinoid to work with?
“To be totally honest it’s most satisfying to get a large lot of CBN because you have to go through so many different steps to get to it; having a kilogram of like 80% CBN, I mean that’s pretty rad. I don’t know if any other companies are really doing that right now, it’s kind of a unique cannabinoid to play with.
It’s really cool because it will still have some of the psychoactive activity similar to THC, but as far as body effects – more peripheral effects – it’s very different. I’m not a physician, so I can’t speak to that, but just knowing it’s a different chemical, it’s got a completely different pharmacological activity – that’s very cool. Also, knowing that no one else is really digging in right now, I think that’s neat.
“To me, cannabis is great, THC is boring, CBD is boring,” Dr. Palmer laughs. “I’m more interested in finding these other chemotypes, I’m really interested in playing with a CBG chemotype, I really want to be able to play with a THCV chemotype.”