Are transdermals the future of cannabis?

By Dr. Richard Kaufman, Chief Science Officer, NanoSphere Health Sciences

Cannabis culture is dominated by oral ingestion and inhalation methods of consumption. Edibles, smoking and vaping are enjoyed recreationally and are increasingly used for medicinal purposes.

However, these mainstream methods of consuming and administering marijuana are potentially problematic for a number of reasons. Fortunately, innovative new administration methods that deliver cannabinoids through the skin—using transdermals—or through the mucosa in the nose and mouth—using intranasal and intraoral products—are on the rise, offering promising solutions to the common issues associated with traditional cannabis delivery.

Edibles have a significant delay in onset action. Oral absorption of THC is slow and unpredictable, with peak blood concentration occurring 1–5 hours post dose. Not to mention, the oral absorption of THC after eating an edible is an average of 6% bioavailability, meaning only 6% of the THC actually gets into system circulation. Initial degradation of THC occurs in the stomach and intestine. Extensive first pass liver metabolism forms 11-hydroxy-THC that is 3 to 5 times more psychotropic than THC, leading to increased risk of adverse side effects that make edibles an unsuitable choice for medical use.

Similarly, cannabis inhalation lacks reliable dosage as medicine. Bioavailability following the smoking route is 2−56% and varies according to depth of inhalation, duration and breath hold. About 30% of the THC present in a cigarette is destroyed by pyrolysis. Additionally, THC is lost in the cigarette buttside-stream smoke and incomplete lung absorption in the lungs. Plus, inhaling cannabis irritates the lungs.

Transdermal cannabis administration, on the other hand, presents a faster-acting alternative for rapidly delivering cannabinoids to the bloodstream and targeted receptors in the brain—bypassing the GI tract, lungs and liver and therefore avoiding all of these common problems. Further, transdermals can be applied to the exact point of pain, so cannabinoids are absorbed directly to the affected area for faster, focused relief.

In addition, transdermal methods of cannabinoid delivery are much less invasive than oral ingestion and inhalation, both of which lack the ability to target specific areas and impact the body and mind in multiple ways. Consumers often use cannabis for relief from a specific problem or concentrated pain yet have to deal with a myriad of adverse effects – such cognitive and motor impairment, extreme sedation, agitation, anxiety, cardiac stress, and vomiting – to obtain its benefits through edibles and smoking. Users who are reluctant to ingest or smoke raw cannabis may find solutions in an external transdermal formulation for immediate pain relief and steady-state therapeutic benefits without the psychotropic effects of feeling high.

In particular, products like Evolve Formula’s Transdermal NanoSerum™ offer these benefits while also going beyond typical transdermals by not being confined to a patch – instead, cannabinoids are applied to the skin in form of gel for increased discretion and user-friendly administration.

The product uses a patented technology for next-generation delivery, called the NanoSphere Delivery System™ – a platform that nanoencapsulates cannabinoids and phytochemicals in protective lipid membranes, quickly transporting them through the skin as precise microliter dosages into the systemic circulation and to targeted receptors of the endocannbinoid system.

Not only do the adverse effects, inconsistent doses and uncertain impact of edibles and smoking hinder the effectiveness of cannabis recreationally, but they also impede the progression of the marijuana industry as a whole toward a credible and legal medical field. Nanobiotechnology in cannabinoid delivery systems and new methods of cannabis application – such as advanced transdermals – will increasingly allow the industry to create products with greater beneficial actions and predictable effects.

Dr. Richard Kaufman is chief science officer of NanoSphere Health Systems. Not exactly impartial, but he makes some thoughtful arguments about the speed of transdermal delivery. We’ll have to try it out.


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