The Cannabis Pain Patch Explained

Transdermal patches are probably the least talked about products in the cannabis market. In fact, many stores in the recreational market do not even bother carrying them. Can’t really fault them, as many people do not know what a cannabis pain patch is, and you can’t really expect people to buy something they don’t know exists and/or how it works. Let’s change that!

A transdermal patch is basically a clear sticker that is infused with cannabinoids. You’ve probably heard of the nicotine patches that help people quit smoking. Well, it is basically the same product; however, you are getting isolated cannabinoids instead of nicotine. 

What Is THC?It’s hard to believe we even need to answer this question anymore. But for the sake of thoroughness—and for those you who have lived in the Bornean rainforest for the past 80 years—we’re going to do it anyway.
THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of a group of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are found exclusively in the cannabis plant (indica, sativa, and ruderalis) and are responsible for the myriad of psychedelic and medicinal effects. Common cannabinoids include:

  • CBG
  • CBN
  • CBD
  • THCA
  • THCV

THC is most famous (infamous?) for its ability to get you high, but it can also be used to:

  • Kill cancer cells
  • Relieve chronic pain and inflammation
  • Stimulate appetite
  • Reduce/eliminate nausea and vomiting
  • Treat PTSD and other neurological disorders

We’ll talk about whether a THC patch will get you high in a later section. But first, let’s get to know the THC patch a bit better.

The Cannabis Pain Patch

How To Use A Transdermal Pain Patch

The patch is designed to be placed on a venous part of your body (inner wrist or top of foot) and provide a controlled release of cannabinoids into your bloodstream over the course of 12 hours all the way to 96 hours. In other words, instead of having to take 10mg of THC or CBD oils multiple times a day, the patch can slowly release 100mg of cannabinoids into your bloodstream over time. It’s the ultimate in convenience and discretion! You would think it would be more popular; however, there are some drawbacks to transdermal delivery. 

When it comes to their active ingredients from cannabis, transdermal patches are strictly made up of cannabinoids — usually a combination of THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG. This means you will engage the endocannabinoid system and experience relief; however, this also means you will not experience a robust entourage effect when you consume this product. In short, transdermal patches do not appeal to the consumer who is looking for a great high — which makes up the majority of the cannabis market. 

Who Should Use A Cannabis Pain Patch?

I have found that transdermal patches are mostly used by people who are looking for pain relief and/or need help sleeping. These are customers who are shopping with the hopes of getting relief for a certain condition, not a high. This is not to say you won’t experience any psychoactive effects from a transdermal patch. You will definitely get high from a THC patch; however, as I mentioned previously, the high will be less vibrant than smoking or vaping a full-spectrum product. 

Most people use transdermal patches for the same reasons they use cannabinoid-infused topicals or tinctures, i.e., the high is not the point. People are looking for relief from a variety of symptoms. All of these topical delivery methods provide relief; however, they work in different ways.  

How do CBD patches work?

CBD patches are patches containing CBD and other ingredients that people apply to the skin. They work in a similar way to nicotine patches, delivering CBD directly into the bloodstream.

This transdermal method delivers the CBD quickly to the local area around the patch. From there, it works its way into the bloodstream. When people take CBD orally — via an oil or gummy, for example — the compound must first pass through the digestive system. The body may then use it, break it down, or even simply excrete it as waste. As such, much of an oral CBD dose may be lost in the digestive system.

A transdermal patch applies the CBD directly to the skin, which absorbs it and allows it to enter the bloodstream directly. As a study in MoleculesTrusted Source notes, this application allows the CBD to bypass the digestive system and increases the bioavailability of the product.

CBD patches also provide a more consistent solution than other topical methods, such as topical CBD creams and massage oils. Once the skin absorbs topical creams, their effect tapers off. Therefore, people using the creams for relief would need to apply them multiple times a day.

Patches stay on the skin, delivering CBD over a longer period and potentially providing a steady stream of relief from symptoms.

However, transdermal delivery is relatively slow, and not all of the CBD can pass through the skin. For this reason, CBD patches typically also contain some form of permeation enhancer to increase the permeability of the skin and allow more CBD to get through.

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.м

Are All THC Patches The Same?At first glance, one THC patch may look like every other patch. But let us assure you that there are significant differences. The primary difference lies in how the patch is constructed. Here’s a breakdown of each.
Matrix PatchesSource:
In a matrix patch, the THC is infused into the matrix of the patch itself (often in the adhesive). When the adhesive comes in contact with your skin, the THC begins to move from the area of higher concentration into the area of lower concentration (as described in the section above).
The dose of THC you get depends on the amount of the cannabinoid held in the matrix and the size of the patch (and the area of skin it covers).
Reservoir PatchesSource:
Reservoir patches get their name from the fact that the THC is—drum roll, please—contained in a reservoir within the patch. The reservoir holds the THC in solution (most often with a gel) and releases it through a rate-controlling membrane between the reservoir, the adhesive, and your skin.
People have been using reservoir patches successfully for almost 40 years. In addition, reservoir patches provide tighter control of delivery rates. For these reasons, many feel that reservoir patches are better than matrix patches.

What Are The Specific Physical Benefits Of The THC Patch?

Transdermal delivery is a very useful and effective way to get THC into your system. But what are the specific physical benefits you can look forward to? We’ve listed them below.

Pain Relief

The chief physical benefit of the THC patch is pain relief. If you’re suffering from cancer, a bad back, neuropathy, or other chronic pain, a THC patch may be the solution you’ve been looking for.

That’s not to say that the THC you get in your doobie or bong won’t numb the pain too. It’s just that the pain relief comes with a host of other physical “side effects” like euphoria, panic, and intense hunger.

That brings us to the other physical benefits of the THC patch.


As mentioned, the THC patch is not as psychoactive as other methods of consumption. You might feel a hint psychotropic effects, but, for the most part, you’ll remain high functioning and productive.

Negligible Paranoia

One of the seven key stages of getting high (i.e., toking THC) is paranoia. This is the feeling you get when you’re convinced that everyone — and we mean everyone — is out to get you.

We’re not saying this paranoia can’t be fun, but if you need pain relief but still have to go to work, that feeling that the world is watching can be a major drag.

The slow absorption of the THC in a THC patch keeps paranoia at bay so you can get on with your day.

The Cannabis Pain Patch

Dosing Accuracy

Edibles are a quick, easy, and discreet way to ingest the THC you need, but the dosing can be hit or miss sometimes. One brownie might have you seeing sounds, while the very next brownie might do nothing but add to your waistline.

A THC patch delivers an accurate dose all the time, every time. You really can’t say that about most of the common ways to get THC into your system.

Easy De-administration

Have you ever tried to un-smoke a joint or un-drink a cup of weed tea?

Once you’ve toked to the roach or drained your cup dry, you can’t stop the THC from interacting with your body and brain. Barring some pretty drastic measures, you’re on that ride to the end, my friend.

But with a THC patch, if you don’t like how you feel, you can easily de-administer your medicine by peeling off the patch. Sure, we probably invented a word there, but you get our drift.

Less-Intense Munchies

One of the nice side effects of THC is that it stimulates hunger. This is especially useful for people who are dealing with serious illness and nausea that prevent them from eating (lack of calories can compound an already bad situation).

But for some, THC on the brain pushes hunger into uncharted territory. This is called the munchies and can lead to some interesting (and horrifying) meals.

Cheetos and Sour Straws? Check. Spicy pickles and whipped cream? Uh-huh. A peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and caramel corn sandwich? Yes, please!

With a THC patch, there’s none of that. You might feel a little hungry — like you haven’t eaten in a few hours — but you won’t be convinced it’s been a week since your last meal.

So why exactly does the THC in a THC patch make you slightly hungry but not ravenous? The answer has three parts.

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