In the midst of a potency-obsessed market where high THC marks mean everything, there is a growing community of cannabis advocates that are pushing for less consumption as opposed to more. This tactic is called “microdosing,” a growing trend as cannabis consumption becomes more mainstream.
What is microdosing?
Practitioners of microdosing are taking small amounts of cannabis in order to reap the medical benefits of THC while avoiding its psychoactive effects that can interfere with the demands of daily life.
“Most people don’t know about microdosing,” says Michelle Ross, founder of IMPACT network, a nonprofit organization that uses empirical medical research to find new cannabis-related treatments for patients. “They just blast their system with cannabis or high amounts of THC, and that is not always the best approach for whatever condition they have.”
While microdosing has typically been associated with hallucinogens like LSD, many experts now believe that the threshold for the medical benefits of THC is far lower than many people think.
And sometimes, too much of a good thing can quickly turn disastrous.
“When you raise the dose sometimes you get diminished benefits, and sometimes you get the opposite of what you are looking for,” says Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician based in Maine who treats many of his patients with small doses of cannabis. For example, while a little cannabis can help reduce anxiety, too much can actually cause it.
What medical conditions lend themselves to microdosing with cannabis?
According to Sulak, patients are now turning to microdosing in order to treat conditions such as depression, stress, anxiety, pain, and to help improve focus and promote sleep.
While a substantial amount of empirical evidence is still lacking, there is some clinical research suggesting that less is in fact more when it comes to medicinal cannabis.
In a 2012 study, for example, patients with advanced cancer who were unresponsive to traditional opioid painkillers were given nabiximols, a THC/CBD compound, at low, medium, and high doses. Patients who received the lowest dosage of cannabinoids showed the greatest reduction in pain, while those receiving higher doses actually experienced more pain.
In another study, a group of incarcerated individuals were given low (four milligram) doses of Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, to help treat their posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its associated symptoms. The results, published in 2014, showed significant improvements in PTSD-associated insomnia, nightmares, general symptoms, and even chronic pain.
Sulak also points out that cannabis can be effective for helping to control other chronic conditions. “If I see someone with multiple sclerosis who is in the middle of a flare-up and having a really hard time, she may need a higher dose to get the symptoms under control,” he says. “But as she gets well and heals, her daily dose will go down and down and down, until the point where microdosing becomes a maintenance plan.”
Indeed, Ross takes several small doses of cannabis each day to help manage her own persistent health issues.
“I have a lot of chronic health problems including neuropathy and fibromyalgia, and cannabis has been the only thing that has enabled me to surmount them,” she says.
Sulak has also found that microdosing is beneficial on a daily basis, adding, “I find that a sub-psychoactive dose of cannabis helps me stay healthy, reduce stress, and stay sharp and focused at work.”
What is the optimal dosage for microdosing cannabis?
The short answer is, it depends. There is tremendous variance in the amount of THC that will result in feeling high. This can be affected by individual differences in liver metabolism, genetics of cannabinoid receptors, and previous usage, to name a few.
“The goal is to use the dose that gives the most minimal noticeable effect.”Dustin Sulak, Osteopathic physician
“Microdosing is something that is very personal,” says Ross. “There is no magic bullet for all patients; it is different for each one. So keep experimenting until you find the dose that works for you.”
Ross generally recommends that first time microdosers start off at 2.5 milligrams, maintain that level for approximately three days, and increase if necessary. But that can sometimes be difficult.
KNOW YOUR DOSE
Microdosing cannabis can be a beneficial way to achieve a relaxed, yet focused high. Consuming cannabis in smaller doses can help you avoid certain side effects like paranoia, anxiety or intense psychoactivity. Plus, small doses of cannabis can provide a subtle, but profound form of healing and relief.
Microdosing marijuana isn’t for patients who lean on cannabis for chronic severe pain relief. However, more and more patients are finding that lower doses of THC paired with a full spectrum cannabinoid profile can be the best therapeutic solution for cannabis.
Cannabis is a bespoke medicine that should be tailored to each patient’s individual make-up. Cultivate an understanding of your endocannabinoid system by keeping a journal to track cannabis strain type, consumption method, dosage and side effects. Take your time and be patient when figuring out what dosage and consumption method work best for you. Be mindful of other elements that may impact the outcome of your high when microdosing. Your environment, state of mind, hydration and nutrition can all affect your experience.
Always start with low doses and build up from there. Certain consumption methods may allow you to control your intake more accurately. When picking your medicine, find products that have a higher CBD to THC ratio or, at least, a balanced one. CBD can mitigate the psychoactive effect of THC. A more even ratio provides a less intense psychoactive experience for newer patients.
RESETTING YOUR TOLERANCE
Like in all other forms of medicine, you want to treat yourself with the lowest effective dose. Micro dosing will help you identify that sweet spot as you may need to reset your THC tolerance. Maybe you needed higher doses of THC for treating a past condition. Maybe you have to consume larger amounts of cannabis to achieve any kind of helpful high because of your habitual consumption. Whatever the case, you can try to reset your tolerance to the effects of cannabis products.
The length of a tolerance break depends on your consumption patterns. In general, it works to halt consumption for 48 hours. Start again with a very low dose of 1 to 2 mg of THC. Try this out for one or two sessions and see how you feel. If that isn’t effective, increase the dosage to 5 milligrams of THC and onward.
The art of microdosing requires patience and mindfulness. If you do it right, you’ll be well on your way to achieving harmony between your mind and body.