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Why does cannabis affect people differently? There are various factors that influences how our body metabolizes, reacts and tolerates cannabis, including- diet, genetics, sleep, individual vulnerabilities (may attribute to the etiology of anxiety) and many other factors that are still being discovered. Understanding that cannabis has different effects on everyone not only indicates that everyone has a different optimal dose at which they feel their best, but also creates realistic expectations from the plant. An optimal dose is also referred to as a ‘perfect high’ by many cannabis users. For example, if someone’s optimal dose for THC is 5mg, he/she will reap the full benefits of THC at that particular dose, whether they are medicinal benefits (anxiolytic, pain management, chronic conditions ect) or recreational ones where you get the perfect euphoric high (feeling uplifted, motivated, not having negative side effects of THC, creativity etc.), at 5mg THC that person will get the optimal desired effect he/she wants.
So, how do you find the optimum dose for yourself? Before that understanding the biphasic effect is important.
A chemical has a biphasic response when that specific compound has two opposing effects, influenced by the dosage. At lower doses THC offers many therapeutic effects like stress relief, pain management, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), and more. However, as the doses go high THC is known to give the opposite effects of the aforementioned ones. Most common biphasic response of THC noticed amongst consumers are- anxiety, paranoia, stress, increased heart rate, and nausea (causing “bad trips”). It is important to note that biphasic effect is not only true for cannabis compounds, but for other drugs as well, including alcohol.
The graph above indicates that after a certain dose (optimal dose), the benefit of a chemical compound (in this case THC) starts to decrease. Higher the doses tend to increase, the attainment of the benefit from that compound will go lower, and the opposing effects will seek in. Recognizing your optimal level of dosage seems to be a key factor in order to enjoy the cannabis plant at its fullest without facing the aversive effects of THC.
Since a lot of cannabis consumers who are sensitive to THC demand for “THC free” products, it is important for dispensaries and other entities in the cannabis industry to help consumers find their optimal dose of THC instead of just manufacturing and selling products that contain 0 THC. This is because the medicinal properties of THC are very significant to the cannabis plant and are equal to those of CBD and other cannabis compounds, if not more. Note that other cannabinoids accumulated by the cannabis plant also have a biphasic response, however, because THC is a psychoactive compound, the efficacy of the negative effects are more intense. Here’s how microdosing can be a helpful tool in finding your optimal dose of THC.
“Start low and go slow” is another phrase which is used very commonly in this industry, whether by a budtender in a dispensary or a cannabis consultant, this phrase is the most practical and straight forward method if someone new wants to get familiar to this unpredictable plant. Starting low and going slow is what microdosing is all about, microdosing in cannabis basically means consuming low doses of THC repeatedly over a period of time. Low doses of THC can be a part of your regular health routine for people with various conditions and disorders that makes getting through the day a challenge like- acute anxiety, stress management, chronic conditions etc. People also microdose to stimulate productivity, creativity and focus in their workspace.
However, microdosing is also a very effective method to find your optimal dose of THC. By starting low the patients can slowly increase their dosing throughout the day or over a few days, it is recommended to start with a dose which is lower than what a low dose is according to you. So, let’s say 2.5 mg of THC is a low dose for someone, so to microdose they should start with 1 or 1.5 mg THC and then gradually increase it over a period of time. As you keep increasing the dose from 1.5 mg to 2.5mg to 3mg wait and see the affects you are getting and then proceed accordingly, because as you keep increasing the dose, you will eventually hit a point where THC starts to cause the biphasic effect its known for, maybe that point could be at 7mg of THC for someone and 10mg for someone else, it’s all about how your body makes you feel as you keep increasing the dose. If the biphasic effects of THC kicks in, you can return to the last dose that relieved your symptoms and made you feel at your optimal high.
It is always good to have a CBD product when experimenting with the dosing of THC like CBD rich tinctures or CBD tablets. This is because CBD is known to inhibit the biphasic effects caused by THC, through its antagonizing effects at the CB1 receptors of our Endocannabinoid System.
Inhaling cannabis is the most traditional way to consume the plant, however, measuring the unit of THC that you consume while inhaling is not possible. You still can microdose using vapes and joints by seeing the affects after every puff you take, start with one drag and see how you feel and proceed accordingly, but it’s always better to do know the precise milligram of THC when microdosing. The most ideal product for microdosing cannabis compounds is cannabis infused tinctures, most of the commercially available tinctures come with prepared and labelled at specific mg/ml concentration, and information about the dropper strength at its full, one can easily titrate the dose up and down according to the individualize needs. Tinctures also come with lab verification and dosing advice which makes precise dosing simple. Not only that but tinctures are very convenient and simple to use anytime anywhere, so if you are scheduled to microdose every few hours, it can easily be done in a public place unlike smoking and vape products.
Edible products like edible gummies where each gummy is specified to have a particular mg is also helpful to microdose. However, edible products like cookies and gummies mostly come with high concentration of THC around 5-10mg in each piece, which can be cut into halves and quarters but each piece will vary the THC concentration. Either way edibles impact us differently to other products because they are supposed to be ingested, which means they pass through your liver where THC converts into 11 hydroxy THC which is much more potent than delta 9 THC, so a 2.5 mg gummy will not give the same effects as 2.5 mg of THC consumed via tinctures. Either way getting accurate dosing from tinctures and edibles depends on the manufacturing company getting their product properly tested for consistency for overall doses of THC or any other cannabinoid that is present in the concentrated liquid, oil, or an edible.
Being patient in this whole process is very important, once you understand how cannabis interacts with your body and find your optimal dose, you can enjoy cannabis and its benefits at its fullest without having to deal with the negative side effects of THC.
Cannabis and CBD, For Health and Wellness, by- Aliza Sherman and Dr. Junella Chin, Chapter 8- Microdosing THC and CBD