Many people tell me they are curious about medical cannabis, but afraid of the stoner-centric, “get high” environment in dispensaries. THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, is often marketed with a "more is better'' approach, reflected in the higher and higher THC dosages on dispensary shelves. But if your goals for considering cannabis are more medicinal than recreational, you might consider microdosing.
Microdosing is a method of consuming the minimum dose of cannabis needed, and fine tuning the dose to the individual's unique body and desired effects. With microdosing, a small amount of a drug is consumed multiple times throughout the day to achieve a more subtle, sustained effect. It's an individualized regimen that depends on your body's own unique responses, and the type and method of cannabis consumption.
Microdosing works by taking advantage of the biphasic effect of cannabis. A biphasic effect of a medicine means that it works best at a moderate dose, not too high and not too low. And more is not necessarily better with cannabis. The biphasic effect is like the volume of a radio. If the radio volume is too quiet, you can't hear the song clearly. If it is too loud, you can’t enjoy the song because your eardrums are hurting, and it just sounds like painful noise. And if you listen too loud often enough, you may eventually need to turn up the volume louder and louder as your hearing becomes damaged over time.
Similarly, a tolerance can develop from using too much cannabis. Heavy doses dull the body's responses, and the medicinal effects begin to weaken. Many heavy cannabis users find themselves having to consume higher and higher doses to get the same effects. Taking tolerance breaks without cannabis consumption can be helpful. This gives the endocannabinoid system time to reset itself.
By reducing the dose, microdosing can help prevent tolerance, and save on costs. It can also help prevent unwanted effects from too much THC, like drowsiness, lethargy, or anxiety. Many people who don't want to feel "high" find microdosing to be ideal for the controlled relief of symptoms and the subtle enhancement of well-being. With microdosing, you are taking a small dose more frequently, rather than a large dose all at once, making it easier to achieve sustained desirable effects throughout the day. I suggest many first time microdosers start with 1 to 2.5mg, two to three times per day, maintain that level for three days, and then adjust from there.
The right dose of cannabis is highly individualized. Your endocannabinoid system, your body, and your needs are going to be different than anyone else's. And as a plant medicine, cannabis has widely varying genetic strains, cannabinoid and terpene profiles, dosage forms, methods of consumption, and effects. As a medical cannabis pharmacist, I recommend people ask questions, get education, and seek knowledgeable support for their individual medical cannabis needs and goals.