Microdosing Cannabis


What Is Microdosing?

Microdosing is defined as a technique for studying the behavior of drugs in humans through the administration of doses so low (“subtherapeutic”) they are unlikely to produce whole-body effects, but high enough to allow the cellular response to be studied.

It may seem like people only talk about wanting high-THC marijuana that will get them higher faster, but there is little truth in that.

In fact, according to Jake Browne, budtender and reviewer at Denver Post’s The Cannabist,

“If I had cataloged the most common request at dispensaries where I’ve worked,” writes Browne, “it wouldn’t be, ‘What’s going to get me the highest?’ but rather, ‘What can I smoke that won’t knock me out?’”

Many people are looking for the health benefits of cannabinoids like THC and CBD without being laid out for the next several hours.

To avoid the psychoactive effects of THC, microdosing is the answer. According to Leafly, “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.”

Microdosing happens in many types of drugs and medications. For example, there have been recent studies about small amounts of LSD as well.

As the Huffington Post reports, in the 1960s, before the FDA banned testing it, Dr. James Fadiman conducted pioneering psychedelic research, including one study in which he gave LSD and mescaline to scientists, mathematicians, and architects to see how it affected creative problem-solving.

Now, he is examining the effects of psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin in amounts so small that they are below the perceptual threshold. Too small to trip from the drug’s psychoactive effects, but small amounts to produce some chemical shifts in the brain.  

Fadiman is seeing people use microdosing to treat anxiety and ADHD and to improve productivity or break through writer’s block. Many people report experiencing improvements in mood, including enhanced focus, productivity or creativity, and in some cases, even relief from depression or cluster headaches.

Another example of positive results of microdosing is a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2014, where Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, was given in small 4-milligram doses to 104 male inmates with PTSD. The results indicated a significant improvement in PTSD-associated insomnia, nightmares, symptoms, and Global Assessment of Functioning and subjective improvement in chronic pain.

The Biphasic Effect

Cannabis, like anything in too large of doses, can produce the biphasic effect. A biphasic effect is when there are two distinct and separate responses separated by time. An immediate effect and a different effect with more/larger amounts.

Alcohol is the perfect example. A couple beers or glasses of wine can make you feel relaxed or social. That is the immediate effect. But continue drinking larger amounts of alcohol and you can have a more extreme reaction, including overly emotional, getting aggressive, and getting sick. Way too much alcohol can even land you in the hospital. This is the biphasic effect. Smaller amounts give you the desired effects while larger doses/amounts produce basically the opposite or adverse/negative effects.

Many users of medical marijuana are not even aware of microdosing and also may not know that using large amounts of THC-heavy marijuana can actually have adverse effects instead of solving the issue.  

For example, small doses of marijuana can be extremely helpful in calming anxiety, but large amounts of it can actually make anxiety worse or lead to paranoia.

The earliest published volume on Chinese pharmacopeia circa 2700 B.C.E., is the Pen Ts’ao (The Herbal), which warned people that consuming too many Ma (marijuana) seeds could cause a person to see demons, while moderate doses would enable users to communicate with the spirits.

While we may no longer call it seeing demons, that feeling of heaviness and paranoia with too much THC is well-known.

Have you had any experience with microdosing? Did you get the desired effect?

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