Microdosing is the popular new way to ingest medical cannabis, often by way of vaping where the dosage, heat, and experience can be custom tailored to deliver the right amount of actives in varying percentages based on settings.
But how does micro-dosing work, and why is it a useful way to utilize medical marijuana (where legal)?
Micro-Dosing – an overview
“Microdosing” refers to taking cannabis products at the lowest possible dose necessary to have a therapeutic effect. The principle is commonly used in medicine, where “more” is not necessarily “better.”
Virtually all medicines have a range of effects. The effects we don’t want are labeled “side effects.” Because there is no way to isolate the “beneficial effects” from the “side effects”, taking more of any drug, pharmaceutical or otherwise, generally leads to an increase ofall effects, including the bad ones. Minimize the dose, and you may also be able to minimize the side effects.
Additionally, the desired therapeutic effects are usually only helpful up to a certain point, meaning more is not always better. For example, if you’re constipated and one dose of laxative makes you regular again, two pills won’t make you twice as regular—you’ll just get irregular in the other direction!
As an increasing number of individuals utilize cannabis for medicinal reasons in states where it is legalized, more people are treating it just like any other medicine, seeking the optimal and minimal dose necessary to garner the benefits.
Why Microdose Cannabis?
Given its long history of “recreational” use where users generally wanted more effect, not less, micro-dosing cannabis might sound strange at first. But in a medical context, being high is a side effect that many users don’t want, or don’t want at certain times (such as when at work), and certainly don’t want all day, every day.
Some people refer to CBD as “the medicinal cannabinoid,” while THC is generally considered the main cannabinoid that makes cannabis psychoactive.
Many people use CBD oil alone, so they can get the medicinal effects of cannabis without the high, but THC also (may) have its own medicinal value—and some of its value depends on its psychoactivity.
Lifting the mood or relieving stress, for example, are subtle psychoactive effects. So avoiding the high by using CBD alone isn’t an altogether optimal strategy for some users.
Additionally, cannabis, like most other medicinal products, can lead users to build up a tolerance, meaning more may be needed to have the same effect over time. And since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, and few cannabis products have been approved by the FDA, it is not covered by insurance and can get expensive.
All the more reason to use the smallest effective dose (i.e. microdosing).
Practical Considerations of Microdosing
With FDA-approved medicines, microdosing is relatively easy. The drugs come in standardized doses, and these are printed right on the package. Doctors and pharmacists are familiar with common medications and can provide well-informed advice about what each user’s minimum dose is likely to be. Unfortunately, cannabis plants don’t grow in standardized doses, though some strains are fairly predictable.
In theory, CBD and THC oils could be easily measured for dosing, but these products almost never list the necessary information on their packaging. Few doctors or pharmacists are familiar with the products, and individual users vary enormously in their responses to treatment.
There are specialist providers who can help users establish their own minimum effective dose, though. And it is usually possible for users to figure out dosing on their own by calling manufacturers to find out how many milligrams of each cannabinoid a product contains and then following a protocol of gradually increasing dosage.
In general, the procedure is to abstain from all cannabis products for a number of days to reduce any acquired tolerance, then start with a dose so low it is certain to have no effect. From there you would increase the dosage in very small increments. The minimum effective dose is literally the smallest dose that seems to help you achieve the desired effect or impact.
With the minimum dose established, the next step is to continue increasing by small increments until the results stop providing any additive benefits. That could mean that the benefits of taking cannabis reach a plateau and level off—or it could mean that the effects become unpleasant, distracting, or even harmful. The idea is to establish the maximum therapeutic dose.