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Microdosing cannabis: benefits without the buzz

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.

“Microdosing is something that is very personal. There is no magic bullet for all patients; it is different for each one.”

Michelle Ross, Founder of IMPACT Network

“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.

“In Colorado we have a saying: start low and go slow. But the lowest dosage that they start off with for consumers is 10 milligrams and I think that is already too high.”

Meanwhile, Sulak advocates starting at even lower doses, and has created a step-by-step guide to microdosing for both experienced and novice consumers.

For those using cannabis regularly, Sulak recommends an initial 48-hour period of abstinence, which he believes is enough time to reset the endocannabinoid system. While this might seem like a relatively brief window after years of usage, a brain imaging study published last year tracked the number of cannabinoid receptors during a period of abstinence from cannabis. The results indicated that even in heavy smokers, the receptors bounced back to baseline levels after just two days.

After this neural cleansing, micro hopefuls should gradually reintroduce cannabis into their system, starting with just one milligram.

“The goal is to use the dose that gives the most minimal noticeable effect,” says Sulak. “You are not trying to get stoned, you are not trying to get total relief from symptoms–you are just trying to get a little something. And then once you get to that dose where you feel a little something, stay there for a few days and then you can start gradually increasing if needed. And that typically falls somewhere between one and three milligrams per dose.”

Sulak has also noticed that the use of lower doses can actually lead to increased sensitivity to cannabis over time, thus underscoring the importance of staying at low levels for the first few days of microdosing. While this is merely observational, Sulak notes that tests on animals suggest that low-level doses of THC can result in an upregulation of the endocannabinoid system (for endocannabinoid production as well as expression of its receptors).

“If you are building tolerance to THC, you are building tolerance to your body’s own cannabinoids, which are there for the purpose of promoting balance and health,” says Sulak. “So having a highly sensitive endocannabinoid system is extremely valuable for responding to illness, injury, and stress, and people can achieve that with low doses of cannabis.”

For those who are using cannabis irregularly or for the first time, Sulak suggests one milligram of THC combined with one milligram of CBD and gradually increasing the dosage (while maintaining the 1:1 ratio) until they feel something, then stay at that level for four days.

“Everyone is going to get to the point where they increase their dosage and it will not work as well as it did before,” he says. “And that means they have passed their optimal dose. That optimal dose is different for everyone. Finding it means going past it.”

What is the best way to microdose cannabis?

There are numerous methods available for microdosing cannabis, but some may be more effective than others. Smoking or vaping is one option. Using this approach, Sulak recommends that cannabis minimalists take just one puff, wait five minutes to feel any effects, and then take another if necessary. Yet, precisely controlling the amount of THC in your system using this approach can be difficult.

“We need to change our relationship with cannabis from something that we use for recreation or to treat severe symptoms to something that we use to stay healthy, like we would a multivitamin.”

Instead, many experts recommend products such as tinctures, oils, or edibles that allow users to more accurately control the dosage. When it comes to edibles, however, users should exercise caution. Untested edibles are especially unreliable in their ability to deliver a low dose of THC.

“Imagine cutting a brownie that has 100 milligrams of THC into portions and trying to eyeball 2.5mg—that’s not going to work,” says Ross. “And most edibles are not consistent in their dosage in that range.”

However, there are now a number of products on the market that lend themselves to microdosing. For example, KIVA Confections, a California based company, offers a variety of mints and chocolates with THC concentrations starting at 2.5 milligrams that are suitable for microdosing. Yet, it can take over an hour to feel the effects of some edibles. For those seeking immediate relief, an alternative is THC-infused tea, such as products from Stillwater, which can calm the nerves after just 10 minutes.

Ross also notes that products like these can be a good option for first-time consumers. “If you are given a product that is 2.5 milligrams, you are much less likely to have a bad experience. So I think microdosing is really the best way to introduce new people to cannabis.”

Should CBD also be used to microdose?

While microdosing generally refers to THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, it can be beneficial to add an equal ratio of CBD as well.

“When we add CBD to THC we tend to get a wider therapeutic window, which means we are less likely to see side effects of THC and more likely to see benefits,” says Sulak.

Yet, it’s important to note that doubling the amount of cannabinoids for each dose can be financially crippling, because CBD is very expensive. Sulak also mentions that for some people, CBD acts as a mental stimulant and should be avoided in the evening prior to bedtime.

While many have already started to benefit from the wonders of THC frugality, many challenges still remain.

“There are still not enough low-dose products on the market. I would definitely like to see a wider range,” says Ross. “I feel like every dispensary should be carrying these [products].”

Meanwhile, Sulak believes that the greatest roadblock to microdosing is societal. “We need to change our relationship with cannabis from something that we use for recreation or to treat severe symptoms to something that we use to stay healthy, like we would a multivitamin,” he says.

For many, it may be difficult to cut back as cannabis has become widely available. But for those seeking to remain sharp, calm, and collected, you may want to think twice before taking that extra hit because the new buzz is, in fact, no buzz.

Microdosing is a consumption method involving taking smaller doses of cannabis for less psychoactive effects. Learn more about this approach.

What Is Cannabis Microdosing (And How Is It Done)?

If you find that weed benefits you for the most part, but hurts your productivity, microdosing cannabis could give you the herbal boost you need. You won’t get too high (in fact, you might not get high at all), but you’ll be able to take advantage of everything else the plant has to offer, all while staying responsible and lucid.

Smoking or ingesting cannabis doesn’t have to involve hitting bongs and munching edibles until you can’t keep your eyes open. Although smoking a lot at once is fun, small and frequent doses could keep you elevated without hurting your productivity. Known as microdosing, this process of taking small yet effective doses isn’t exclusive to cannabis, but stoners can certainly benefit.

WHY MICRODOSE CANNABIS?

Microdosing cannabis involves finding your own unique minimum effective dose. But why would you want to do that in the first place? Well, microdosing offers the best parts of smoking weed while removing some of the inconvenient parts.

Ideally, after a microdose, you’ll still feel emotional and mental elevation. Your surroundings will seem brighter; you’ll get creative inspiration, and you might be more talkative and friendly than usual. However, you won’t feel paranoid, overwhelmed, or too blazed to function.

Overall, when done right, microdosing will allow you to experience the benefits of smoking or ingesting weed with minimal intoxication. In turn, it’s a great strategy to boost your workflow and enhance your mindset while going through your regular life.

HOW DOES MICRODOSING CANNABIS WORK?

Many cannabis lovers are used to smoking large amounts of weed over a shorter period of time. Perhaps you wait for the day to wind down before rolling up a few grams. Maybe you wait to go hard on the weekend with your smoking buddies.

  • Microdosing cannabis involves the polar opposite strategy: smoking little, but often. It’s all about hitting your vape pen or a small joint every now and then. Just enough to feel minor effects, but not enough to get high.

Although some cannabis users might scoff, teetering on the edge of high and sober comes with a myriad of benefits. Your satisfaction for life could increase, and you could be more motivated to get things done during the day.

HOW MUCH CANNABIS TO MICRODOSE

Not shackled by a strict definition, a microdose will vary from person to person. In other words, it’s entirely subjective. A single hit from a dab pen might serve as a microdose to one person. For someone else, an entire joint of low-THC weed might do the trick. It depends on individual experience and tolerance.

The way you take it will also play a role in how much you need to achieve a successful microdose. For example, you could try hitting a joint once per minute until you find your sweet spot. However, edibles are a different story. They take longer to set in, and do so with more intensity. Take a few nibbles and wait at least an hour, if not two, before indulging further.

  • A good general rule to follow: start low and slow. If you’re experimenting with microdosing during the work week, take things easy so you don’t bump into your boss while red-eyed. Start trying to discover your sweet spot at home in the evenings. Once you’re confident you’ve perfected it, you can start introducing microdoses into your daily routine.

HOW TO MICRODOSE CANNABIS

As any experienced cannabis user knows, there are many ways to introduce cannabinoids into the body. You can microdose using all of these different methods. Just make sure you take much less than you usually do. The following are, in our opinion, the easiest ways to microdose.

SMOKING

Smoking provides an easy and ritualistic way to microdose. You can roll a fat joint that’ll last you several days, only taking one or two tokes at a time. The weed might get stale that way, though, so you could try little cones that equal one microdose instead. The choice is yours either way.

Yes, smoking exposes the lungs to higher levels of carcinogens. Many smokers, though, adore the ritual of sitting down, rolling a joint, sparking the tip, and taking that first hit. Even then, you can make things a little easier on your body by using organic hemp rolling papers.

VAPING

First off, cannabis users can vape on the go in a quick and discreet manner. They’ll also be able to choose between extracts, concentrates, and regular bud. Plus, lower temperatures and lack of combustion keep volatile terpenes intact and are less harmful to the lungs. Overall, it’s one of the most efficient ways to microdose.

EDIBLES

You can use ingredients like cannabutter to infuse almost any dish or snack with cannabinoids. You’ll need to be accurate with your dosing, though, to ensure the butter doesn’t make your microdose a standard dose. You can also make individual chocolates and candies with specific amounts of extract to ensure you’re getting a specific dose. Alternatively, place a few drops of pre-made oil onto your meals and salads for a microdose during your lunch break.

OILS AND TINCTURES

Well-crafted oils and tinctures help users dose cannabinoids with extreme accuracy. Many products come with a data sheet that will tell you exactly how many milligrams are in each drop. You’ll also have the choice of changing up the way they enter your system. Swallow your drops for a similar effect to edibles, or place them under your tongue for quicker absorption.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MICRODOSING?

Microdosing offers a host of benefits that can make a normal day a great one. These advantages include an enhanced mood, strengthened creative drive, and a notably positive affect. With this new mindset and drive, you might also find that you have a better workflow than when you’re sober. Then, when you take time to meditate or do yoga, you might also find these sessions feeling better than usual.

MICRODOSING THC VS CBD

Cannabis contains over 100 unique cannabinoids besides THC. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be a shame to limit your herbal experience to THC alone? Sure, the psychoactive effects are fun, but cannabis offers so much more. Users can also microdose other cannabinoids, such as CBD, to improve their mental state and infuse their day with positive vibes.

Certain extracts and cannabis strains also contain high levels of CBD and varying levels of THC. 1:1 strains offer both in equal parts, whereas high-CBD varieties offer lots of cannabidiol with only a little THC.

SHOULD YOU TRY MICRODOSING CANNABIS?

Yes! We mean, at least give it a go. If you find that you’re very sensitive to THC, microdosing might unlock a new world for you. There’s a risk of overdoing things when trying to find your sweet spot, but take things slow and you’ll be fine!

Microdosing won’t be for everyone, and there will always be smokers that love to go hard with every session. However, it could change the game for others. Will you be one of them?

If you want to incorporate weed into your everyday life without hurting productivity, cannabis microdosing can help! Find out how to do it inside!