Finding an optimal dosing regimen for cannabis medicine takes trial and error and mindfulness.
Microdosing is the act of consuming small amounts of cannabis (sometimes as low as 1-2mg) on a consistent basis. For some, microdosing might mean vaporizing one or two puffs of cannabis every few hours or it might mean taking a small amount of tincture each morning.
Microdosing can lead to enhanced benefits of medical cannabis with little to no psychoactive effects. It can also help reduce costs by allowing patients to purchase smaller quantities, and is especially beneficial for patients who have limited access to quality cannabis.
If you have never used cannabis before, most doctors will start you on a low dosage. One reason for this is that everyone’s body reacts differently to cannabis because of factors like weight, diet, metabolism, and sleep cycles.
Another reason that ingesting cannabis produces such varied responses is that each person’s body produces a different amount of naturally occurring cannabinoids. Cannabis activates cannabinoid receptors that naturally occur throughout the human body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates and balances the body’s systems such as the immune system and central nervous system. In fact, research shows that one of the reasons cannabis may be so effective as medicine is because of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency—in other words, when the body doesn’t naturally produce enough cannabinoids.
For example, low doses of vaporized cannabis (between 1-3.5mg) have been shown to be effective for neuropathic pain in clinical trials in comparison with larger doses.
Recent research by Dr. Dustin Sulak based on treatment of nearly 18,000 patients at his Integr8 Health Clinics in Maine has shown that 90% of patients are able to decrease their cannabis dosage by more than 50% while receiving improved health benefits. About 10% of patients need a much higher dose. “For example, while 3-5 mg of cannabinoids may provide relief for a sensitized patient, others may do best on 300-500mg per dose,” says Dr. Sulak.
While no one has overdosed directly on cannabis, there is an optimal dosage level for each individual, after which higher doses will result in diminished benefits and increased side effects.
Adjusting Your Dose
If you are already consuming cannabis as medicine regularly, you will need to slowly reduce your consumption levels to avoid the return of symptoms. The process of reducing cannabis intake is called sensitization, which involves finding your optimal dosage level by recording the benefits as you gradually reduce intake.
If possible, speak with your cannabis practitioner about your current cannabis dosage and whether it might make sense to reduce your dosage. Any time you are using cannabis as medicine and you are not an experienced consumer, you should work with your practitioner to decide a proper dose.
Some patients with chronic conditions like cancer may find that a high dose of cannabis is necessary for their treatment plan. Meanwhile, other patients might find that they need higher doses of cannabis for acute flare-ups of symptoms, but can otherwise microdose to maintain their health.
If you are using cannabis holistically to enhance your lifestyle and not in coordination with a health practitioner, you can still record how much cannabis you are consuming on a day-to-day basis and adjust your intake based on how it affects your mood and your experience with symptoms like drowsiness, dry mouth or hunger.
Why Microdosing Works
Preclinical research suggests that low doses of cannabis can increase the body’s natural production of endocannabinoid production, cannabinoid receptor expression, and cannabinoid receptor affinity. It also helps break down the bad habits that your body develops after you have been consuming large amounts of cannabis (persistent agonism of cannabinoid receptors) and building a tolerance level to require larger and larger doses to feel the effects.