Evidence shows that marijuana offers health benefits but not everyone is looking for the high that typically comes with consumption. The good news is, a new growing trend, microdosing, offers many of the medicinal benefits without the high, making it more appealing to a wide range of users.

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What is Microdosing?

The idea behind microdosing marijuana is to achieve the therapeutic benefits it offers without the traditional high. Pot smokers have said for years that smoking weed helps reduce pain, helps them sleep, helps depression and anxiety, reduces stress, and so much more. But traditional marijuana use in recreational doses can cause slower response times, impair coordination, and impair memory.

With microdosing, people can experience health benefits without having it interfere with their daily life and productivity. Let’s look at it from a medical standpoint.  When your doctor prescribes a medication, say, to treat pain, they look for the lowest dose necessary to achieve results. The same is true with microdosing. With microdosing, you are taking in small doses of marijuana, sometimes throughout the day, in order to achieve the desired results. 

Finding a Dose That Works for You

The key to microdosing is finding the amount that works for you, and this can take time and experimentation. It all comes down to how many milligrams of THC and CBD allows you to experience the desired results without the negative effects. Cannabis physician Dustin Sulak works with his patients, helping them to determine their effective dose.

In an interview with Rolling Stone he says, “I can’t tell you your perfect dose, but I can teach you how to find it yourself.”

To achieve this, he recommends his patients abstain from marijuana use for at least two days. When you start, ask yourself three questions. How easy is it to breathe? How comfortable and calm do you feel? How happy and content do you feel? Rate these questions from one to 10. Begin by consuming one milligram of THC and one milligram of CBD.

Sulak recommends tincture or oil, as these allow for more precise measuring.  At this point, give yourself 45 minutes to an hour and then ask those questions again. If you feel no change, increase the dose by an additional milligram. Once you reach a point where you feel different, you have reached your minimal dose. 

Are There Benefits to Microdosing?

While marijuana research is still in its infancy, there are studies that show the benefits of low dose marijuana use, or microdosing. A 2014 study looked at low dose vaporized marijuana and how it affected neuropathic pain. Thirty-nine patients with central or peripheral neuropathic pain were divided into three groups.

One group inhaled a medium dose, one a low dose, and the last group received a placebo. They discovered that even at the low dose, patients experience pain relief and that marijuana use may present an effective pain option for patients with treatment-resistant neuropathic pain. This is an important research finding, as neuropathic pain can often be debilitating and frustrating for patients. It can possibly be used as an adjunctive therapy for patients receiving treatment regimens, or it can play a larger role in neuropathic pain that is refractory to more conventional treatments.

While low and moderate doses of THC may have some similar analgesic effects, patients who are concerned about any cognitive deficits can work with their doctor to receive the maximum therapeutic effect with a minimum dose.

A 2017 study looked at low doses of TCH and the effects on cognitive function in older mice. As animals age, the activity in the endocannabinoid system decreases, leading to age-related cognitive decline. THC helps to restore the CB1 receptor, thus stimulating the endocannabinoid system. While this study was not done on human models, it did show that low doses of THC were able to restore function, and may one day be an effective treatment option for age-related cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s Disease. 

High THC Can Increase Anxiety

The idea behind microdosing is that, in terms of marijuana, more isn’t always better. While many turn to marijuana to lower anxiety, evidence shows that the dose they turn to makes all the difference.  In a report from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, researchers point out the CBD decreases anxiety at any dose, but THC is very dose dependent.

The report points to a study done at The University of Chicago where participants had a decreased level of anxiety when taking low doses of THC and increase anxiety at higher doses.

The study found a response to acute psychosocial stress after taking THC. Participants were given either a placebo, 7.5 mg THC, or 12.5 mg THC and then subjected to different tasks and stressors. Those taking the 7.5 mg THC showed significantly reduced stress while those taking 12.5 mg showed increased negative mood.

Risks When Microdosing

Microdosing marijuana is relatively safe, as you are only taking small doses. However, when microdosing, or using marijuana in general, for medical treatments or benefits, there are some things to consider. Marijuana affects the body as well as the way certain enzymes work within the body. By altering them enzymes, you alter how they process things like medications.  For example, if you are taking medications such as clozapine, naproxen, cyclobenzaprine, olanzapine, haloperidol, or chlorpromazine, THC induces the CYP1A2 enzyme and can decrease the concentration of these medications in the blood. In contrast, CBD inhibits the CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 enzymes, so if you take medications such as:

  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Antihistamines
  • Statins
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cyclosporine
  • SSRIs
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Beta blockers
  • Opioids

You will experience an increase in drug levels in the blood. This increase can often pose serious health risks. Before considering microdosing for health benefits, talk with your doctor about any possible drug interactions you may experience.  

This information is presented for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.  Please always consult your own doctor.