The Scientific Guide to Microdosing vs. Right-Dosing THC

Get the benefits of cannabis without the intoxication.

microdosing iStock / paulynn

A new cannabis awareness is circulating in society. Years of characterizing black market cannabis as an intoxicant tainted its essence and has influenced legal and illegal users to default toward overconsumption. Science and society are discovering that microdosing (or right-dosing) can engage the wellness benefits of cannabis without intoxication.

Intentional, mindful use of cannabis can ease depression, stress, anxiety, pain, improve focus and promote sleep without removing a user from daily activities. People who recognized small cannabis doses as wellness aides have typically been ignored for contradicting the monolithic societal misunderstanding that more THC/CBD means more healing. The shift toward a more holistic consideration of cannabis dosages is partially attributable to a growing demographic of women cannabis users. Science, too, is beginning to support medicinal benefits of THC dosages that are markedly smaller. Recent studies illustrate low-doses of THC successfully reversing ineffective opioid treatments among cancer patients and helping a man with autism integrate into society. A new and healthier ideology is gaining popularity in 2019.

What is Microdosing? Right-Dosing?

Cannabis herb and leaves for treatment broth, tincture, extract, oil. Selective focus. nature

iStock / Yana Tatevosian

Microdosing and right-dosing are both relatively new concepts in cannabis. People have been micro-dosing LSD since the 60’s but the practice was introduced to the cannabis community largely by the blogging of Old Hippie, who began an informative dialogue in 2012. He argued that tiny amounts of THC can affect the body without getting users high. A cannabis microdose activates cellular responses without reaching consciousness. In 2019, industry professionals have hijacked the term micro-dose to label and capitalize on the present interest in lower, but not actually sub-perceptual, dosages of THC. Micro-dosing entails consuming 0.3 – 2.5 mg of THC. 

Right-dosing refers to the ingestion of small amounts of THC with the goal of eliciting a wellness-related outcome. Cannabis’ prohibitive legal status prevents companies from claiming their products have medical benefits. Retailers are dancing the line but cannabis users and scientists are primarily creating the information and dialogue, themselves. Calling right-dosing micro-dosing is a misnomer. Right-dosing centers on finding an individual’s therapeutic dose for a particular outcome, regardless of whether or not the user experiences a perceptible high. Right-dosing entails consuming  1 – 5+ mg of THC. 

How to Microdose

Microdosing can benefit health, productivity, and social interaction, but the practice is, above all, a learning tool. As such, it should be approached with academic rigor. Wikileaf recommends the method developed over decades of micro-dosing in other drug communities: use specific mg measurements, document your experience, and start slow.

Finding good information on micro-dosing products is difficult because of shared terminology with right-dosing. Whether you microdose THC and/or CBD, the effect should be sub-perceptual and we recommend 2.5 mg for THC and 5 mg for CBD as a maximum dosage.

A specialized product must be selected for use in proper microdosing. Flower is not recommended for use in microdosing (true microdosing, not the colloquial use of the word) due to varying chemical concentrations and non-uniform structure. A small pipe bowl packed to the brim might contain 1 mg one day and 5 mg the next. Remember: cannabis is biphasic in small dosages, and inaccurate dosages can damage your practice! Micro-dosing requires a product that has been distilled down into a chemically uniform blend, tested, labeled, and sold. Don’t use black market and beware of budtenders unfamiliar with the practice. We recommend either very small measurements of factory-tested edibles (1mg or 2.5mg) or, for a more challenging experience, THC-tested budder, shatter, wax, or some live-resin cut up into small, equal pieces (half a grain of rice is the standard estimate.)

Macro detail of cannabis concentrate live resin (extracted from medical marijuana) isolated over white on a dabbing tool

iStock / rgbspace

Keeping a journal is an essential component to microdosing. Having a journal is a great strategy for life, in general, but a microdosing journal allows you to measure how, when, what you feel — and what you took. A journal can be labeled under the headers Date, Mg, Time, how I felt before, and how it made me feel.

THC Acts COMPLETELY Differently in Low, Medium, and Heavy Dosages

For decades, cannabis users have struggled with the logical puzzle of a strain alleging relaxation and euphoria instead causing panic and anxiety. Science has recently confirmed that THC elicits different and sometimes even opposite effects depending on dosage. Cannabis is biphasic, meaning that the body reacts in two distinct patterns and each body has its own individual threshold. A study published in February of 2019 showed that different THC mg dosages elicited opposite reactions in the body’s CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Specifically, low doses of THC elicited a reward response in the brain but high doses elicited an adverse reaction. High doses of THC are currently under increased scientific scrutiny for side effects, including a. heightened capacity to activate latent psychosis.

Complexities in the Biphasic Nature of Endocannabinoids: Coffee Ruins Micro-Dosing?

Different THC dosages elicit completely different bodily responses. A 2012 study had rats ingest caffeine as well as THC and perform memory tests. Interestingly, caffeinated rats consuming 1mg/kg of THC performed significantly worse on memory trials than those consuming 3mg/kg or 10mg/kg of THC. The sub-perceptual 1mg/kg micro-dose of THC caused a larger negative reaction in subjects’ memory (and brain) function, when compared with medium (3mg/kg) and large (10mg/kg) doses, but only when the rat was caffeinated! Learn more about the connection between cannabis and coffee here.

Getting Started

Ready to get started? I micro-dosed 30 days for productivity in 2018 and had a great experience! Next time, however, I’ll have a wellness goal. Try to get friend(s) to try it with you and encourage each other to keep up with journaling. Consider joining purchasing Third Wave’s online course and joining their online community of microdosers for support. Note that their guide to micro-dosing is outdated.   

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