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A Newcomer’s Guide To Microdosing Cannabis

It’s a safe bet that if you use cannabis, you have heard the term microdosing at your local cannabis dispensary. Microdosing is the new buzzword within the cannabis community. But what does it mean? More importantly, how can it help you get the most out of your cannabis purchase? I will try to help shed some light on the meaning behind the term and delve into some of the science that makes it work. 

What is a cannabis microdose?

Put simply, microdosing means using the lowest effective dose to achieve a medical benefit. In the pharmaceutical world, it is called a minimal effective dose (MED). This dose is usually found during the clinical trials that all compounds must pass before becoming medicine the doctor can prescribe to patients. Clinical trials also help determine the therapeutic index for a particular medicine, ranging between the minimal effective dose and the dose that produces unwanted side effects. Because cannabis affects everyone differently, we recommend that patients start at a dose of 1 to 2.5 milligrams of THC and slowly increase their dose until they achieve relief from the medical condition they are treating. 

The case for low THC cannabis dosages

There are several reasons to use this approach when dosing cannabis. First, THC is biphasic in nature. Lower doses provide relief from the symptoms patients are trying to treat, while larger doses can actually aggravate the condition.

Anxiety is an excellent example of this property of THC. Low doses help people overcome their social anxiety, while larger doses can cause severe panic and anxiety. Now for some of that science I promised you. Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain (having it around can cause anxiety). GABA is an amino acid that is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter (having it around reduces anxiety). Low doses of THC have been shown to reduce the amount of glutamate released in the brain (low anxiety). Higher doses of THC have been shown to reduce the amount of GABA released in the brain (high anxiety). As we can see, lower doses of THC will help prevent anxiety.

Reasons to consider microdosing cannabis

My first use of cannabis after 20 years of abstinence produced a long night of facing several of my childhood fears. I tried a 10mg THC edible, and realistically, I should have started at 2.5mg. When I tell my patients to start low and go slow, I speak from experience!

The second reason is cost. Cannabis in Illinois can be expensive. Using more than your effective dose may mean you are wasting medicine and, more importantly, your money. Microdosing can help patients use the lowest effective dose to help treat their medical conditions. Smaller doses administered at regular intervals throughout the day can be more effective at controlling pain and anxiety than larger doses administered on an as-needed basis.

The last reason is functionality. Cannabis helps many patients cope with their pain and anxiety while allowing them to live life. Microdosing can help ensure that they are not impaired while using cannabis daily. The minimal effective dose will enable patients to find relief from their medical condition and reduces the chance of THC causing a psychedelic effect. One of the main reasons patients use cannabis for pain is that they do not like how opioids make them feel. Microdosing THC can help them avoid those feelings when using cannabis for medicine.

Being a pharmacist in a medical cannabis dispensary is the best job I have ever had. Helping patients understand cannabis and working with them to select products that help them improve their quality of life has been the highlight of my career in western medicine. If you are a medical patient or adult-use consumer and have questions about microdosing, please feel free to ask me or any of our highly educated technicians when you visit our dispensary. We will be more than happy to help you get the most out of your cannabis experience.

Written by AJ, AYR Illinois Dispensaries Cannapharmacist