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While even high doses of cannabis have proven to be non-toxic, ingesting too much can take you for an unpleasant spin. This is even more true for first-time users, like this Reddit member who rolled a half gram joint for his first smoking experience. He reported strong psychoactive effects, impaired vision, nausea, and even vomiting. It’s no surprise, really, since a half gram joint is usually enough for even an experienced smoker to share with a friend.
Most of the responses were similar, telling him to try lower doses, and encouraging him not to give up on cannabis since his first bad experience was likely due to his mistake. There were several responses suggesting that he only smoke a small amount at a time, leaving room to evaluate his experience in between. These forum members may not have known, but what they were describing was the idea of microdosing, which is an increasingly popular dosing technique for all types of recreational and pharmaceutical drugs.
Microdosing is exactly what it sounds like – taking small doses of an active substance. These doses are generally around one-tenth the size of a normal recommended dose, and in order to microdose correctly they need to be taken on a regular schedule. Although the origin of microdosing is unclear, it has its place in the history of medical studies on pharmaceutical drugs and is more recently coming to the forefront of dosing methods for recreational users.
In some pharmaceutical studies, very low doses of a drug are administered regularly. These doses are generally not high enough to have any physical impact on the person, but they do create a response on a cellular level. This gives researchers the ability to observe the impact of the drug before offering increased doses, which makes the drug trial less risky for the test subject.
One controversial, but popular use for microdosing is with psychedelic drugs. Some specialists, like Dr. James Fadiman, have supported this use for quite some time. Fadiman, an American psychologist, pioneered a social study in which people were asked to microdose LSD, taking incredibly small doses every few days. The people were not patients, but rather curious souls on the internet who had access to their own supply of hallucinogens and wanted to give it a try.
They were asked to respond with information about their day and how the microdosing experience affected them overall. Not to Fadiman’s surprise, most of these people reported that microdosing did not cause a psychedelic experience, but rather boosted their mood, helped them engineer innovative ideas at work, and resulted in an overall improved quality of life.
While psychedelics are not everyone’s cup of tea, the same idea can be applied to cannabis, offering users a way to ease into dosing. Microdosing may very well be the next big trend for new cannabis users, both recreationally and medically.
One look at Google search trends over the past five years shows that the interest in microdosing cannabis has significantly spiked in 2018. The method is gaining a lot of attention recently, which has lead brands like Cosmopolitan and Forbes to look into the topic.
Most of the popular sources for information on microdosing points at the method as a way for first-time cannabis users to get their feet wet. While it is a great way to ease into a regular dose of cannabis, microdosing actually has more than one advantage. Some other reasons many people are turning to small doses include:
It’s not uncommon to stop by the coffee shop for an energy boost on your way to work. Many people rely on caffeine as a stimulant to get them through their day. The same concept can be applied to certain strains of weed, especially in small doses. 39 year old Mandy says she microdoses before, after, and even during work. For Mandy, the biggest benefit is increased focus and ability to block out noise, which she finds is at its peak after small doses of cannabis infused candy.
Another cannabis advocate, Jen Byers, uses weed throughout the work day to aid her brainstorming and creative process. Byers works as a conflict journalist and videographer, though, and says that cannabis actually plays two roles in her work life. Her position requires her to cover some uncomfortable cases, like domestic violence or the violation of human right, and small doses of edibles help her “deal with the stress and secondhand trauma” that comes along with it.
Byers says that she usually migrates towards sativa-dominant strains, which seems to be the going trend for users hoping to incorporate cannabis into their work day. Although relevant research is lacking, sativa is widely accepted as having stimulant-like effects.
One study in 2012 confirmed cannabis’ ability to improve “hyper-priming” in the brain. Priming refers to the brain’s ability to relate ideas and utilize stimuli to create new ideas. It’s sort of like the domino effect of creativity in the brain, in which certain stimuli stems easily into new, but related, ideas. In other words, “hyper-priming” greatly affects your brain’s ability to produce creative thoughts during the brainstorming process.
Another study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School Affiliate McLean Hospital concluded that marijuana use has positive effects on cognitive function. Leading researcher, Staci Gruber, said that the effects were prominent in the prefrontal cortex, which controls most cognitive activity, including coordination functions throughout the rest of the brain, and has a large impact on personality development, communication skills, decision making, and even creative processes.
This goes hand in hand with Dr. Fadiman’s findings with LSD, but microdosing marijuana may be more appealing to modern professionals. The combination of increased focus, creative inspiration, and relaxation make it a prime tool for many people in the workforce. Microdosing is also an incredibly discreet method for professionals, since small doses come in many forms, like cannabis-infused mints, sprays, strips, gum, or candy that’s easy to access throughout the day.
Many first time cannabis users choose microdosing to smooth the path to regular cannabis use. For others, microdosing is a second thought after ingesting too much THC their first time around. Inexperienced users are choosing microdosing as a way to get the ball rolling because it allows them to slowly increase their dose.
Increasing a dose in small increments allows cannabis users the opportunity to determine their optimal dose, even if they have no prior knowledge to cannabis dosing. Not only does their body have time to build a tolerance, but the chance of adverse effects is slimmer than if they smoke an entire joint for their first cannabis experience.
Microdosing is unique because it allows users to “stack” their dose throughout the day, which is useful for managing daily stressors. Every day is different, and for many people, the necessary dose of cannabis changes too. A small dose in the morning may prove to be enough, but if not, another microdose can be taken before lunch, and so on throughout the day until the desired effects are reached. Microdosing using this method allows users to take the smallest possible dose for each situation, so both bad days and good can be equally rivaled with the cheerful, relaxed sensation of cannabis.
No matter how you use cannabis, the potential benefits are similar each time. However, the slow and steady technique of microdosing may benefit some conditions more than others. Some conditions simply respond better to consistent cannabinoid levels, while others (like conditions that flare up at unexpected times) may require larger doses on demand. Many people turn to microdosing techniques to treat the following conditions:
Many other conditions may benefit from microdosing methods, but there hasn’t been much research pointed specifically towards microdosing and its impact on different health conditions.
Dr. Dustin Sulak, an integrative medicine physician based in Maine, regularly prescribes cannabis to his patients for a range of health conditions. Sulak believes in the power of microdosing. In an interview regarding CBD dosing, he said he “discovered that most people have a certain threshold dosage of cannabis, below which they’ll actually experience a gradual increase in health benefits over time, and above which they’ll start building tolerance, experiencing diminishing benefits, and more side effects.”
This is likely due to the biphasic effect of marijuana. For reference, alcohol also produces a biphasic effect. In small amounts, it acts as a stimulant, which is why you’re more apt to get out on the dance floor when you are feeling a little tipsy. Drink too much, though, and it acts more as a sedative, and can even leave you feeling physically ill.
Cannabis works the same way. In small amounts, it can create enjoyable feelings of euphoria, promote mental focus, and help you relax. Overindulging can result in the opposite, though, making you tired, unfocused, and in some cases even nauseated or sick.
The particular effects you get from microdosing cannabis depend heavily on the strain you choose. There are hundreds of cultivated strains, but they each are either a derivative of the Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica species, or a combination of the two. Many people choose indica strains for their anti-anxiety and relaxation properties, while sativas are most popular for their energizing, uplifting effects.
In general, microdosing indica may be helpful throughout the day to manage anxiety and useful at night for promoting relaxation and sleep. Microdosing sativa may be better suited for early mornings as a stimulant or before engaging in interactive or physical activity, like a work project or trip to the gym.
Just like each species of the cannabis plant, each strain has different effects as well. They each have different levels of THC, CBD, and other terpenes, which makes them useful for different applications. For instance, people who microdose for health purposes may choose a high-CBD strain, while recreational users may prefer more THC or a balanced strain.
Sulak regularly prescribes microdosing techniques of full-spectrum cannabis products, which includes a combination of other terpenes and cannabinoids that have more targeted effects, like aiding sleep or managing appetite. In some interviews, he says that there is no possible way for a doctor to recommend the perfect dose since each person will individually react differently to different amounts of cannabis. Each person’s sensitivity to marijuana depends on a range of things, like their weight, age, metabolic liver functions, or tolerance.
There are multiple different methods for consuming cannabis, all of which can be done in small increments in order to fit a microdosing schedule. However, not every method makes it easy, and some methods make it nearly impossible to keep a close eye on the exact amount of cannabis you consume.
Smoking can technically be used for microdosing by taking only one puff at a time and leaving plenty of time in between to judge its effects. However, it’s virtually impossible to measure the amount of THC or CBD you consume when burning dry bud. With the most potent strains, even a single hit can be enough to push you past your microdosing limits.
Even if you can measure out a precise amount to pack into a bowl or purchase pre-rolled joints, you can’t precisely measure the potency of each puff. Smoking isn’t exactly the most cost-efficient method, either, since you’ll likely be putting out the same joint and relighting it a number of times, resulting in quite a bit of waste.
Vaping is another method that cannabis users utilize for microdosing. While there is still some uncertainty in the measurement for each lungful, it is slightly easier to ensure that you are inhaling small doses. Low dose vape cartridges are widely available, making it possible for each hit to contain a low concentration.
Some innovative products are surfacing that makes vaping a more reasonable choice for microdosing. Some companies are starting to offer vape mods with built in vibrations that help control doses more carefully. Still, this is not the best method for consuming precise doses.
Other methods may make it much easier to work out a microdosing routine. Some cannabis products are designed to allow you to easily control the dose, even in small amounts, and they are often quite cost-effective in combination with a microdosing routine.
Tinctures are one of the most popular methods for those looking to take a small dose of cannabis. Tinctures come in liquid form, and full-spectrum products offer the benefits of CBD, THC, as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant. Low potency tinctures can be used to distribute doses as low as 1-2 milligrams under the tongue, where they are absorbed and take effect quickly. Tinctures come with a small dropper that makes it easy to control the dose and usually feature a measurement guide like “1 drop=2mg.”
Edibles are another popular product for microdosing efforts, but you should choose your edible products wisely. For instance, using a cannabis-infused brownie or another bulk edible may not be effective, since they usually contain high doses and need to be cut into single doses. Trying to measure 2 milligrams of a 100-milligram brownie can be difficult.
Some companies cater to the microdosing market and offer products that are pre-portioned into doses as low as 1 milligram. Some of these companies are introducing products that are great for professionals and everyday cannabis users that wish to microdose discreetly. These products include cannabis-infused gummies, chocolates, mints, and gum, which are measured into precise doses, usually around 2.5 milligrams.
For users looking for an easy and discreet option for administering precises doses, many companies are beginning to offer sprays, mints, and oral strips that are portioned appropriately for microdosing. Generally, they are flavored to mask the traditional taste of tinctures or oils, and administering a dose looks no different than using a regular breath freshening spray, mint or strip.
This may be one of the most precise dosing methods for users, and are often stored in a pocket-sized container that is easy to transport. These products are particularly unique because they take effect quickly, unlike edibles that must go through digestion. This makes it easy to stack doses as needed, since you can evaluate the effects of each dose after only 15-20 minutes, and then dose accordingly until the desired effects are reached.
As Dr. Sulak explained, the best dose will be different for everyone. In order to determine the best starting point for you, you should consider consulting your doctor. He or she will be able to give you an individual profile review that helps you determine a starting dose.
In most cases, microdosing features doses at one-tenth the size of a regular dose. This means that a good starting point for microdosing can be anywhere from 2.5 to 10 mg. One pro-cannabis physician, Dr. Allan Frankel, stated: “in medicine, with all drugs, you look for the minimum effective dose.”
This indicates that starting with the lowest dose may be helpful. You can always increase the dose slowly, monitoring your effects in between, until you reach the lowest possible dose that gives you the desired effects. Of course, with cannabis, microdosing is not about experiencing the psychoactive effects, but instead about creating a relaxed feeling and treating symptoms.
Microdosing requires regularity to be effective, so you should establish consistency in your dosing schedule. The most important part of learning to microdose effectively is observing your reaction to each dose. Keeping a journal of your experiences may help you in deciding whether to increase or decrease your dose, and it offers a great reference point when you talk to your doctor about your microdosing journey.
Even though microdosing weed rarely results in any significant psychoactive effects, some users prefer to avoid THC altogether. There is evidence that small doses of CBD may have great benefits, so microdosing CBD is an option to consider if THC isn’t your forte.
Low doses of CBD may be useful for treating chronic conditions and creating a maintenance schedule for other conditions. One study found that low doses of CBD were effective for treating epilepsy. Regular small doses may decrease the risk, severity, and frequency of epileptic seizures.
Low doses of CBD may also be effective for treating inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Instead of dosing when the pain flares, regular doses may help reduce the frequency of flares altogether. Simply put, regular CBD microdoses may act as preventative medicine for some conditions.
CBD doses do not produce a high, but recreational users often note that small doses of cannabidiol throughout the day help create a euphoric, relaxed sensation that can make the stressors of life easier to manage.
CBD and THC also have synergistic effects, and many reports claim that they help to level each other out. Microdosing CBD and THC together may be beneficial for some people, but it is important to note that CBD products are often more costly than cannabis products.
If you decide to try microdosing CBD, you’ll need to find a cannabidiol product with a low concentration. With highly potent tinctures or oils it can be difficult to measure out small doses. The same is true for some CBD edibles and capsules, since it is not easy to break down pre-portioned products into smaller, precise doses. A small dose of cannabidiol could be anywhere from 1-10 mg, but you and your doctor should be able to decide what dose works best for you.
There is plenty of evidence that points to microdosing as an effective treatment for a range of health conditions. Common sense tells us that it is a great way to ease into cannabis use, even for recreational purposes. However, cannabis affects each person differently, no matter the size of the dose.
If you are considering giving cannabis a go, have a conversation with your doctor about the benefits and procedure to microdosing. If you’re just looking to ease your way into using cannabis recreationally, starting small may help you decide if it’s right for you.