To Micro or Not To Micro

Micro-dosing: the action or practice of taking or administering very small amounts of a drug in order to test or benefit from its physiological action while minimizing undesirable side effects.

Oxford Dictionary

In the past, micro-dosing has been associated primarily with hallucinogens such as LSD but new research suggests that the threshold for THC’s medicinal benefits is far lower than what most people think. Because of this, it’s theorized that many people end up overloading their systems with high levels of THC, which may not be the best approach for their symptoms. When you go over that threshold it can lead to the opposite effect that you are looking for. For example, a little THC can help reduce your anxiety, but too much THC can overload your anxiety. Many conditions can be treated more effectively with micro-dosing, such as depression, stress, anxiety, pain, and to help improve focus and promote more restful sleep.

While a large amount of research is still needed, some studies have shown that less is more when it comes to cannabis. In 2012, a study was published that included patients with advanced stages of cancer who were unresponsive to traditional opioid painkillers and were given nabiximols, a THC/CBD compound, at low, medium, and high doses. Patients receiving the lowest dose of THC had the greatest pain reduction, while the patients who received the highest dose of THC experienced increased pain levels.

Another study was conducted in 2014 with a group of incarcerated individuals who were given very low doses of Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, to help treat PTSD and its associated symptoms. The findings were significant improvements in PTSD-associated insomnia, nightmares, general symptoms, and even chronic pain.

So what is the correct dosage for micro-dosing cannabis?

In short, there are many factors that play into a person’s recommended dosage. Things such as liver metabolism, genetics of cannabinoid receptors, and previous usage play a large role in the answer for individuals. This is why starting with low doses for a few days is paramount in figuring out your dosage.

Doctors recommend that patients who are regular cannabis users begin with a 48-hour period of abstinence to reset the body’s endocannabinoid system. After that, it is recommended that patients begin with a 2.5MG dose and maintain that level for three days, then increase if necessary. This can be tricky at times as most edibles are created with the maximum amount of THC allowed (10MG in the state of Arkansas). Natural State Medicinals offers chocolate bars that can be broken into 5MG pieces.

Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician based in Maine who treats many of his patients with small doses of cannabis is quoted saying, “The goal is to use the dose that gives the most minimal noticeable effect. You are not trying to get stoned, you are not trying to get total relief from symptoms–you are just trying to get a little something. And then once you get to that dose where you feel a little something, stay there for a few days and then you can start gradually increasing if needed. And that typically falls somewhere between one and three milligrams per dose.”

Adding CBD to your micro-dosing regimen can have enhanced medicinal benefits too. “When we add CBD to THC we tend to get a wider therapeutic window, which means we are less likely to see side effects of THC and more likely to see benefits,” says Sulak. However, using CBD oils in combination with cannabis products can quickly get expensive. It should also be noted that CBD is a mental stimulant and should be avoided close to bedtime.

In closing, while there are some cannabis products on the market that lend themselves to micro-dosing with very low milligrams of THC, more still need to be developed. Meanwhile according to Sulak, “We need to change our relationship with cannabis from something that we use for recreation or to treat severe symptoms to something that we use to stay healthy like we would a multivitamin,”. For many people, it may be hard to cut back on your use, but for those wanting to reap the medicinal benefits of cannabis, micro-dosing may be the answer you are looking for.