Microdosing 101: How Does the Technique Work and Why Should You Care?

Unlike many pharmaceutical medications, cannabis treatment is what you make of it. Because cannabis is so versatile, users are on a quest for the best treatment and techniques possible. Microdosing is one of the latest trends that's sparked the interest of the medical cannabis community.

Microdosing involves taking small quantities of a substance for therapeutic purposes, and it's a practice that's been used for years. Now, cannabis enthusiasts hail the microdose as an important gateway to benefits without the buzz. Is it worth a try? Here are the four biggest microdosing questions answered.

What Is Microdosing?

While a little cannabis can reduce medical issues, too much can actually cause them. One study, among others, found that cancer patients taking low doses of cannabinoids felt less pain, while those taking the highest doses experienced more than usual.

The gist of microdosing is the less you consume, the better cannabis works. By taking minimum doses throughout the day, patients enjoy the maximum therapeutic benefits of THC without laughing fits, paranoia, junk-food cravings, and other side effects which may be off-putting to many people who would otherwise benefit from using cannabis to treat a chronic condition. This makes microdosing effective for first-time users or for medicating at work, for example, if it's allowed by an employer.

According to Dr. Allan Frankel, renowned Los Angeles-based internist, any more than the minimum is redundant. “A quarter of my patients are taking less than three milligrams of THC a day,” he says. “In all medicine, with all drugs, you look for the minimum effective dose. Period.”

What Conditions Can a Microdose Treat?

Microdosing is a catch-all technique. Some patients use small doses for chronic pain management or stress relief, while others microdose to treat depression or anxiety. Some use the technique for daily maintenance after heavy treatment, or to occasionally boost mood, focus, creativity, sleep quality, or physical performance.

Remember that your treatment outcome largely depends on the terpene and cannabinoid profiles of your medicinal cannabis – for instance, strains high in CBD and low in THC minimize psychoactivity while maximizing muscle-relaxing effects. It’s less a question of “Will microdosing work for my condition?” and more “Does my microdose contain the right THC or CBD content for my condition?”

Which Delivery Method Is Best?

The most popular ways to consume cannabis are the same regardless of dose size, but some are better than others for dose control, which is critical to microdosing.

  • Smoking: Combustion is the most difficult way to control dosira. A single hit could contain up to 10 milligrams of THC, which is too extreme a starting point. The best you can do is take one puff, wait five minutes, then take another if you feel no effect.
  • Vaping: Popular for inhaling cannabis without the harsh effects of smoke, vaporization also allows you to customize your experience and minimize waste. You can easily control how much flower or concentrate you put into your vaporizer.
  • Ingesting: Ingesting: Edibles and tinctures are one of your best options for controlling dosing. By sticking to low-dosed edibles (typically considered below 10mg) or edibles with the ability to measure dosing, one can experiment and titrate to find their proper dose. One important factor to using edibles as a microdossing option is that the therapeutic effects can take up to 2 hours to take effect after consumption.

Regardless of your preferred method – or whether you juggle all three – the idea is to start low and go slow. Most patients find their threshold before reaching 10 milligrams. 

What’s the Perfect Microdose?

Here’s the catch: No doctor can tell your perfect dose. Microdosing relies heavily on trial and error because THC, CBD, and other compounds activate and mimic the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, and those receptors function differently in everyone – plus other aspects of personal chemistry like tolerance and metabolism also play a role.

One doctor, however, has cracked the code for self-dosing. “I discovered that most people have a certain threshold of cannabis,” said Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician and Reiki healer who began practicing cannabis medicine in 2009. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Sulak explained “Below it they’ll experience a gradual increase in health benefits, and above it they’ll start building tolerance, experiencing diminishing benefits and more side effects, like short-term memory loss and clumsiness.”

To find your sweet spot, Sulak advises the following steps:

  1. Abstain from cannabis for 48 hours. During this time, look after your body with exercise and nutrition.
  2. On day three, answer the following questions on a scale of one to 10: How easy is it to breathe? How comfortable and calm does my body feel? How easy is it to smile authentically, with gratitude?
  3. After noting down your scores, take one milligram each of THC and CBD. (Combining the two compounds, Sulak suggests, is best for overall wellbeing and disease prevention in most people.)
  4. Wait 45 minutes. Then answer the questions again and notice any change in your scores. If none, increase the dose by one milligram.
  5. Repeat the process over the next few days, increasing your dose by small increments each time, until you feel a difference. This is your minimum effective dose.
  6. Stay at this level for four days, then increase if necessary.

What happens at the point where increasing the dose is no longer effective? Simply start over, beginning with the two-day abstinence. “That’s the magic time when tolerance gets reset,” said Sulak. After testing this process on heavy users, he found patients using less than half their typical dosira with better results. “You’re saving money, [and] if you’re a smoker, you’re saving smoke exposure to your lungs and having less side effects.”

To Sum Up

Cannabis experts believe microdosing to be the way of the future. The challenge, for now, is finding products that support low dosira needs. Only a few dispensaries have caught on to the importance of microdosing and stock low-dose products. But if you have access to said products, would describe yourself as a patient person, and subscribe to the idea that too much of a good thing is unwise, then microdosing may be for you.

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