Answering Questions About Cannabis Microdosing
Learn where this trend came from and how it applies to cannabis.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the underground activity of microdosing, which involves taking subthreshold amounts of a given substance in order to gain its therapeutic benefits while trying to reduce or even eliminate the psychoactive effects. While the trend started within the psychedelic community, this practice has spread to users of prescription pharmaceuticals as well as cannabis. Granted, avoiding the high might be missing the point for those who enjoy these unique qualities of the plant. But for those who are turning to cannabis solely to treat a condition, or to give an added boost to their day, it gives them, as well as everybody else, an opportunity to explore the more subtle effects and benefits of the plant.
The History of Microdosing
Since the discovery of LSD in 1943, psychologists and therapists have experimented with how specific amounts of the substance could translate into different uses for their patients. In a lecture given during the UK Breaking Convention conference in 2019, German psychologist Torsten Passie discussed how Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, which made the substance, recommended to psychologists in letters sent to them in 1959 that small doses had been observed to aid in anxiety, depression and OCD. In addition, philosopher Gerald Heard recommended lower doses of the drug for meditation and prayer, suggesting a use outside of the clinic. However, it wouldn’t be until 2011 that researcher James Fadiman coined the term “microdosing” in his book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide. Over a decade later, cannabis manufacturers, embracing the needs of a brand-new set of users, would begin to make and market low-dose edibles and tinctures to meet their needs.
What's the Difference?
If you read up online about microdosing for cannabis and psychedelics, you may come across some similarities. You’ll find plenty of people who believe that their microdosing practice has helped them access creativity or whisked them through a busy workday without an overwhelming high getting in the way, or even helped them enter into a flow state. Plus, there’s also issues with the possibility of building a tolerance. As a result, over time some popular “protocols” have emerged which recommend several days off for those using these substances.
However, regardless of their similarities, cannabis and psychedelic microdosing are used for different purposes, and affect the brain differently. For starters, tryptamines such as psilocybin act mainly on serotonin receptors, most notably 5HT2A, and they generally leave the endocannabinoid system be. Depending on one’s approach to microdosing, psychedelic microdosing can be far more overwhelming than cannabis. Plus, cannabis is often used for its physical as well as its mental effects, such as its effects on chronic or neuropathic pain — and the bare minimum is usually all cannabis microdosers are asking for. With microdosing psychedelics, the goal is to produce subtle but noticeable changes in perception and thought patterns.
An Interesting Discovery
While scientific research on cannabis microdosing is in its infancy, there is a Brazilian paper which detailed the encouraging effects that a regimen of THC/CBD micrograms had on a woman who suffered from debilitating spasms. For 165 days, she used a solution of a 6:1 THC/CBD tincture, with the actual dosages reduced considerably during her treatment. “The treatment reduced number of spasms, muscle tone, hyperreflexia and stiffness,” the researchers discovered. “Further, this treatment improved her cognition, short-term memory, speech, sense of humor, sleep and quality of life globally.”
Bear in mind that these are micrograms, which are a thousandth of a milligram. While it’s important to know that these results may not be repeatable at scale, it shows that therapeutic or medical effects might be possible at much smaller doses than previously thought.
Starting with Microdosing
If you’re going to start with microdosing, it’s best to start with edibles or tinctures. It’s not really possible through casual smoking or vaping to determine with any precision how much THC or CBD you’re taking in, whereas state programs mandate edibles makers to place their CBD and THC concentrations on their labels. Some manufacturers go down as low as 0.4 mg of THC, and you can often find one or 2.5 mg THC or CBD gummies easily on the market. From there, you can work your way up to see how much you need.
Even if you don’t have a specific condition, microdosing is an ideal start for those who worry about overdosing. People who are new to cannabis or who have a low tolerance may want to start with a very small dose and work their way up to a comfortable level. As the Brazilian study suggests, even small amounts of cannabis can have a potent effect on some individuals. So it’s always important to acknowledge that one’s microdosing can be another’s macrodose, too.
Overall, microdosing cannabis can be a safe and effective way to experience the benefits of the plant without getting too high. Whether used for medical purposes or to boost creativity and productivity, microdosing cannabis is a practice that is worth considering for anyone who is interested in exploring the many benefits of this versatile plant.