How do you get the dose you need out of cannabis?
Despite all the facts and figures that now come with regulated cannabis sales, questions about dose and efficacy aren’t easy to answer. As anyone who’s been prescribed psychiatric medication can tell you, the science of treating brain chemistry isn’t exact.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, there is currently no way yet to determine the exact dose of medical cannabis that a particular person should take for their condition. We are at the start of the learning curve for research and discovery. This means that patients are left with trial and error.
There’s also a gap in the knowledge of professionals. Many practicing doctors have limited training, if any, in prescribing and treating disorders with cannabis-based therapies. Many feel uncomfortable recommending specific amounts and prefer to err on the side of caution when working in this rapidly evolving area of treatment.
Complicating Dose Matters
Medical cannabis creates a tolerance problem, meaning that as treatment continues, stronger doses may be required to produce the same effects. This is not that different from other medications, such as SSRIs and opioids. Cannabis, however has the added wrinkle of the biphasic effect: higher doses do not always simply “amp up” the effects of a low dose; in many cases low doses of cannabis can energize users while larger doses deliver sedative effects. And all of that is strain dependent.
Luckily, things are changing. Most professional growers and producers take their work seriously and want their customers to get the most out of healing with cannabis. Further, the regulations that do exist call for clearly printed measurements and strain names, so consumers have an accurate idea of what they’re getting.
But how do you make sense of a dosing suggestion when the effects can be different from person to person? The answer is to amass as much information as you can and then start slow.
Before you decide to dose yourself, it’s best to have the endgame in mind. What do you want to get out of the experience? Do you want to calm down and let go of stress? Do you suffer from seizures or headaches? Are you wanting to stop neuropathic pain or inflammatory pain? Are you in need of psychoactive effects or not?
Once you know the desired outcome, you can begin to search the routes that can get you there. It’s just like working backwards from a set goal.
The first thing you’ll want to figure out is which active ingredient you need.
The two Most Abundant Cannabinoids Are: THC and CBD.
THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. It’s what gives users the high associate with the drug. THC also causes increased appetite, has analgesic effects, relaxation, treats neuropathic pain, kills cancer cells, and elevates mood. Unfortunately, for some patients, THC at high doses can increase anxiety.
CBD, on the other hand, tends to treat pain, anxiety, inflammation, and auto-immune disorders. There are other cannabinoids that have been tapped to treat specific conditions, such as THCV. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) suppresses appetite and is currently being studied as a tool to reduce obesity by decreasing insulin resistance.
Something else to keep in mind is that CBD counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC, so strains that are high in CBD (even with THC) are safe for all patients. Users who have a history of mental illness or are typically very anxiety prone, however, should start with CBD-only options.
Once you’ve selected an active ingredient, you’ll want to decide how you want to consume the product.
Dose For Smoking Cannabis
This produces effects quickly, but it’s hard to gauge how much product you’re using. Starting with one small “puff” or bowl or bong rip, is a rule of thumb. The good thing about inhaling is that the effects are almost immediate and you will be able to better gauge how you are feeling, and at what point symptom abatement takes place.
Edibles allow users to select the exact amount of cannabis they consume, but the effects can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours to materialize. Once a dosage size is selected, it’s important to give the edible time to kick in. It’s recommended that users wait longer than the full two hours before dosing again so as not inadvertently take too much.
Full Extract Cannabis Oils (FECO)
This is a very concentrated forms of cannabis. FECO takes effect quickly, but its potency means that users need to start very small, with a dose being “about the size of a grain of rice.” Users should start very small and proceed with caution. Every tiny increase in dosage size can create an outsized effect on the mind and body.
CBD Oil and Hemp Oil
These are similar to FECO, but lack the THC. Since there are virtually no side effects for CBD, dosing can be done in higher increments without concern. However, due to the many different kinds of CBD oils on the market, the best dosing advice is to carefully study the packaging. Usually, doses begin at 10 mg, but that can vary depending on the strain in use. Again, it’s best to start off small—but if affects aren’t being felt it’s OK to do a bit more. The most likely results of doing too much is a sleepy feeling.
Other Cannabis Products
Like wax and butane hash oil are typically dosed based on sight, making the exact amount of product difficult to judge. The best advice for those seeking to use these kinds of products is to start with a very small amount and wait a long time before taking another dose.
Above all, remember that dosing will be unique to your own physiology. It’s best to start with a small amount and gradually increase you dose until you feel the desired effects—then stick with that dose until tolerance sets in.
It’s also beneficial to be prepared to experiment with many different strains of cannabis and delivery methods. You will find what you need. The key is to be informed and never push yourself too far, too quickly, in the pursuit of wellness.