If you’re new to using cannabis, you may be wondering how to find your ideal dose. Dosing with cannabis can be tricky. Many variables—from genetics to gender—can affect appropriate dosing. As well, each person possesses a unique biochemistry that determines how much cannabis they need to treat a particular condition or set of symptoms.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all dose when it comes to consuming cannabis, you can follow some basic guidelines to hone in on what’s right for you. In this article, part of a series for folks new to cannabis, we provide tips and advice on how to avoid the overwhelming “high.”
The effects of cannabis can swing from one extreme to another based on the person in question. I worked with one patient who was so sensitive that even topicals made her feel uncomfortably high. On the other hand, I’ve had patients who started with relatively large doses and didn’t feel a thing. That said, it’s hard to say what dose is good for patients who are just starting out with cannabis.
To find the best dose for you, the safest method is to start with a very small amount and then slowly increase your dosage until you find a level that helps relieve your symptoms. This process, called titration, will help you steer clear of the discomforts that come with getting “too high.”
While titrating, it’s important to start with a very small dose:
- If you’re smoking or vaporizing, this might mean taking only one puff to start.
- If you’re using edibles or tinctures, this means taking a tiny fraction of the product. Be sure you know the cannabinoid content of your edible or tincture.
Though 10 mg is a common recommended dose for new patients, I suggest starting even smaller with 1 to 2.5 mg on your first time out.
Once you’ve had your first dose, wait to see its effects. You should wait at least an hour with smoked or vaporized cannabis, and two hours with edibles before you take an additional dose. It can take a while for cannabis to reach its peak levels, and it’s common for patients to accidentally dose again before they’ve felt the effects of the first dose. Be patient, or you may take a dose that makes you feel uncomfortably high.
Once you start feeling the effects of your first dose, notice how you feel:
- Does it help with your medical needs?
- Do you feel overwhelmed by any negative effects?
If you experience negative side effects—paranoia, anxiety or rapid heartbeat, for example—at these low doses, you may not do well with the particular type of cannabis you’ve tried and should think about moving on to something else. Otherwise, continue to increase your dosage until you find an amount that helps you with your medical needs, without any of the negative effects.
RELATED: ACCURATE DOSING WITH CBD & THC
You may be surprised at how well cannabis works at low doses. Researchers have found that microdosing cannabis—using very small doses of marijuana—can be highly effective at treating certain conditions and symptoms. For some folks, cannabis actually becomes less effective if too much is used.
While titrating your dosing, notice how you feel with the very small doses. You may not need to increase your dose much at all if you’re able to microdose and achieve relief. It’s important to know, however, that not all conditions respond well to microdosing. For example, research shows that patients often need more than 100 mg of cannabinoids to ease their migraine symptoms. Titrating is the best way to find out if microdosing works for you.
As you increase your dose or the frequency of your cannabis use, you’ll likely notice your tolerance shifting. Patients tend to be less affected by cannabis the more they use and the longer they use it. What this means is that you may need to increase your dose to get the same effects. This may frustrate some folks, but the upside is that patients report fewer negative or overwhelming side effects from their medicine as their tolerance rises. This allows you to become more functional when using your medicine.
It’s important to note that tolerance can be tied to the particular product you’re using. If you use the same product or strain regularly, and feel like your tolerance has gotten too high, try switching to another product. You may find that your tolerance is much lower to a cannabis you aren’t used to. Remember to titrate with your new product, instead of going with the same dose you’re accustomed to taking with your other products, as your tolerance to it may be much lower.
Your tolerance to cannabis may also shift depending on your set and setting. If you’re used to using cannabis at home alone, you may feel quite functional on a certain dose. But if you try that same dose in another context—say, at work around coworkers or out shopping at a store—you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed or simply too high.
Titrate your cannabis use in new contexts the same way you would when switching to new products. The change in setting can be a much bigger factor than you might think. While many folks are highly functional using cannabis in a wide variety of contexts, it can take some getting used to with each new setting. Take your time and ease into your new environment until you know how your products will affect you.
Dosing can also vary from method to method. If you’re smoking cannabis, your dosing considerations will be different than if you’re eating cannabis, vaping it or taking marijuana sublingually. In the next edition of our Cannabis for Newbies series, we’ll look at the many different ways to use cannabis and go over special dosing considerations for each.
Photo credit: Brian Shamblen
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