One of the most common questions when it comes to using cannabis is, “How much do I take?” The question of cannabis dosing can be a difficult one to answer, since everyone experiences cannabis differently and there is no standard effective dose.
Here are some basic guidelines to reduce the chances of undesirable cannabis effects.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound of cannabis that produces psychoactive effects, but also medicinal ones. When it comes to researching cannabis, scientists established a standard unit of THC dosing at 5 mg. While helpful for study design and comparison, it’s not an appropriate guideline for doctors or patients. No guidelines currently exist on how many units of THC make up a standard dose. For some users, 5 mg might be too much and for others, 5 mg might not be enough to produce a medicinal effect.
One 2021 research study found patients were successful when starting off with 2.5 mg of THC, or one-half of the research standard. The patients were then instructed to titrate up by 2.5 mg each day until they reached an effective dose. This study suggests topping out at a maximum of 40 mg of THC per day.
It’s also interesting to note that this study used CBD-heavy cannabis, as cannabidiol is thought to reduce the THC high by blocking the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, preventing THC from activating them.
Taking Too Much THC
Starting off slowly with THC can help to prevent unwanted side effects such as anxiety and racing thoughts. But what do you do if you’ve already taken too much THC?
- The aforementioned CBD can be helpful not only in curbing the THC high but also in mitigating its effect after onset. It might be helpful to have some CBD isolate on hand in case the effects of the THC you take are too much.
- Eat something! While no scientific studies support the anecdotal claim that eating will reduce your THC high, terpenes present in foods might have therapeutic properties that may serve as an antidote. Pine nuts might be a good choice as the terpene, pinene, can increase the numbers of neurotransmitters critical for memory formation to help with the mental fog of being too high. People have also cited the terpene limonene (found in lemons, limes, and citrus fruits) as a useful antidote to a cannabis ‘high’ for centuries.
- Drink some water. Staying hydrated can minimize discomfort from being too high and curb the “dry mouth” effect that often accompanies cannabis consumption.
- Sleep. If all else fails, the psychoactive effects of THC will wear off in a maximum of 12 hours, so sleeping it off is recommended.
Taking Too Little THC
While taking too much THC can lead to unwanted side effects, taking too little THC may not produce a medicinal effect. The goal for patients taking medical marijuana is to arrive at a minimum effective dosage. Any smaller dose than the minimum won’t have a therapeutic effect.
Micro-dosing has become a trendy way to take cannabis, but it isn’t right for every patient depending on their condition. When it comes to fighting chronic pain, cancer, and other debilitating conditions, some might find the best benefits from higher doses of THC. Especially when using cannabis in place of pain medicines or treating bouts of acute pain, vaporized cannabis concentrates can produce a quicker therapeutic effect than can other forms of administration.
Edibles & Enzymes: Why Some People Can’t Process THC
When you consume a cannabis edible, the THC has already been activated during the preparation process. It then travels through the gastrointestinal tract and the liver, where the THC is broken down into a metabolic byproduct called 11-hydroxy THC. This form of THC is much more potent than Delta-9 THC and produces a different experience than smoking or vaporizing it. Digesting an edible can take up to 90 minute or longer for it to produce an effect. The effects can last for hours and produce more psychedelic effects than other forms of administration.
An enzyme called cytochrome P2C9 (CYP2C9) in the liver and GI tract is responsible for metabolizing the THC ingested, thereby activating it. The amount of time it takes to break down THC is dependent on the performance of your CYP2C9. And it appears that an individual’s CYP2C9 performance is based on which version of a specific gene they carry. Because of this variation, some people’s GI tract produces an enzyme that breaks down THC faster than others, totally preventing them from feeling the effects of edibles. So if you’ve experienced no effects with high-dose cannabis edibles, it’s probably safe to say you fall in this genetic category. Experimenting with other forms of administration can help you decide if cannabis is right for you.
Managing Cannabis Dosing
Cannabis is thought to be therapeutic in the treatment of hundreds of medical conditions. Utilizing the right type and effective dose of cannabis can better predict how you may be affected by it. Talk to your medical marijuana doctor or dispensary budtender about what effects to expect when managing your cannabis dose.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.