Humans are much more sensitive to THC than previously thought. That’s the conclusion from a new study published in the European Journal of Pain which has provided the first evidence that extremely low doses (or microdoses) of THC can be effective at reducing chronic pain.
The results of the world-first clinical trial suggest that doses of just half a milligram (500 micrograms) of THC may provide clinically significant reductions in pain sensation without the psychotropic side effects that THC is well known for.
What is a microdose
A microdose is a very small dose of a drug that produces sub-perceptual effects.
Over recent years, microdosing psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin (the main active compound in magic mushrooms) has gained popularity with professionals in Silicon Valley as an aid for motivation and creativity. It’s also being studied as an alternative treatment for anxiety and depression.
Microdosing cannabis has not received the same mainstream attention as microdosing psychedelics has, although interest in its benefits is growing. We previously reported on a study out of Australia that found that a microdose of CBD and THC combined helps people with cannabis dependence to consume significantly less.
While consuming more than a few milligrams of THC can overwhelm and overstimulate cannabinoid receptors in the body, by administering very small doses of THC or THC-rich cannabis, you can experience therapeutic benefits whilst avoiding the intense psychoactive effects of THC.
Negative side effects of THC can include short-term anxiety or paranoia, as well as short-term memory problems. Although these side effects are generally short-lived, they can prevent many from experiencing the full benefits of cannabis.
Microdosers of THC (myself included) describe the effects as subtle and may include calmness, focus and increased creativity.
Cannabis and chronic pain
The research on cannabis and chronic pain has been less than clear – some studies found a benefit, others not so much. However, this may be due to the huge variables in cannabis, including cannabinoid content, terpenes and flavonoid content, method of administration and, of course, dose – something that this latest study suggests may be one of the most important factors.
The study was conducted by an Israeli pharma-tech company named Syqe Medical, who are the creators of a first-of-its-kind cannabis inhaler that enables precise dosing of THC.
Any bias in the study has been removed however – the trial was randomised, double‐blinded, placebo‐controlled, as well as independently peer-reviewed and published in a journal.
It saw 27 subjects with chronic neuropathic pain receive one inhaled dose containing either 500 micrograms (0.5 milligrams) of THC, 1,000 micrograms (1 milligram) of THC, or a placebo across three separate test days.
For reference, one gram of regular cannabis has about 15% THC, or 150,000 micrograms (150 milligrams), and a single dose when it comes to cannabis edibles is usually somewhere between 5,000-10,000 micrograms (5-10 milligrams).
Researchers concluded: “Both doses, but not the placebo, demonstrated a significant reduction in pain intensity compared with baseline and remained stable for 150‐min.
“The 1‐mg dose showed a significant pain decrease compared to the placebo.”
What’s more, along with a reduction in subjective pain scores, the subjects had no signs of cognitive impairment from either dose. Some psychoactivity was reported after the 1,000-microgram dose, although.
“We can conclude from the study results that low doses of cannabis may provide desirable effects while avoiding cognitive debilitations, significantly contributing to daily functioning, quality of life, and safety of the patient,” wrote Elon Eisenberg, lead researcher of the study.
“The doses given in this study, being so low, mandate very high precision in the treatment modality.”
Whether these results can be scaled to a larger population has not been proved as, admittedly, the number of subjects was quite small. The researchers also only looked at the short-term effects of low-dose THC, so more work is needed to establish the long-term effects.
Still, the results are very promising and are sure to garner interest in the world on cannabis medicine. The fact that THC can have relevant positive effects as such low doses will surely bring cannabis microdosing more mainstream attention.
How to microdose cannabis
Achieving the perfect dosage takes a bit of trial and error. Factors such as tolerance to THC, weight, age, sex and the volume of endocannabinoid receptors all impact your sensitivity to THC.
The best method is to start at a very small dosage and then increase slowly from there. Practically, there are a number of different way to this, which we’ll go through below.
To microdose cannabis, you have a few options. The easiest way is to put some cannabis into a dry herb vaporiser and take a single 5-10 second inhale on it.
Dry herb vapes heat up to a pre-chosen temperature that is not hot enough to burn the plant matter, but hot enough to vaporise the cannabinoids and essential oils. This produces no carcinogenic chemicals like combustion does. It also allows you to take a single inhale and then turn it off.
This will give you a small dose of whatever cannabinoids and terpenes are present in your cannabis mix. You should not notice any obvious effects apart from a slight sense of calm and a reduction in anxiety, irritability and cravings. You can do this multiple times a day.
You can also experiment with different ratios of THC/CBD in order to find what works best for you. When microdosing, I find a roughly 50/50 ratio is best, however, you may find that you need less THC or even none at all. CBD, after all, is very effective on its own.
If you don’t have a dry herb vaporiser, you can try taking just one puff of a joint and then putting it down and waiting 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, low-dose edibles are an option, but unless you have access to standardised products, dosing could be difficult.
I go into further detail on microdosing in my book, Overcoming Weed Addiction, as well as a number of other cutting edge techniques that have helped me cultivate a healthy relationship with cannabis. The book is short, concise, and highly practical. It’s available on Amazon at this link.
CBD can also be microdosed. However, as it’s only mildly psychoactive, its effects are not as pronounced as THC’s. If you want to try microdosing with CBD, check out our list of the best CBD flower in the UK.