Not all cannabis users are looking to get high. Low THC cannabis allows consumers to reap the potential health benefits of the plant while avoiding the psychoactive effects that can interfere with daily life. Many cannabis users expose their bodies to large amounts of THC either through smoking or high dose consumables, but this approach is counterintuitive. Instead, many experts believe that the potential medical benefits of THC may be obtained with much lower doses than they previously thought. Taking too high of a dose can diminish the possible benefits and may even lead to some unwanted side effects, such as anxiety, drowsiness, confusion, and hallucinations. Here’s what “health, not high” means when it comes to low THC products.
Less is More
A pretty common belief is that if a little bit is good, then more must be better. However, when it comes to cannabis, the old adage “less is more” rings truer. Low doses may bring about positive effects, while higher doses can do the opposite, a phenomenon referred to as the biphasic effect. Think of drinking alcohol. A glass of wine can make you feel relaxed and happy, but imbibe too much and you can get emotional, aggressive, or physically sick. The same is true for cannabis. Users report feeling relaxed and happy after a low dose of cannabis, but too much can impair cognitive function or cause anxiety. In fact, too much THC can sometimes even exacerbate the symptoms of conditions like anxiety.
In 2007, researchers conducted a study and found that cannabis may be effective for pain relief. However, they found that the substance was only effective among participants within a narrow dosage window. Participants found the most significant relief from the medium level dose. In fact, participants who took the high THC dose cannabis actually experienced more pain than the control group.
GW Pharma found similar conclusions in their clinical trials for Sativex, a mouth spray intended to alleviate neuropathic pain and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Participants were given three daily dose ranges of the oromucosal spray: low-dose, mid-dose, and high-dose. Patients who received the low and medium dose achieved the best results, while high-dose patients experienced the most adverse effects.
A 2012 study looked at cancer patients whose pain was unresponsive to traditional painkillers. These patients were given a THC compound at low, medium, and high doses. Patients who received the low dose of THC showed the most improvement in pain. Those receiving the higher doses actually reported feeling more pain than they had before.
Consumers Prefer Low THC
Research has also found that consumers prefer mild effects and therapeutic relief over getting as “high” as possible. In a randomized-controlled trial of 18 volunteers, San Francisco oncologist Dr. Donald Abrams and his team gave patients low (1.7 mg THC), medium (3.4 mg THC), and high THC dose (6.8 mg THC) cannabis. Patients self-reported outcomes, such as how “high” they felt and how “enjoyable” the experience was. None of the participants preferred the lowest dose (which was likely too low at just over one milligram), but twice as many people preferred the medium dose over the high dose. It seems that even this study that looked at patients’ preferences adhered to the law of diminishing returns and suggests that THC at too-high doses produces too many side effects without a significant increase in potential therapeutic benefits.
Additionally, a recent Forbes article reported that consumers are increasingly drawn to low THC options. Many consumers want to sample cannabis without worrying about marijuana’s potentially adverse side effects. “I don’t want a white-knuckle ride on a Friday night out,” one of the consumers told Forbes. Instead, consumers are looking for an easy entry point into the world of cannabis, and low THC products offer that window.
What is the Ideal Dose of THC?
So, what’s the ideal dose of THC? In short, it depends. Differences in metabolism, cannabinoid receptors, and previous usage can all cause differing responses to the substance. The goal should be finding the dose that gives the most minimal noticeable effect. Users can do this by starting with a low dose and increasing slowly. This is known as titrating, where users can discover how they react to a certain dose to better ascertain whether a larger dose will give them more or less relief. Users can start with a low dose, such as one to two milligrams of THC and increase the dose after one or two days. If they start feeling lethargic, dizzy, or anxious, they will know they’ve increased their dose above their optimal range. The average “microdose” is between 3.5 and 5 milligrams, but can range lower or higher based on individual factors.
Low dose THC products are all about delivering potential health benefits without the high. Too much THC has diminishing returns and can even cause extreme side effects, suggesting that a low microdose may be the right choice for many users.