Cannabis has been around for centuries, but it’s only been over the last decade or so that it’s become mainstream and commonly accepted as a product with strong therapeutic benefits. Some people are discovering cannabis for the first time, and some are coming back to it after years away. Marijuana is often experimented with at some point in a person’s life, however it’s common for people to react differently to it than their peers. Sometimes it’s a biological issue, and sometimes it’s simply that people are taking too much of it, resulting in less than optimal results.
While a person can’t overdose on cannabis, it is extremely common for users to feel the effects of the biphasic nature of cannabis when they take more than they should at any given time. This process is also seen in other substances, like alcohol for example. A person can have one glass of wine to unwind and relax, but if they drink an entire bottle they will find themselves stumbling and slurring. The biphasic effect of cannabis isn’t harmful or dangerous like that of alcohol, and can actually be used to benefit the user if they know how to do it.
Cannabis, especially products with THC like marijuana, are often used for therapeutic purposes. However, some people have noticed that while they can feel completely relaxed and calm after taking a couple hits from a joint, if they smoke the entire thing they will start to feel anxious and paranoid. This is due to the biphasic effect of cannabis. Simply put, low doses of cannabis create a very different effect than a high dose.
A compound that has a biphasic effect will relieve physical issues in small doses, but can actually intensify those symptoms if too high a dose is consumed. For cannabis, this is often seen in those looking to use THC to relieve their anxiety. THC has strong psychoactive potential and when too much is consumed, it can quickly send the user into fits of paranoia and heightened anxiety . This effect is less likely with CBD since it has no psychoactive potential. It’s common to find that a small dose of CBD can calm and clear the head, while a larger dose can make the user feel sedated and relaxed .
The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an essential aspect of physiology. First and foremost, it’s responsible for maintaining the body’s state of homeostasis. When an interference happens in the body, the ECS steps in to correct and stabilize the systems and return the body to perfect homeostasis.
There are three primary elements that make up the endocannabinoid system:
- Endocannabinoids: These are compounds that are produced naturally by the human body, but are very similar to the chemical compounds in cannabis, like CBD.
- Cannabinoid Receptors: These are found on the surface of cells throughout the body. The endocannabinoids the body produces, and any cannabinoids ingested from cannabis plants will bind to these receptors. The action of binding allows them to communicate with different systems in the body, helping the ECS maintain an equilibrium in each of the specific systems.
- Enzymes: After the endocannabinoids attach to the cannabinoid receptors and achieve stabilization in the body, they start breaking down the endocannabinoids to avoid a possible overcorrection. Each type of endocannabinoid has a specific enzyme that works at breaking it down effectively.
In regards to the endocannabinoid system and the biphasic effects of cannabis, it all comes down to how the ECS processes cannabinoids. Within the ECS is an equation called the endocannabinoid tone. The endocannabinoid tone includes the total number of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes it takes to metabolize the cannabinoids. Research has uncovered that if the receptors are oversaturated, the body actually turns them off, releasing an increased number of enzymes into the blood to metabolize the cannabinoids. Once homeostasis is again achieved, the receptors will turn back on. The goal of any new medication or treatment plan is to find that sweet spot, or the exact point of homeostasis .
How to Deal With It
In general terms, biologically humans are all the same. However each person has their own unique brain chemistry. This makes it difficult to know what each person will feel when trying new medication or new medicinal substances like cannabis.
No one wants to amplify the symptoms they are trying to treat, so the easiest way to ensure none of those adverse effects are felt is to start slowly when beginning a new cannabis treatment — or any new treatment for that matter. Start with the lowest dose of cannabis possible and then wait until the effects are felt. If there is still room for more relief without negative results, add more or try a larger dose next time.
Taking small doses of therapeutic compounds is called microdosing and is a popular method for those who want to get the benefits of a particular therapy, but don’t want to risk the intoxicating elements. Users commonly report a better mood, less anxiety, and reduced pain after microdosing , making it a great alternative for those who need the benefits and none of the psychoactive effects.
Microdosing has been a somewhat underground method of medicating for years now, but as cannabis starts to take off recreationally in many states across America, more people are learning about the power of this process and how it can benefit their health. There are a handful of basic steps to take when beginning a new microdosing routine. They are as follows:
- Obtain the cannabis product, be it marijuana or CBD. If residing in a state where recreational cannabis is legal, this is as simple as a visit to the local cannabis store. If a person is located in a more restricted state, they may need a prescription from their doctor first.
- Take the initial dose. Start small on the first day. It’s generally recommended to start with a small percentage of a normal dose while introducing the body to this new substance.
- Pay attention to the body. If possible, it’s best to just sit back and relax and observe the overall body feel after the initial dose. Users should note how close this first dose is to relieving the symptoms they’re experiencing. It’s sometimes helpful to keep a journal or written log about the results during the early stages of microdosing.
- Adjust the dose. If the dose doesn’t seem to be doing what it’s meant to do, either because it’s too much or too little, adjust the next dose accordingly.
- Make it a routine. Once the sweet spot for dosage has been found, make it a daily routine. Users will likely start to build a tolerance to the cannabis product over time, so it is advisable to revisit the treatment plan and microdosing schedule if results diminish over time.
An important note for THC: Even though very small quantities of cannabis are being consumed, it can and will still be detectable in a blood or urine test. Trace amounts can be found in the system as long as 30 days after the last dose.
As with any new medication, users should speak with their doctor before adding it into their routine. If they’re concerned about the possible biphasic effects of cannabis or THC, they should start with small doses and be ready for some trial and error experiments as they work out what dosage works best for their needs. Even if someone feels their tolerance may be higher than others, it’s still a good idea to start slowly to make sure there are no surprises.
Always remember that what works for one person may not and probably won’t work for someone else, and vice versa. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to find the best treatment plan. Instead, enjoy the journey of finding that perfect dosage and treatment plan that works specifically for one specific person’s body and needs.