Finding the right cannabis dosage can be a pain. While those who like to consume cannabis for fun tend to enjoy overindulging on occasion, those seeking to tap into the wellness benefits of THC may benefit from keeping things low.
Here’s how low-dose and high-dose THC compare, and a few tips on how to find the perfect dose:
What is the difference between a low dose and a high dose of THC?
Dosing THC is not the easiest task in the world. While pre-made edibles and dosed oils and sublingual sprays tend to contain precise amounts of THC, things get far less exact when dealing with dried flower.
In general, here are some dosage guidelines to consider:
- Microdose: 0.25 grams
- Standard dose: 0.5 grams
- High dose: 1 gram and above
- Microdose: 25 milligrams
- Standard dose: 33 to 50 milligrams
- High dose: more than 50 milligrams
*There are an estimated 20 to 30 dabs per 1 gram of wax
Edibles/ oral cannabis:
- Microdose: 2.5 to 5 milligrams
- Standard dose: 5 to 10 milligrams
- High dose: 15 to 20 milligrams
- Medical cannabis dose: 20 milligrams and above
It’s important to remember that these dosages are not exact guidelines. Apart from state-based restrictions on the THC content in edibles and extractions, there are no official guidelines as to what constitutes a proper dose of THC, CBD, or any other cannabis product.
Individual tolerance plays a major role in cannabis dosing. While a few puffs of a 0.25 gram joint might be enough to get a novice consumer nice and lifted, some experienced consumers may need nearly a full gram to enjoy the same effects.
These dosages also do not adequately reflect those needed to achieve therapeutic results in some medical cannabis patients. Many cannabis patients with severe conditions often take up to one gram of cannabis oil or more per day, depending on the condition and doctors’ recommendations.
Low-dose vs high-dose THC
Comparing the effects of low dose versus high dose THC is a bit complicated. All in all, cannabis dosing is an individual task.
In some instances, cannabis patients may benefit from higher doses of THC. Yet, for others, there is reason to believe that small and moderate doses are a good thing.
Why? Many of the wellness benefits of THC follow a bell curve. That means that the benefits increase until they reach an optimal dose, and then they begin to decline.
As a broad and simplistic generalization, low doses of THC can be beneficial to health, while higher doses can sometimes have the opposite effect.
For example, a recent study published by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that low doses of oral THC reduced psychosocial stress in humans preparing for a mock job interview. In this study, low-dose THC was administered in a 7.5-milligram capsule.
Participants treated with higher doses of THC, however, both reported and showed increased physical markers of stress. The larger dose of THC was considered a moderate amount at 12.5 milligrams.
The conclusion? Low-dose THC eases stress, while high-dose THC stresses you out.
The bell curve effect
Other studies in depression research have had similar results. In a 2007 experiment published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers tested the effects of THC on serotonin levels in rodents.
Serotonin is a feel-good neurotransmitter that regulates mood and anxiety. Many antidepressant drugs work by increasing the circulation of this molecule in the body.
While rodents are certainly not humans, the researchers did find that low doses of synthetic THC significantly boosted serotonin levels. However, high doses were a different story. As Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University explains,
Low doses had a potent antidepressant effect, but when we increased the dose, the serotonin in the rats’ brains actually dropped below the level of those in the control group. So we actually demonstrated a double effect: At low doses, it increases serotonin, but at higher doses the effect is devastating, completely reversed.
Research in the area of inflammation has, again, shown similar results. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research suggests that ultralow doses of THC reduce inflammation in rodent brains without causing psychoactive effects.
A 2005 study examined the effects of cannabis on atherosclerosis, which is a chronic inflammatory disease that contributes to heart attack and stroke.
The study found that low to moderate doses of THC successfully reduced inflammation potentially slowed the progression of the disease.
However, neither ultra low or high doses were effective. As the study authors write: “the inhibitory effect of THC was bell-shaped, with neither the low nor the high doses having an anti-inflammatory effect.”
In pain, a small study in humans suggested that a moderate dose (4 percent THC) of smoked cannabis made consumers eased pain. Higher doses (8 percent THC) made consumers more sensitive to pain. The consumers had used cannabis sometime in the past 6 months.
The overall verdict? Lower doses of THC tend to be less inflammatory, less stressful, and perhaps more likely to make you happy. Keeping tolerance under consideration, higher doses may cause increased pain sensations, more stress, and low mood.
How do you find the perfect dose of THC?
Unfortunately, comparing low-dose to high-dose THC isn’t a perfect science. Every individual processes cannabis a little differently. In some people, 10 milligrams may be a low dose, while others only need 5.
How well you handle a particular dose will largely depend on what you have going on in your body at a particular point in time.
The trick is to find the perfect dose for you as an individual.
Whether you’re consuming cannabis for fun or for health and wellness purposes, finding the optimal dose can take experimenting. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always best to start small and work up until you find the right fit.
For those hoping for relief from medical conditions, talking to a cannabis-savvy doctor or medical professional is advisable when seeking the perfect dose. While this article provides some background, it is not intended as medical advice.
This post was originally published on June 20, 2017, it was updated on October 5, 2017.