To Be Blunt: A stoner’s guide to getting elevated without the buzz

(Arielle Chen | Daily Trojan)

You never forget your first bad high — ever. By the time you’re in your 20s, you should have God knows what and a truly haunting — though in retrospect hilarious — edible story. 

My edible horror story occurred when I was a senior in high school. What started as a 4/20 celebration and a last hurrah with my friends before we moved on to college ended with a terrifying trip (literally to Ralphs but also figuratively because I did, indeed, think I was dying), vomiting twice and a cannabis-induced coma-like sleep for more than 12 hours. For reference, I took about 33 milligrams of an indiscernible block of jelly. Yeah, I didn’t touch weed for months. 

While I can laugh about it now and it’s a painfully entertaining story to have available at kickbacks, I wish someone at that time had educated me on how to ease myself into cannabis. That’s where microdosing comes in. 

Microdosing is a relatively new method of cannabis consumption where users ingest low amounts of THC to reap its medical benefits without experiencing the psychoactive effects that tend to interfere with daily tasks.

While microdosing has roots in LSD consumption, experts within the cannabis industry are finding that many people have a lower threshold for THC’s medical effects than previously thought. According to Leafly, a cannabis news and culture website, the low threshold is most likely a result of the biphasic nature of THC, whereby excessive consumption can actually produce directly opposing results. For people with anxiety, a group that has been shown to benefit from microdosing, consuming too much THC can actually worsen paranoia. CBD, a nonpsychoactive cannabis compound, can also be microdosed in tandem with THC via a 1:1 ratio to minimize the latter’s side effects, such as increased clumsiness and impaired thinking. 

According to a 2017 study published by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, lower doses of THC produce stress-relieving effects similar to the ones cited by cannabis users in empirical research, while higher doses negatively impact stress. The randomized study, which tested 42 healthy volunteers, found that even though THC reduced stress more than a placebo, a mere 5-milligram increase from 7.5 to 12.5 milligrams of THC produced an inverse result.

Aside from anxiety, preliminary studies on microdosing have indicated it can benefit people with depression, insomnia and chronic pain. A 2012 study published in The Journal of Pain concluded that patients with advanced cancer who were unresponsive to traditional painkillers showed the greatest reduction in pain when given the lowest dose of nabiximols, a compound with both THC and CBD, along with other cannabinoids. Patients who received the highest doses exhibited the greatest amount of pain.

For people without diagnosed conditions, microdosing can simply offer an avenue to relieve stress and improve mood. Since its application to weed, microdosing has also been a popular method of cannabis consumption among some clerical workers. Especially amid quarantine measures, some people are turning toward microdosing as a way to destress and take a break from workjob-related tasks.

Microdosing can also offer people a proper introduction to cannabis, helping them build their tolerance to the substance over time. It can also be a new, creative way to return to cannabis after a period of abstinence. 

So how much weed does a person need if a person needs to microdose some weed? 

Given the relatively new and experiential science surrounding microdosing, there’s no one-size-fits-all dosage for everyone. Microdosing is a highly intricate process, requiring specific doses — dependent on one’s metabolism, unique endocannabinoid system, consumption method and previous cannabis use — and consistent monitoring of effects.

Although it takes some experimentation to find the right dosage — and most likely getting too high while trying to do so — typical microdoses range from 2 to 5 milligrams of THC, while some with higher tolerances can go up to 10. 

Researchers recommend taking the same amount for two to three days while self-monitoring. If there are no noticeable effects, you can increase the dosage by 1 milligram, waiting the same time frame to observe any effects. Microdoses can be taken twice a day, once in the morning and evening, but as soon as you begin feeling high (I hate to break it to you) you’ve gone too far. Microdosing should result in a “body” high, producing increased relaxation and, according to some empirical evidence, even an increased focus.

For regular cannabis users who want to hop on the microdosing trend, it is recommended to take a break from consumption for at least 48 hours, the designated time required for cannabinoid receptors in the body to return to baseline levels, thus reaching a tolerance that is receptive to lower doses. 

Now the tricky part: method of consumption. Although microdosing is gaining traction within the cannabis medical field and among users, the industry has lagged behind the trend. Many products do not lend themselves to easy microdosing, with the lowest dose for most edibles being 10 milligrams.

However, some companies are beginning to catch on. KIVA Confections offers chocolate and mint edibles that start at 2.5 milligrams per dose. (I have to be very honest here, though, the one dark chocolate edible I tried from them tastes so bad. Like I-might-as-well-eat-actual-bud bad. And you have to really try to make chocolate edibles taste like weed, given the chemical compatibility of the two, as chocolate is supposed to mask the flavor of cannabis.)

The other trouble with edibles is the wait time. For more immediate relief, you can try tinctures that, when applied under the tongue, can deliver effects within 15 minutes or controlled-dose dab pens, such as those from Dosist. If smoking is more up your alley, you can still use good old- fashioned joints to microdose by waiting five to 10 minutes for the effects after each puff.

While the science behind microdosing is lacking, preliminary patient treatments indicate that continual low doses could potentially build up the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for responding to illnesses, injury and stress, by increasing cannabis sensitivity in the body over time. Overall, microdosing can be a simple yet effective way to improve physical and mental health.

Oftentimes, conversations around cannabis seem to exist at two diverging poles. At one end, people argue that cannabis is purely recreational, while others believe the substance is explicitly for medical use. 

But cannabis doesn’t have to be strictly defined by one extreme or another. Microdosing — paired with observation, patience and responsible consumption — offers people the chance to benefit from cannabis use on a day-to-day basis without interfering with their personal or professional lives due to intoxication. 

So the next time you try to get high and don’t, maybe it’s for the best.

Natalie Oganesyan is a rising senior writing about weed culture and politics. She is also the editor-in-chief of  Summer Trojan. Her column,“To Be Blunt,” runs every other Wednesday.