Why Wouldn’t You Want the Biggest THC Dose Possible?
We all want to get a good value for the money we spend, and many experienced cannabis consumers equate this to the maximum dose of THC per dollar1. While innovations in cultivating and processing can now produce unheard-of heights in potency, the evidence might show that worshipping the megadose isn’t working for us.
The problem is that our body’s cannabinoid receptors, which respond to THC and create its relaxing, pain-relieving and fun effects, can get de-sensitized2. The more accustomed those receptors get to being triggered by THC, the more they act to stifle their response. Over time, an over-stimulated cannabinoid system starts to protect itself by growing fewer new receptors and making the existing ones harder to trigger. This process is called downregulation, also known as developing tolerance. It’s the reason why many experienced consumers gradually need more and more THC to get a satisfying effect from their cannabis.
This buildup of tolerance is kind of a bummer–it makes it harder to get high, as well as more expensive. Luckily, the condition is reversible and preventable. If you’re feeling like your benefits have faded, you can sharpen up your receptors with a little tolerance break. As little as two days of abstinence from THC can help your nervous system begin to reset and let you respond to lower doses again3.
Learn More: Benefits of a Tolerance Break
Once your body has been restored to its factory settings, going forward with a lower-dose routine can help heighten the effects you’ve come to love, like relaxation, better sleep and pain relief, while reducing the disappointing parts, like memory issues and desensitization. A well-adjusted low-dose routine can also prevent new cycles of tolerance from building up.
Another reason why leaning on high doses of THC can be like shooting yourself in the foot is called “paradoxical effects,” where a substance produces the opposite of its intended effects. Even though many consumers use cannabis to relieve stress and pain, those who take large doses of THC can have it backfire. High THC doses increase the risk of anxiety, paranoia and psychosis from your bud4 5. Some long-time users develop increased risk of depression6, increased sensitivity to pain7 8 or debilitating cycles of nausea and vomiting called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome9. Although not everyone is prone to these conditions, the only way to avoid or ease them is to scale back your dosing and keep your cannabinoid system in balance.
In a survey of 1,000 Canadian cannabis users, between 49–51% said they consume to relax, aid sleep and/or reduce stress10. An American study found that 64.5% of medical users consume to fight chronic pain11. Knowing that too much THC can sabotage both those goals, it’s easy to see how important it is to find your lowest effective dose.
Dr. Dustin Sulak, an American osteopathic physician and well-known cannabis educator, is a champion of a low-dose approach called microdosing. As he describes it, if you graphed the effects of THC relative to the dose, you’d see an upside-down U-shaped curve. At too low of a dose, you get no benefit. At too high of a dose, your benefits taper off and if you keep increasing, you’ll feel even worse than you did to start with. But somewhere in between the extremes you’ll find your effective dose, where you maximize the pleasant effects and reduce the chances of tolerance or paradoxical effects. Sulak explains that everyone’s body is different, and each person’s effective dose is unique to them. He suggests that most of us would be surprised how low our effective dose really is.
Learn More: What Happens When You Microdose
How Can I Get the Most out of My High?
You don’t have to give up your good feels to take care of your receptors. Below are some ways to get the best of euphoria, relaxation and unfettered thinking with gentler doses of THC.
Start from Balance
• If you’re just getting into THC, start low and work your way up slowly so you don’t overshoot your lowest effective dose.
• If you’re experienced, consider taking a tolerance break and re-starting your dosage at a lower level to pinpoint your ideal dose.
Set the Mood for Your Session
• Orient yourself toward a good time: consume in a place where you feel safe, with people you trust and at a time when it’s okay to let go
• Harness the joy of terpenes: whether in mouth-watering strains or aromatic foods, make the most of myrcene (found in mangoes)12, limonene (citrus rind)13 and linalool (lavender or mint)14 to max your relax and boost your mood
• Tune into your senses: really smell and taste your cannabis. Your favourite scents and flavours can tickle the pleasure pathways in your brain15
• Embrace the good vibes in your body: do some yoga, have a bath or go outside. Explore music, food, aromatherapy or intimate moments with a loved one or by yourself
• New Strain: Some consumers find that an unfamiliar strain, with its unique profile of cannabinoids and other active compounds, temporarily increases their THC sensitivity
• Vape your herb: Vaping dry flower seems to produce stronger effects than smoking the same amount16
• Eat your dose: Ingesting your cannabinoids (through oils, capsules or edibles) turns THC into super-potent 11-hydroxy-THC17
Learn More: How Edibles Affect Your Body
Prime your Body
• Eat fats before/while consuming cannabis: THC dissolves in fats and becomes more available to your receptors18
Once you harness the magic of “less is more”, you’ll unlock a whole new world of THC consumption options. By leaning more on delicious tastes, scents and immersive experiences, you’ll deepen your sessions of brain-body bliss and never again have to scrounge for a nuclear megadose to bust through your tolerance.
 Chadha M, et al. (2019) Canadian cannabis consumer insights for legalization 2.0. Ernst & Young LLP. Canada. Retrieved from https://liftcobusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/lift-and-co-ey-cannabis-consumer-report.pdf. Accessed on 7 Nov 2019.
 Colizzi M, Bhattacharyya S. Cannabis use and the development of tolerance: a systematic review of human evidence. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2018; 93: 1–25
 Bonnet U, Preuss UW. The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: current insights. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. 2017; 8: 9–37
 Burns JK. Pathways from cannabis to psychosis: a review of the evidence. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2013;4:128.
 Freeman D, et al. How Cannabis Causes Paranoia: Using the Intravenous Administration of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to Identify Key Cognitive Mechanisms Leading to Paranoia. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 2015; 41(2):391-399.
 Bloomfield MA, et al. The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system. Nature. 2016;539:369-377.
 Wallace M, et al. Dose-dependent effects of smoked cannabis on capsaicin-induced pain and hyperalgesia in healthy volunteers. Anesthesiology. 2007;107(5):785-96.
 Pernía-Andrade AJ, et al. Spinal endocannabinoids and CB1 receptors mediate C-fiber-induced heterosynaptic pain sensitization. Science. 2009;325(5941):760-4.
 Figueroa-Rivera IM, et al. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: A Paradoxical Cannabis Effect. Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine. 2015;2015:405238.
 Bien, P et al. (2016). Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ca/Documents/Analytics/ca-en-analytics-DELOITTE%20Recreational%20Marijuana%20POV%20-%20ENGLISH%20FINAL_AODA.pdf.
 Boehnke KF, et al. Qualifying Conditions of Medical Cannabis License Holders in the United States. Health Affairs. 2019;38(2):05266.
 do Vale TG, Furtado EC, Santos JG, Jr, Viana GS. Central effects of citral, myrcene and limonene, constituents of essential oil chemotypes from Lippia alba (Mill.) n.e. Brown. Phytomed. 2002;9:709–714.
 Komori T, Fujiwara R, Tanida M, Nomura J, Yokoyama MM. Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states. Neuroimmunomodulation. 1995;2:174–180.
 Russo EB. Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs: A Scientific Analysis of Herbal Remedies for Psychiatric Conditions. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press; 2001.
 Rouby C, et al. (2002). Olfaction, Taste, and Cognition. Cambridge, UK. Cambridge University Press.
 Tory R. Spindle, Edward J. Cone, Nicolas J. Schlienz, John M. Mitchell, George E. Bigelow, Ronald Flegel, Eugene Hayes, Ryan Vandrey. Acute Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis in Healthy Adults Who Infrequently Use Cannabis. JAMA Network Open, 2018; 1(7): e184841
 Barrus DG, et al. Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles. Methods Rep RTI Press. 2016 Nov; 2016:10.3768 /rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611.
 Zgair A, et al. Dietary fats and pharmaceutical lipid excipients increase systemic exposure to orally administered cannabis and cannabis-based medicines. Am J Transl Res. 2016; 8(8): 3448-3459.