Science and anecdotal evidence have shown us that medical cannabis has potential for just about anything that ails you. From headaches to cancer, this “miracle” drug is flanked by incredible stories of seriously ill people recovering, or at least finding refuge, from terrible sickness using only this all-natural plant.
But whatever its wonders, just because a medication can make you better (and poses little risk) doesn’t mean you want to go dosing yourself with high levels just because you can. While cannabis can’t cause death – the compounds in it can’t shut down the vital parts of the brain that control things like breathing – over-consumption can leave a patient feeling kind of crappy.
It’s hard enough to find a doctor to prescribe medical cannabis, so once you have, how do you go about determining the proper dosage for your individual condition?
The Onset of Effects
Due to the low toxicity of cannabis, and the fact that addiction is highly unlikely, doctors in the know tend to agree it’s safe to entrust patients with determining their own dosage.1
If you’re smoking or vaporizing your cannabis, you should start feeling the effects within a few minutes, and experience their maximum potency after about an hour. In the case of edibles, the effects can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours to kick in (depending on factors like how much food is already in your stomach).
That means you don’t want to suck back an entire joint or scarf down a whole cookie right off the bat. Rather, professionals suggest taking a single “hit” (or a bite or two of an edible) and seeing how you feel after a few minutes.
And if you’re really new, don’t take more than that the first time, period. It’s always possible the benefits will be waylaid, and it’s better to get less relief than you wanted (and up the dose next time), than to accidentally prompt an uncomfortably intense high or body stone effect.
Research has shown that as little as 2.5 mg of THC can help many symptoms, without causing much in the way of psychoactivity.2
THC Content of Cannabis
Knowing how much THC you should be ingesting in each treatment doesn’t really help if you don’t know how much THC you’re getting from that particular bud. To add to the confusion, cannabis strains can contain anywhere from 10% to 27% or higher THC content, and this percentage can vary from plant to plant.
The Cannabist offers a helpful breakdown in their article on the subject:2“Every 1 gram of cannabis bud has 1,000mg of dry weight. If a strain has about 10% THC, ten percent of 1,000mg would be 100mg. So…it is safe to assume that a gram of cannabis contains at least 100mg THC.”
So, armed with that bit of math, how much should you take? To begin with, not more than 5 mg per day (and many sources suggest new users of medical cannabis begin with a very low dose – about 1 mg of THC per treatment). As you gain more experience, you can continue to raise your dosage. Like most drugs, your body will become more and more tolerant of cannabis the more you use it, so over time a low dose just might not cut it anymore.
That said, however, one doctor who has treated many patients with medical cannabis found that those using smaller dosages (one puff instead of one joint) on a regular basis actually had better long-term results.3
“Eventually I discovered that most people have a certain threshold dosage of cannabis, below which they’ll actually experience a gradual increase in health benefits over time, and above which they’ll start building tolerance, experiencing diminishing benefits, and more side effects.”
When It’s Too Much
No matter how careful you are, a new strain or a new method of ingestion might have you accidentally over-consuming at some point. Should that happen, the most important thing is to remember that however it feels, it will pass without any real danger you, so long as you remain calm and don’t try to drive anywhere.
The token treatment for over-consuming cannabis? Sit down and relax. You can try to sleep, or just lay back and close your eyes. Drinking a lot of water can help to hurry away those unwanted effects, as can eating a light snack.
If you’ve really overdone it, it is possible the negative side effects – things like dry mouth or dizziness – could stick around for a few days. The high will generally pass within 24 hours, but just like the lingering effects of the flu, you might not feel up to snuff right away.
All the more reason to ingest responsibly, take it slow, and try to speak to a doctor who’s informed about both your symptoms and cannabis.
Cannabis might be all-natural and relatively safe, but that doesn’t mean you can take as much as you want without consequences (however minor and temporary they may be). Always be smart and safe when you’re using any natural medicine, and don’t hesitate to ask for help before you have a negative experience.