Start Low, Go Slow. Track the Effect. Repeat As Needed

A Cannabis Nurse’s Suggestions for Finding Your Personal Therapeutic Dose of Cannabis

Start low and go slow. It’s a phrase that’s thrown around in the cannabis space like a Nerf ball at recess, but what does it really mean? And do cannabis consumers understand it? Let’s explore the answers to these questions and get down to the basics that encompass the concept of microdosing — another term often heard and misunderstood in not only the cannabis space, but also our culture.

Ask any cannabis user when they began to use cannabis and the answer from most people will fall somewhere between their high school and college years. Reach a little further to determine what that use may have looked like, and most people report that the goal at that time was to become as high as possible by consuming as much cannabis as possible. A typical Western culture occurrence that centers on the underlying (or perhaps overtly accepted) premise that more is more is more. This is simply not true when it comes to most substances. Certainly not cannabis. To use cannabis therapeutically, it’s imperative for cannabis consumers to find the least amount of cannabis that helps them to achieve the maximum desired effect.

To further explore the concept of microdosing, we’ll use the consumption method that gives the most feedback quickly — inhalation. This method of use also happens to be the most popular way to consume cannabis. Whether inhalation happens via smoking, vaporizing, or dabbing cannabis, it can be helpful to the person needing to relieve symptoms to track the effect with a journal, or these days, there are a lot of great apps one can put on their phone instead of utilizing a paper and pen.

For example, if the desired effect is to reduce pain while maintaining the ability to complete daily tasks, then the consumer must explore with cannabis to find the lowest possible dose that effectively reduces pain, but doesn’t impede or impair the person’s cognitive abilities. It’s best to start with the lowest dose, more can always be added slowly. But too much can lead to an unproductive experience.

Here’s the process I recommend.

Review symptoms and answer these questions — what ails you? What symptoms are you trying to relieve? What is the desired effect?

Sticking with our example — If you are struggling with pain, rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced (in which case, you may want to seek emergency medical attention!) 1 being a nagging tension, but nothing that you can’t deal with. Remember that this is just an example, everyone is different. Pain is subjective.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you are ready to explore to find the therapeutic dose that works best for you.

Start low — take one puff. Breathe in and out. (It’s a myth that the “hit” will be more effective if held in for as long as possible.)

Go slow — Track the effect over the course of a few minutes. Take five minutes you are cannabis naive, or new to cannabis. In the case of pain, rate your pain prior to use. And then a few minutes after.

Still in pain after those few minutes have passed? Take another puff. Track the effect again. This time, wait ten minutes to see if your pain is reduced or relieved by rating it again. Remember, the effects are cumulative. You can always add more, but taking in too much may cause you to have an experience you weren’t seeking.

Continue this process until you have achieved the desired effect. Document in your journal or app if this strain and method of consumption worked for you, or if it didn’t at all.

Keep in mind that finding the therapeutic dose hinges on a lot of different factors. Some strains of cannabis may help you reduce your symptoms, some may not. The terpene profile, whether or not the strain leans indica or sativa, the ratio of cannabinoids, the cannabinoid profile, the processing methods used to create cannabis product, how long the consumer has used cannabis, and a whole host of other factors may play a role in helping you achieve the desired effect. Be prepared to explore with multiple products — using cannabis to effectively reduce and relieve symptoms is a discovery process.

If you’re completely new to cannabis, ask your dispensing agent or budtender at your local dispensary which products have been reported to help other people with pain. This is typically a good place to start. There are also several great websites that review strains — such resources are free and available to you via Internet search.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you are setting yourself up for success. Nourish yourself — a diet comprised of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and 80 to a 100 ounces of fresh water daily is essential to staying well, or helping your body return to a healthy state. And also, move your body. The best way to reduce symptoms and relieve suffering is to make regular deposits into the self-care bank. Cannabis can be a part of that self-care plan, but it won’t work nearly as well if the body is devoid of the proper diet and regular movement it depends on to function optimally. Good luck in finding the therapeutic regimen that works best for you! Here’s to your health!

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