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Do You Benefit From Cannabis Even When You Don’t Feel High?

Cannabis can be a powerful and effective way to relieve your symptoms, but you may not want to feel the intoxicating qualities of THC all the time. Whether you have a long to-do list and want to stay clear-headed or you simply prefer to avoid feeling intoxicated, you don’t have to feel high to experience the effects and benefits of cannabis because of the many other therapeutic compounds found in cannabis. These four tips can help you navigate your options that can improve how you’re feeling without the “headiness” that comes with THC.

How to find relief with cannabis without feeling high

If cannabis is helpful for your condition but you can’t or don’t want to experience any intoxicating effects, there are ways to create a routine that meets these goals.

1. Start low, go slow

When consuming cannabis, it’s always wise to begin with a low amount of THC and slowly ramp up until you feel it. The mantra “start low, go slow” helps ensure your personal consumption goals are met without a level of intoxication that becomes uncomfortable or counter-productive. To do so, limit the amount you consume or choose a product that’s low in THC in the first place.

“We always start new patients with a low dose of THC,” said Ethos’s head medical professional William McLay, PharmD. 

Especially if you’re new to cannabis, start with a product such as a tincture or a low-THC edible, McLay added. These products offer long-lasting relief without the same type of intoxicating effects inhalable forms of cannabis provide.

2. Combining compounds

The therapeutic effects of cannabis are not limited to just THC. There are more than 100 other phytocannabinoids, as well as flavorful and aromatic terpenes, that can help contribute to alleviating certain symptoms. For example, Cannabidiol (CBD) offers pain relief and stress management benefits. Additionally, when ingested orally rather than inhaled, Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) can help with inflammation and pain without the intoxicating feeling. 

However, according to McLay, some level of THC is usually desirable alongside these other compounds, even if you don’t want to experience any sort of intoxication. This is partially due to what is known as the entourage effect, an observed phenomenon in which phytocannabinoids and terpenes work together to enhance each other’s effects.

One of the most common examples of the entourage effect in action is in balanced products with an equal amount of THC and CBD. A balanced THC:CBD ratio generally produces a less intoxicating experience. Researchers believe this may be because CBD reduces the amount of THC that binds to the CB1 receptor.

In the dispensary environment, a common use case for patients who want the benefits of cannabis without intoxication is as a sleep aid, McLay said, adding that is especially true among elderly patients. Cannabinol (CBN), for example, has been shown to affect sleep, but only when used in combination with low amounts of THC, he said. However, those low amounts of THC aren’t necessarily going to cause intoxication.

“A lot of the research points to a need for at least low-dose THC to be involved in the process for compounds like CBN to be effective,” he said.

For these use cases, McLay recommends tinctures, which contain a full spectrum of cannabis compounds and feature an easy-to-control method of consumption, which can help limit the amount of THC you consume.

3. Microdosing THC products

Microdosing cannabis is the process of consuming smaller amounts, which can minimize intoxication.

A 2020 study performed in Israel found that an optimally effective amount of THC to relieve pain is just 500 micrograms1. That’s significantly less than the amount the typical cannabis patient consumes per day which is about 150,000 micrograms, according to the same researchers. Researchers found that administering low doses of THC may provide desirable effects while avoiding the intoxication that some patients don’t want to experience.

“Low doses of THC are still extremely effective in helping with pain and anxiety,” McLay said. “We’ll have people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) who are having tremors, and they can relax their muscles by microdosing THC.”

4. Trying a different product type

Choosing a product type that’s easier to control the amount of THC consumed can help avoid intoxication. When inhaling cannabis, either by combustion or vaporization, it can be difficult to know precisely how much THC is entering your system, which could inadvertently lead to that intoxicating feeling. By contrast, tinctures and edibles make it much easier to measure the amount of THC and other cannabinoids you’re consuming. There are also products like lotions and topicals, which – for the most part – have a low or no psychoactive effect, McLay said.

“I see patients come into the dispensary who are dealing with arthritis – we have low-dose products and topical products like transdermal lotions that work wonders for people with cramps in their hands,” McLay said.

For consumers that prefer inhalable forms of cannabis, there are vaporizers that help monitor the amount you consume. So, even if you want to vape a product with THC in it, you can set these devices to ensure you’re only inhaling just enough to get relief, McLay said.
“There are devices out now that control dosing,” he said. “They’re amazing, and I recommend those any chance I get.”

Taking the next steps

While you have several options if you don’t want to feel “high,” it’s important to remember that a lot of what we know about cannabis comes from patient experience and some small studies. This means your experience may differ from others, and the best way to know is to try new routines and products until you find the best fit for your body’s needs. For help and personalized guidance, schedule a consultation with a pharmacist at any Ethos dispensary.



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