There will always be a large portion of people in the cannabis market that are interested in one thing: getting high. And we get it! Feeling high feels good; common sensations include euphoria, relaxation, creativity, sociability, and thinking about life in new, positive ways. Of course, these sensations come with a unique psychoactive, intoxicating feeling. This appeals to many people, but not to everyone.
For some, using cannabis is more about medicinal benefits — and these benefits can be experienced without feeling high. Some of the best evidence-based medicinal claims for cannabis use include treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
So, what are some ways to try this alternate path in cannabis consumption?
Check Your Dose
Dosage is paramount. Physicians that specialize in treating their patients with cannabis often prescribe anywhere from 1 to 5mg of THC. To put that number in context, California laws pertaining to legalized adult-use cannabis state that edibles can’t “exceed 10 milligrams tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving.” It’s easy to underestimate just how beneficial a smaller-than-usual dose of THC can be.
Other Cannabinoids Besides THC
Other cannabinoids (CBD, most notably) offer medicinal benefits without intoxication. According to 2018 report from eaze.com, “CBD consumers nearly doubled in 2018, growing from 2.6% in 2017 to 4.8% in 2018. Baby Boomers are the most common CBD enthusiasts of all age groups (8.4% in 2018), and female Boomers are the most likely CBD users.” This trend is likely to continue; as legalization spreads, more and more first-time users (or users who haven’t tried cannabis in decades) will be interested in ways to experience medicinal benefits while minimizing potentially unpleasant side effects of THC.
Combining THC and CBD
Lastly, combining CBD products with THC products appears to be a growing trend in cannabis. One cannabis journalist suggests “combining whatever form of CBD you can access locally with the best whole-plant cannabis you can lay your hands on. Perhaps this means swallowing a CBD capsule and then taking a few puffs off a joint an hour later.”
What’s the scientific explanation for this? According to ProjectCBD, CBD simply diminishes the intoxicating high of THC:
“CBD interacts allosterically with CB1 [one of the human body’s cannabinoid receptors] and changes the shape of the receptor in a way that weakens CB1’s ability to bind with THC. As a negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor, CBD lowers the ceiling on THC’s psychoactivity—which is why people don’t feel as ‘high’ when using CBD-rich cannabis compared to when they consume THC-dominant medicine.”
Please note that, although there seems to be strong anecdotal for this effect, one expert’s review suggested that there are important nuances to consider and that it may not be so simple to claim that consuming CBD before or with THC makes you feel less high.
It’s exciting to imagine what mainstream cannabis use will look like a decade from now. Critics of cannabis legalization conjure images of a population totally out of control, with people careening down highways, blazed out of their minds! But this may be a tad inaccurate.
Although comparisons between cannabis and alcohol are sometimes useful, it is also helpful to compare cannabis to prescription or even over-the-counter medication. As a society, we accept (and often barely think about) how many people function at home or at work while on some form of medication. Perhaps the future of cannabis consumption will be similar — people taking responsible, intentional doses to feel well, but not necessarily to feel high or intoxicated to the point of being nonfunctional.
The complex trends of the cannabis industry may be difficult to predict, but its rapid growth suggests that we’ll know how things will shape up sooner, rather than later!