CK User Question:
What is the Biphasic Effect of Cannabis and Why is it Important?
The biphasic effect is a pharmacological concept. The term is used to describe when a compound such as an over-the-counter drug, prescription medication, or in the case of cannabis, a specific cannabinoid, produces opposing effects at different dosage ranges. In contrast, the “sweet spot” or the optimal dose lies somewhere in between the two furthest ends of the biphasic effects spectrum and depends largely on each individual’s unique vulnerabilities, condition, and circumstances.
One of the most well-known cannabinoids that can produce a dose-dependent biphasic effect is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. At lower doses, THC may have a calming effect, reducing anxiety, and promoting a deep sense of relaxation. On the other hand, at higher doses, it can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and disconcerting hallucinations. Similarly, low doses of THC can improve cognitive function, focus, and memory while higher doses induce cognitive dysfunction and cause short-term memory loss.
The biphasic effect is nearly impossible to predict in cannabis naive people, i.e., those using THC containing products for the first time. This is due to the fact that individual sensitivity to THC can vary significantly. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs whose effects are typically weight-based and as such more predictable, one never really knows how sensitive a person is to THC until they are actually exposed to it.
To make matters even more complex is the fact that different forms of THC containing products have different onset and duration times. When inhaling THC the effects are typically realized in a few seconds making it easier to rapidly realize when a person crosses that fine line between a therapeutic or desired effect to that of an unpleasant or adverse effect. In contrast, when using THC containing edibles the onset time can take up to 2-3 hours (i.e., faster onset on an empty stomach) and the actual effects can last 6-8 hours or more especially when taken too much.
Furthermore, many people make the mistake to assume that all THC-containing edibles are essentially the same. Not so. One THC-infused cookie may contain many more mg of THC than another making the realization of precise therapeutic effects and the predictability of effect more difficult than it has to be. The same holds true for cannabis flowers. The percent content of THC in cannabis flowers, even those with the same name, can vary greatly depending on the environment in which they were grown. So, even if you had a positive experience with one type of flower, or one type of cookie, unless tested by a reputable laboratory and clearly marked on the product label, proceed with caution to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
One way to avoid an unwanted biphasic effect or crossing the fine line between a desired and unwanted experience is to carefully titrate or use a “start low and go slow” approach. By starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it (be especially careful and patient when using ingestibles), people can better assess their response to THC and adjust the dosage accordingly. This method allows for a more personalized and effective dosing regimen, minimizing the risk of adverse effects and maximizing the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. It is especially important for individuals new to cannabis or those using it for medical purposes.
- Biphasic effects are dose-dependent.
- THC exhibits a biphasic effect.
- The biphasic nature of THC can produce a desired or an adverse effect.
- The ideal therapeutic window lies somewhere between a sub-optimal and an adverse effect.
- It is impossible to accurately predict a cannabis naive person’s reaction to first time exposure to THC.
- Different THC-containing forms have different onset and duration times.
- Laboratory tests are the only way to know the actual amount of THC in any product.
- If unsure about the specific mg amount of THC, consider using the “start low and go slow” approach.
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Information on this site is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over-the-counter medication is also available. Consult your physician, nutritionally oriented health care practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.