In simple terms, each person reacts differently to cannabis. Two people may experience equal or opposite reactions to the exact same strain and dose of cannabis. This can obviously be frustrating for medical cannabis patients who are trying to find effective symptom relief. It can also frustrate their doctors and other medical practitioners who work with them.
The key to working through this scenario and finding the right cannabis strain and dosage for you is understanding why medical cannabis has such different effects for different patients.
Medical Cannabis Is Affected by Your Body
Every human being has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which has two types of receptors. Every human body produces endocannabinoids to some extent, and those substances interact with the ECS to support and maintain health.
The level of endocannabinoid production varies based on a number of factors. Your age is a huge one, as endocannabinoid production appears to taper off as people grow older. Older people may have lower levels of endocannabinoids as a result. Other factors, such as sex, ethnicity, and many others also play a role.
Health conditions can also factor in endocannabinoid production, absorption, and effectiveness. Some digestive tract conditions, for example, appear to reduce the production of endocannabinoids.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that everyone has a different optimal level of endocannabinoid production. Some people need higher levels of endocannabinoids to function, while another person may get by with a much lower level. You can think of this as your unique biochemistry.
Introducing Cannabinoids to the ECS
As established, your ECS is unique to you. When you begin introducing cannabinoids, such as those found in cannabis, your ECS will react differently than another person’s. You may find you require large doses of certain strains to achieve even minimal effects. Another person might favour microdosing with the same strain to see those same effects.
Essentially, your body “interprets” cannabinoids differently than another person. This accounts for the huge range of effects, even using the same strain and similar doses.
Accounting for the Dose Curve
Cannabis is an interesting medication because its effects differ in large and small doses. At low doses, you may notice you feel relaxed and even sleepy with some strains. Those same strains in large doses may produce the exact opposite effects, making you anxious or hyperactive.
Most medications don’t exhibit this effect. They produce the same effects, and large doses just make those effects more potent.
This is why it’s so important for patients to find their optimal dose level, which is the minimum dosage needed to achieve the desired effects.
The Effects of Terpenes and Flavonoids
Another factor medical cannabis patients should account for when it comes to the different effects of cannabis is the other active substances. Terpenes and flavonoids are responsible for smells, tastes, and colours, but they also have medical benefits of their own.
Terpenes in particular appear to interact with cannabinoids to enhance or inhibit the effects of medical cannabis. Myrcene, for example, appears to enhance the sedative effects of THC. This is known as the entourage effect.
Research into the effects of terpenes and flavonoids is still in its infancy. It’s quite possible that people have individual reactions to different doses of terpenes as well, adding another layer of complexity to the medical cannabis puzzle.
If you’re trying to find the right dose and strain, this situation may feel frustrating. Understanding why you might not be achieving the effects you want, however, can help you make better treatment decisions.