Should cannabis and its compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, come in standardized doses? While it may benefit both cannabis research and cannabis-related treatments, the nature of the plant makes it difficult to properly standardize.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently released a Request for Information (RIF) for a Standard Unit Dose of THC for cannabis research. In particular, the agency said wants to look into creating a standardized dose similar to that for alcohol, tobacco, and opioids both for researchers to more effectively analyze its properties and for users to better understand how to consume it.
Despite its possible benefits, standardizing doses of THC may not standardize its effects. There is a growing body of evidence, for example, showing that the effects of cannabinoids depend on how they react with others present in the cannabis plant. This means that while cannabis varieties contain the same amount of THC, their effects may differ due to the other active cannabinoids, terpenes, etc. in the plant too.
More than this, delivery methods of cannabis products can also impact the effects of THC, as well as how they are absorbed and metabolized.
“There’s a difference between 10mg of THC that’s inhaled, which is actually a very big dose if someone is actually getting that much, and 10mg taken orally, which is going to affect some people who don’t have tolerance quite markedly, but the time contours are totally different,” says Dr. Ethan Russo, in an episode of The Cannabis Enigma podcast.
“It also depends on endocannabinoid tone, a patient’s prior experience, do they have tolerance to the material or not?”
As such, despite the potential benefits to both patients and research standardizing THC doses may bring, making this happen in practice could be a challenging feat. While this does not mean it should not be attempted, it does mean that many factors must be taken into account during implementation.