Medical Research

Microdosing Cannabis for Pain Using a Medical Inhaler

Written by Petar Petrov

The limited precision of cannabis treatment is a recurring sticking point in studies that have explored its medical potential. Different modes of cannabis intake come with different limitations, such as a delayed time of onset or low bioavailability, which can cause differences in effects, as well as health risks. Such limitations can result in a disagreement among physicians in the reliability and efficacy of cannabis as a legitimate treatment option.

But a group of researchers recently showed promising results by way of a novel method of dose delivery. A metered-dose inhaler can be used to control temperature to efficiently aerosolize and decarboxylate tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and convert it into its active analogue tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) without reaching its point of combustion and the health hazards that come with it.[1]

Researchers who studied this inhaler wrote, “the device engages automatic thermal and flow controllers that ensure the delivery of cannabinoid aerosol to the lungs, independent of the inhalation pattern of the individual patient.”[1]

A randomized, three‐arms, double‐blinded, placebo‐controlled, cross‐over trial evaluated the effect of the inhaler on pharmacokinetic measures (how the device affected cannabinoid levels in the body), pain relief, cognitive performance, and safety. A small group of patients (twenty-five) with chronic pain were treated with a single inhalation of THC (0.5mg or 1mg) or a placebo (non-active substance).[1]

The results were very much in line with what the scientists had hoped for. The device produced palpable pain relief in a dose-dependent manner while keeping adverse effects, which were predetermined according to expert literature and involved common occurrences like dizziness, restlessness, and headache, to a relative minimum in terms of severity and persistence. Both doses induced an analgesic effect that remained stable over the course of 150 minutes. Cognitive performance also didn’t suffer any consistent impairments.[1]

The bottom line is, the improved precision of this inhaler allows patients to do far more with far less THC, this maximizing its potential. In fact, an additional study showed that this non-combustible method is suitable for use in a hospital setting, widening its applications.[2]

And while these results are very promising, it will also be interesting to see if this inhalation method can be used to help people medicate with other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD). This study also demonstrates that each new device should be thoroughly evaluated to determine optimal dosing, efficacy, and, of course, safety.

Image Credit: Anke Sundermeier

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  1. Almog S, et al. The pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and safety of a novel selective‐dose cannabis inhaler in patients with chronic pain: A randomized, double‐blinded, placebo‐controlled trial. European Journal of Pain. 2020;24(8):1505-1516.
  2. Vulfsons S, et al. Cannabis treatment in hospitalized patients using the SYQE inhaler: Results of a pilot open-label study. Palliat Support Care. 2020;18(1):12-17.

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.