Medical Cannabis and the Biphasic Response

There is a well-known phenomenon in Western medicine known as the ‘biphasic response’. This response is normally associated with a negative reaction to prescription medication. But the word ‘biphasic’ simply means ‘having two phases‘. When we talk about biphasic response in Medical Cannabis, we are talking about something completely different.

We believe it is important that Medical Cannabis patients understand the biphasic nature of cannabis itself. While a biphasic response to a more traditional prescription medication could be cause for alarm, that is usually not the case in the Medical Cannabis realm.

A Second Round of Side Effects

Let us start with the normal definition of biphasic response with prescription medications. Nearly every prescription medication comes with side effects. In a biphasic response scenario, you would experience those side effects twice. The first experience would occur shortly after taking the medication. The second experience could occur much later – perhaps at 7-10 hours.

Allergic anaphylaxis is often associated with this sort of biphasic response. No doubt anaphylaxis is something to be concerned about. But not all biphasic responses associated with prescription medications are serious. In fact, most are not. They can be uncomfortable though.

A Case of Opposite Effects

As a reminder, the word ‘biphasic’ simply means ‘having two phases’. When we apply the term to Medical Cannabis, we are simply saying that a single cannabis product can have opposite effects on the same person. Those effects occur in two phases.

For example, a small amount of Medical Cannabis could go a long way toward relieving your anxiety. But adding a second dose to your first, in too short a time, could reverse the effect. You could actually feel more anxious. Similarly, a particular dose could help you sleep better. A higher dose could keep you awake by boosting your energy.

The Cannigma’s Emily Earlenbaugh, PhD explains the biphasic response by using alcohol as an example. Your first drink of the evening might leave you energized and sociable. You are happy to be hanging out with your friends. But a few drinks later, you begin to feel just the opposite. You are sad, lethargic, and really don’t feel like socializing. Similar effects can be experienced with Medical Cannabis.

So, how do you avoid the biphasic response? By working closely with your Qualified Medical Provider (QMP) and Pharmacy Medical Provider (PMP) to find the optimal dosage and delivery method.

Medical Cannabis Is a Journey

We like to say that Medical Cannabis is more of a journey than a medicating event. Patients respond differently to varying products, ingredients, and doses. But that’s not all. A single patient’s response can actually change over time. What you started your Medical Cannabis journey with is likely not going to be the same a few years down the road.

One of the goals of working with your QMP and PMP is to find the optimal dosage. You want to consume enough Medical Cannabis to experience symptom relief without consuming more than necessary. Finding that optimal dosage can keep the biphasic response at bay.

Making it all work is open communication between you and your medical providers. We recommend tracking your Medical Cannabis consumption on a daily basis. We also recommend sharing the data with your medical providers.
If you are ever concerned about a biphasic response, please do not hesitate to talk things over with your QMP or PMP. Either of your medical providers is qualified to help you determine whether you should be concerned. Your medical provider can also help you adjust dosage and delivery to avoid additional biphasic responses in the future.

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Published April 23, 2024

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