Why does a cannabis tolerance happen?
Chronic THC use eventually desensitises the CB1 receptor and can even cause its internalisation (retraction). This causes a tolerance to build and the effects of cannabis are less pronounced.
How to avoid getting a cannabis tolerance?
If you're medicating, you can alternate between THC and CBD. You can also alternate between plants. For example, if you're using cannabis for anxiety, consider switching it up and alternating between cannabis and passionflower (another anxiolytic herb).
What to do when your tolerance is too high?
As much as you don't want to hear it, taking a tolerance break is the only way to get a tolerance back down once it's become too high.
Anybody who uses cannabis every day will eventually start to notice their tolerance levels increasing. The body can easily develop tolerances to virtually any substance, even if it’s a non-psychoactive pharmaceutical drug. It can even happen with CBD-based cannabis products which aren’t psychoactive at all.
It just happens that you start to realise that day by day, you’re using more and more cannabis to get the same effect. It’s exactly the same as working out. The more you work a muscle, the stronger and more resistant it gets to the work out. Which is exactly the point when you need to switch up the workout.
It happens in herbal medicine a lot because genuinely natural materials are also much easier received and integrated by the body. Which means there are also ways that you can avoid a cannabis tolerance.
In this article, we’re giving you tips on how to reset your cannabis tolerance or avoid it if you’re not already there.
Why does a cannabis tolerance happen?
You shouldn’t think of cannabis tolerance the same way you think about alcohol. Whereas with alcohol, your genetics, your sex, and your body-weight all are pretty indicative of your tolerance, no such predispositions exist with cannabis. You mostly don’t know until you try.
However, we do know that chronic cannabis use eventually leads to desensitisation to cannabinoids. Research shows that chronic THC use eventually causes the desensitisation and internalisation (retraction) of CB1 receptors. These are the receptors that respond to THC entering your body. If they retract back into the cell, then less interaction between cells and THC takes place. At the same time, we also know that these effects can be reversed after cessation of cannabis.
There’s less research about the effects of long-term CBD use, but it’s unlikely it happens in the same way as it happens with THC. CBD doesn’t have such a strong affinity for CB receptors. However, it does cause a cascade of events that involve other receptors, and with those constantly engaged, a tolerance is easily built.
It’s also important to remember that the endocannabinoid system is a balancing and regulating system. Its very purpose is to restore imbalances, so it’s not altogether strange that it responds to chronic cannabis use.
Avoiding a cannabis tolerance.
Prevention is the best cure — and avoiding a tolerance is better than having to reset one. Although… they’re kind of the same technique.
The first thing is obvious: if you use cannabis chronically, you will develop a tolerance. So the way to avoid it is to use it when you need it.
Alternate with other plants that have the same effects.
Some are using cannabis everyday for medicinal reasons, which means that identifying when you need it can be difficult. If you are using cannabis under medical advice, follow that medical advice. If you’re self-medicating, consider using other herbs that get the same effects in a different way.
It’s like taking a different route to get home. You get to the same destination but another way, and that way you don’t wear out the same pathways all the time. For example, if you use cannabis for pain, try alternating cannabis with magnesium baths or topical pain-relievers. If you use cannabis for anxiety, try alternating between cannabis and passionflower tea.
It can be as simple as a one-day-cannabis, one-day-not scenario. Alternatively, if cannabis is your “strongest” sleep aid or pain killer, you can reserve it for when nothing else is working.
Alternate between THC and CBD.
For THC users, you can alternate between THC-based cannabis products and CBD-based cannabis products. Alternating will reduce the likelihood, or it will take much longer, for the desensitisation and internalisation of CB receptors to occur.
Use a lower dosage.
To minimise the chance of building a cannabis tolerance, use the lowest possible dose you need to get the effects you want. The lower you keep the dose and the smaller the increments when you increase, the less likely you are to build a tolerance.
Combating a cannabis tolerance: taking the tolerance break.
It’s what no-one with a cannabis tolerance wants to hear but it’s what must be said. If you’ve got a way-too-high cannabis tolerance, the thing you absolutely have to do is take a tolerance break. Two weeks is long enough for your receptors to get re-wired and sensitive to cannabis again.
If you have a cannabis addiction or it’s the only therapy that works for you, taking a tolerance break can be really difficult. Your symptoms can come back and you might notice other withdrawal symptoms (like excessive dreaming or some agitation). But it only takes a couple of weeks for that tolerance to drop way down again.
Is it imperative to take a tolerance break? Well, yes — because if you don’t, your tolerance will only continue to increase. After a certain point, it can’t really be financially sustainable anymore to continue to increase your dose. Plus, many rivers lead to the same ocean, so there are always multiple ways of dealing with a health issue.
Once you’ve taken your tolerance break, it’s really important to take the advice of how to avoid getting a really high tolerance back. It’ll be way less painful for you in the future and way healthier for your cannabinoid system. Plus, it's scientifically proven that a tolerance break works.
Have you taken a tolerance break before? How was it going back? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.