Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?
Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?
Building a strong tolerance–or reverse tolerance—to CBD may actually be beneficial in the long run.
Researchers are finding that CBD oil may be able to treat the symptoms of a whole host of diseases and conditions. Sufferers of depression, anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, and even Alzheimer’s may all find relief by using CBD oil.
A common question that comes up when people first consider trying CBD oil is whether or not you can develop a CBD tolerance over time.
CBD isn’t cheap and health insurance isn’t likely to cover it any time soon, so the thought of having to take more and more over time to get the same relief can be daunting.
Here’s the currently available information on long-term CBD oil use and the potential for developing a tolerance.
Is It Possible to Build a Tolerance to CBD?
While research has concluded that long-term use of cannabis containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) results in a THC tolerance, cannabidiol (CBD) appears to work in the opposite direction. Studies and scientific reviews of CBD oil use suggest you likely won’t build a tolerance to CBD, and long-term use may actually result in reverse tolerance.
“Reverse tolerance” refers to the phenomenon in which a person needs less of a substance to feel its effects the more they are exposed to it. So over time, CBD oil users may find relief from their symptoms with lower and lower doses.
CBD is one of over 100 phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids are chemically similar to the endocannabinoids produced by the human body; both types of cannabinoids interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). While more research needs to be done, it is believed that because CBD indirectly activates cannabinoid receptors in the ECS without binding to them, it increases the number of endocannabinoids naturally produced by your body over time. The more endocannabinoids available, the less CBD oil you need to feel the benefits of a well-functioning endocannabinoid system.
Since research on CBD oil and reverse tolerance is still in its infancy, anecdotal evidence and your own personal experimentation are going to be your best resources on the topic. Even though CBD oil will not get you “high”, start off with a lower dose if you’re testing out your tolerance. It will be easiest to track and measure your ideal dosage by gradually increasing the amount you take over the course of a few weeks or months. If the benefits you’re feeling start to plateau even as your dosage goes up, you’ll know you’ve accumulated some tolerance to CBD, and it could be time to try lowering your dosage.
Effects of Long-Term CBD Use
Until fairly recently, laws against the use of cannabis and marijuana have limited the number of longitudinal studies examining long-term use of CBD. A majority of the clinical research on the effects of CBD oil does not include a testing period longer than a few months. Hopefully though, as the laws around cannabis, hemp, and CBD continue to shift, more information will become available.
Even though there’s a lack of research on long-term CBD oil use, other scientific and medical studies have yielded promising results in terms of CBD’s safety and efficacy. CBD oil is generally considered to present little to no risk for addiction or side effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even gone as far as to state “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
There is a great deal of evidence that suggests that CBD oil may be a safer, more effective way to treat conditions that require long-term treatment, like depression and chronic pain.
CBD for Depression
Depression has become incredibly common over the years, and the medications prescribed to treat its symptoms often result in unpleasant side effects. Compounding the issue, stopping antidepressant medications can often result in withdrawal symptoms. CBD is showing promise as an effective alternative option for those dealing with depression.
In one animal study, CBD was found to have antidepressant-like effects in mice by helping to activate the 5-HT1A receptor, which is normally activated by the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. In another study, CBD was found to increase the amount of the “bliss molecule,” anandamide, in the brain. Anandamide is the neurotransmitter most commonly associated with feelings of joy and happiness.
While long-term use of antidepressants can lead to weight gain, loss of sexual function, emotional numbness, withdrawal, and even addiction, CBD oil has not been shown to produce any of these negative side effects.
CBD for Chronic Pain
Another potential long-term use case for CBD oil is in the treatment of chronic pain. Suffers of chronic pain are frequently prescribed medications with significant side effects, many of which are habit-forming. Those that wish to come off pain medications are often faced with debilitating withdrawal symptoms on top of the pain they’re already dealing with.
CBD oil, in comparison, is beginning to look like a great alternative treatment for pain. In a comprehensive review of clinical trials examining CBD’s effect on difficult-to-treat pain, it was concluded that CBD offers a promising alternative or complement to current treatments for pain management. And given the possibility for reverse tolerance, CBD oil dosages may be tapered down over time, mitigating any potential risks of long-term use.
How to Get Continual Benefits from CBD Oil
Since you’re unlikely to build a strong tolerance to CBD oil, and may in fact be dealing with reverse tolerance the more you use, how can you continue to get the most from your CBD product?
In order to properly understand the effects CBD is having on you, it is recommended that you keep a daily log. Each time you take CBD oil, write down the amount you have taken and when you have taken it. Write down any effects you experience, including any changes you notice in your physical body or mental processes. Writing these developments down will be crucial to finding your ideal dosage and deciding if CBD oil right for you in the long-run.
When it comes to choosing a CBD product, don’t be afraid to experiment with different strains, brands, and delivery formats (e.g. CBD vapes, CBD oil drops, CBD edibles). You may have to try a few different products before you find the one that works best for you. Remember to note how different products affect you—maybe a CBD vape is great for when you’re feeling anxious, but CBD drops are best for relieving pain. Finding the right CBD product(s) for your needs is a personal and exciting journey!
One of the best ways to see continual CBD benefits is to mix up your CBD oil delivery formats. In fact, you may find it most effective to use a combination of products. A CBD oil tincture or capsule might be ideal for daily use, while a CBD flower or CBD vape pen are best for on-the-spot relief.
Always talk to your doctor before you use CBD oil. While CBD oil is generally safe, there are some possible drug interactions that should be carefully monitored. If your doctor approves your CBD use, and you’re logging your experiences, you both can quickly narrow down the reasons for any negative effects.
CBD Oil Dosage
You should always follow the dosage recommendation included with your CBD oil product. If you’re looking for a more personal assessment, you might also consider speaking with a naturopathic doctor who can give you a specific dosing recommendation for your condition, age, weight, and experience with CBD.
To take some of the guesswork out of figuring out the right CBD oil dosage, we at CBD Oil Review have come up with a general recommendation, having tested and reviewed hundreds of CBD oil products:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.
If the desired effect is not reached at this dosage, we recommend slowly increasing your dose by 25mg every 3 to 4 weeks.
Once you’ve found an effective dose that works for you, you probably won’t need to increase it. Because of reverse tolerance, you may even find that with repeated use you can actually decrease the amount of CBD you take over time.
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Can You Develop a Tolerance to CBD?
The question of cannabidiol (CBD) tolerance comes up frequently. Considering CBD is a cannabinoid from the same plant as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is natural to assume CBD shares many of THC’s characteristics. It is well known that both CBD and THC have many therapeutic applications. But the similarities between these two cannabinoids tend to end there.
Apart from some primary differences between hemp-CBD and THC (more about this later), they share another difference—the risk of tolerance. This is a huge problem with THC when used for medicinal or recreational purposes. An initial dose eventually will become ineffective when taken on a regular basis, and the dosage has to be increased in order to achieve the same effect.
Fortunately, CBD does not seem to trigger the same buildup of tolerance. In fact, it is reported to have the opposite effect, a phenomenon called reverse tolerance.
How Does Tolerance Develop in the First Place?
Tolerance most commonly develops with drugs, illicit or otherwise, that bind directly to endocannabinoid receptors in the body. When the drug molecules continue binding to the same receptors, the same dose becomes less and less effective over time. Our bodies adapt to the continual presence of the new compound so that eventually, more medicine is required to achieve the same effect. 
With THC, research clearly links long-term use to increased tolerance. Unlike CBD, THC binds quite strongly to the CB1 receptor in the brain. This strong connection is the reason THC triggers a mind-altering experience. Through continued use, THC eventually reduces the number of available cannabinoid receptors.
CBD is a different story. So far, animal and clinical studies show that it’s generally safe and well-tolerated, with an excellent side-effect profile and no toxicity. 
A 2012 study determined that chronic THC users had fewer cannabinoid receptors than non-users. After a four-week break from THC usage, the same users could return to lower dosages. Their cannabinoid levels also returned to normal. 
How Does Reverse Tolerance Work?
As the name suggests, reverse tolerance is the exact opposite of tolerance. It is also referred to as “drug sensitivity.” When reverse tolerance occurs, continued use of a substance actually brings down tolerance levels, and a smaller dose is needed to achieve the same effect.
For most substances—including pharmaceuticals, nicotine, alcohol, and illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines—most people experience increased tolerance levels. However, in rare circumstances, some people have reported the opposite effect. For example, alcoholics actually may develop a reverse tolerance to alcohol due to severe liver damage.
Although only limited studies have explored the development of tolerance to CBD, the consensus is that there is little to no risk of developing it. The hypothesis states that because CBD technically does not bind to any one endocannabinoid receptor, it avoids the problem of tolerance altogether. 
Unlike THC, which reduces cannabinoid receptors over time, CBD promotes increased receptor activity. Whatever is responsible for CBD’s reverse tolerance, more often than not, patients find they can slowly decrease their dosage over time.
However, forum participants report differently.
Personal Anecdotes about CBD Oil Tolerance
In a Reddit thread now archived under the CBD community, some users reported signs of CBD tolerance. Users mostly seemed to report a tolerance when taking CBD for anxiety. But upon closer inspection, many complaints came from people struggling to find a high-quality source of CBD oil. 
Clearly, more research is needed to understand the root cause of their experience. Yet did these Redditors experienced an increased tolerance to CBD, or was something else going on?
Writing for Marijuana.com, Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a physician based in California who specializes in medicinal cannabis, discusses her patients’ experience with CBD tolerance. According to her, it’s not as straightforward as one would assume based only on clinical research. She postulates that CBD tolerance may develop due to:
1. A Product Change
Since the market is still largely unregulated, products are not standardized and can vary greatly in quality. Also, good-quality CBD oil costs more in general, and this sometimes prompts a product change. Yet this logic seldom makes sense. What does it help to take cheaper CBD oil, but then you develop a tolerance and have to take more—which costs you more anyway? So, it would make sense to spend on a more expensive, high-quality product that you know will be efficacious.
2. CBD Saturation
CBD saturation, which sometimes develops especially in children using CBD for epilepsy. According to Goldstein, parents report breakthrough seizure activity after long-term CBD use. To counter this, she prescribes reduced dosages and sometimes even a multi-day break from CBD. In most cases, this resolves the issue, and a lower CBD dose does the trick. This phenomenon, however, is yet to be formally studied.
3. CBD Isolate vs Whole-Plant CBD
Goldstein also found in her practice that children using whole-plant CBD products don’t seem to develop any tolerance problems. This is most probably due to the so-called “entourage effect,” which demonstrates that the compounds in cannabis work better together than as isolates. 
Again, more research is required to understand the nuances of adjusting a CBD dosage. At the moment, people usually rely on self-experimentation.
Three Other Differences Between CBD and THC
So, one clear difference between the two cannabinoids is tolerance development. There are three more. Cannabidiol owes its rise in popularity—at least in part—to the fundamental differences between the two.
- Cannabidiol doesn’t trigger psychoactivity, but it’s another story altogether for THC.
- Also, CBD can soothe anxieties, while THC is known to trigger them.
- There is, furthermore, the legal quagmire that THC currently finds itself in, especially in the United States. Hemp-derived CBD products are all exempt from that dilemma, thankfully.
The current body of research on CBD oil tolerance mainly highlights the differences between THC and CBD. If you believe you could be developing a tolerance to CBD, it’s worth seeking out the advice of a medical practitioner well-versed in cannabinoid therapy.Is CBD tolerance a real thing? SOL*CBD has all you need to know about CBD oil tolerance and whether or not developing a tolerance to it is a possibility. ]]>