How to Reset Your Cannabis Tolerance
Feel like cannabis isn’t working for you the way it used to? You might be dealing with a high tolerance.
Tolerance refers to your body’s process of getting used to cannabis, which can result in weaker effects.
In other words, you need to ingest more to get the same effects you once did. This can be particularly problematic if you’re using cannabis for medical reasons.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to reset your tolerance.
Cannabis tolerance develops when you use it regularly.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound in cannabis. It works by affecting the cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain.
If you ingest THC often, your CB1 receptors are reduced over time. This means the same amount of THC won’t affect the CB1 receptors in the same way, resulting in reduced effects.
There’s no strict timeline for how tolerance develops. It depends on a range of factors, including:
- how often you use cannabis
- how strong the cannabis is
- your personal biology
One of the most common ways to lower your cannabis tolerance is to take a break from using cannabis. These are often called “T breaks.”
Research shows that, while THC can deplete your CB1 receptors, they can recover over time and return to their previous levels.
The length of your T break is up to you. There’s no solid data on exactly how long it takes for CB1 receptors to recover, so you’ll have to experiment a bit.
Some people find that a few days does the trick. Most online forums advise that 2 weeks is the ideal time frame.
If you’re using cannabis for medical reasons, taking a T break might not be feasible. There are a few other strategies you can try.
Use cannabis products with a higher CBD-to-THC ratio
Cannabidiol (CBD) is another chemical found in cannabis. It doesn’t seem to lead to depletion of CB1 receptors, meaning it doesn’t cause you to develop tolerance the way THC does.
CBD won’t give you a “high,” but it does seem to have several potential health benefits, such as reducing pain and inflammation.
At many dispensaries, you can find products ranging from a 1-to-1 ratio to as high as 16-to-1.
Tightly control your doses
The less cannabis you use, the less likely you are to develop a tolerance. Use the minimum you need to feel comfortable, and try not to overindulge.
Use cannabis less often
If possible, use cannabis less frequently. This can help to both reset your tolerance and prevent it from coming back again in the future.
Many people who have developed a high tolerance do go through cannabis withdrawal when taking a T break or using less cannabis than usual.
Cannabis withdrawal isn’t necessarily as intense as withdrawal from alcohol or other substances, but it can still be quite uncomfortable.
You might experience:
- mood swings
- cognitive impairment
- diminished appetite
- stomach problems, including nausea
- intense, vivid dreams
To help with these symptoms, make sure to get plenty of hydration and rest. You can also try using over-the-counter medications to deal with headaches and nausea.
Exercise and fresh air can help you feel alert and reduce any slumps in your mood.
The withdrawal symptoms might make it tempting to continue using cannabis. To keep yourself accountable, tell your loved ones that you’re taking a break.
While the symptoms are uncomfortable, the good news is that cannabis withdrawal symptoms usually only last for 72 hours.
Once you’ve reset your tolerance, keep the following in mind to keep your tolerance in check moving forward:
- Use lower-THC products. Since it’s THC that leads to the depletion of your CB1 receptors, it’s wise to opt for products that are a bit lower in THC.
- Don’t use cannabis too often. The more you use it, the higher your tolerance will be, so try to only use it occasionally or as needed.
- Use a lower dosage. Try consuming less cannabis at a time, and try to wait a bit longer before re-dosing.
- Use CBD instead. You may want to consider giving CBD-only products a try if you’re looking to reap the potential health benefits of cannabis. However, THC does have some benefits that CBD doesn’t seem to have, so this switch isn’t viable for everyone.
Keep in mind that tolerance might be unavoidable for some folks. If you find that you’re prone to developing a high tolerance, consider coming up with a plan to take regular T breaks as needed.
It’s pretty normal to develop a tolerance to cannabis if you use it often. In most cases, taking a T break for a week or two will reset your tolerance.
If that’s not an option, consider switching to products that are lower in THC or reducing your cannabis consumption.
Keep in mind that cannabis tolerance can sometimes be a sign of cannabis use disorder. If you’re concerned about your cannabis use, you have options:
- Have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider.
- Call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), or use their online treatment locater.
- Find a support group through the Support Group Project.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice, cannabis, and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.
If you've been consuming weed for a while, you've probably developed a high tolerance along the way. Here's how to reset it and keep it from happening again.
Cannabis Tolerance: What Does the Evidence Say?
Most conversations about cannabis tolerance revolve around the experiences of recreational cannabis users. Often this revolves around the need for higher doses of the drug to experience their desired intoxication level; on the other hand, after prolonged usage of the same dose they may feel they no longer experience some of the common side effects of cannabis use, such as poor attention, anxiety, or confusion.
However, for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, tolerance can be a big problem. While recreational users have reported that taking short breaks from cannabis use, known as “t-breaks”, has helped combat some of their tolerance symptoms, this is rarely an option for people who are using cannabis to manage pain or extreme discomfort. The more moderate critics of medicinal cannabis often cite this build-up of tolerance in debating whether the long-term effectiveness of the drug is satisfactory enough to permit its widespread use.
There has been a wealth of previous research into specific aspects of cannabis tolerance: from the more subjective reported effects on mood and intoxication, to the more easily quantifiable effect on heart rate and EEG signals. Many of these studies have reported conflicting results, most likely due to differing extents of cannabis use history, the potency of cannabis used in the studies, and individual sensitivity. Researchers at King’s College London have conducted the first systematic literature review of cannabis tolerance studies involving the comparison of regular cannabis users (RU, daily to weekly cannabis use) to occasional or non-regular cannabis users (NRU, weekly or less cannabis use). The aim of this study was to identify pockets of evidence for the development of cannabis tolerance against a specific effect of cannabis use.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, studies into intoxication and other subjective effects were the most commonly investigated by researchers, with 22 unique studies involving a total of 629 participants being conducted in the past 50 years. Of these 22 studies, 15 found some positive evidence of cannabis tolerance affecting intoxication.
Where studies focussed on the effects following a single administration of cannabis, there was mixed results. Four studies found no significant difference in reported intoxication between RU and NRU populations; but three larger-scale studies concluding that there was less pronounced and shorter spells of intoxication in RU versus NRU group.
In studies that examined repeated cannabis administration, the development of tolerance was more clearly observed. Lower levels of intoxication were consistently reported by RU in comparison to NRU, with some studies also observing corresponding decreases in reports of “good feelings” and “stimulation” in RU, and higher numbers of NRU reporting feelings of tiredness at high cannabis dosages.
Additionally, one study reported that in users who had built up a cannabis tolerance, a one week period of abstinence from cannabis use did result in a measurable partial recovery from the effects of cannabis tolerance.
Cognitive function showed the highest degree of tolerance among the various domains examined by cannabis tolerance studies.
In studies concerning acute cannabis use, finding showed that memory and learning, attention, and psychomotor ability were all less impaired in RU compared to NRU and non-users (NU) when completing the Critical Tracking Test (CTT), a common cognitive function assessment. However, when given a different test to assess sustained attention, no evidence for tolerance was observed in RU in comparison to NRU, indicating that the effect of tolerance on attention may be limited to just damping the tendency for divided attention. Other cognitive functions, such as impulsivity and time perception have been the subject of only a few studies, but it appears that no tolerance is built up to cannabis’ effect on impulsivity in RU, but that RU were more accurate in judging the passing of time than NRU.
Studies of repeated cannabis administration have also demonstrated the development of tolerance to the effects on cognitive function, with the vast majority of these studies demonstrating tolerance in the areas of learning, memory, vigilance, and psychomotor ability.
In addition to intoxication and cognitive function, the literature review also found pockets of evidence for the building up of partial tolerance in regular cannabis users against other behavioral and physiological effects. Resting heart rate, anxiety, and confusion were all found to be lessened to some extent in RU versus NRU. From a physiological perspective, RU also experienced smaller changes in EEG signals, cortisol release, and prolactin levels than NRU.
Detox for cannabis tolerance
The researchers who conducted the literature review acknowledge that these pockets of conclusive results are merely the highlights in a messy and confusing landscape of cannabis tolerance studies. Currently, many areas of study only have a very limited number of studies covering them, or a very limited number of participants across multiple studies. Other areas have been heavily researched, but due to differing study methods the results from these studies can be conflicting. This makes it hard to say conclusively whether cannabis tolerance can affect these certain domains of behavior.
Still, there is enough evidence available from the wealth of cannabis tolerance studies to safely conclude that with sustained long-term use at a set dosage, it is indeed possible to develop a tolerance to some of the effects of cannabis. It has also been shown that cannabis tolerance in frequent cannabis users can decrease following a relatively short break from cannabis use.
Further research is definitely needed in the field of cannabis tolerance study. Behavioral and physiological effects were identified as particularly important areas which require additional research.
Further investigation of the neurobiological mechanisms that underpin the development of cannabis tolerance has been identified as key to improving our understanding of the field. By increasing our knowledge of how cannabis tolerance works, it may be possible to better model the outcomes of long-term regular cannabis usage, as well as improve the long-term effectiveness of cannabis as a medicinal treatment for those who rely on it.
Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds an MChem in materials chemistry from the University of St Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie Scholarship and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.
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Cannabis Tolerance: What Does the Evidence Say? Most conversations about cannabis tolerance revolve around the experiences of recreational cannabis users. Often this revolves around the need for