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tolerance breaks for weed

What is a tolerance break and when are they useful?

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Contents

  1. What is cannabis tolerance?
  2. What are the benefits of a tolerance break?
  3. What are the side effects of a tolerance break?
  4. How do I take a tolerance break?
  5. How often should I take a tolerance break?

A tolerance break — sometimes called a T-break — is a deliberate, temporary cessation of cannabis consumption for the purpose of resetting the body’s tolerance to THC. Both medical and recreational cannabis users develop tolerance to THC with regular consumption, which can be reduced by taking tolerance breaks.

Both medical and recreational cannabis users develop tolerance to THC with regular consumption, which can be reduced by taking tolerance breaks. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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What is cannabis tolerance?

Tolerance is when the body acclimates to the effects of a substance or medication, when the substance is taken regularly . With repeated consumption, more of the substance is needed to achieve the original, desired effect. Like many other drugs and medicines, the human body develops tolerance when THC is consumed on a regular basis.

Scientists don’t fully understand the adaptations happening in our bodies when we experience tolerance; it’s a very complex phenomenon. However, brain imaging studies of people who use cannabis regularly have shown that chronic cannabis/THC use causes a decrease in the number of CB1 receptors across the brain. This means there are fewer sites available for THC to bind and activate the brain. The body’s natural system that interacts with cannabis — our endocannabinoid system (ECS) — is a very dynamic and responsive system. It’s no surprise that the ECS senses when it is being overwhelmed by THC, and compensates by becoming less sensitive. As a result, more THC (in the form of more frequent use or higher potency cannabis varieties) is required to achieve the same results as when you first started consuming.

Chronic THC use causes a decrease in the number of CB1 receptors across the brain. This means there are fewer sites available for THC to bind and activate the brain.

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While tolerance builds with continued, regular use, research is inconclusive on how long it takes to develop. Animal studies have suggested that females develop tolerance more rapidly than biological males, but this has been difficult to study in humans. The process is highly variable and depends on numerous factors such as consumption patterns, THC doses, routes of administration, and even our genetic makeup. The universal standard is, if you notice that you need to increase the amount of cannabis you’re using in order to feel its effects, you’ve built up a tolerance.

Tolerance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many medical patients wish to derive the benefits of THC (pain relief, for instance), but they have a hard time dealing with THC’s side effects of impairment and brain fog. Once a person develops a sufficient level of tolerance, it is possible to reap the medical benefits of cannabis in the absence of unwanted impairment. Anecdotally, patients have reported that when they are first starting out on cannabis therapy, they have success taking THC right before bed. By sleeping through the intoxication for a week or two, they are slowly able to incorporate small amounts of THC into their daytime routine, capturing medical benefits with minimal side effects.

What are the benefits of a tolerance break?

Tolerance breaks offer plentiful benefits with little effort. Moderating cannabis consumption by taking regular breaks is a good strategy for minimizing the risks of consuming too much THC. THC activates the CB1 receptors in the brain’s reward pathway, which triggers neurological responses that increase the likelihood a person will use cannabis again. While technically there’s nothing wrong with the fact that cannabis is a rewarding substance that makes people feel good, anything that creates the feeling of reward can be abused. Too much regular consumption can increase the risk of developing cannabis use disorder (CUD), and cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CH). A tolerance break mitigates the risk of developing these disorders by disrupting the body’s physical dependence on THC.

Taking a tolerance break also increases the effectiveness of cannabis on the body once you resume consumption. This means you get a more potent high (or more symptom relief) from less weed, which means less money spent in the long run.

Taking a tolerance break also increases the effectiveness of cannabis on the body once you resume consumption. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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What are the side effects of a tolerance break?

Chronic users of cannabis may experience some withdrawal symptoms when attempting a tolerance break. One study showed that nearly one-third of consumers report withdrawal symptoms when quitting after regular, long-time use. These symptoms are similar to nicotine withdrawal, and include irritability, decreased appetite, depressed mood, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. While side effects are more likely to occur for highly dependent users, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and generally undisruptive.

For medical patients, the symptoms that are being treated with cannabis are likely to return during a period of cannabis abstinence. Temporarily switching to another medication, or using complementary and alternative therapies may be helpful during this time. Because medical patients are likely to be daily consumers of cannabis, they are particularly vulnerable to the risks of chronic cannabis use (such as hyperemesis). Managing tolerance is an important part of sustainable, long-term cannabis therapy.

How do I take a tolerance break?

It’s easy to take a tolerance break. Simply stop consuming cannabis for at least two days. Research demonstrates that CB1 receptor availability is diminished by chronic cannabis use. These receptors rapidly return to a cannabis-naive state after a mere 48 hours of abstinence. That’s to say, your tolerance should be back to normal after holding off from consuming for two days.

Some people may find this difficult to do, because they have come to rely on cannabis to make their daily lives more manageable or enjoyable. While cutting back the frequency or amount you consume (exercising moderation) is never a bad thing, it’s different than going cold-turkey and taking a true tolerance break to reset the body’s endocannabinoid system. Some people may find it helpful to taper down their use for a period of time before taking a true T-break for a few days.

Those who consume cannabis a few times per day may benefit from longer tolerance breaks, up to two weeks or even a month. However, the length of your tolerance break is entirely up to you. Determine what you want out of a tolerance break, give it a try, and see how your body feels. Everyone’s body interacts with cannabis and THC differently, and there’s no one-size-fits-all for tolerance breaks.

Everyone’s body interacts with cannabis and THC differently, and there’s no one-size-fits-all for tolerance breaks. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Some consumers choose to take a tolerance break by replacing THC with CBD. Anecdotally, CBD seems to help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms that may occur with a tolerance break. However, there’s very little research available supporting this claim.

How often should I take a tolerance break?

Tolerance breaks have not been rigorously studied by doctors or scientists. However, some cannabis-centric physicians and patient advocate groups have suggested that taking a 48-hour break every 30 days is a good strategy for managing tolerance and preventing physical dependence.

Whether you are using cannabis to manage a chronic health condition, or simply enjoy having it as a part of your regular routine, there are good reasons to monitor and manage your intake, keeping your endocannabinoid system functioning at its best.

If you decide that it’s time for a tolerance break, it might be helpful to let your friends and loved ones know. Ask your friends to support you and, with their help, avoid situations that may challenge your commitment to a tolerance reset.

What is a tolerance break and when are they useful? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is cannabis tolerance? What are the benefits of a

Why a Weed “Tolerance Break” Pays Off in the Long Run

If you are a daily cannabis user, then you may notice its effects diminishing and your experience becoming less heightened. This is due to your body’s increased tolerance of cannabinoids. When the receptors of the endocannabinoid system become saturated due to prolonged cannabis exposure, they elicit a less acute response. Fortunately, the body can re-establish its baseline naturally through what is known as a “ tolerance break. ” Stepping away from cannabis, for even short periods of time, can have multiple beneficial effects.

What is a Weed Tolerance Break ?

A weed tolerance break is deliberate abstinence from cannabis for a specified time frame in order to reduce the levels of cannabinoids present in your brain and body. A study published in the journal Journal of Open Neurology found that chemicals present in cannabis can build up to levels that reduce its effects and significantly impact one’s experience. Anyone who consumes cannabis regularly may notice the need to consume even more over time to achieve the same results they once experienced. This is where a tolerance break comes into play.

Benefits of a weed tolerance break

Taking a break from cannabis has several different benefits:

  • Improved lung function
  • Possible increases in mental clarity
  • Time to reevaluate your physical and mental health to see if you need to make any adjustments
  • Heightened intensity of effects upon re-introduction of cannabis

Signs You May Need a Break from Cannabis

If you’re unsure of whether you should abstain from cannabis, or you don’t know the signs of increased tolerance, below are some signs that a tolerance break may be appropriate for you:

  • Do you consume more cannabis to achieve the same effects that you once enjoyed?
  • Do you have a chronic cough or congestion?
  • Does your creativity feel stifled when you’re sober?

How Do You Take a Weed Tolerance Break ?

There are a few things to consider to make your break successful and to maximize its benefits before reintroducing cannabis into your life. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology , abstinence after long term daily use can lead to a withdrawal syndrome that may be “characterized by negative mood, (eg. irritability, anxiety, misery), muscle pain, chills, and decreased food intake.”

Please note that this is not comparable to the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up alcohol or opioid addiction. It’s more mental and behavioral, which is why stepping up your exercise during a tolerance break is recommended. It helps with improved appetite and even mood. If you burn more calories, then you may have an easier time eating when taking a break from cannabis. And exercise can increase dopamine levels in the brain, leading to a happier mood and minimizing stress during this period.

Engaging in mentally stimulating hobbies is another way to occupy your mind. Reading, puzzles, playing a musical instrument, and challenging games are a few activities that can make for a fun, productive, and successful break.

How long should a tolerance break be?

Cannabis affects everyone differently, so there isn’t a precise amount of time recommended for a tolerance break . There are, however, some general guidelines that cannabis users can follow. For instance, a study in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry determined that THC levels drop to half of what they were after 1.3 days in infrequent consumers, and after 5-13 days in frequent users. Knowing this, give yourself at least 5 days in order to see notable changes in your experience.

How often should you take a weed tolerance break ?

This will depend on your consumption habits, body chemistry and what you want to achieve by taking a tolerance break . You could take one every time you start to feel the effects becoming lessened, once every six months, once a year — this is entirely up to you. There are no standard guidelines here, just guidelines as far as how long your break should be for.

Can you use CBD during a weed tolerance break ?

While CBD is a cannabinoid, the main reason for taking tolerance breaks is to lower THC levels. The psychoactive component of cannabis, THC, binds directly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the brain, whereas CBD does not. That said, CBD will not disrupt your brain from reducing its tolerance to THC, and in fact, it may aid some users in alleviating the anxiety sometimes associated with tolerance breaks.

Take a Tolerance Break to Reset Your System

A weed tolerance break will help you to continue to enjoy a full cannabis experience again. Plan your break around potentially stressful demands on your time, and keep the possibility of withdrawal syndrome in mind. Build activities like exercise into your experience to keep your mind and body in optimal shape, and consider incorporating other useful strategies into your practice to alleviate these mild withdrawal symptoms.

To learn more about how your endocannabinoid system works and how you can make it work for you, read The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Science .

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Learn how stepping away from cannabis, for even short periods of time, can have multiple beneficial effects.