We have had many clients successfully use CBD and THC to help with various symptoms, relaxation, and overall wellness. But sometimes we are asked by those same clients, “Is it possible that it has stopped working?” The bad news is that, yes, efficacy may be reduced over time because of tolerance. The good news is tolerance can be reset with a short to moderate period of abstinence. Just like many prescriptions and other substances we ingest, the body can become “used to” having that substance available. This means that over time, regular use of cannabinoids can lead to a reduced response. This, in turn, means higher doses may be required to achieve the desired effects. This phenomenon, known as tolerance, affects both CBD and THC users. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of CBD and THC tolerance, discuss the benefits of tolerance breaks, explore methods to reset tolerance, and compare medical and recreational use of cannabinoids.
Understanding CBD and THC Tolerance and How It Happens:
Tolerance is the body's adaptive response to continuous exposure to a substance, which can lead to diminished effects. In the context of cannabinoids, tolerance occurs due to the desensitization and downregulation of cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This process reduces the efficacy of CBD or THC. This results in higher doses for the desired therapeutic or recreational effects.
CBD, a non-psychoactive compound, interacts indirectly with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS, mainly by modulating the activity of these receptors. While CBD tolerance is less pronounced compared to THC, prolonged use can still lead to a reduced response. Some individuals may find that they need to increase their CBD dosage to maintain the same level of effectiveness over time.
Research into this experience is still limited, but anecdotally, based on our customer feedback and personal experience – there seems to be a limit to how large a dose is ultimately required. A regular dose of CBD typically ranges between 10-25mg. We have several clients that use 100mg capsules or gummies 2-3 times per day, but they have not had to go above that dose. Others seem to be fine for several years at 25mg 1-2 times per day.
THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, directly binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, producing euphoric effects. Regular THC use can lead to rapid tolerance development, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired psychoactive effects. This tolerance can impact both recreational users seeking a high and medical users relying on THC for symptom relief.
As with CBD, quantitative research into specific amounts is still limited, but, again, anecdotally, the propensity to build tolerance to THC seems to be quite high (no pun intended). This is especially true for those using it for extreme symptom relief or heavy recreational users. The dose range for THC is typically 2.5-10mg for most occasional users, while regular user may be able to tolerate 200-300mg at a time. Please note: too large a dose (relative to the user) of THC can result in some very unpleasant effects including paranoia, anxiety, heart palpitations, and even hallucinations. Please do not test your tolerance limits with large dose increases.
Tolerance in Medical vs. Recreational Users:
CBD and THC have gained recognition for their potential therapeutic benefits. Medical cannabis users often rely on CBD or THC for symptom management, such as pain relief, alleviating nausea, reducing inflammation, or managing epilepsy. Tolerance in medical users can present serious challenges, as higher doses may be required to maintain the desired therapeutic effects. This can mean additional expense, or the return of symptoms, neither of which is ideal. However, monitoring tolerance and adjusting treatment accordingly can help you achieve the best results.
We understand the hesitance many medical users to discontinue use for any period of time as you don’t want your symptoms to return. We can only say that a brief break may give you greater benefits over time. Only you can judge whether the longer term benefit of increased results will outweigh the short term discomfort.
Recreational users of cannabinoids seek the psychoactive effects of THC or the overall relaxation and well-being provided by CBD. Recreational use often involves higher THC concentrations and more frequent consumption. This means recreational users may be more susceptible to tolerance development due to higher and more consistent doses. Tolerance breaks can be particularly beneficial for recreational users, allowing them to restore sensitivity and achieve desired effects with lower THC doses.
Resetting CBD and THC Tolerance - Taking a Tolerance Break:
A tolerance break, also known as a "T-break," refers to a temporary period of abstinence from cannabinoids. This break allows the body to reset your cannabinoid receptor sensitivity. This can potentially restore the initial effectiveness of CBD or THC. Tolerance breaks are commonly used by both medical and recreational users to manage tolerance and optimize the therapeutic or recreational benefits of cannabinoids.
Benefits of a Tolerance Break:
Enhanced Sensitivity: Taking a tolerance break allows the body's cannabinoid receptors to regain their sensitivity. By abstaining from cannabinoids for a period of time, users can experience enhanced effects from lower doses when they resume consumption.
Cost and Resource Efficiency: Tolerance breaks can be economically beneficial, especially for regular users. By reducing tolerance, users can achieve the desired effects with smaller quantities of CBD or THC, ultimately saving money in the long run.
Reduced Side Effects: High doses of cannabinoids, especially THC, can sometimes lead to unwanted side effects such as anxiety, paranoia, or cognitive impairment. A tolerance break can help lower the likelihood of experiencing these adverse effects by reducing the need for high doses.
Methods for Resetting CBD and THC Tolerance:
Gradual Reduction: One approach to resetting tolerance is to gradually reduce the dosage of CBD or THC over time. This method allows the body to adjust to lower levels of cannabinoids, potentially restoring receptor sensitivity. Slowly tapering down the dosage minimizes withdrawal symptoms and discomfort.
Complete Abstinence: Another method involves a complete cessation of cannabinoid consumption for a specified duration. This approach provides a more profound reset of cannabinoid receptor sensitivity, allowing users to return to baseline sensitivity levels. The length of the break can vary depending on individual factors and desired results.
Individual Factors: The duration and effectiveness of a tolerance break can vary among individuals. Factors such as metabolism, frequency of use, genetics, and overall health can influence the rate at which tolerance develops and resets. It is important to tailor the duration and approach of a tolerance break to suit individual needs.
How Long Should A CBD or THC Tolerance Break Be?
Dr. Dustin Sulak has developed a method for re-sensitizing to cannabinoids by abstaining for a short 2 days and then starting over with the “start low, go slow” method for determining optimal dose. The protocol for this method can be found with these links:
Dr. Sulak’s method has worked well for many regular CBD and THC users. Other medical professionals suggest that the length of abstinence from CBD or THC to reset tolerance can vary depending on individual factors and the extent of tolerance developed. Generally, other experts recommend a tolerance break of at least two weeks to one month for a noticeable reduction in tolerance levels. This duration allows the endocannabinoid system to reset and regain sensitivity to cannabinoids. However, for heavy or long-term users, a more extended break of several months may be necessary to fully reset tolerance and experience the desired effects with lower doses.
It's important to note that the duration of a tolerance break should be determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as frequency of use, dosage, and individual physiology. Monitoring personal response and consulting with healthcare professionals or knowledgeable experts can provide valuable guidance in determining the optimal length of abstinence for resetting tolerance and maximizing the benefits of CBD or THC consumption.
Understanding CBD and THC tolerance is crucial for both medical and recreational users of cannabinoids. Tolerance can impact the desired effects and necessitate higher doses over time. Tolerance breaks offer a viable strategy for managing tolerance, enhancing sensitivity, and optimizing the benefits of CBD or THC. Whether for medical or recreational use, incorporating tolerance breaks into cannabinoid consumption routines can lead to more efficient and effective experiences with cannabinoids. Feel free to reach out if we can help you in tailoring a tolerance break to your individual needs. If you are finding your cannabinoid experience less effective than it used to be, a “T-break” may ultimately provide a more satisfying cannabinoid experience.