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.
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.