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October 22, 2020
Can You Develop a Cannabis Tolerance?

BY DEANNA DEBARA

When most people consume cannabis, they want to get the complete experience and that includes experiencing the full intensity of the “high.” But is it possible for that experience and that “high” to dull over time? Or, in other words, can you develop a weed tolerance? Yes, it can happen and here’s what you need to know about it.

What is weed tolerance?

Before we jump into how it’s possible to develop a weed tolerance, let’s first define what, exactly that means.

“When we talk [about] cannabis tolerance, we are specifically talking about the tolerance to THC—both in terms of intoxicating effects as well as therapeutic effects,” says Emma Chasen, cannabis educator and industry consultant at Eminent Consulting.

For example, let’s say when you first started consuming cannabis, it only took a single hit for you to feel full-on high but now that you’ve been consuming for years, you need to smoke an entire pre-roll to get the same kind of buzz. Or maybe you used to pop a 5mg THC edible before bed to help you get to sleep—but a few months later, you now need 10mg of the same edible to get a good night’s rest.

That’s what we mean when we say “cannabis tolerance”—a diminished experience of the effects of THC.

Is cannabis tolerance a real thing?

So, now that you understand what cannabis tolerance is, onto the question at hand—can you develop one? Yes, over time, it is definitely possible to develop a tolerance to cannabis.

But how does that happen? What has changed to make it so that you go from being high off a single hit to being able to smoke a full joint without feeling intoxicated?

“THC makes us feel high when bound to our CB1 receptors. The CB1 receptors have a limited capacity and when exposed to consistent, high levels of THC they can dysregulate,” says Chasen. “This means that the consumer will continue to need higher and higher concentrations of THC to feel the same effects.”

How long it takes to develop a tolerance to cannabis “is dependent on many factors including the individual’s unique CB1 receptor density as well as the frequency of consumption,” says Chasen. “To develop a tolerance, there must be frequent use”—which, for most people, likely means daily consumption.

The strength of the cannabis you’re consuming can also play into how quickly you develop a tolerance. “The higher the THC concentration, the faster tolerance develops,” says Chasen. Bottom line: The more frequently you consume (and the higher the concentration of THC in the products you consume), the higher the likelihood you’ll develop some level of tolerance.

What to do if you develop a cannabis tolerance?

So, the bad news is that it’s possible to develop a tolerance to cannabis. But the good news? It’s also possible to “reset” that tolerance — and go back to enjoying all of your favorites and the high that goes along with it, just like you used to.

If you want to lower your tolerance to cannabis, Chasen recommends taking a step back from consumption. “At minimum, users should abstain for 48 hours when trying to reset tolerance,” says Chasen. But for those who have consistently consumed very high levels of THC for a long time, a longer tolerance break is often needed,” says Chasen. “This break will allow the CB1 receptors to ‘reset,’ so to speak.”

Once you start up again, it’s also important to be mindful of how much you’re consuming. The entire point of taking a break was to reset your tolerance—and, as such, you’re likely to feel much stronger effects from a smaller amount of THC. Before you jump back into your pre-break habits, try consuming less cannabis and/or cannabis with a lower THC concentration to see how it impacts you — this would be a great time to try microdosing. And then slowly increase your intake until you find the right balance — otherwise, you might find yourself feeling too high instead of the right level of high.

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