What is a tolerance break and when are they useful?
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- What is cannabis tolerance?
- What are the benefits of a tolerance break?
- What are the side effects of a tolerance break?
- How do I take a tolerance break?
- 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
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.
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
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
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.
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A Pause On Weed: A Guide Into Cannabis Tolerance Breaks
Feeling like cannabis is just an everyday habit? Feeling like it’s just another mundane activity? Find out below how you can get back to those early highs you felt as a kid!
If you’re an avid cannabis smoker, you should know what a tolerance break is. If you don’t, it’s probably because you don’t need one.
It might be because of a new job or because the court told you to. You might be going to a not-so-cannabis-friendly holiday spot, or you’re travelling with family members who don’t partake on bong rips. Or maybe you’re just looking to enhance your cannabis experience. You miss those original highs. Maybe you’ve been feeling too cloudy for the past few months or even years. Whatever your reason is, we’ll be covering what to do and how to go about this “tolerance break” in the best way possible.
WHY STOP THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD?
When you smoke cannabis on a daily basis for months or years, you’ll probably start to feel like you’re not getting as high as you used to. You start reminiscing on those giggly highs you had as a kid, wondering why that doesn’t happen anymore. You’re not afraid of social interaction when you’re high AF. The squad always includes cannabis before any activity without even questioning it. This is a sign that you should probably take a tolerance break.
Most consumers do this because cannabinoid receptors (especially CB1 receptors) start to downregulate the reception of THC upon frequent and heavy use. It’s not just you getting used to the “high” feeling, it’s actually your physiology trying to adapt to your THC consumption and turning it into “normal.” It’s your body’s natural way of saying “well, if this is how it’s going to be, might as well be functional like this.” In a survival sense, your body tries to keep you aware and safe even after consuming THC because it knows this is how you are everyday.
Research  has shown that CB1 receptors begin to replenish themselves just after two days of a cannabis tolerance break. They will continue to do so for 3-4 more weeks until they are ready to accept back all the THC.
HOW TO BEGIN
It’s important that you really want to do this before you actually do.
Remember that time your parents got you into piano lessons for 6 straight years, but now you can barely remember the do-re-mi’s? This is exactly the same!
If deep down you’re doing this because of your girlfriend or because a couple of your friends are also doing it – it won’t work. You need to truly set your intention before you even decide on a time frame.
Choose a date. It’s super important to have a deadline. Don’t set out to take a break from anywhere in-between a few days to a couple of weeks. This will motivate the thought of “yeah, it’s been long enough” to shine through. Without a clear date, there will be nothing in your brain telling you that you haven’t already gone long enough.
Try to get a few friends to do it with you. It’ll be much easier to go through with the break if you don’t have your friends hotboxing the room you’re in. Bet on who’s going to last the longest. Safest to try it out with your roommate(s). This way, you’ll be keener into keeping the bet, rather than blazing when you get home. This would mean deviating from the main purpose of the bet.
IT WON’T BE EASY
It will be a hard task, but you need to commit. Commitment is the most important factor here. Be honest with yourself 100% of the way and always remember why you’re doing this. The last thing you want is to go a couple of days THC-free, then end up taking the strongest hits of your life with an overwhelming sense of guilt. Oh boy, you don’t want that. Worse than a super-high you can’t control is a super-high you can’t control filled with existential self-doubt.
Your body will have to adjust to the lack of THC it used to be supplied with. It won’t come close to an alcohol or heroin addiction recovery. You won’t feel physical pain. Because there are no addictive compounds to cannabis, all that you’ll feel will be psychological. You might experience some circumstantial depression and feel like stuff isn’t fun anymore, but after 10 days, you’ll be good as new.
TAKING A BREAK ISN’T THE ONLY WAY TO LOWER YOUR TOLERANCE
You’ll face difficulties, no doubt about that! But being prepared is half the way to success. Taking a break can be challenging, but sometimes total abstinence isn’t needed to give your body a chance to lower its tolerance to THC. Sure, nothing beats the high after a four-week break, but at least with these methods, you get to minimise the heartache of not smoking.
• Cannabidiol (CBD) can help
All this tolerance talk about THC, but what about CBD? For those of you who don’t know, CBD is a cannabinoid, just like THC. The difference between these is that while THC causes a “high”, CBD does not. Cannabidiol has numerous applications in the medical field for this same reason. It gives users a relaxed feeling with its anti-anxiety benefits, while still keeping the mind functional. Even better, a study  suggests that CBD can help limit the rate at which THC binds to CB1 receptors. As a result, CBD can potentially reduce the high and support a quicker recovery.
Thankfully, there are a ton of options when it comes to consuming CBD over THC. CBD oils are the most popular, but if you miss the sensation of smoking, then CBD e-liquids are a fantastic substitute. If you truly want to replicate the feeling of rolling a joint while still benefiting from a reduction in THC, then the following CBD strains are a must-buy.
Both Solomatic CBD and Medical Mass feature high levels of CBD; 21% and 10% respectively. Even better, THC levels in both strains remain low, ideal for those looking to lower their tolerance without giving up on cannabis entirely.
• Use exercise to take your mind off of not smoking
The benefits of putting in some extra exercise when trying to lower your tolerance are twofold. Firstly, it is a welcome distraction for when you get a craving to roll a joint. Every time you are tempted, go for a run or take the dog for a walk.
Secondly, researchers have suggested  that exercise might help your body shift the THC it stores in fat cells. Less build-up means a better high when you do decide to pick up where you left off. If you really don’t want to give up cannabis entirely, try doing exercise after you smoke to help shift the THC that little bit quicker. Regular exercise can go some of the way in keeping your tolerance down.
• Cutting down goes a long way
It might sound simple, but if you usually have a joint when you wake up in the morning, and another before bed at night, try cutting one of them out of your routine. Reducing your intake by just one joint a day can have a dramatic effect on your tolerance to THC. Another handy tip is to change the size of the rolling papers you use. Smaller papers mean less weed can be packed into your joint. When it comes to actually lighting up, you’ll barely notice the difference, at least on the outside—on the inside, however, your CB1 receptors will be thanking you.
• Try vaping instead of smoking
There is another way that your tolerance can be lowered, but it doesn’t involve consuming less or choosing an alternative strain. Instead, we can change the way that cannabis is consumed to improve its effectiveness. Vaped marijuana has a higher bioavailability than smoking, which means more of the THC can reach your bloodstream without needing to smoke more.
Changing up the way you consume your weed means you can stick to your favourite strain; just be warned that there will come a point when even vaping won’t be enough anymore. Once you reach this stage, sometimes a complete break is the only way to reset your tolerance.
ONLY YOU WILL KNOW HOW BEST TO LOWER YOUR TOLERANCE
Ultimately, the decision to take a break from cannabis will come down to willpower. We have already discussed that after smoking every day, giving up weed for a few weeks can be tough. Hopefully, by using some of the advice above, we can make that transition into a total T-break a little bit easier. You will find out which method works best for you, but don’t be afraid to give them all a try if you find yourself going back to your usual habits.
Just remember that the whole reason behind a tolerance break is to rekindle that magical moment of toking for the first time. Once your tolerance has been lowered, you can enjoy the journey all over again!
USE SOLOMATIC DURING YOUR TOLERANCE BREAK
If you miss the taste and smell of weed, as well as the physical rituals of your regular smoke sessions, why give up a good thing? With Solomatic, you can light-up or vape to your heart’s content, and still take a tolerance break. This groundbreaking strain contains practically no THC, so it’s a good ally during your pause on more potent cannabis.
Solomatic is a fast automatic strain with generous yields that can be harvested within two months of germination. Play your cards right, and you could have plenty of citrus-scented buds in your stash by the time you’re ready for a break. The flavour? It’s filled with the taste of candied lemon, spicy ginger, and fresh pine. You’ll barely miss your normal smoke!
Have you ever felt that weed is not getting you as high as it did before? Missing those giggly highs? Maybe you need a tolerance break.