Cannabis consumers who are not feeling the full effects of the plant may find it is time to reset their tolerance levels. Users can take breaks from ingesting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in order to combat diminished effects, lower their tolerance levels and achieve their desired high.
The Brain Chemistry
THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that’s responsible for the high that users experience. But when THC is ingested it too often, receptors in the brain are reduced. When those receptors diminish, THC takes less of an effect.
Our bodies are full of CB1 and CB2 receptors. Those receptors help make up the endocannabinoid (ECS) system. Research shows that when someone ingests cannabis, the THC it contains activates the CB1 receptor in the brain “much like a lock and key,” according to the physician-owned wellness center, Canna-Centers.
Once the CB1 receptors are activated, it can result in increased appetite and pain relief. Stimulating the CB1 receptors also suppresses muscle spasms and can even regulate glaucoma and bronchial asthma, according to a review published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
However, consuming too much cannabis can decrease CB1 receptors and their response to THC. As a result, regular cannabis users may develop a tolerance to the plant, according to Leafly. The publication further describes the process as an overworked athlete:
“CB1 receptors are like a baseball pitcher who throws a lot of pitches. Eventually, the pitcher’s muscles can’t carry out the task of throwing the ball as hard as it once could. [The coach notices,] then pulls the pitcher out of the game.”
In other words, the brain has proteins that act as the coach and pull weak receptors out of the game. As the receptors are reduced, the THC becomes less effective. That’s because there are fewer receptors for it to activate. Once that happens, users must consume more cannabis to reach a high. Thus, they establish a tolerance.
Tolerance levels are established relative to the consumer’s dosage and how frequently they ingest cannabis, according to a study from The Journal of Neuroscience.
However, other factors such as genetics may also contribute to establishing a tolerance, according to Leafly.
Although increased THC consumption reduces the level of CB1 receptors in the brain — a break from cannabis can restore them to their previous levels, according to research in Molecular Psychiatry. This is what many people refer to as a tolerance break.
A tolerance break, aka a t-break, can improve the effects of cannabis for regular consumers. This is because the brain can rapidly recover from a loss of CB1 receptors from cannabis use, unlike with other recreational drugs. In fact, CB1 receptors can return to normal levels after four weeks of continuous abstinence, according to the Molecular Psychiatry report.
Depending on consumption patterns, however, a tolerance break of just a few days can reduce one’s tolerance levels. Taking a week or two off from ingesting THC can also reshape consumers’ routines and restore a clear mindset. Pushing past the two-week mark is ideal for those seeking to completely flush their systems of cannabis.
What to Expect
Consumers who stop using cannabis can experience withdrawal. Symptoms, which include trouble sleeping, mood swings, headaches or increased anxiety, are occasionally present during a tolerance break.
A healthy routine can help consumers manage symptoms of withdrawal. Staying active and hydrated is especially important in the first few days of a tolerance break. Water and daily exercise can boost mood, and help remove toxins from the body through sweat, reports Healthline.
And when it is time to take cannabis up again, start slow. Users should scale back how much they consume once they re-introduce themselves to weed, especially if the tolerance break lasted more than a few days. The longer the break, the smaller the initial dose should be in order to avoid any overwhelming effects.
Consumers often enjoy the new high and quick brain recovery they experience after a tolerance break – which is unique to cannabis when compared with other recreational substances. So if someone is having trouble achieving their desired high, advise them to take a few days off from ingesting THC to improve their cannabis experience — at the very least, they may find renewed appreciation for cannabis.