Published: December 20th, 2022
Categories: Cannabis Info
When the muscles are sore from a workout, they need rest. Likewise, when the body has taken in cannabis consistently, it needs a break. In stoner circles, this period of abstinence is aptly known as a tolerance break (or simply a “t-break”).
It’s self-explanatory: you take some time off from consuming cannabis to allow your system to have a much-needed reset. Now, those of you who love their herb may not fancy the idea of taking a pause, but as you’ll soon understand, it does have its importance.
Cannabis tolerance is the resistance your body builds up after prolonged cannabis consumption. But how exactly does a tolerance develop?
It’s chiefly down to the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system, to which THC binds upon entering the body. Normally, THC boosts CB1 activation, resulting in the characteristic cannabis high. As you consume it regularly and in excess, however, expression and activation of these receptors reduces.
In turn, cannabis’ effects on the body are also reduced, making it more challenging to get high. As a result, you tend to consume more, which only increases your tolerance further, and the cycle continues.
As for how long it takes for a tolerance to develop, there is no hard data. It depends on various factors, including frequency of use, strain potency, your metabolism, and more.
Building up a tolerance isn’t necessarily “bad” for you, but it can signal something slightly more worrying—dependence. Apart from the general effects of being reliant on any substance, those with a dependence may struggle with (albeit mild) withdrawal symptoms like headaches, mood swings, and sleep issues. Some people have it worse with stomach issues and even cognitive impairment.
While alcohol and nicotine withdrawal have worse side effects, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are nonetheless irritating, so it would be better to avoid getting in such a bind to begin with.
Doctors have yet to come up with a specific time frame for when to take a break from THC. However, experts in the cannabis field are recommending a two-day pause every 30 days. This short break should allow the body to reset and potentially prevent physical dependence.
The 48-hour recommendation is likely connected to findings regarding CB1 receptor activity. Recent studies reveal that these receptors return to normal expression within that time frame. But ultimately, it varies from one individual to another. Certain individuals prefer tapering off the substance gradually as opposed to going "cold turkey". That said, experts recommend going with what works best for your situation.
For heavy users looking to fully reset their tolerance, a longer abstinence period of 2–4 weeks is recommended. After those few weeks have elapsed, your first hits “back” should get you well and truly stoned.
The side effects of a tolerance break will depend primarily on your frequency of use. It tends to be the heavy, chronic users who get the shorter end of the stick, as they’re the ones likely to experience more pronounced withdrawal symptoms.
In a 2020 meta-analysis on cannabis-dependent individuals, the prevalence of withdrawal symptoms was found to be 47%, with men and daily users among those most susceptible. The symptoms they displayed were similar to heavy nicotine users, such as depression, insomnia, and irritability.
So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and abstain from cannabis. Below are some helpful tips to stay off the dank, and some recommendations to consider once you're ready to roll up again.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is THC’s non-intoxicating cousin. Not only will it not get you high—as it doesn't bind directly to CB1 receptors—but it can plausibly provide some much-needed balance in the body. Studies continue to explore the homeostatic potential of the cannabinoid, and many people take CBD in a similar way to daily supplements. In any case, enjoying CBD can be a wholesome distraction from imbibing THC-rich cannabis.
CBD is available in numerous forms, from joints and vape cartridges to oils, extracts, and even topicals. With any questions, or if you’re taking any medication, consult your doctor before trying CBD.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. In this case, an idle mind could lead to unhealthy cannabis habits. Our advice to stay busy applies during the t-break specifically—as doing so will make the days go by faster and feel more productive—but it’s also true in general. Part of establishing a healthy relationship with the plant is to take some time away from it and engage in other activities.
Keep yourself busy by engaging in productive activities like yoga, meditation, and the exercise of your choice. All of these are known to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. And as studies have shown, diminished levels of cortisol could potentially enhance the endocannabinoid system naturally.
Once you’re done with your t-break, consider reducing the amount and/or potency of the cannabis you use. Some experts recommend cutting down your previous intake by at least half. This way, you can still experience the psychoactive effects of cannabis without fast-tracking the development of a tolerance.
If you’re looking for a specific amount to limit yourself to, consider staying within a range of 10–15mg of THC per day.
One aspect of a cannabis tolerance may be linked to a specific strain. If you’ve been smoking the same mix of cannabinoids and terpenes every day, your body may grow desensitised to the effects. So, after your t-break is finished, consider switching up your strains more often. Opt for different cannabinoid and terpene ratios to keep your endocannabinoid system “on its toes”.
Even though it is a natural substance, cannabis should be taken responsibly. Yes, the potential upsides may outweigh the downsides, but establishing a healthy relationship with the plant is essential to getting the most out of it.
Hopefully, after reading this, you now have a better idea of how to enhance your cannabis experience by taking a break from it!