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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