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What Is THC Tolerance & When Should You Take A THC Break?

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Review and Comment by Dr. Debra Kimless for Verilife

As a regular cannabis consumer, it’s to be expected that your tolerance level for THC will increase over time. In some ways, this can be a good thing–you may be able to reliably dose your sessions to get the desired effect each time. But sometimes an increased tolerance can become cumbersome to your marijuana enjoyment? We’ll cover all aspects of tolerance in this article, including:

  • What is Cannabis Tolerance?
  • How Do You Develop a Tolerance to Cannabis?
  • What is a Tolerance Break?
  • How Long Should a Tolerance Break Be?
  • Cannabis Tolerance FAQs
     

What is Cannabis Tolerance?

Whether cannabis is consumed for medical or recreational purposes, it is possible the consumer may start to develop a higher tolerance. This means that their body has grown accustomed to a certain level of THC to achieve the same medical or recreational effect. When that happens, for example, a cannabis enthusiast may need to consume more THC to experience the intoxicating effects of marijuana. 

“Cannabis consumers who have over-saturated their endocannabinoid receptors are going to develop a higher tolerance to cannabinoids like THC–which can have both good and bad effects,” said Dr. Debra Kimless, a cannabis expert with board-certification in anesthesiologist, pain management, and lifestyle medicine. “While you may not experience side effects like dry mouth as often, you’ll start to need more and more cannabis for your body to see a response.”   
 


Learn more about how cannabis interacts with the body in our Endocannabinoid System article.


 

How Do You Develop a THC Tolerance? 

It’s no secret that some cannabis users are able to consume much higher levels of cannabinoids than others–but why is that? While we are still learning more about this subject, there are a few factors that likely impact a person’s tolerance.

  • Genetics: Just like with certain diseases and addictions, your genetics may influence how you respond to cannabis. 
     
  • Frequency of Use: Daily users are more likely to develop a tolerance than infrequent users.
     
  • Consumption Method: Certain high-THC methods of consumption - like dabbing concentrates - can increase the likelihood that you’ll develop a tolerance.
     
  • Gender: Females are more sensitive to cannabis than males, and they’re more likely to develop a cannabis tolerance.

Like most cannabis research, more is needed to fully understand why some develop a higher tolerance to cannabis than others. 
 

What is a Marijuana Tolerance Break?

Cannabis tolerance is something that is very likely to occur after prolonged consumption, but there is a way to possibly reduce your tolerance: a cannabis tolerance break. 

A cannabis tolerance break, or sometimes referred to as a “T-break,” is when a cannabis consumer reduces or stops marijuana consumption for a temporary period of time to lower their THC tolerance levels. This allows them to still enjoy cannabis - be it for social sessions, microdosing, or medical reasons - without needing to ingest higher and higher levels of THC. 

“Taking a ‘Drug Holiday’ is common in modern medicine,” noted Dr. Kimless. “In these cases, a patient works with their doctor to create a planned period of time in which certain medications are lowered or stopped completely, while being monitored by their medical team.”

If you are a medical patient who uses cannabis, it’s essential to work with your medical practitioner to identify if and when a tolerance break is possible. Similar to prescribed medications, medical cannabis patients should speak with their prescribing practitioner before making any changes to their regimen. 
 

How Long Should a THC Tolerance Break Be?

Dr. Kimless recommends a tolerance break of five-to-six days, meaning a consumer does not use any marijuana products during this timeframe. “Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are fat-soluble molecules, and these end up being stored in the body’s fat,” said Dr. Kimless. “That means you’ll need to give your body enough time to break down these stored cannabinoids to eliminate them from your system. This timeframe allows the body to rebalance itself and tolerance levels to decrease.” 

To take a tolerance break, there are two methods: tapering or completely stopping. Tapering means that you slow the amount of cannabis you consume over time until you stop completely. For those enthusiasts who consume cannabis multiple times a day, the taper method may be easier and more comfortable. The second method, completely stopping, means that you simply stop consuming marijuana for a period of time. Decide how long you will abstain from any cannabis–you may want a week or even a month off from cannabis. Always do what’s right for you.
 

Cannabis Tolerance FAQs

While we are always excited to share the latest products, various strains, and even our favorite cheese and cannabis pairings with you, we also know cannabis tolerance is an important part of consuming marijuana. That’s why we answer some of the most frequently asked questions here:

How long should a tolerance break be?
Everyone is different, but in general, a tolerance break can be anywhere from a couple days to a week or longer. There is some research that indicates the receptors in your endocannabinoid system can return to normal in just 48 hours of abstinence, but we recommend doing what feels right for you and your body. If you return to cannabis and feel like your tolerance levels are still quite high, you may want to extend your tolerance break longer next time. 
 
Can I speed up a tolerance break?
There’s really no way to speed up a tolerance break because you need to wait for your endocannabinoid system to rebalance itself without external cannabinoids entering your system. That said, the best way to ensure you only need to take a short tolerance break is by limiting your consumption of marijuana. This may mean targeting lower THC products or just reducing the number of days you consume cannabis each week.

How often do I need a tolerance break?
While everyone is different, there are some physician-led groups that recommend a once-a-month tolerance break to ensure you’re maintaining the right tolerance level for you. After your break, consume only enough product to achieve the desired effect so you don’t raise your tolerance levels and have to increase the length or frequency of your next tolerance break.
 

Taking a THC Tolerance Break

“Cannabis tolerance breaks are very specific to the individual, and many factors come into play when figuring out your timeline,” said Dr. Kimless. “If you are a medical cannabis patient, be sure to discuss the right regimen for your medical conditions.” 

Tolerance breaks are important for cannabis enthusiasts because they allow us to appreciate marijuana more when you return to it.
 

Dr. Debra Kimless About Debra Kimless, M.D.
Debra Kimless, M.D., is the Chief Medical Advisor for PharmaCann, overseeing the company’s medical cannabis program. As a board-certified anesthesiologist, pain medicine, and lifestyle medicine physician, she focuses on educating audiences about the benefits of cannabis. Dr. Kimless graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Muhlenberg College, and earned her M.D. at Rutgers University. She then completed her anesthesiology residency at Temple University.
Connect with Debra Kimless

 

This content is not intended as medical advice. The information provided is meant to encourage cannabis education, not replace direct patient-healthcare professional relationships.  Always consult your primary care physician or other healthcare provider prior to using cannabis products for treatment of a medical condition.  Any statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products referenced are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  Products are only available where consumption of cannabis is legal.

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