Lowering Your Tolerance While Still Smoking

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Table of contents

  1. How Does Weed Tolerance Occur?
  2. How to Lower Your Weed Tolerance Without a Break
  3. The Bottom Line
  4. Frequently Asked Questions

If you consume cannabis frequently, you’ve probably experienced THC tolerance. Suddenly, you feel diminished psychoactive effects despite ingesting larger doses of your favorite strains. You might try alternative delivery methods with higher THC concentrations to mitigate the waning impact, like dabbing or vaping. Still, the high doesn’t feel quite the same anymore.

Fully abstaining from THC is a full-proof way to bring your tolerance back to baseline. But that may not be an ideal method for you. Fortunately, you may lower your tolerance without taking a THC break.

Let’s explore how weed tolerance occurs, best practices to get back to baseline, and tips for how to lower your tolerance levels without stopping smoking.

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How Does Weed Tolerance Occur?

High tolerance to cannabis occurs when THC overloads your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) with more than it can handle. Your “ECS” controls many essential bodily functions through communication between chemical signals and receptors.

Think of the ECS as a lock and key system. The keys to the system are cannabinoids like THC that mimic the body’s natural chemical signals, and the locks are our body’s cannabinoid receptors. When the two bind together, you experience various physiological effects.

ECS receptors are present throughout your body, but THC typically “locks into” CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system to unleash its effects. Delta-9’s CB1 affinity makes you feel high and influences your mood, memories, sleeping patterns, and reward centers. This communication is what makes cannabis such a powerful substance.

However, over time, THC buildup causes CB1 receptors to “down-regulate,” lowering your receptor’s response to cannabinoids. Eventually, THC overload also causes internalization or decreases the total CB1 receptor amount.

Essentially, as you consume larger doses of THC frequently, your brain’s receptors become flooded, and you eventually become tolerant to the effects. Smoking more potent extracts may help in the short term, but that only exacerbates the problem because as you smoke more, your tolerance also increases. That’s why the “high” you feel when you first start consuming cannabis is much stronger regardless of product type, delivery method, or potency.

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Pros and Cons of Weed Tolerance

Weed is incredibly safe, well-tolerated, and even therapeutic. However, some complain that high doses cause paranoia, anxiety, dizziness, and confusion. If you’re one of those people, mild marijuana tolerance could be good. Here are a few pros of cannabis tolerance:

  • Weed tolerance allows you to enjoy more cannabis products with fewer unwanted side effects and risks from overconsumption, like getting “couch lock” or feeling paranoid.
  • After reaching a certain tolerance level, you’ll have a firm grasp on what dosage is ideal for your body, mood, and desired effects.
  • You can confidently try various products with stronger THC levels without fear of adverse outcomes.
  • You’re less likely to experience other adverse effects like THC-related loss of attentiveness, time perception, and motor coordination.

On the other hand, high tolerance to weed can diminish some of the euphoria and sensory enhancement you may enjoy, along with more severe health outcomes. Some additional cons include:

  • When you develop weed tolerance, you’ll have to buy significant quantities of THC to feel its effects, making tolerance costly.
  • Prolonged cannabis consumption causes desensitization and can eventually make it impossible for your THC receptors to bind to CB1 receptors, leading to decreased effects. At this point, you may need an extended tolerance break to bounce back to normal receptor levels.
  • If you decide to quit or reduce your dosage, chronic cannabis consumption could lead to withdrawal symptoms, like mood swings, sleep disruptions, headaches, and nausea.

A 2016 study using PET scans to visualize cannabis consumers’ brains revealed that CB1 receptors began bouncing back after two days of abstaining from weed. Most industry pros recommend a 48-hour minimum tolerance break or “T-break.” These periods of abstinence are tried and true, but you might not be willing or able to take that time off. So, can you lower your tolerance without stopping smoking?

How to Lower Your Weed Tolerance Without a Break

If you’d rather refrain from cutting weed out completely, you can try a few things to lower your tolerance without stopping smoking.


Consider reducing your tolerance slowly through microdosing. Microdosing is taking tiny doses of a drug continuously. So instead of rolling a joint, consider taking a singular hit of your vape pen or opt for a low-dose edible or cannabis beverage.

A low dose is generally considered 2.5 mg or less of THC. Over several weeks, this method will help reset your tolerance while preventing irritating THC withdrawal symptoms.

Add More Water and Antioxidants to Your Diet

Drinking several cups of water daily helps your body release THC faster. By increasing water intake, THC will pass through sweat and bodily excretions. Antioxidant-rich foods and supplements could help detoxify your body. Many detox teas and beverages are on the market today, so try a few to see what you like best.

Some common cleansing ingredients include charcoal, vitamins, lemon, and ginger. For best results, consider pairing this detoxification method with microdosing to accelerate the THC release.

Opt for CBD

Let’s be clear: CBD is not THC and won’t get you high. But if you need a “T-break” without quitting smoking, cannabidiol has relaxing, anti-inflammatory benefits that may be a suitable replacement for a couple of days.

Additionally, CBD does not impact your receptors the same way as THC does, so if you simply can’t give up your after-dinner joint, try smoking a high-CBD hemp strain or a cannabis strain with a high CBD to THC ratio. You will still benefit from CBD’s anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and pain-relieving properties without impacting your THC tolerance levels.


Two main factors make exercise a good idea if you’re looking to reduce THC tolerance. Firstly, THC is stored in your body’s adipose tissue or fat cells, and exercising regularly decreases the overall amount of fat in your body and, thus, the amount of THC it stores.

Secondly, since approximately 20% of the THC in your body is released through sweat, engaging in cardiovascular exercise releases THC from this secretion method. Frequent exercise can help move THC through the body, even as you consume cannabis.

With that said, it should be noted that exercise can intensify THC’s high, with one study showing that exercise increases plasma THC concentrations in regular users. This is because THC is stored in fat and burnt during exercise, releasing THC into the body. Regular exercisers may have lower body fat percentages. But they may still feel the effects of THC more acutely as THC does not get the chance to stick to fat cells as the cells are stored and released more regularly compared to people who do not exercise as much.

The Bottom Line

While ample evidence suggests that taking a tolerance break is the surefire way to reset your brain’s cannabinoid receptors, there is more than one way to give your brain’s receptors a THC break.

If full-blown abstinence doesn’t sound realistic, consider options like microdosing, detoxifying, high-CBD strains, and exercise. These methods may take longer, but they’ll allow you to continue smoking weed while your endocannabinoid system slowly resets to optimal function.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you develop a tolerance to CBD?

Research suggests that most people don’t bind directly to CB1 receptors. That’s because CBD doesn’t bind directly to CB1 receptors. Desensitization and internalization occur through CBD usage. CBD’s mechanism of action and calming properties make it a practical, short-term THC replacement for some.

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Can I still take CBD on a THC tolerance break?

Yes, you can enjoy CBD’s calming, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties rolled up in a hemp joint, out of a vape, or in edibles. Since CBD does not bind to the CB1 receptor like THC, it will not slow down or prevent your receptors from rebounding back to their prime. Some researchers posit that CBD could stave off withdrawal symptoms if you take a tolerance break or want to wean yourself off of cannabis altogether.

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Article written by

Elena Schmidt