Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Tolerance refers to when the body has become resistant to the effects of a medicine or substance due to regular use. When a body has a high tolerance, it requires more of the substance to achieve the desired effects.
Tolerance breaks (or t-breaks) are brief interludes that allow your body to take a break from cannabis and reset its endocannabinoid system (ECS). T-breaks should enable the cannabinoids to achieve their original potency when you resume consumption.
Building some amount of tolerance is not always a bad thing. For example, building some tolerance to THC can help a person keep functional and carry on with some everyday chores. Build too much tolerance to THC, and its effects can diminish.
Read on to learn more about tolerance breaks, why they’re useful, and how to get the best medicinal experience out of your cannabis.
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What Is a Tolerance Break?
Science still doesn’t fully understand the complex phenomenon of tolerance, as its specific experiences depend on each individual’s body and cannabis use. However, some brain imaging studies of chronic cannabis users have shown decreased numbers of CB1 receptors in the brain.
The body’s ECS is highly dynamic and responsive, so it makes sense that it would compensate for being overwhelmed by THC by becoming less sensitive to it. Therefore, the more THC you consume, whether by increased consumption or higher potency cannabis products, the more you’ll eventually need to achieve the same effects.
Cannabis tolerance develops with consistent use, though current research cannot conclusively say how long it takes to build. Each individual’s DNA, THC doses, consumption methods and patterns all can influence how tolerance builds. The general rule of thumb is if you notice you need to use more cannabis to achieve desired effects, you’ve likely built a tolerance.
Thankfully, t-breaks are easy to do with plenty of benefits. Moderating your cannabis use with regular breaks can help minimize the risk of consuming too much THC. Overuse of cannabis can lead to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome or cannabis use disorder. A weed tolerance break may mitigate the risk of developing either condition by disrupting any possible dependence on THC.
T-breaks also allow you to maintain the effectiveness of your current cannabis regimen, providing a more potent experience from less product, which means more money saved.
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How Tolerance Breaks Work
To start a weed tolerance break, simply stop consuming cannabis for at least two days. Current research shows that CB1 receptors rapidly return to a cannabis-naive state after only 48 hours of abstinence. This means that your tolerance should return to baseline following only two days of a t-break.
It may be helpful to let your friends and family know you’re taking a tolerance break, asking for support and help to avoid situations that may complicate your abstinence commitment.
While researchers have not studied cannabis tolerance breaks, taking a 48-hour break every 30 days may help to manage tolerance and mitigate physical dependence.
Those who consume higher amounts of cannabis or use it multiple times a day may benefit from a more extended t-break period of anywhere from two weeks to a month. However, this period is entirely up to you and your needs. Try a tolerance break and see how your body responds, and remember there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
T-Break Risks and Precautions
Chronic cannabis users or those who require extra-high levels of THC may experience some withdrawal symptoms during a weed tolerance break. A recent study revealed that about 50% of consumers reported withdrawal symptoms after quitting long-time, heavy cannabis use.
Like nicotine withdrawal, these symptoms include depressed mood, decreased appetite, anxiety, irritability and insomnia. However, these symptoms are typically milder than other substance withdrawals and do not disrupt daily life. Compared to nicotine, cannabis is generally considered easier to stop using.
Returned symptoms of qualifying conditions
If you use cannabis medically, the symptoms for which you were using cannabis to treat may return during a tolerance break. Temporarily switching to another medication or alternative therapies may help with the brief transition. We recommend you consult your healthcare provider before making any dramatic changes to your medication routine. Talk to your doctor about how to work t-breaks into your therapeutic routine.
Alternative Methods for Reducing Cannabis Tolerance
Whether you use cannabis to help remedy a medical condition or enjoy how it improves your overall quality of life, it makes sense to monitor and regulate your cannabinoid intake to keep your ECS well-functioning well. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to quit cannabis cold turkey.
Use Cannabis Less Often
If you use cannabis multiple times a day, try cutting back to one to two sessions. See if you can slowly wean yourself off the ritual of frequent use and if you find you achieve the relief needed with fewer uses.
Using a consumption method that allows you to precisely dose your cannabis can help prevent you from using more THC than you need at any given time. Tinctures, pre-made serving-sized edibles from dispensaries and other consumption methods help prevent overuse and prevent you from being overwhelmed by its effects when carefully used.
Use Cannabis Products with More CBD Than THC
CBD is a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, meaning it blocks your body from taking in free-floating THC in your system to some extent. This allows CBD to prevent THC from overwhelming the body and prevents CB1 receptors from disappearing.
Utilize Other Cannabinoids and Terpenes
Instead of using just high-THC varieties and products, you may want to use products and flower with low or moderate amounts of THC, but with a wider, more varied or different cannabinoid and terpene profile. For example, instead of a variety or product with lots of THC, myrcene and pinene, you may wish to see if a product with more CBN, beta-caryophyllene and linalool works as well for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 3 days enough for a tolerance break?
Research suggests that most cannabis users achieve baseline, cannabis-naive status by 48 hours after stopping use. Therefore, a three day break should be enough for mild to moderate cannabis users to see the benefits of a t-break. Those looking to rid their body of THC entirely may need to stop cannabis use for around 30 days.
How long does a tolerance break need to last?
Tolerance breaks should be mostly adequate for most cannabis users by 48 hours. However, chronic or heavy, long-time consumers may opt for a longer t-break depending on their needs. Each person’s tolerance development is unique, so you should experiment with different time lengths to understand what works best for you.