Cannabis is a complex plant that is still being researched for its medicinal qualities. While all of its affects are not fully understood, some clear and positive outcomes are immediately apparent once you begin experimenting with ingestion and serving amounts. One of the trickiest parts of your cannabis journey will be your body’s fluctuating responses to THC and CBD intake.

We all find a product or strain that initially seems like bliss for us, right? Then after a few days or a week we find that the euphoria or pain-relieving aspects taper off or become noticeably mild. This is due to a cannabis hurdle called “tolerance.”

Why do you develop a tolerance?

The short answer is that the body becomes accustomed to the potency of a strain or product, and even the chosen manner of ingestion. But why?

There are two main receptors in the endocannabinoid system (that’s the part of the body affected by cannabinoids like THC and CBD). They are CB1 and CB2. THC interacts with CB1 by increasing its activity which creates the euphoric “high” experienced when ingesting cannabis. Your body seeks to establish balance by forcing those receptors to return to normal activity even with THC stimulus. It does this by reducing the number of receptors, weakening the receptors, or changing the genetic expression of those receptors to make them averse to THC.

Basically, THC is like a plug that needs an outlet. The receptors act as outlets. By consuming the same strain or product habitually, your body recognizes the plug and takes action to change or remove the outlets.  

THC blocked from CB1 Receptor
CB1 Receptor interacting with THC.
How long does it take the body to develop a tolerance?

Unfortunately, tolerance onset and intensity are affected by many factors:

  • Serving sizes and potency
  • Frequency of use
  • History of use
  • Your unique physiology

Studies have been made in mice that observed tolerance after three injections of 10 mg THC over the course of 36 hours. While this proves that tolerance is a byproduct of use, it does not give much insight into the rate at which this occurs in humans.

How can you manage your tolerance levels?

There are a few simple ways to manage your tolerance levels and keep them sustainable for your well-being and especially your wallet.

  • One strain in a jar.

    Routinely rotate strains and modes of ingestion. Try switching to edibles if you’re a smoker or try a tincture or topical. Because each strain is unique and its interaction with the body varies, switching strains and ingestion methods makes the body unable to acclimate because each method commutes through the body differently. The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management states, “similar to opioid rotation, rotation of cannabis is a promising therapeutic option.”

  • Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy a balanced diet. Exercise regularly. “Sweat it out.” THC is stored in fat cells. By eating well and exercising you help to expel residual cannabinoids in your system.
  • Drink water. A general goal would be to drink half your body weight in ounces per day.
  • Take a “T” break. Eliminate cannabis from your routine for a few days up to two weeks or more. Your receptors recover remarkably quickly from cannabis intake and you’ll find increased effectiveness when you return to THC ingestion.
Why it Works:

A quote from Cannabis Angels sums it up nicely. “Each cannabinoid has different bonding affinity to the cannabinoid receptors resulting in different cellular expressions. When multiple cannabinoids are available in abundant quantity, different cannabinoids affect different CB1 receptors throughout the body.”

Essentially, you’re keeping your body guessing so it can’t establish blocks between THC and your body’s receptors.

Cannabis Journal

Tolerance is a tricky and continually shifting facet of using cannabis. You should keep a journal to help understand and navigate your cannabis intake. Understanding that many factors can affect the success of a product or strain. Journaling will help you to understand how much and at what potency level you feel your best and help you achieve more consistent results. Remember to be patient and really assess your comfort levels. Some days it takes a little to feel great and others are more of a struggle. No matter your tolerance, the beauty is that with a little attention and diligence, you can adjust your body’s response to cannabis.

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