The Buzz About Tolerance Breaks
For frequent consumers of cannabis, it’s not uncommon to build a tolerance to the effects of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Overtime, more is needed to reach the same level of pain relief, same high, etc. Unfortunately, with the advent of high-THC everything, it’s easy to build up a tolerance. These days it’s not uncommon for strains to contain upwards of 20% THC. So even if you only spark up joints it could soon take more and more to reach your desired high. In response, many people are taking what are called “tolerance breaks” from cannabis, in order to reach that elusive virgin-level tolerance. The definition of a tolerance-break, or “T break” is just a period of reducing or abstaining from cannabis use. It’s a way of rewinding the cannabis clock, and starting fresh.
Resetting tolerance isn’t the only reason people are opting to take a break. Some jobs require drug tests, as well as certain types of court mandated probation, or even types of schools like pharmacy school. If you want to ease your mind if you aren’t sure you will pass a drug test, for a few bucks, you can grab 10 tests to use yourself at home. Other reasons could be you’re traveling to a place where you won’t have access to cannabis or where it’s illegal. Maybe you have a hospital stay coming up and in recovery won’t be able to medicate. Saving money is also a motivation for taking a break. It allows for some extra cash to save or spend as needed. Some people simply want to take a break to “clear their head”. It’s even said to improve your overall relationship with cannabis, particularly if you find yourself to be a compulsive consumer. Whatever the reason, tolerance breaks can beneficial, but be prepared to deal with some of the symptoms you may experience while you’re on break.
How Does THC Tolerance Build?
THC is the compound in cannabis responsible for the feelings of euphoria, calm, sleepiness, and even hunger. It achieves this by interacting with your natural endocannabinoid system: a system of receptors that create chemicals like anandamide and dopamine. Both of these are involved in a sense of well-being, of happiness, pain relief, sleep, and a myriad of other physiological functions. When you smoke, vape, dab, or otherwise consume cannabis you get a rush of feel-good chemicals, activating your endocannabinoid system
One study done on male cannabis smokers aged 18-25 found that the subjects had fewer CB1 receptors, that is the receptor in your brain that THC binds to in order to take effect, than their nonsmoking counterparts. Essentially, chronic cannabis smokers require more THC over time to generate the desired effects. So if you smoke every day, especially more than one session, it’s inevitable that you will build up a tolerance. The good news is that same study found: “There was a robust negative correlation between CB1R availability and withdrawal symptoms after 2 days of abstinence. Finally, there were no significant group differences in CB1R availability in CDs after 28 days of abstinence.” So after two days there was a reduction back to normal levels, which did not increase after twenty eight days of observation. Patients report otherwise however, noting two weeks to a month to be the ideal long tolerance break.
How Long Should You Take a Break For?
So according to the above mentioned study two days should result in a reduced tolerance, even a virgin tolerance. By most personal accounts however, a break of about four days brings tolerance down noticeably. In addition there is some evidence to suggest a month’s worth of abstinence will bring you back to pre-smoking tolerance levels, giving credence the old stoner rule of thumb that a month’s worth of waiting before being sure you’ll pass a drug test. Once again, if you want to know if you’ll pass a test, I recommend dropping a few bucks and getting this 10 pack of at-home tests.
Of course a lot of how long it takes to regain tolerance or have THC leave your system depends on your weight, height, and level of daily use. You can always try smoking at certain checkpoints during your tolerance break say, quit for two days then light up and see if you need to abstain longer. So just do your research, reach out to your cannabis community for tips, and above all just do what feels right for you.
How You’ll Feel During the Tolerance Break
Maybe you’ve noticed when you don’t smoke you feel off, maybe you can’t concentrate or sleep well. Unfortunately this is due to cannabis dependence, which is very real, and can be hard to overcome. According to a 2012 study:
“Tolerance to cannabis can occur in relation to mood, psychomotor performance, sleep, arterial pressure, body temperature, and antiemetic properties. The critical elements of cannabis dependence include preoccupation with its use, compulsion to use and relapse or recurrent use of the substance. Over 50% of cannabis users appear to have ‘impaired control’ over their use. Symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, craving and disrupted sleep have been reported in 61-96% of cannabis users during abstinence”.
So during your tolerance break you can expect to feel grumpy, have a harder time eating and sleeping, and you might even feel anxious due to a drop in certain neurotransmitters like dopamine. Don’t worry though, the symptoms are mild, and most find them manageable. There are steps you can take to battle these symptoms. If you live in a legal state you can ask your prescribing doctor what they would recommend to help curb the comedown symptoms. Again, talk to your doctor as they can help with this. Personally, I use basic ‘ole Melatonin to help me sleep during tolerance breaks.
These side effects of abstinence can be hard to deal with, though weening off of cannabis does seem to help a lot of people. Be forgiving of yourself though, and if you return to hit the bong even when you promised yourself you wouldn’t regroup and try again tomorrow! Sometimes you need a different plan to quit effectively. See: Timed lock box. This thing has been a lifesaver for me.
Tips for Taking a Tolerance Break
- Start Slow
There’s no rule saying you have to quit cold turkey. Many people choose to start with eliminating concentrates. These are the highest in THC, and can build tolerance to ridiculous levels. Foregoing that daily dabbing alone could reduce your tolerance a little. As for smoking flower, many people recommend reducing your weekly routine by half until you have basically nothing left. If you’re OCD like me and want to build a spreadsheet of how much you can consume daily to ween yourself off, consider snagging a pocket scale for less than $10 and just measure out how much you’re allowed to “have” that day per your spreadsheet….yes. I am a nerd. I know this.
- Eat Your Edibles
Low dose edibles can be a great way to get your hit of THC and break your dabbing and/or smoking habit. They’re more subtle, and can be a great oral distraction for those who love to toke a joint while they sit and relax.
- Put Away Paraphernalia
Stash your stash accessories. Put away all pipes, bongs, dab rigs, nug jars, even lighters! All of these things will only trigger thoughts of smoking, making temptation all the stronger. If you have a friend you can trust, ask them to keep you accessories until you’re ready to take them back. In the same vein, don’t keep any cannabis in your house: use it up or give it up! My favorite these days is to use my locked timer box. This thing is genius…you put your bud (or anything else really) in there, put the lid on and set the lock timer for 1 minute to 10 days. And just like that, you’ve locked your goods in the box and you either have to wait until the time is up or you can choose to Hulk smash the box. For those of you like me who can justify hitting the snooze button 100 times, eating just one more bowl of ice cream and just taking jussssst a little puff….this thing is your guardian angel!
- Stay Busy
Cannabis is, in a way, a hobby. It can take up a lot of time, and is also often a group activity. So if you’re trying to take a tolerance break, chances are that you’ll have some extra time on your hands. Fill it. Try taking a class, going to the gym more, getting outside, hanging with your loved ones who don’t smoke weed, or maybe learning a new skill. Anything to keep your mind off cannabis.
…But wait! There’s More…
- Save Your Money
One of the many reasons people take a break from cannabis is to save money. Now that you’re not spending all your extra cash on Mary Jane, you can start that nest egg you always knew you should. Or pay down some credit card debt.
So the opposite of the above, but still in option. If saving is something you’re interested in treat yo’ self! Get those new shoes, that video game, the gym membership you’ve wanted. All of it will help give you dopamine and anandamide as well as keeping you busy.
- Try Other Herbal Supplements
Head to your local health store and ask about herbal remedies! There’s a variety of different supplements to take that will help with sleep, anxiety, and appetite. You might even find a great new way of feeling your healthiest!
Getting Back on the Dragon After a Tolerance Reset
If you plan to return to smoking after your break remember this golden rule: start slow. If you’ve done even just two days without any cannabis your tolerance will be different. There is many a stoner horror story about getting way too high. And as Kat Williams said: “It is easy to get high. It is not easy to get un-high”. Wise words. So do yourself a favor and take it slow.
Also, don’t forget all the hard work you’ve done to bring your tolerance back down! No need to consume a ton of cannabis (if you’re one not scared of the zombie feeling). Do yourself and your wallet a favor and smoke like a rookie. Don’t forget the days of hundreds of dollars gone to pot. Above all remember, a tolerance break is no easy feat, and you should feel proud of what you’ve accomplished.
Now go treat yourself with a little smoke session,
I bet you’ve heard a lot of rumors about Marijuana, Haven’t you? Check out this article that debunks a lot of the common misconceptions:
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I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Please talk with a licensed medical professional about this or any conditions you have or may believe you have. The information in this article is provided as an information resource only. These are just my own personal opinions and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever.
Last update on 2019-06-18 / I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.” / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API