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What is a tolerance break and when are they useful?

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  1. What is cannabis tolerance?
  2. What are the benefits of a tolerance break?
  3. What are the side effects of a tolerance break?
  4. How do I take a tolerance break?
  5. How often should I take a tolerance break?

A tolerance break — sometimes called a T-break — is a deliberate, temporary cessation of cannabis consumption for the purpose of resetting the body’s tolerance to THC. Both medical and recreational cannabis users develop tolerance to THC with regular consumption, which can be reduced by taking tolerance breaks.

Both medical and recreational cannabis users develop tolerance to THC with regular consumption, which can be reduced by taking tolerance breaks. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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What is cannabis tolerance?

Tolerance is when the body acclimates to the effects of a substance or medication, when the substance is taken regularly . With repeated consumption, more of the substance is needed to achieve the original, desired effect. Like many other drugs and medicines, the human body develops tolerance when THC is consumed on a regular basis.

Scientists don’t fully understand the adaptations happening in our bodies when we experience tolerance; it’s a very complex phenomenon. However, brain imaging studies of people who use cannabis regularly have shown that chronic cannabis/THC use causes a decrease in the number of CB1 receptors across the brain. This means there are fewer sites available for THC to bind and activate the brain. The body’s natural system that interacts with cannabis — our endocannabinoid system (ECS) — is a very dynamic and responsive system. It’s no surprise that the ECS senses when it is being overwhelmed by THC, and compensates by becoming less sensitive. As a result, more THC (in the form of more frequent use or higher potency cannabis varieties) is required to achieve the same results as when you first started consuming.

Chronic THC use causes a decrease in the number of CB1 receptors across the brain. This means there are fewer sites available for THC to bind and activate the brain.

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While tolerance builds with continued, regular use, research is inconclusive on how long it takes to develop. Animal studies have suggested that females develop tolerance more rapidly than biological males, but this has been difficult to study in humans. The process is highly variable and depends on numerous factors such as consumption patterns, THC doses, routes of administration, and even our genetic makeup. The universal standard is, if you notice that you need to increase the amount of cannabis you’re using in order to feel its effects, you’ve built up a tolerance.

Tolerance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many medical patients wish to derive the benefits of THC (pain relief, for instance), but they have a hard time dealing with THC’s side effects of impairment and brain fog. Once a person develops a sufficient level of tolerance, it is possible to reap the medical benefits of cannabis in the absence of unwanted impairment. Anecdotally, patients have reported that when they are first starting out on cannabis therapy, they have success taking THC right before bed. By sleeping through the intoxication for a week or two, they are slowly able to incorporate small amounts of THC into their daytime routine, capturing medical benefits with minimal side effects.

What are the benefits of a tolerance break?

Tolerance breaks offer plentiful benefits with little effort. Moderating cannabis consumption by taking regular breaks is a good strategy for minimizing the risks of consuming too much THC. THC activates the CB1 receptors in the brain’s reward pathway, which triggers neurological responses that increase the likelihood a person will use cannabis again. While technically there’s nothing wrong with the fact that cannabis is a rewarding substance that makes people feel good, anything that creates the feeling of reward can be abused. Too much regular consumption can increase the risk of developing cannabis use disorder (CUD), and cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CH). A tolerance break mitigates the risk of developing these disorders by disrupting the body’s physical dependence on THC.

Taking a tolerance break also increases the effectiveness of cannabis on the body once you resume consumption. This means you get a more potent high (or more symptom relief) from less weed, which means less money spent in the long run.

Taking a tolerance break also increases the effectiveness of cannabis on the body once you resume consumption. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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What are the side effects of a tolerance break?

Chronic users of cannabis may experience some withdrawal symptoms when attempting a tolerance break. One study showed that nearly one-third of consumers report withdrawal symptoms when quitting after regular, long-time use. These symptoms are similar to nicotine withdrawal, and include irritability, decreased appetite, depressed mood, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. While side effects are more likely to occur for highly dependent users, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and generally undisruptive.

For medical patients, the symptoms that are being treated with cannabis are likely to return during a period of cannabis abstinence. Temporarily switching to another medication, or using complementary and alternative therapies may be helpful during this time. Because medical patients are likely to be daily consumers of cannabis, they are particularly vulnerable to the risks of chronic cannabis use (such as hyperemesis). Managing tolerance is an important part of sustainable, long-term cannabis therapy.

How do I take a tolerance break?

It’s easy to take a tolerance break. Simply stop consuming cannabis for at least two days. Research demonstrates that CB1 receptor availability is diminished by chronic cannabis use. These receptors rapidly return to a cannabis-naive state after a mere 48 hours of abstinence. That’s to say, your tolerance should be back to normal after holding off from consuming for two days.

Some people may find this difficult to do, because they have come to rely on cannabis to make their daily lives more manageable or enjoyable. While cutting back the frequency or amount you consume (exercising moderation) is never a bad thing, it’s different than going cold-turkey and taking a true tolerance break to reset the body’s endocannabinoid system. Some people may find it helpful to taper down their use for a period of time before taking a true T-break for a few days.

Those who consume cannabis a few times per day may benefit from longer tolerance breaks, up to two weeks or even a month. However, the length of your tolerance break is entirely up to you. Determine what you want out of a tolerance break, give it a try, and see how your body feels. Everyone’s body interacts with cannabis and THC differently, and there’s no one-size-fits-all for tolerance breaks.

Everyone’s body interacts with cannabis and THC differently, and there’s no one-size-fits-all for tolerance breaks. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Some consumers choose to take a tolerance break by replacing THC with CBD. Anecdotally, CBD seems to help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms that may occur with a tolerance break. However, there’s very little research available supporting this claim.

How often should I take a tolerance break?

Tolerance breaks have not been rigorously studied by doctors or scientists. However, some cannabis-centric physicians and patient advocate groups have suggested that taking a 48-hour break every 30 days is a good strategy for managing tolerance and preventing physical dependence.

Whether you are using cannabis to manage a chronic health condition, or simply enjoy having it as a part of your regular routine, there are good reasons to monitor and manage your intake, keeping your endocannabinoid system functioning at its best.

If you decide that it’s time for a tolerance break, it might be helpful to let your friends and loved ones know. Ask your friends to support you and, with their help, avoid situations that may challenge your commitment to a tolerance reset.

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  • Home
  • 421 Store
  • Blog
    • Cannabis as a Medicine
    • Cannabis Effects
    • Lifestyle
    • Cafe & Bakery
    • CannaAcademy
    • Interview with a Cannapreneur
    • Dry Herb Vaping Guide
    • Benefits Of Vaping Weed
    • How to Choose Your First Vaporizer
    • Vaporizer high vs. Smoking high
    • Conduction vs. Convection
    • Portable vs. Desktop Vaporizer
    • Wax vs. Dry Herb Vaporizers: What’s better?
    • How to Use a Dry Herb Vaporizer
    • Indoors Growing Guide
    • 5 Reasons to Grow Your Weed
    • A Step by Step Guide
    • Step One: Build An Indoor Grow Room
    • Step Two: Germinating The Seeds
    • Step three: The Vegetative Stage
    • Step Four: Flowering Stage
    • Step Five: Harvesting and Drying
    • Step Six: How to Trim Your Marijuana Bud
    • Auto-Flowering vs Feminized Seeds
    • Hydroponic Cannabis Growing Made Easy

    Marijuana Tolerance, Withdrawal Symptoms, and 5 Tips to Take a T-Break

    Remember the first time you were high. This tolerance break guide is straightforward and focuses on actions, and what you need to do to get over your t-break.

    If it’s hard for you to get close to that high without consuming a gram or two, or dabbing, that means it’s about time to take your Tolerance Break (T-Break). Without taking a t-break, it can get very expensive and extremely bad for your health and well-being. Taking a break can be helpful to analyze our relationship with marijuana, why we smoke it, and what’s the right daily dose. It will also help you to figure out a healthier way of consuming it. A wise man once said “the key to enjoying without abusing their herb is to enjoy being sober too.”

    In this blog piece we will be covering the following topics/questions:

    • How Does Cannabis Tolerance Work in Terms of Neurology?
    • Why Take a Weed Tolerance Break from Cannabis?
    • What are marijuana tolerance break symptoms?
    • What’s the optimal tolerance break length? (including a weed tolerance break chart).
    • 5 Quick Helpful weed tolerance break tips
    • How to get over the sleepless night?

    One quick note, I found it very useful to get a vaporizer after you’re done with your weed tolerance break. There is a difference between the vaping high and smoking high, and after the t-break your lungs will be semi clean from the toxins you burdened your lungs with all those years. It’s time to enjoy a clean high, with no combustion nor toxins.

    How Does Cannabis Tolerance Work in Terms of Neurology?

    A recently published study suggests that the symptoms we experience may be determined by the change in our brain’s ability to release dopamine. The research only describes the reaction of heavy or frequent users, people who were treated as “dependent on cannabis” after using marijuana daily for many years. As you probably know, marijuana tolerance can be a problem even for someone who recently started smoking regularly. But, of course, there is next to no research on this matter. Not yet, anyway. With more legalization comes more numerous, proficient and reliable research projects.

    But we know how to deal with cannabis tolerance. The best way to lower your weed tolerance and regain the ability to get incredibly high is having marijuana t-breaks. It is a known method, it works for everyone, and it does not require buying any detox sets or taking a day off work. The only action that needs to be taken by you to begin your t-break is to stop consuming cannabis altogether. For some of us, like myself, it will be more of a challenge as a long-term and frequent smoker; it can be a habit and it can be your medicine that you don’t want to go without.

    Why Take a Weed Tolerance Break from Cannabis?

    Regular smokers won’t see value with reducing their cannabis intake. To some cannabis smokers, it is their daily medicine. There is more than one reason why a cannabis consumer might want or sometimes need to take a t-break. Here are couple:

    1. Lowering cannabinoids threshold. For the same reason we talked about earlier regaining the ability to obtain a high more easily, and with using less herb thus saving money and getting more out of your smoking sessions.

    2. Professional reasons. For those who are looking for new jobs might want to get THC out of their systems as they face a mandatory drug testing. The process of flushing the THC out of your system naturally may take some time, especially for frequent smokers and people who participate in vaping THC concentrates.

    3. Court orders, probation, and other legal issues. These are other reasons to take a t-break, obviously not for marijuana tolerance reasons. If you were traveling in places where cannabis is hard to find, or sometimes extremely prohibited (like in Thailand), you’re going to have to take a t-break whether you like it or not. Remember, just because you are from somewhere that allows recreational or medical cannabis use does not mean it is permitted everywhere. (true story: went to Thailand in November and ran into two separate Americans carrying edibles. Don’t attempt.)

    4. Saving money. I’m a frugal person by nature (I inherited this from my dad) but I like to smoke weed every day. Although I smoke weed every day, I manage to smoke around 3 grams a month, and I want to keep it this way. Don’t let your cannabis lifestyle take over your finances, if anything it should be treated as a hobby and not a utility.

    Above all, a marijuana t-break offers you and other consumers a new outlook on the healing plant. This shift in perspective will help serve as a reminder that cannabis is an enhancement to life’s adventures, not the adventure itself. With a clear head, consumers can gain, or regain, respect for the power that this plant holds. Especially, once you resume consumption, and the familiar effects of euphoria, creativity, and general wellness return .

    What’s the Perfect Length of a Tolerance Break?

    I know exactly what you’re looking for, a tolerance break calculator. The exact time that you need to get your tolerance back. The perfect length of a tolerance break is one of the most discussed problems on communities and forums. There are two prominent methods people use to determine whether or not THC is still in their system. Some try to calculate it basing on a THC half-life chart, which is not an accurate way to figure your residual THC levels. Others use drug tests to determine if they can pass it – an expensive and unreliable method. Just because you pass a drug test does not necessarily mean that you have removed all of the THC from your body. It could still be stored in your fat cells but not show up on a test that may have a high threshold of what a positive test would be.

    There is no scientifically proven algorithm for determining the right tolerance break length for yourself. With your metabolism, your lifestyle, your body disposition, and your psychological dependence on marijuana, your THC levels are as unique and diverse as your fingerprint. If there is ever a scientific algorithm created, I assure you, there will be dozens of apps that will calculate your t-break and motivate you through it, and I would be the first to download.

    So, for now, we only have to rely on our personal experiences and the friendly advice we may receive. You may take a one-day t-break, two days t-break, four days, one week, a month, maybe even a year; counting days is not the best idea – you will feel miserable and have a higher possibility of failing the entire t-break.

    With that being said, based on my personal observations and my fellow stoner’s anecdotes I created this chart. Your feedback is highly appreciated .

    After you’re done with your t-break if you can help us with making this chart more accurate, please provide your insight in the comment section below by answering the following two questions:

    • What’s your average daily consumption BEFORE the t-break?
    • How long was your t-break?
    • What’s your average daily consumption AFTER the t-break?

    Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

    Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, based on that individual’s level of dependency and their personality. A smoker with mild dependency may experience mild physical and psychological discomfort, such as headaches or restlessness.

    However, smokers with severe dependency on cannabis may experience intense withdrawal symptoms: including sweating, fever, chills, and hallucinations. Although cannabis is a plant, it can take a toll on your mind and body if abused over time. Just like with any other substance. Making your body dependent on a substance avidly and then taking away the substance is always going to throw your body out of whack.

    Here are the most common cannabis withdrawal symptoms that you may or may not experience:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Mood changes
    • Irritability and boredom
    • Headaches
    • Stomach pains
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea
    • Vivid dreams, not necessarily nightmares, which can be fun at times.
    • Insomnia

    If you are used to toking before bedtime you may experience some difficulties with going to sleep. As THC helps our body to release melatonin, a sleep hormone. Insomnia is usually mild enough to be treated with an OTC sleep aid product from your local drugstore. I’ve found that a 2 mg over-the-counter melatonin vitamin sometimes helps. Also guided meditation can be very useful.

    I know, at this point, you find yourself shaking your head. Thinking, that’s going to suck! The upside?

    Many of us have accomplished this milestone, and so can you. Take a break completely, or just slow down on your intake significantly! Drink a lot of water, workout, eat healthy, and stay busy. Your receptors are going to scream at you couple of times a day, but you will come out on the other side stronger and ready to get back to your “old” favorite habit.

    5 Quick Helpful t-break Tips for Taking a Marijuana Tolerance Break

    The t-break tips below will help you to survive your t-break. Whether you will get close to that first high you experience or not, that’s debatable; it basically depends how long your t-break will be. The proper length varies from a person to person. Marijuana is a natural and native plant to our soil, unlike pharmaceuticals, therefore it’s not going to have the same effects on you every time. Also, the effects will differ from person to person, as well as tolerance and tolerance breaks.

    1. Track and gradually wean yourself off. Track your consumption behavior, and don’t go cold turkey! First off, keep track on your marijuana consumption. So when it’s the time to take a break you know how to wean yourself off, gradually. There is no reason to cold-turkey it. It might not be as effective if done so. Cut your consumption in half for a couple of weeks before you start your cannabis break.

    2. Put your glass away: This one is pretty obvious and self-explanatory – give your glass or vaporizer to any of your friends to hold on to during the duration of your break, just keep your smoking devices away. Make it a challenge for you to smoke, having them around will be tempting. We want to believe we are strong, but at the beginning it will be hard to resist temptation. Especially, against the herb and your pipes, a lost battle if those are easily accessible.

    3. Stay busy and get off your couch. Experience the sober life again, it’s not as bad as you may think. Here are some suggestions for you:

    • Go to the gym.
    • Hangout with interesting individuals, family or friends. I can’t emphasize on “interesting individual,” otherwise they will bore you to death. Then you will find yourself looking desperately for weed. Remember, one of the main withdrawal symptoms is boredom and irritability.
    • Go on a refreshing hike and meditate in nature, often.
    • Invest more time into work related projects and promotions, to better your career (this is how I do it).
    • If you want to stay at home and keep yourself busy, that’s fine. Read a thrilling book or watch an interesting documentary. Even better, one of those mind bending psychological movies that you have to watch twice to understand the plot. Discover a complicated and deep movie or TV show that you wouldn’t be able to follow when you’re high.
    • And finally, very important tolerance break tip, go to bed early and wake up early . Don’t submit to those free couple of hours you have in the evening when you used to smoke weed to enjoy them.
    • Pick an inviting book or a challenging video game, start a personal creative project or an educational online course – something that will keep you distracted from not using cannabis.

    Beware… Be smart about what you will substitute your regular everyday high session activities with. When you start taking your tolerance break, for many people it can be easy to substitute one vice with another. STAY AWAY from alcohol or running to your fridge every few minutes out of boredom.

    4. Exercise! Of course, exercise is the best possible substitute past time. It’s a great routine to have in general, not only when you’re trying to wean yourself off of weed. It has been shown that intense cardio workouts will flush excess THC out of your system by boosting your body’s metabolic rate. Jogging, hiking, biking and physical sports are a great way to keep you in shape while you cleanse your system. Unless, exercise was one of your activities that you enjoy while you were high, which is my problem and I haven’t figured it out yet. Please leave a comment below if you have any suggestions. The same friend from earlier is heavy into weight lifting and muscle building. He’s found that the heavier he lifts in a session the “cleaner” he feels after. Where there evidence to support the cardio exercise, the only evidence to support the weight lifting is that he swears by it. It’s what works for him. Find what works for you and get in the gym and sweat. The more fat you lose, the more THC that goes with it !

    5. Enjoy other herbs … Kratom, for instance. Advocates say the natural growing herb, kratom, offers relief from pain , depression , and anxiety . Scientists say it may hold the key to treating chronic pain and may even be a tool to combat addiction to opioid medications . It is legal in the United States, coming in forms of tea, powder, and capsules.

    Also, look into smoking/consuming CBD oil. CBD oil is non psychoactive and non addictive substance, that can help you to relax.

    One last thing, a dietary advice . There’s a lot of fruits that help your body metabolize the THC stored in your fat, as well as foods that may cause it to take longer. For instance, blueberries and cranberries are great due to their antioxidants, on the other hand, milk is bad because it has a good bit of fattiness to it which THC can bind to.

    Also, check the Dr Dustin Sulak The Resensitization Process

    Here is a bonus t-break tip, it is crucial to keep your nutrient levels up as well as your water levels, by eating nourishing food and drinking plenty of water

    How to get over the sleepless night

    The way a dream hits so vividly is my absolute favorite part of being on a tolerance break. Sometimes I write them down, I even embrace the nightmares. On the other hand, when it comes to sleeping, one of the main symptoms a stoner suffers from when she or he start a t-break is the sleepless nights.

    Many stoners think Melatonin tablets can help, and I do suggest trying them out, but scientifically speaking, they won’t help. All it does is trick your body to feel it’s bedtime, but in our case, you don’t need to trick your body, you already know it’s bed time. So you have to find a different solution.

    • Divert your mind from thinking about anything, it’s really your choice to have full and complete control on your mind. Guided meditation session can be very useful to do so. I have found meditation before bed can be very helpful to put me in a relaxing, sleepy mode. I know it’s hard, but it’s very helpful and take your mind away from your craving. Best to use a guided meditation that is specifically for sleeping purposes. And if you woke up in the middle of the night, go through the same process, divert your thoughts by listening to a guided meditation session.
    • Avoid screens such as TV or your phone as those activate your mind.
    • Exercising can help, going for a short run or a hike before bedtime. Endorphins kick the craving and the physical exhaustion will help with insomnia.
    • Find your sleeping pattern and stick with it. Go to bed at exactly the same time every evening, and stick with the same number of sleeping hours.

    Conclusion

    Tolerance breaks or t-breaks are beneficial to the mind, body, and soul when performed properly. Naturally cleansing your body is going to take time, and your job is to nourish your temple while it is going through this change. Be patient with the process; that’s how you will receive the most optimal results.

    Make yourself knowledgeable about your body and knowing when it is time to take a t-break. Stay smart while shifting your lifestyle, and don’t burn out. Remember, this is supposed to be a refreshing and energizing break from THC, so make it just that.

    Switch up your strains. Drink water. Take breaks. That’s the gist of it.

    What will you get after your t-break? The effect of cannabis will be rejuvenated, it will take less plant matter to achieve the desired euphoria. Ah, and the first time you consume after a marijuana tolerance break, you will probably get too high. Now you’ll need to build up your tolerance.

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

    In this blog piece, we will be covering the following topics/questions: How Does Cannabis Tolerance Work?Why Take a Weed Tolerance Break from Cannabis?What are marijuana tolerance break symptoms?What's the optimal tolerance break length?(including a weed tolerance break chart).5 Quick Helpful weed tolerance break tips