Cannabinoids affect everyone differently, especially the intoxicating THC. Biological factors like weight, metabolism, and gender play a significant role in how a person will respond to THC, as do environmental factors such as your setting and state of mind.
Perhaps the most consequential impact on one’s THC experience comes down to their tolerance. Some habitual smokers can chief bong rip after bong rip with seemingly little effect, while those with little THC experience may find themselves zooted after just one hit.
In most cases, people don’t have much control over the biological factors that influence how THC will affect them. However, you can take steps to build or lower your THC tolerance. Keep reading to find out more!
What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
A person can build up a tolerance to THC pretty quickly without even meaning to because of how the cannabinoid interacts with their endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system is a complicated cell signaling system composed of endocannabinoid receptors and the neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids) which activate them. Its primary role is to help maintain homeostasis by regulating several critical bodily functions. Some endocannabinoid functions include memory retention, reproduction, perceptions of pain, and stabilizing mood.
How Does THC Tolerance Work?
When we consume THC, the compound mimics the role of endocannabinoids by directly activating the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors located throughout the brain and nervous system. This activation produces the “high” we associate with THC.
Our bodies are pretty smart, and the endocannabinoid system is particularly good at keeping things balanced. When we frequently activate our CB1 receptors with THC, those CB1 receptors become weaker. This means that those receptors will have a smaller response to future THC activation. Eventually, proteins will internalize the weakened CB1 receptors, completely removing the potential for future THC molecules to bind to them.
Ultimately, these processes result in THC consumption being less effective overall, meaning users will need to consume more THC in total to replicate the effects they felt before building a tolerance.
Is THC Addictive?
Often the drugs that we quickly develop a tolerance wind up being addictive. Is this the case with THC? The question is difficult to answer with a simple yes or no.
THC doesn’t cause overdose deaths like opiates, and quitting cold turkey isn’t potentially fatal like with alcohol, but users who develop a tolerance may experience some withdrawal symptoms like headaches, difficulty eating, and difficulty sleeping when trying to stop usage. These withdrawal symptoms become so intolerable that users have difficulty responsibly managing their cannabis use in certain severe cases. This is known as Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD).
How To Build Your THC Tolerance
Building a THC tolerance is a relatively simple endeavor. Simply keep consuming THC. The larger the dose and more frequent the use, the faster you develop a tolerance. If you’re someone who has anxiety or paranoia with THC and are trying to increase your tolerance, try using the substance in environments where you feel the safest.
Tolerance sets in pretty quickly. One study determined that mice injected with 10mg of THC twice a day developed a tolerance to THC’s sedative and pain-relieving effects in only 36 hours. Granted, 20mg of intravenous THC a day is a massive amount of THC for a little mouse; the study illustrates just how quickly THC tolerance can take hold.
How To Lower Your THC Tolerance
The only way to lower your THC tolerance is to stop consuming THC for a period of time. This is known as a tolerance break, or t-break, and can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Fortunately for those looking to take a t-break, THC tolerance dissipates relatively quickly in the absence of continued use. One study from 2011 found that daily cannabis users with diminished CB1 endocannabinoid receptors saw their CB1 receptors return to near-normal levels within two weeks of discontinuing usage.
For some daily cannabis users, taking a tolerance break can be a challenging process. If you’re a heavy THC user, tapering down usage before completely abstaining can help to reduce potential withdrawal symptoms.
If you find yourself pining for the days when weed affected you more strongly, then consider taking a short tolerance break. It’s a great way to make cannabis feel fun and exciting again.