When you first begin taking cannabis, whether it be ingested or inhaled, you will only require very small doses to realize the effects. But then, as your cannabis use becomes more regular, your body will begin to build up its tolerance meaning that more cannabinoids are required to provide the same effects.
What is Cannabis Tolerance?
Cannabis tolerance is the term used for our bodies becoming resistant to the effects of cannabinoids. Occasional users, such as weekend tokers, may not experience an increase in their tolerance level but regular users will slowly see their tolerance increase.
There is currently no test for assessing the level of an individual’s tolerance, as it varies from person to person. The only measurement we have is to compare our bodies’ past and current reactions to the same amount of cannabis. Trying to determine how quickly a person’s tolerance will build up is also a guessing game as there are many factors involved such as usage frequency, type of cannabis consumed, consumption methods, and of course the individual’s body.
A person’s tolerance to cannabis will not reach levels that leave them completely immune to the effects of THC, but more cannabis will be required to get high.
Causes of Cannabis Tolerance
As with other drugs, tolerance is caused by a neurological process we call downregulation. Extended exposure to cannabinoids prompts our brains to attempt to maintain homeostasis (balance) by reducing the number of receptors that are influenced. Once downregulation occurs, higher doses will be needed to achieve the same effects. In this case, downregulation affects the CB1 receptors in our brains that are activated by THC. Seems simple enough, however, there are many other individual bodily factors at play and their significance to tolerance is only vaguely understood.
One thing that is apparent is that it is much easier to lose cannabis tolerance than it is to build it up. In 2016, a study analyzing PET scans of men aged 18-35 showed that CB1 receptor activity began to increase after just two days of cannabis abstinence and returned to normal after 28 days.
How to Build Cannabis Tolerance
Unlike opiates, cannabis does not become toxic in consumable amounts and your body won’t become totally resistant either – you will always be able to find a high. Opiates, on the other hand, put individuals at risk of an overdose because as tolerance increases, more opiates must be consumed. These can quickly become severely toxic to the body as the amount ingested increases and can easily lead to serious problems and even death from an overdose.
Why would someone want to increase their tolerance to cannabis?
It seems like a counterproductive thing to want to achieve, however, some people like the relaxed, care-free feeling they get from cannabis but don’t want to feel couch locked or too stoned to function normally. Others, mostly medical patients, want as much of the medicinal benefits of cannabis as quickly as possible and these benefits have been shown to increase as the dosage elevates.
Many medical cannabis patients worry about or dislike the side effects associated with cannabis use. In some users, the high from cannabis can come with coordination or memory problems, disorientation, lack of energy, anxiety, panic attacks, and difficulty thinking. Luckily, once a tolerance is built up many of these side effects go away or are greatly decreased. Some cannabis users have reached the point where if you didn’t know they took cannabis, you wouldn’t be able to tell they were under the influence at all.
Consuming stronger strains or concentrates
The higher the THC content of a cannabis strain, the better it will be for building tolerance.
Adding concentrates (like oil) into the mix will also increase how quickly you build your tolerance but often, unless instructed otherwise by your medical practitioner, consuming the entire cannabinoid spectrum is the most beneficial for medical purposes.
Edibles are also a viable option to get more cannabinoids into your system but be aware that edibles typically hit harder than other methods and dosing correctly may take some getting used to.
Keep a consumption journal
To help you build up your tolerance as quickly as possible, in a safe and controlled manner, you can consider keeping a cannabis journal to document your experiences. This can help you narrow down what worked for you and what didn’t.
Just remember that like riding a bike, if you fall off, make sure you get back on and keep riding. Eventually, you’ll develop a tolerance and be able to function properly even while under the influence of cannabis.