Tolerance Builds Over Time

How tolerance breaks can support healthy consumption.

tolerance breaks

Many long-term consumers of cannabis develop higher tolerance over time. And with the array of higher potency products on the market today, higher tolerance can also indicate that a person’s endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system that helps control functions like mood, appetite, sleep, sex drive, and more, has gotten a bit lazy. After all, when we consistently hit our endocannabinoid receptors with phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant), it may not work as effectively or efficiently. Taking a break from cannabis completely, or reducing the amount of THC one consumes by changing up products and/or consumption methods, can ensure that the endocannabinoid system works at its best.

Prevalence of Tolerance Breaks 

Thinking of taking a break? You are not alone. According to a survey of cannabis consumers by New Frontier Data, 56% of consumers report at least sporadic but deliberate interruptions in cannabis use. And almost half (49%) have taken a break for a year or more since they started using. So let's dive into T-breaks (i.e. tolerance breaks), why they are necessary, and what to expect if you try them. During a break, it can be helpful to switch to a different method of consumption, such as using a dry herb vaporizer that gently heats the cannabis to release cannabinoids without burning. Different types of vape devices and desktop vaporizers provide different experiences.

Benefits and Functions of Cannabis

Cannabis is a fantastic plant with many benefits, from helping with sleep and anxiety and treating many health issues to making everyday life a little more interesting. Our bodies have endocannabinoid receptors that send signals in response to the binding of endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant, or phytocannabinoids, mimic these chemicals and also bind to our body’s endocannabinoid receptors.

Tolerance and Withdrawal Effects 

However, when we constantly bombard our receptors with phytocannabinoids through frequent consumption, our tolerance increases, and our production and functioning of endocannabinoids may be affected. When regular consumers stop using cannabis, they may experience withdrawals. Withdrawal symptoms like trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and irritability occur because the endocannabinoid system is rebalancing. Symptoms usually last between a few days to a few weeks until the endocannabinoid system can rev up and start working effectively and efficiently again.

Reasons for Taking Tolerance Breaks

According to the Cannabis Consumer Survey, lowering tolerance was the only reason consumers reported taking breaks (34%), but it’s not the only reason. Even infrequent consumers may need to take breaks for social or environmental reasons. Twenty-five percent of consumers reported taking a break because they were subject to drug testing, and 24% did so due to social obligations. Only 16% reported taking a break because of health concerns. And, if you think pressuring someone in your life to take a break will work, it likely won’t, as only 10% said their break resulted from peer pressure.

Break Frequency by Demographics

The act of taking a break also varies by age and gender. Younger people ages 18-34 were more likely to report taking regular intervals than those 55+ (23% vs. 19%), while older people were more likely to report taking sporadic breaks than younger people (40% vs. 36%). This could be because older people are more likely to be used for medical purposes, where breaks are impossible. Luckily, even reducing the amount of cannabis you consume can help get your endocannabinoid system back in the game. Women were more likely to say they never take a break compared to men (23% vs. 18%), but this could be because men consume cannabis more frequently than women, so women may not feel as much need to stop drinking.

Medical vs. Recreational Use

Interestingly, those who identify as medical-only consumers were much more likely to report regular breaks than those who identify as only recreational consumers (35% vs. 19%). This could be because those who only use cannabis as medicine may only be using it when symptoms occur and not otherwise, making their use more sporadic than those who consume it for recreational purposes, such as using vapes on cruises

Using for Relaxation vs. Rest

Indeed, looking at the most common reasons that people report using cannabis (such as relaxation, stress, sleep, anxiety, and pain), 27% of people who use cannabis for rest more regularly take breaks, and 15% of them do not. However, only 12% of those who shared that they use cannabis for relaxation say that they take breaks, and 26% reported that they never take a break.

Taking Breaks Supports Healthy Use

Taking a break or reducing cannabis consumption is essential for developing a balanced, long-term relationship with the cannabis plant. Cannabis is usually most valuable in older age as medical conditions become more prevalent, and maintaining a healthy and active endocannabinoid system is vital for maintaining good health. Our relationship with cannabis should be a marathon and not a sprint. Regular breaks or reductions in use can stave off mindless habits and contribute to long-term healthier consumption.

Recommended Companion Reading

After reading this article on tolerance breaks for cannabis use, it is recommended also to read the article "Red Lake Launch (Red Lake Nation Opens Minnesota’s First Adult-Use Dispensary)." That article provides helpful context on the legalization and availability of cannabis in Minnesota, which relates to the topics covered here on responsible cannabis consumption. Reading both articles together will provide a complete picture of cannabis use, regulation, and best practices for consumers in that state. The "Red Lake Launch" article is an excellent complement to this one on tolerance breaks.

Understanding Tolerance Over Time: Can You Donate Plasma if You Smoke Marijuana? As we explore the intricacies of tolerance building over time, it's essential to address health-related queries for cannabis enthusiasts. If you're pondering the compatibility of plasma donation with marijuana use, we have the insights you need. Dive into our informative article on Can You Donate Plasma if You Smoke Marijuana, where we provide a comprehensive overview of the guidelines and considerations for individuals interested in contributing to plasma donation programs while enjoying the benefits of cannabis.

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