Breaking Down Cannabis Tolerance
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You know that one person who can smoke you under the table and you’re just standing there like ‘I don’t know how the f*ck they do that.’ Or that one person that you know you have to keep an eye on because they don’t smoke much, but when they do, they’re paranoid, adventurous, talkative, etc., and you just never know. Every herbalist, and even the occasional smoker, has a tolerance to marijuana. Tolerance is pretty much how your body handles THC during/after consumption. The most common sense explanation as to why a frequent smoker feels “less high” as compared to the every once in a while toker is: the more you smoke, the more you can tolerate. But there’s a science to it that we’ll break down (pun intended) for you.
When understanding cannabis tolerance, we’ll need to focus on the cannabinoid receptor type I (CB1) in the brain. These receptors live in your brain and they decrease with continued cannabis use. (This may be the reason why people assume that cannabis kills brain cells, but that is not true. And don’t quote us on that, it’s just an observation) THC activates CB1 receptors, giving you that euphoric ‘high’ feeling while simultaneously creating an abnormal amount of activity within the receptors. When the THC is gone, the receptors activity returns to normal.
Tolerance to THC is built when there is repeated activation of the CB1 receptors. When you repeatedly consume THC over a couple days or weeks, your brain works to minimize the increase in the receptor activity so that normal CB1 activation patterns can be preserved. Continuous activation of CB1 receptors leads to desensitization inside the brain cell, or the weakening of the response to THC. Desensitized receptors are still able to bind with THC however, the effect is lesser than it once was. When this happens, you will begin to feel less high or that you need to smoke more often or abundantly to feel stoned like you used to. Following desensitization comes internalization, which is the removal of CB1 receptors from the cell’s surface. Internalized receptors recede beneath the cells surface, where they are no longer able to bind with THC but instead, stay hidden or get broken down into smaller parts. Frequent consumption of THC will have less of an effect on the functioning of your brain because there are fewer receptors for it to act on.
If you’ve noticed that you find yourself not feeling as high as you’d like, spending more money on weed than you used to, smoking more often, then you might want to consider taking a tolerance break. Taking time off from smoking seems to be the answer for many herbalists looking to get that old feeling back, and it truly does work. A study conducted on mice showed that when given daily injections of THC twice a day at 10 mg/kg, the mice developed tolerance to THC’s pain-relieving and sedative effects after 36 hours (3 THC injections). A week later, the injections were no longer given, and the tolerance to THC’s sedative effect recovered quicker than its effect on pain. Behavior normalized as well.
In comparison to alcohol and other drugs, the recovery rate for cannabis is exceptionally better. For example, methamphetamine allows for a small recovery in brain functioning in the critical brain regions even after a full year, whereas marijuana shows improvement in just two weeks. Abstaining from alcohol can show recovery over extended periods of time as compared to cannabis.
Studies have shown that withdrawing from cannabis is more intense when there are fewer available CB1 receptors for THC to bind. In English, that basically means the more you smoke, the harder it is to not smoke. However, just one week of abstinence can significantly lower your tolerance. After 28 days, CB1 receptor activity is usually almost back to normal.
For chronic smokers, ceasing from using cannabis for as short as one day can cause withdrawal effects such as anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, cravings, and boredom. To combat these feelings, it is best to stay occupied, busy and distracted. Some suggested activities are exercising, picking up a new hobby and including healthier foods in your diet.
Breaking Down Cannabis Tolerance