Cannabis high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a powerful psychoactive medicine, and when you first start using it, you may find the effects to be very strong. That said, if you use cannabis regularly, you’ll likely build up a tolerance to it. You may find over time that your cannabis just doesn’t seem as strong as it used to be. Psychoactive effects may become less noticeable, and you may find other effects of your cannabis are weaker as well. For most, the obvious solution is to use more.
But increased cannabis consumption often only makes matters worse. As you consume more, your tolerance increases as well. This causes folks to need more and more cannabis to produce the same effects as when they first started consuming the plant. It can be a frustrating cycle, especially since cannabis can be costly.
In addition, tolerance is an especially important issue for women, who are both more sensitive to the effects of cannabis and tend to develop a cannabis tolerance faster than men do. Luckily, there are a few ways that cannabis patients can manage their tolerance to ensure it doesn’t get out of control.
1. Avoid Overusing Cannabis
There are ways to bring your tolerance to cannabis back down, but before we get to those methods, let’s start with how to avoid a quick tolerance build-up in the first place. One of the easiest ways to build up a tolerance is to overuse cannabis. This happens when patients use more than they actually need to deal with their symptoms.
To avoid this, always start with the smallest effective dose of marijuana and work your way up. Overuse can be problematic on its own, because it can make your treatment less effective and can lead to increased side effects. But it will also very quickly bring your tolerance up.
You can bypass these problems with mindful choices about how much marijuana you use. Go with what you need to manage your symptoms, but don’t use any more than that.
2. Take a Tolerance Break From Cannabis
One popular way to reduce your cannabis tolerance is to take a tolerance break. A tolerance break (also called a tolerance cleanse) is just a temporary pause on cannabis use. Most breaks last three to seven days.
After this break, when cannabis use is resumed, most find that their tolerance is much lower. With a lower tolerance, they’re able to use less cannabis, and perceive its effects to be much stronger.
Still, tolerance breaks aren’t for everyone. While pausing your cannabis consumption won’t lead to the kind of withdrawal symptoms you might find with addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco or opiates, it may interfere with your medical cannabis treatment.
For example, I’ve met patients who take cannabis to prevent the onset of seizures. While their tolerance has increased, they don’t want to take a tolerance break, because they’re worried their seizures may start up again without cannabis in their system. Depending on your condition, a tolerance break may not be a viable strategy.
3. Switch Marijuana Strains Regularly
Another method for managing tolerance is to switch cannabis strains on a regular basis.
Sometimes, our tolerance is tied to the particular types of cannabis we’re regularly consuming. If I use Afgoo all the time, for example, and then try something new like, say, OG Kush, I may find that OG Kush affects me more strongly. This phenomenon can be harnessed for the purposes of tolerance management.
If you have a few varieties of cannabis that work well for you, start with one and use it regularly.
When your tolerance has begun to build, and you notice the strain isn’t affecting you as much, put it to the side. For me, this is usually after two to three weeks, but it can vary person to person.
Start using a different marijuana strain.
After tolerance begins to build again, switch again. You can even cycle back to the first cannabis strain you were using.
By employing a strain-switching strategy, patients can keep their tolerance down without having to take a tolerance break. You can apply this strategy to you method of cannabis consumption. So, for example, if you’ve been vaping cannabis and your tolerance is up, switching to edibles for a few weeks may help bring your tolerance for vaped cannabis back down.
When Cannabis Tolerance Is a Good Thing
Now that we’ve shared our tips on how to keep your cannabis tolerance in check, it’s important to point out that sometimes having a cannabis tolerance is actually a good thing.
In the next installment of our Cannabis for Newbies guide, we’ll go over the various reasons why you may actually want to have a high tolerance to cannabis and how to achieve that quickly.
Photo credit: Carlos Gracia
Need a medical marijuana recommendation? Consult with one of HelloMD’s knowledgeable doctors; it’s easy, private and 100% online.