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Cannabis 101

T-Breaks: Resetting Marijuana Tolerance

11.02.21 - 4 min read

Summary

  • Marijuana tolerance is a natural result of marijuana use. It’s your body’s ability to become less responsive to cannabis.
  • Taking a marijuana tolerance break, or T-break, can change your body’s level of tolerance for cannabinoids.
  • For a successful T-break, planning and research helps.

If you consume cannabis regularly, you might’ve notice that over time, it can take more and more effort to get the desired effects. (Trust us, we’ve been there.) What you’re feeling is known as cannabis tolerance—basically, your body’s natural ability to grow less responsive to the effects of cannabis over time.

The good news: It’s totally possible to reset your marijuana tolerance by taking a THC tolerance break, aka a T-break.

How does THC tolerance develop?

The short answer is that tolerance develops because of regular use. There is no set timeline for developing tolerance. A range of factors contribute to it, including:

  • How often you use cannabis
  • How much THC you’re consuming
  • The potency of the products you’re using
  • Your individual body chemistry and biology

A neurological process called down regulation happens when we’re repeatedly exposed to a substance for a long period of time. Downregulation means the brain reduces the number of receptors for the substance because the body is wired to maintain homeostasis (or stability). So, over time, you’ll tend to find you need a higher dose of cannabis to obtain the familiar effect. [Source]

In other words, you’ll develop THC tolerance. Which means it could be time for a break…a T-break, to be precise.

What is a T-break, exactly?

A T-break is the process of taking a rest from using cannabis products to clear your body’s systems. Simply put, taking a T-break means you don’t consume any products containing THC for a specified time period. 

The goal of a T-break is to allow time for your body to reset itself to a pre-cannabis state. If successful, this should result in a decrease in your body’s tolerance to cannabis, allowing you to use lower dosages to obtain the desired effects. (Score!)

So, how long does a T-break take?

Just like cannabis’ effects, this is something that varies with everyone. On average, approximately four weeks of refraining from cannabis use is needed for the receptor function to return to prior levels. However, studies show it takes as little as two days for some individuals to begin demonstrating an initial reversal of cannabis’ influence on brain receptors.

Starting a T-break is typically a personal choice, and in certain cases it’s beneficial to discuss the decision with your regular doctor. When taking a voluntary T-break, the length of time is, of course, up to you. That said, if you’re a regular consumer, you might expect a reset time window of two to five weeks. For less frequent consumers, it could take two to three weeks before noticeable signs of your body’s reset appear.          

…Are there side effects?

Those who have developed a high tolerance to any substance, from caffeine to THC, may face withdrawal symptoms when that substance is withheld.

Withdrawal from cannabis is usually not as intense as withdrawal from other substances, such as alcohol, but it may cause some periods of discomfort.

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Tolerance and medicinal use

An important part of long-term, sustainable cannabis therapy is managing tolerance. If you’re using marijuana for medical purposes, the symptoms being treated with cannabis may return during a T-break. 

Talk to your doctor about whether a temporary switch to another medication or alternative therapies may be helpful during your T-break time. Medical patients are sometimes daily consumers of cannabis products, so their T-break side effects could call for more specific treatment considerations.       

How to take a T-break: our go-to tips

If the goal of your marijuana tolerance break is to completely reset your body’s tolerance level by removing all THC from your system, you’re probably going to need a minimum of twenty-one days. It usually takes three weeks or more for your body to cleanse itself because THC is stored in body fat. And it takes longer to get rid of fat than it does retained water. 

Thankfully, your T-break will go more smoothly if you do a little planning up-front.

In the beginning…

Take these steps to prepare yourself for the next few weeks:

  • Pick your start date. Try to choose a day that doesn’t involve a lot of extra commitments already scheduled during the coming few weeks.
  • Pack your products away. Because out of sight = out of mind.
  • Let your friends or family know what you’ve got planned and ask them to be on standby to offer support should you need it.

Powering through…

  • Take control of your sleeping habits. For some regular cannabis consumers, withdrawal symptoms may include difficulty sleeping. Luckily, establishing a bedtime routine can be helpful. Take a hot bath or shower, put on pajamas and enjoy a cup of herbal tea. If you spend time on your tablet or phone, use a blue-light filter to counter the stimulant effect of the light.
  • Eat nutritious meals on a schedule, even if you aren’t hungry. Don’t skip meals, eat at regular times and consume regular amounts. If you can’t eat it all, don’t sweat it. Better to eat something than nothing, because missing meals could lead to symptoms such as fatigue, irritability and anxiety.

Here come the cannabis cravings…

  • When cravings hit—and they probably will—get up and do something. Stay busy: laundry, exercise, walk the dog, draw, create, read a good book, binge watch, etc.
  • Look for patterns in your minor cravings, such as time, place and feelings. This will help you anticipate (and prep for) them. 
  • Don’t try to analyze the “why” of a strong craving—just get through it.
  • Try replacing THC with CBD. There are reports of CBD appearing to lessen the withdrawal symptoms that may come with a T-break, though the topic hasn’t been heavily researched yet.

…And our favorite tip: Treat yourself at the end of each T-break week you complete. You’ve probably saved money by cutting back on THC. Why not take that extra cash and spend it on something for yourself?

You’ve got this! Taking T-break (as we’re defining it) means stopping all cannabis consumption for at least two days. The receptors in your brain that develop a tolerance to cannabis can start shifting to their pre-cannabis state after a 36-to-48-hour break. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve beat your tolerance and reset your body’s systems in that time —it means you’re on the road to the reset you’re looking for.     

Remember that everyone’s body reacts to and interacts with THC and cannabis products differently. There is no one-size-fits-all for the effects of cannabis use or for the impact a tolerance break will have on any one individual. We can tell you from experience that refining the process takes some experimentation. But stick with it. Once you’ve figured out what works for you individually, resetting your tolerance can have major benefits. (Did we mention we’ve been there?)

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