Cannabis Tolerance: What It Is And How To Bring It Down

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Cannabis Tolerance: What It Is And How To Bring It Down

Smoking weed all the time can cause a tolerance to build up, requiring more weed to be used to reach the same level of high. Science now understands it a bit, giving us insights into beating it.

For some, cannabis tolerance is an annoyance, while for others, it is a badge of honour. Irrespective of how you feel about it, cannabis tolerance is something every regular cannabis smoker has to deal with to some degree or another. The good news is you can beat it, so let’s take a look at what it is, and how to get rid of it.


Have you ever noticed that you have had to smoke slightly more cannabis as time has passed to reach the same level of high? This is cannabis tolerance. As we use cannabis, the body builds a slight resistance to it, meaning we have to pack our joints that little bit tighter or take an extra dab. Unlike other drugs, cannabis needs to reach extreme levels within the body for it to become toxic – we are talking consuming hundreds of kilograms within the space of 15 minutes. So cannabis tolerance, and the need to use more, isn’t dangerous, it just puts a bigger dent in your wallet or stash. It is also worth noting that cannabis tolerance doesn’t snowball or get out of control – you can smoke the same amount of weed all your life and still get high, the high just may not be as potent as the first few times you ever smoked.

Up until very recently, no one really knew for sure what caused a tolerance to marijuana to build up. We know it happens, and there has been some very informed speculation, but the exact mechanics of it have eluded us. Well, Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a cannabis expert from Yale School of Medicine, has changed that, uncovering the cause. By PET scanning the brains of male participants (aged 18-35), Deepak was able to observe how the CB1 receptors in the brain change over time – CB1 receptors being the main thing cannabis interacts with in the body.

It was found that in daily smokers, the availability of CB1 receptors in the brain decreased, making it harder for the cannabinoids to interact with them. It was also found that after just two days of abstinence, the CB1 receptors began to become available again - with them returning to near normal levels after four weeks. It is worth mentioning that due to the size and nature of the sample of participants used more research is required. For one, the small size makes it hard to adequately assess the baseline of CB1 receptor availability. Also, reactions to THC can be different in females, due to a slightly different layout of receptors. As such, the lack of female participants narrows the scope of the findings (an all-male group was used to cut down on variables for this initial study).


As we now know, the tolerance weed enthusiasts build up is caused by CB1 receptors becoming less available in the brain. The only way to really undo this is with a period of abstinence, for up to four weeks – a tolerance break or t-break, if you will.

It is unfortunate, but this is the only way to truly beat back the resistance our bodies build up. If you want your cannabis to hit harder again, then the best way to achieve it is to exercise that willpower and take a t-break. However, there are steps you can take to slow down the tolerance if you can’t quite bring yourself to give weed up entirely for a short period of time. Once again, though, it involves cutting down. For example, you can smoke less frequently throughout the day, smoke using smaller rolling papers to reduce the amount you use, and give up concentrates. The main key is frequency – not exposing the receptors in your brain to a constant supply of cannabinoids. As such, smoking a one-hit wonder may be an option as you will smoke it less often. Who knows, if you drastically cut back, you may be able to bring the tolerance down without actually giving up.

At the end of the day, if you are going to the effort of cutting down to slow down your tolerance, you may as well just take a break. Cutting down in a bid to slow the onset of tolerance is a lot of effort for little gain. Plus, the insane hits and rips you will get after taking a break will make the effort of a short period of abstinence well worth it!



Written by: Josh
Writer, psychonaut and cannabis aficionado, Josh is Zamnesia’s in-house expert. He spends his days nestled out in the countryside, delving into the hidden depths of all things psychoactive in nature.

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