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

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

6 min

Smoking weed too often and for too long can cause a tolerance to build up, thereby requiring you to use more weed to reach the same level of high. Science now understands cannabis tolerance a bit, giving us insight into beating it. Follow along to learn all about cannabis tolerance, and what you can do to reduce or reset it.

For some, cannabis tolerance is an annoyance, while for others, it’s less of a problem. Irrespective of how you feel about it, cannabis tolerance is something that every regular cannabis smoker has to deal with, to some degree. The good news is, you can beat it! Let’s take a look at what weed tolerance is, and how to reduce and reset it.

Building a cannabis tolerance: What does it mean?

Building A Cannabis Tolerance: What Does It Mean?

Have you ever noticed that you have to smoke more cannabis over time to get as high as you used to? This happens because the brain builds a tolerance to cannabis—or, more specifically, THC. As a result, we have to make our joints a little bit bigger or take an extra dab to compensate. Unlike other drugs, THC needs to reach very high levels within the body for it to become toxic. There are no known cases of cannabis overdoses. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.

As you build a higher tolerance, there’s more at stake than simply needing to smoke more weed and spend more money to get enjoyably high. Increased tolerance and prolonged usage increases the chance of developing cannabis use disorder, or "CUD" (Connor, 2021) and regular usage also increases the risks of developing or exacerbating mental and physical health conditions, such as psychosis or lung conditions (NIDA, 2020).

What’s guaranteed, though, is that as your tolerance increases, you’ll need to consume more THC to get the desired effects.

Up until very recently, no one really knew for sure what causes a tolerance to marijuana to form. We know it happens, and there has been some very informed speculation, but the exact mechanics of it have eluded us. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a cannabis expert from Yale School of Medicine, uncovered the cause. By performing PET scans on the brains of male participants (aged 18–35), D’Souza was able to observe how CB1 receptors (the main receptors with which THC interacts) in the brain change over time (D’Souza et al., 2016).

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. However, it’s worth noting that this research was conducted only on a small group of men, so it offers a preliminary view of what may be happening, rather than solid proof.

Related article

8 Tips For Taking A Cannabis Tolerance Break

How to lower your cannabis tolerance

How To Lower Your Cannabis Tolerance

So, we have learned that a tolerance to THC is caused by CB1 receptors becoming less available in the brain. Although a period of abstinence lasting up to four weeks is a fantastic way to lower your tolerance, it isn’t the only way to make weed hit a bit harder again. Let’s explore what other things you can try.

Smoke a little less often

There are steps you can take to slow down the formation of a tolerance if you can’t quite bring yourself to give up THC entirely for the several weeks necessary. However, most of those steps involve cutting down consumption too, at least a little bit. For example, you can smoke less frequently throughout the day, smoke using smaller rolling papers to reduce the amount you use, or give up concentrates.

The primary focus is frequency—not exposing the receptors in your brain to a constant supply of cannabinoids. As such, taking one or two hits from a bong or dab rig might be a good option, instead of taking little tokes from a joint throughout the day, for example. Who knows, if you can cut back sufficiently, you may be able to bring your tolerance down without actually giving up your cannabis consumption.

Try going for a run between smoking sessions

It doesn't have to be running, but any form of exercise, either between smoking sessions or after, could help to rekindle that lost buzz. Researchers have found that THC stored in fat cells is released into the bloodstream during exercise. Instead of vast THC reserves increasing your tolerance, a quick blast on the treadmill could make your next joint that much sweeter.

That being said, it’s worth trying to cultivate a relationship with exercise that isn’t primarily based around trying to get the most out of your cannabis habit. Try to enjoy exercise for the good it brings on its own!

Variety is the spice of life — Smoke a different strain

Variety Is The Spice Of Life — Smoke A Different Strain

Working along the same lines as smoking a little less often, switching up your strains can also help to reduce your tolerance. The famous proverb: “A change is as good as a rest,” definitely applies to cannabis, as not all strains contain the same amount of THC. If you've become used to the giddy heights of 25% THC strains, why not try something with a little less potency? Switching up your herb of choice will give the body a chance to enjoy the ride, rather than be constantly overwhelmed by it. Then, if you return to something more potent, the euphoria of your old 25% THC strain will feel even more sweet.

Also, don’t forget that cannabis is a rich melting pot of terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. THC isn’t the only thing that makes marijuana so much fun to smoke. Don’t be afraid to experiment with strains that produce an exotic aroma or contain “novel” cannabinoids like THCV and CBG. You’ll be enjoying yourself so much, it won’t even feel like you’re taking a break or reducing how much you smoke.

CBD can counteract the effects of THC

While switching up your choice of strains, why not try the therapeutic qualities of CBD? This non-intoxicating cannabinoid may actually help counteract some of the effects of THC. A 2015 study shows that cannabidiol (CBD) can help modulate the CB1 receptors that THC would usually bind to, reducing some of the negative effects (Laprairie et al., 2015). CBD can help to lower your tolerance without the need to stop smoking—that is, as long as you have a few CBD strains to hand.

Going cold turkey

At the end of the day, if you are putting in the effort to cut down on your weed intake and lower your tolerance, you might as well just take a break altogether. Reducing your intake to slow the onset of tolerance may be a lot of effort for little gain, whereas a full-blown tolerance break, or “T-break” can seriously reset things. A T-break is a period in which you don't use cannabis, in order to allow your tolerance to go back down.

If you return to smoking after a break, you’ll find the effects of cannabis are much more like they used to be when you first started smoking weed. Moreover, you might discover that you enjoy being sober more often. Taking a break isn’t just good for getting more high at a later date, but it can also give you an opportunity to build a healthier relationship with cannabis.

Related article

Top 5 High CBD Cannabis Strains

Tips for taking a cannabis tolerance break

Tips For Taking A Cannabis Tolerance Break

If you want to take a so-called T-break, it can be difficult, especially if cannabis consumption has become a well-integrated part of your routine. Still, it can be done, and below we’ll give you some tips on how to do it.

Put your pipes and papers away

Keeping your pipes and your beautiful collection of glass and smoking accessories out of sight will help to limit temptation. Not that you aren't strong enough to see them every day and not use them, but when you are trying to take a break, every little thing helps. It's funny how when you smoke all the time, your weed tools become a central part of your routine. They never really get put away because you're always using them. You'll be surprised at how putting your tools out of sight for once can change the décor of your place and really shake up your regular routines.

Stay busy

Keeping busy is a must if you want to keep away from weed. For the occasional few, cannabis can spark a wave of energy that propels them through their day. For the rest of us, it can often make us a little too comfortable with being comfortable. Getting off the couch and keeping your mind occupied will make your weed-fast fly by. A watched pot never boils, as they say.

The purpose of your break is to free your body of THC, and while you're at it, you should free your mind of it as well. Has there been anything you wanted to do that you could never get to because you were high? Well, now's your chance. Keep yourself engaged throughout your break, and you’ll find it much easier. You might even enjoy new activities that your habit kept you from.

Find substitute activities

Find Substitute Activities

If your pot smoking habits fall into regularly scheduled sessions, substituting another activity in place of your bong rips will help you through this period. But beware! Don't substitute dabs for trips to the fridge. When taking a break from cannabis, it can be easy to substitute one substance for another, and this can be dangerous. You don't want to turn to junk food as a substitute for the cannabis that is missing from your daily diet.

Wean yourself off

When you know you have a break coming up, you needn’t go cold turkey if you don’t want to. Cut your consumption in half in the weeks leading up to your break. Then cut it in half again. And again if you want. Cutting your consumption leading up to your time of zero consumption will make the transition easier. Cut out your first smoke of the day, then try making it till dinner. Try to get it down to the point that you are only smoking before bed, like a sweet nightcap.


Exercise will help to keep you healthy and prolong your life. It will also help to keep your mind off the weed while your body pumps what remaining THC you have in your system right out. It has been shown that intense cardio workouts will flush excess THC out of your system by boosting your body's metabolic rate. Jogging, hiking, biking, and physical sports are a great way to keep you in shape while you cleanse your system. You never know, you may end up replacing your usual buzz with a runner's high!

Enjoy your savings

The one thing you cannot deny is that, no matter how you cut it, cannabis costs money. For an avid smoker, it isn't unusual to spend a couple hundred a month, or more. For some, weed is the most expensive bill of the month. Taking a break from buying cannabis will put a mountain of cash back in your pocket and allow you to treat yourself to something nice.

Tame your cannabis tolerance today!

Tame Your Cannabis Tolerance Today!

A cannabis tolerance can be an expensive annoyance, or the route to some fairly serious issues. Whatever reason you have for wanting to cut down, it’s a worthwhile journey. Whether you quit cold turkey or opt for low-THC and high-CBD strains, there are many ways to go about resetting your tolerance. You may even discover a whole new world when you step out of that comfortable cannabis fog. Resetting and understanding your relationship with cannabis is one of the most important skills you can learn!

Max Sargent
Max Sargent
Max has been writing for over a decade, and has come into cannabis and psychedelic journalism in the last few years. Writing for companies such as Zamnesia, Royal Queen Seeds, Cannaconnection, Gorilla Seeds, MushMagic and more, he has experience in a broad spectrum of the industry.
  • (2013/12/01). Exercise increases plasma THC concentrations in regular cannabis users - ScienceDirect -
  • Connor, Jason P., Stjepanović, Daniel, Le Foll, Bernard, Hoch, Eva, Budney, Alan J., Hall, & Wayne D. (n.d.). Cannabis use and cannabis use disorder -
  • D'Souza DC, Cortes-Briones JA, Ranganathan M, Thurnauer H, Creatura G, Surti T, Planeta B, Neumeister A, Pittman B, Normandin M, Kapinos M, Ropchan J, Huang Y, Carson RE, & Skosnik PD. (01/01/2016). Rapid Changes in CB1 Receptor Availability in Cannabis Dependent Males after Abstinence from Cannabis. - PubMed - NCBI -
  • Laprairie RB, Bagher AM, Kelly ME, & Denovan-Wright EM. (2015 Oct). Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. - PubMed - NCBI -
  • NIDA. (2020). Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders? | National Institute on Drug Abuse -
  • R B Laprairie, A M Bagher, M E M Kelly, & E M Denovan‐Wright. (2015, October). Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor -
How To News
Search in categories