How long does THC stay in your system? If you’ve found yourself asking that question, or if you’ve noticed that your high isn’t lasting as long as it should (or that it requires more cannabis to get the same results), it may be time to investigate a tolerance break.
Before you close your screen in annoyance, here’s a spoiler alert: Taking a break of as little as a few weeks generally resets your THC tolerance back to baseline. It’s among the easiest (and most rewarding) steps you can take in maintaining the health of your endocannabinoid system and getting the absolute most out of your cannabis purchases.
Want to know more? Here’s a primer in how to lower weed tolerance and why a tolerance break may be just what the doctor ordered!
How Long Does THC Stay In Your System? The Science
First off, you’re not imagining things: THC tolerance is real, and it’s a perfectly normal response to overstimulation of the cannabinoid receptors. Those receptors are part of what’s known as the endocannabinoid system, a crucial regulatory network that helps govern such processes as:
- Appetite and metabolism
- Immune response
- Proper sleep function
- Communication between cells
Those receptors are activated by cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Each imparts specific effects, from THC’s distinctive psychoactive “high” (plus its ability to fight pain and inflammation) to CBD’s power to reduce anxiety and stress and help us find deeper, more restorative sleep.
But one of the most fascinating aspects of the endocannabinoid system is that cannabis isn’t the only source of those cannabinoids. Our bodies produce two endocannabinoids called anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Anandamide, for instance, is in many ways similar to THC in its pain-killing and other effects.
But the cannabinoids in marijuana are far more potent than those produced by the body. So while some researchers believe cannabis can be highly effective in helping us regulate bodily processes such as anti-inflammatory responses to injuries, long-term use of cannabis tends to cause our body’s receptors to become desensitized. The result? The reduction of beneficial effect when you consume cannabis, and the suspicion that it isn’t “working” as well as it used to.
This problem, by the way, isn’t unique to cannabis. As with many other medicines, our bodies tend to build up tolerance to repeated usage. Because our bodies generally tend to want to preserve homeostasis—a stable, balanced function of bodily processes—the brain reacts to a long-term excess of THC by downregulating—or “desensitizing”—the CB1 receptors that the cannabinoid binds to.
How fast does THC tolerance build? As with many cannabis-related questions, it depends on a number of variables. One rodent-model study found that THC tolerance began to build in as few as 36 hours. But as researchers like to point out, “mice are not men.” In other words, there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when your personal tolerance has reached a plateau. If you’re finding that the same amount of cannabis just isn’t delivering the same results, it may be high time—no pun intended—for a tolerance break.
Getting the Most From Your Tolerance Break: Top Tips
For some of us, taking a tolerance break (often shortened to “t-break”) can be inconvenient. For those who rely on medical cannabis for relief from chronic pain or other symptoms, the downsides may be even more acute. However, we’d like to underscore what we shared earlier: As research on THC tolerance suggests, when regular users engage in a t-break, our cannabinoid receptor cells return to baseline fairly quickly, generally within a month or even less.
While you’re on a tolerance break, we recommend you pay close attention to your mood and your physical state. As with any bodily cleanse, there’s a possibility you may experience what are known as cannabis withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Changes in mood including irritability and restlessness
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Difficulty focusing
- Depression or anxiety
If you should experience any of these potential side effects, be sure to take care of yourself. Rest as much as possible, stay hydrated, and be sure to seek out healthy foods and habits such as exercise, meditation, or other forms of quiet contemplation. While the side effects may be unpleasant they are typically temporary. And in our experience here at Mission Dispensaries, they quiet down within a couple of days.
To get the full benefit of a tolerance break, we suggest you wait as long as possible before imbibing again: At a minimum two weeks, though a month is generally considered more effective.
When you do return to cannabis, here’s something to consider. Research indicates that the majority of people actually derive greater benefit from lower dosages of cannabis! Try it and see for yourself; you may well find that smaller amounts deliver greater results. And that will not only delay the necessity of your next t-break, but it’ll also stretch your hard-earned cannabis budget to the max.
How To Lower Weed Tolerance: Wrapping Up
Even if taking a tolerance break may not sound like fun, you can rest easy knowing it’s a great way to reset your system and gain a fresh perspective.
The next time you visit any of our family of dispensaries, ask your friendly budtender for more information on the tolerance break, and how to get the absolute most from cannabis!