What is Cannabis Tolerance? What You Need to Know

The cannabis experience is inherently unique to every user and is modulated by an individual’s cannabis tolerance levels. An individual’s marijuana tolerance is the measure of how tolerant their body is to the effects of marijuana.

Put another way, each unique endocannabinoid system in an individual’s body will react to cannabis differently, meaning that no two users will experience the exact same effects.

Depending on the frequency of cannabis consumption, a person’s cannabis tolerance may alter over time, resulting in a greater resistance than when they first began ingesting marijuana. As such, many users opt to participate in what’s known as a marijuana tolerance break to reset their levels and get them back to more manageable levels.

That said, what is cannabis tolerance, exactly, can it be measured, and what circumstances prompt it to change? This article will explain all this and more.

What is Cannabis Tolerance?

cannabis tolerance guide

Cannabis tolerance refers to how the body, more specifically, the cannabis receptors in a particular user’s brain, adapt to the various chemical compounds in cannabis, including cannabinoids such as THC vs CBD.

A person’s cannabis tolerance relates to how much resistance their body has developed to the effects of cannabis. 

How the body does this is dependent on the individual endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

The endocannabinoid system is a complex biological network within the body’s central nervous system that serves a regulation or moderating role for those unaware.

The ECS comprises three primary elements: receptors, ligands and enzymes. It plays a critical role in several physiological processes, including but not limited to appetite, immune function, reproduction, sleepy cycles, homeostasis and more.

The chemical compounds present in cannabis, namely cannabinoids THC and CBD, terpenes and other components, directly impact the ECS in various ways upon ingestion. 

When users ingest cannabis, it activates the CB1 receptors in the brain. In turn, the more cannabis they consume, the more activated these receptors become. Over time, and through increased cannabis consumption, these receptors become desensitized and build up a greater resistance to these cannabinoids.

This resistance translates to users gradually feeling less prominent effects with increased cannabis usage in layman’s terms.

Extensive long-term use will consequently lead to internalization, which can cause the retraction of CB1 receptors. When internalization occurs, users will not feel their desired effects nearly as pronounced or, in some circumstances, at all.

This phenomenon happens because their bodies have built up such a strong cannabis tolerance that these receptors have become desensitized. 

That said, these receptors will regenerate over time. However, they require a pause in consumption to do so, which is why many choose to take marijuana tolerance breaks.

Should individuals opt for the alternative and continue to ingest cannabis as they regularly would, it will have the opposite effect, and the effects will remain subdued.

Modern science has yet to establish a predetermined timeline for building up cannabis tolerance. 

However, research posits that certain physiological factors, such as an individual’s sex and gender, genetics, frequency of cannabis use, and the potency of the products they ingest, all play significant roles.

How to Measure Your Cannabis Tolerance

While the various interactions and impacts of cannabinoids and the other cannabis chemical compounds on the ECS may be complicated, how users measure their cannabis tolerance doesn’t have to be.

That said, it’s crucial to note that it is not black and white, either, and ultimately boils down to self-observation and monitoring individual intake and users’ specific bodies.

One measurement method to conduct while using cannabis is to observe dosage.

Ideally, this would comprise using products where the cannabis dose is precise, such as edibles and cannabis tinctures. 

While users can use more conventional ingestion methods, such as smoking or vaping, the results won’t be as precise.

For the sake of example, let’s say users are working with a 10mg THC edible. 

In this sense, a quarter of that would be 2.5mg. Users can ingest a one-quarter portion and wait for 30 minutes to see if they feel the THC start to take effect. Then, they can note how long the effects take to dissipate.

Following this observation, ingest another piece with a bit more on a separate occasion. The likely outcome is that the effects are not as pronounced as they were previously. Therefore, the user’s cannabis tolerance is 2.5mg.

Concerning joint smoking, the measurements won’t be as standardized, and the proportions are not as precise. 

While joints sourced from dispensaries are available in pre-set amounts, customers themselves can pack them differently. 

In this context, consumers can inhale and wait to see if the desired effects are felt. From there, wait to see the duration in which these effects wear off.

Again, these are not entirely accurate measurements. However, they can give a general idea to roughly gauge their cannabis tolerance.

How Fast or Slow Does Your Tolerance to Cannabis Change?

As we’ve established, tolerance levels vary based on the particular user.

Suppose users need to increase the dose to experience the same desired effects. In that case, this is an indicator that their cannabis tolerance has increased. 

Therefore, the rate at which a person’s cannabis tolerance is subject to change falls solely on the individual consumer and how frequently they use cannabis.

In this way, less frequent users may experience a marijuana tolerance increase after one social session of cannabis use.

This decreased timespan is due to their sporadic usage, likely meaning that they don’t have any pre-existing cannabis compounds circulating in their system to begin with.

Opposingly, those who participate in frequent cannabis use, such as those using cannabis on a daily basis, for example, likely already have high concentrations of THC in their bodies.

As such, every individual use will further increase their tolerance, especially for those who require explicitly high doses to experience their desired effects. 

This trend is particularly prevalent among medical marijuana consumers who use cannabis regularly and require high doses to treat conditions such as chronic pain.

Unfortunately, there is no entirely reliable method to determine the rate at which cannabis tolerance may change because it is inherently rooted in personal usage habits, distinct physiology and biology.

Tolerance is Unique to the Individual

A person’s cannabis tolerance increases with each instance they ingest it. Ultimately, it is heavily reliant on their specific frequency of use, consumption habits, the potency of the products they ingest, and pre-determined factors such as biology, genetics and physiology.

With this in mind, it is difficult to develop legitimate testing to gauge users’ marijuana tolerances as they are subject to change based on these various outlined factors.

However, individuals may wish to conduct some at-home practical tests themselves utilizing observational tactics to determine a rough estimate of where their cannabis tolerance level currently sits.

Objectively, those with lower tolerances are at the greater advantage, as it requires less overall cannabis to produce their desired effects or perceived benefits. This fact in itself is the motivation for many to take a step back and perform a marijuana tolerance break to reset their levels to a more reasonable range.

Sirona Pharma

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