Is getting high getting harder? We assume that’s the case because you’ve found your way here. You probably typed something like: “I’m not getting high anymore” or “my THC tolerance is too high”, maybe “smoking isn’t getting me stoned”, and you stumbled on the term “tolerance break”. Welcome! First of all, it’s totally normal. Just like playing a video game, the more you do anything the better you become at doing it. So, it’s natural that the more you consume cannabis the more your body (specifically your endocannabinoid system) adjusts to the presences of cannabinoid. This can result in diminished physical or psychoactive effects that come with smoking weed. Simply put, levelling up isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. But never fear, we have a cheat code. Many stoners take what’s called a tolerance break. Curious? Let’s dig in to what that means and how to make it work for you.
What is a tolerance break?
It’s exactly what it sounds like: a break to improve your tolerance. Break from what? Smoking or consuming cannabis. Tolerance breaks aren’t just for weed—the therapy can be applied to compounds like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol—but in this case we’re specifically referring to compounds THC and CBD (and various other cannabinoids). Thanks the global legalization movement, studies are currently confirming what was once anecdotal evidence surrounding the practice. Findings of a recent double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Addiction Biology confirmed significant differences in both occasional (once a month to three times a week) and frequent (at least four times a week) cannabis consumers before and after a measured break in consumption. In an interview with PsyPost, Natasha Mason, author of the study, stated of the findings:
“Cannabis tolerance is not a final, permanent state that is achieved after chronic cannabis use, but rather a temporary state of decreased sensitivity to cannabis exposure that dynamically fluctuates across the spectrum of a full-to-no experience of cannabis effects, depending on the pattern of cannabis use.”
This means your system is in fact capable of a biological reset, confirming the already widely accepted efficacy of tolerance breaks.
What are the benefits of a tolerance break?
As the name suggests, the main goal is to recover your initial ability to get high off lower or less frequent doses. Many people notice a decrease in their tolerance after a break, meaning either less cannabis or lower strength strains are more effective and produce more of the desired high. Another added bonus is the dough you’re going to save—both by not buying weed during the break and in the weeks to month following in which you’ll have to buy less to get high. Mastering a tolerance break can also be beneficial for future travel plans to countries with less access to cannabis. Luckily, buying weed in Canada online or at a dispensary is very easy.
How long is a tolerance break?
At this point, you may find yourself asking: “is 24 hours enough for a tolerance break?”, “will a three day tolerance break do anything?”, or “is a week long enough to recover my tolerance?” The truth is there is no set time frame for this therapeutic practice. This boils down to the subjectivity of perceptual highs. The high you’re looking for is entirely different from the high someone else it looking for, as is the amount it takes you to achieve it, as is the regularity of your consumption. So, you may have to do a bit of work to find your tolerance break sweet spot. On average, most suggest the average tolerance break lasts between three to seven days, with an optimal duration of a full month. Keep in mind it takes at least 72 hours for THC to flush from your system. Longer breaks might be easier for consumers who don’t rely on cannabis to regulate biological functions like mood, sleep, mental health, or chronic physical ailments. Shorter breaks or working up in increments may be necessary in these cases. Either way, it’s important to set specific timelines and guidelines to ensure you have a goal and end point.
Here are some timeframe tips:
- Assess how much and often you currently consume cannabis;
- Estimate how long you think you could go before feeling the “itch” or any minor negative side effects (e.g. cravings, irritability, appetite fluctuations, etc.);
- Estimate how long it would take for major negative side effects to kick in (disruption to sleep patterns, major mood swings, physical discomfort, etc.)
- Set a timeframe that lands between those previous two estimations (e.g. if I’ll start getting my first cravings after two days, and major side effects after a week, I would try my first break for four to five days.)
- Decide whether you’ll be decreasing consumption or entirely cutting it out. Some replace smoking with a low-dose cannabis oil instead of cutting out THC all together, and these come in a variety of ratios;
- Journal the process so you have notes to reflect on afterwards.
Any tips to improve my tolerance break?
- Remove temptations: Legal or not, buying cannabis in Canada is very easy. Having cannabis in your home, a dispensary near you, or an online mail order service at your fingertips can act as temptations when the cravings set in. Mute social media accounts, ask your friends to hang on to your stash, and delete ordering apps to improve your chances of success.
- Replace the habit: If you’re a regular consumer, you’ve likely developed a routine. If you normally smoke on your lunch break or you frequently take an edible before bed, for example, these little habits can act as reminders of what you’re missing during your tolerance break. Find something to replace these habits—like drinking a glass of water, going for a walk, chewing gum, or playing a video game. Or disrupt your routine by getting out of town or shaking up your daily schedule.
- Fill your agenda: Idle hands are the devil’s (lettuce) playground. Pack your time with distractions. Hangout with friends, go see a movie, download a new video game, ask for a few more shifts at work, or take a road trip.
- Play nice: Remember, quitting anything you love—even for a short time—is a bummer. Especially if that thing helps you sleep, relax, and socialize. Let your friends and family know you’re taking a break and it may impact your mood. And when that craving rears its ugly head, take a walk, breathe, and talk it out. Remind yourself that this temporary discomfort is an investment in a long term benefit.
- Have a prize: Premium flower or prerolls waiting for you at the end of the break can be a great way of rewarding yourself for a job well done. Knowing there is a prize at the end can also incentivize you to continue during the difficult points of your break. You can find affordable flower at a number of Canadian online dispensaries.
How to avoid a negative tolerance break?
Tolerance breaks, especially for frequent consumers, can result in a number of uncomfortable side effects that feel a lot like withdrawal. Many people find it makes them irritable, sleep deprived, antisocial, and suppresses their appetite. Make sure you’re consuming a nutrient-rich diet and lots of water. It can be difficult to “force” yourself to eat, but just because you’re not feeling hungry or thirsty doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need it. You will undoubtedly increase your chances of success with a healthy meal plan. Buying high quality CBD oil can also be incredibly helpful in helping regulate your mood and easing physical discomfort. Melatonin supplements are also useful in maintaining sleep patterns.