How to handle your tolerance to marijuana

Jonathan Hill illustration

Inevitably, chronic cannabis smokers find themselves hitting a wall with their bud. You'll hear heavy users talk about the large amounts of flower or dosages of edibles they have to take to feel high at all.

As it turns out, the notion of high tolerance is not as far fetched as you would believe. A 2016 study conducted by Yale School of Medicine's Deepak Cyril D'Souza found the correlation between chronic use of pot and increased tolerance. The study looked at tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) activated CB1 receptors in the brain and how the brain attempts to reduce said activity.

CB1 receptors are what influences the body's feeling of inebriation or being stoned. Being an abnormal function of said receptors, your brain will attempt to reduce the activity. This will result in a reduction of receptors or even altered genetic expression. That minimization means that users will need to increase their THC levels to replicate their original high, thus tolerance.

Luckily, D'Souza's study found that the body's CB1 receptor levels return to near original levels when abstention occurs for two days upwards to a month. That recovery is rare when looking at other drugs and their relationship with elevated tolerances. Binge drinking and elevated alcohol consumption can be toxic, killing off brain cells and affecting the brain's receptors. But unlike the studies in relation to the brain and cannabis, alcohol's effects take longer for the brain to recover and can remain incomplete.

But for many, abstaining may seem like overkill. You can let your CB1 receptors recover by, at the very least, reducing the amount of weed you smoke. Having a smaller intake of weed reduces the amount of superfluous THC entry that often occurs. Anteing up every time you don't feel stoned exacerbates the problem, and often that extra THC won't actually go towards the influence of your high.

Another option is changing the way you smoke. By putting down the bong for a one hitter or switching out the blunts or king-sized papers for a smaller rolling paper, you're able to reduce your quantity while retaining as much of the quality high as possible.

Also, those days when your schedule is clear and you feel like being high all day does not mean you need to be smoking all day. Microdosing your hits will allow you to coast throughout the day without worrying about devouring your supply and annihilating your receptors.

But ultimately, maybe your best option is to take a week or two off. Maybe plan ahead and find some time built in for your body to go on the mend so you can get back to your routine. Your brain and bank account will thank you. ♦

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