quitting cigarettes decrease marijuana tolerance

Alcohol & Other Drugs

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Tips for Cutting Back

Rielle Capler, MHA

Reprinted from “Cannabis” issue of Visions Journal, 2009, 5 (4), p. 25
Six steps to changing your current cannabis-use patterns

Think about your current patterns of use: Think about how much, how often and when you use cannabis in a day, week or month. This will help you understand your cannabis use and will help you monitor your progress as you cut down.

Think about why you use cannabis: If you’re using cannabis regularly, chances are there are reasons why. Does it relax you? Does it help you sleep? Does it relieve physical pain or help you cope with difficult emotions?

Make a list of reasons why you want to cut down: Think about why you want to change your current pattern of use. Is it negatively affecting your health? Are you worried about the costs? Are you worried about legal consequences?

Be aware and prepare: It’s important to know that, for some people, this change may be difficult to create and sustain. You can prepare by jotting down the things you think may be difficult and noting resources for support, such as counselling or relaxation techniques.

Make a step-by-step plan to make change happen: First, decide which day you’re going to begin making the change. Then, write down what the change will look like and the things you can do on the first few days. Next, outline how you’ll deal with any withdrawal symptoms and cravings you may get. Finally, think about what you can do to make a healthy transition.*

Stay positive and stay active: Give yourself credit for the positive changes you make and fill your time with meaningful activities and healthy relationships in which your desired level of cannabis use is respected.

People develop patterns of cannabis use that fit their needs. As their needs change, people tend to change their patterns of use. For some this means stopping the use of cannabis completely. For others it means stopping temporarily or cutting back.

Often, patterns of use change quite naturally. For example, many people who use cannabis in their youth stop using it when they get older. Some use cannabis for medical purposes that may be temporary or change over time. Others use cannabis throughout their lives, with periods of non-use or less use.

There are different reasons why people decide to change their pattern of use. Some people may stop using cannabis temporarily to reduce their tolerance level. This means that they can use less cannabis to get the effect they want. By cutting down on the amount used, they can maintain the benefits, but minimize possible harms (e.g., respiratory problems such as bronchitis which can accompany heavy, long-term use). For other people, it may be a matter of cutting back on costs. Still others may be concerned about the potential legal consequences. And for some, their cannabis use may be a problem—due to misuse, stigma or legal status—for the people they care about.

Most people who want to cut down on or quit cannabis are able to do so easily; The way cannabis molecules work in the body typically leads to controlled use of low doses, rather than the compulsive use sometimes seen with drugs that are considered addictive.

Cannabis has a low risk for physical dependence. However, when someone uses cannabis a lot over a long period of time, they may develop a psychological or emotional dependence. This means they may have come to rely on the effects of cannabis and may have trouble functioning with less cannabis. People who do develop mild physical or psychological dependence may experience minor withdrawal symptoms. These can include irritability, anxiety, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. These symptoms are usually slight and last for about a week.

If you’ve decided to cut down on or quit using cannabis, consider the following guidelines and tips.

Related resources

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Tips to help you cut down on the amount of cannabis you use:

Take a break: You may have found that you need to use an increasing amount of cannabis to get the desired effects. This is called tolerance. If you want to reduce tolerance, stop using cannabis for a week or two, or take longer breaks than usual between use.

Use a variety of strains: You may build up tolerance to one strain of cannabis, but not to another. Instead of using the same strain continually, alternate between different strains.

Practise self-management: Instead of smoking a whole joint or taking a puff every time a joint comes around, take a puff or two and then wait a few minutes. You may find that a smaller amount is enough.

Use higher potency cannabis: Instead of smoking a lot of a weak strain of cannabis, smoke less of a more potent one.

Use a vaporizer: Because of the way they are designed, a good quality vaporizer will allow you to use less cannabis to get the effects you want.

Avoid adding tobacco to your joint: Tobacco contains nicotine, which can quickly create nicotine dependency. Rolling tobacco and cannabis together in a joint may make it harder for you to cut down on using cannabis.

Buy less, so you smoke less: Buying cannabis in bulk is cheaper, but you may end up smoking more than you want to just because it’s available.

People develop patterns of cannabis use that fit their needs. As their needs change, people tend to change their patterns of use. For some this means stopping the use of cannabis completely. For others it means stopping temporarily or cutting back.

How Long Should a Marijuana Tolerance Break Be?

Monday March 16, 2020

O ver time, cannabis consumers develop a tolerance to cannabis, making the effects of marijuana diminished to a certain degree. This happens to just about anyone who consumes frequently enough. As you consume more cannabis, your brain needs more THC to produce the desired effects you seek. This is due to the diminished effects that occur when THC cannabinoids bind with the body’s CB1 receptors.

However, sporadic breaks from consuming have been known to reduce one’s tolerance to cannabis by making the receptors sensitive to THC once again. This is called a tolerance break, or a T-Break, or “I want to, but I can’t smoke” syndrome (or in current global pandemic times, you might be wondering what you’ll do in case your stash runs out). Few, if any, lab studies have explored the subject. Though, there has been more than enough anecdotal evidence collected over the decades. Today, the general cannabis community consensus on tolerance breaks are as such:

When a Tolerance Break is Needed

Tolerance breaks serve a purpose in two scenarios. In one case, they can be self-imposed. The other may be out of one’s control and instead be a necessity for the moment – such as a Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

A self-imposed tolerance break can last as long as you see fit. That is, considering the amount you consume. In an ideal scenario, you’d take a day off and that half ounce a day tolerance would be gone, right? That isn’t the case, unfortunately. So, there is some adherence to your body and how much you’ve consumed as of late.

Typical responses suggest that two to five weeks is often sufficient for a marijuana tolerance break. Semi frequent consumers may be able to see the effects of a T-break in two or three weeks. More substantial, regular consumers might need to hold out a month or so to see the same results.

Some have found success doing partial breaks, where they scale back their use instead of an outright stoppage. This may work but is not as reliable as a full-fledged break. In other cases, the T-break is thrust upon us. This can be in the case with job applications, parental rights cases, probation terms and several different instances. In these cases, breaks can last for months, even years.

Tips for a Successful Marijuana Tolerance Break

There are numerous tips and tricks to succeeding with a tolerance break. Depending on who you ask, you may find yourself taking up new activities. Often, you are recommended to toss your stash. Some might suggest discussing your break with your cannabis community so no one will tempt you.

Like most aspects of pot, a tolerance break has to be catered to you for its ideal effects. That said, as cannabis becomes more mainstream, concrete information is welcomed and often needed to advance the validity of the plant. One of the most official looks into tolerance breaks comes from Tom Fontana and the University of Vermont’s Center for Health and Wellbeing. Going off the premise that a break should last for at least three weeks, Fontana created a thorough 21-day guide walking abstainers through the process.

Acknowledging that a break is trying on the individual, the guide aims to help people push through the adversity of a cannabis pause so they can re-evaluate themselves. Each week focuses on a theme with daily practices. The first week centers on the physical, ranging from preparation to our routines. The second week delves into the emotional, ranging from withdrawal to a person’s creativity. Lastly, the final week explores spiritual and existential themes, from crediting yourself, not the substance, to what comes after the break is completed.

What About CBD?

The rise of CBD is the cannabis community inevitably found its ways into the tolerance break discussion as well. While not a hot topic of discussion in comparison to other subjects with the cannabis community online, some have weighed in on the matter. In most cases, they suggest that CBD is adequate, if not recommended, during a break.

Some point towards science in the plant and our bodies. They point out that CBD lacks the psychoactive effects of THC, noting that CBD does not bind to the same receptors as THC. Not only does that mean CBD won’t get you high, consuming it shouldn’t disrupt the re-sensitizing process undertaken by a tolerance break.

Others offered similar sentiments in regards to the non-psychoactive benefits of the cannabinoid. In several cases, consumers self-reported feeling calmer, while others say CBD helped when desires to consume THC came on.

While consuming CBD seems to have its supporters, some caution that full spectrum and distillate products can still contain trace amounts of THC. If a person wants to altogether avoid THC when consuming, they might want to look into an isolate for pure CBD or a distillate that is void of any THC traces.

All in all, finding your ideal tolerance break duration might take a little trial and error. Once you dial it in however, you should see noticeable results and feel stronger effects from your normal cannabis consumption habits.

How long do you take tolerance breaks for? Do you have any tips or tricks for maximizing results? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, “Cannabis Jobs,” was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

Considering taking a tolerance break from cannabis? Learn more about how long a proper marijuana tolerance break should be, as well as helpful tips to guide you through the process.