If you’re someone who depends on their CBD treatment to manage an illness, you’re probably asking yourself one specific question – is it possible for your body to develop a tolerance to CBD? A CBD tolerance would mean that you have to take higher doses to get the same effect. This presents financial and/or logistical obstacles. And, it also means that THC might completely stop working for you, which is definitely not something that you’d want.
Everyone who has ever smoked marijuana for an extended period of time know that the buzz mellows the longer you keep at it. To find out if the same is true of CBD, we will take a look at how it affects CB1 receptors and check what the current (although, few and far in between) studies have to say. Here’s a hint – while THC user DO get desensitized, there’s no evidence that the same is true for purely CBD users! Read on to find out more!
What Does Tolerance Even Mean?
Allow us to assume that you’re not suffering from a chronic illness that you’ve been treating for a long time. If you are, then you already know what developing a tolerance to a substance means. Still, you might not know that there are different kinds of tolerance so let’s dig into that for a bit to make it crystal clear.
A increased substance tolerance is a process through which a person taking a drug or a substance develops a natural resistance to its effects. For example, taking Paracetamol for pain management over the course of a year would severely desensitize a person, to a point where the starting dosage (taken on day 1) would have to be upped several times (on day 300) to achieve the same result. This is a somewhat radical example, but it paints the picture of how true tolerance might manifest itself. It’s definitely an issue since an alternative method of pain management would have to be administered, usually in the form of a different drug that doesn’t contain the same active ingredient. The same can happen with other substances that are not technically regarded as pharmaceuticals, such as THC.
While the effects of increased tolerance are always the same, the process can occur through several different mechanisms in our body:
- Cellular (pharmacodynamic) tolerance – tolerance on the cellular level happens when certain receptors (in this case, CB1) become desensitized (or reduce in numbers – become internalized by the cells themselves) owing to the constant use of the substance.
- Metabolic (pharmacokinetic) tolerance – happens when less and less substance starts reaching the site where it has the desired effect. This type of increased tolerance is most evident with oral ingestion.
- Behavioral tolerance – behavioral tolerance only occurs with psychoactive substances such as THC. Regular CBD users can experience it if they are using full-spectrum CBD oils and not CBD isolate.
THC Tolerance IS A Real Thing
There’s no sense in denying it – even recreational marijuana users are well aware of the fact that the first high they’ve experienced is a pretty elusive beast from that point on. This is the behavioral mechanism kicking in – the brain now knows what to expect and it’s a bit more prepared to handle it.
Regular potheads are dealing with a different kind of tolerance mechanism – the cellular one. THC combines with the CB1 receptors in the brain to trigger a psychoactive effect. Once this starts happening in regular intervals, the cells themselves will try to minimize the effect through the processes available to them – desensitization and internalization.
Desensitization is a process where CB1 receptors start binding to cannabinoids less easily. They simply don’t react that well to the stimuli provided by this specific cannabinoid and will not produce the desired effect so readily. The second method is called internalisation, and it’s the process by which CB1 receptors are pulled from the surface of the cell into its interior – they are basically now closed off to all external stimuli. Unlike desensitization, which can still provide a certain level of the effect that’s desired, internalized receptors cannot be affected at all. This creates a drastic decrease in THC effect after months and years of smoking weed.
People who are experienced at smoking weed know when this happens and will take regular breaks from time to time. It takes around 2 – 3 days of committedly not using a substance for our body’s tolerance to it to start decreasing. However, it’s best to abstain for as long as possible if you want to have a truly awesome experience.
As for CBD, we’re glad to say that it behaves entirely differently. Unlike THC, CBD won’t get you high (which means that it’s not psychoactive) and it also doesn’t share THC’s ability to overstimulate the endocannabinoid system. This means that your CB1 receptor won’t respond by desensitizing or internalizing – which signals no truly noticeable increase in tolerance to CBD at all, regardless how much of it you use.
Why Developing A CBD Intolerance Is Unlikely
Unlike that of other cannabinoids, CBD’s relationship with the CB1 receptor is rather specific, since it acts as an antagonist. This simply means that it prevents other endocannabinoids from interacting with the receptor. In addition to that, CBD also reduces the CB1 receptor’s affinity to bond with other cannabinoids, such as THC, through something called negative allosteric modulation.
While this might sound like a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo, what it basically means is that CBD acts oppositely on CB1 than THC does. It would then stand to reason that the reaction of the endocannabinoid system to it is also opposite. And, in fact, it is. Instead of plunging the endocannabinoid system into overdrive, CBD seems to temper that, giving it a break it deserves once in a while. Thanks to this specific chemical profile, CBD is most likely not tolerance-forming.
Actually, some studies (Bergamaschi, 2011) goes as far as to suggest that CBD is the opposite of that. Some users might actually need less and less of the substance going forward to get the same result. Turns out, at least according to this specific study, that CB1 receptor does mind intense stimulation (THC) and it will desensitize in response. CBD’s negative allosteric modulation doesn’t seem to trigger the same response. In fact, given CBD’s specific relationship to CB1 receptors, it likely helps modulate the tolerance-forming pattern of THC. Pot smokers concerned about tolerance would be wise to add some CBD to their cannabinoid diet.
So, You Won’t Develop A CBD Tolerance, But…
The fact that developing a CBD tolerance is probably not something in your cards, regardless of how much you use, is great. Still, this doesn’t mean that you should abuse it, especially now that it’s finally becoming more mainstream and likely to be classified as true medicine. The fact remains that we still do not know much about the endocannabinoid system and how it works. Until such time when we have some concrete evidence that it’s perfectly safe, take only what you are prescribed by your doctor or therapist. Remember, every medicine is a poison – the only difference is in the dosage.
If you’re looking for a way to know for sure how much CBD you should take, we suggest reading our blog post on the topic – CBD Dosage and Bioavailability. It pays to inform yourself on things like that so you know you’re doing it safely (and, that you’re not wasting your money for nothing). While you’re at it, also make sure to check out our revolutionary CalmVape CBD vape kit – the most convenient and efficient way to take your daily CBD dosage. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any and all CBD related questions!