“I just can’t get as high as I used to.”
Sound familiar? If you’re a regular cannabis user, chances are you’ve noticed your tolerance gradually increase over time. This typically kicks off a cycle of smoking (or vaping, or eating—whatever your consumption method of choice may be) more and more, in order to achieve the same high. There are several problems with this: for one, it makes your cannabis use more expensive, and depending on how you consume your THC, it might put undue stress on your health.
So how can you prevent your tolerance from building up sky-high? Some call it a t-break, others, a tolerance break, but all agree that taking some time off from cannabis use every once in a while is key to lowering your tolerance. If you’re tempted to press the reset button yourself, here are some tips to successfully maximize your t-break.
Let’s start with the science
First things first: if you feel your tolerance to the psychoactive effects of cannabis has increased, you definitely aren’t imagining things. Studies have repeatedly shown that regular cannabis use leads to decreased effects on the user. The 2018 review article Cannabis Use and the Development of Tolerance: A Systematic Review of Human Evidence, published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews, found that the cognitive effects of THC had the highest level of tolerance, while elements of what you’d call the “body high,” like increased heart rate, weren’t as affected. In other words, at peak tolerance, you’ll keep a clear head but still feel the physical effects you’re used to.
Cutting down vs. quitting
You may have heard conflicting reports on whether a successful tolerance break requires abstaining from cannabis completely, or just reducing your consumption for a short period of time. My opinion? Of course, different people will get different results, but it just makes sense that you’ll get better, faster and more consistent results if you don’t touch your pot at all. Not only that, but total abstention allows you to “reset” your routine, which is especially healthy if you’ve been finding your recent consumption excessive (we’ve all been there).
For regular users, the idea of abstaining from cannabis can be a bit daunting, even though the results are usually found to be more than worthwhile. So how long of a tolerance break do you need to take in order to reap its benefits? Again, it’s different from person to person. However, there are some general guidelines. If you abstain for just a few days, it should be enough to recover some of the psychoactive effects you’d stopped feeling (THC is at its highest concentration in the body during the 72 hours following consumption). To completely eliminate the THC in your body, you’ll want to wait at least a week or two before packing your next bowl—while this varies widely depending on things like your individual metabolism, studies have found that it generally takes between 10 and 14 days before THC levels are no longer detectable.
Ready, set, t-break
It’s a highly subjective topic, but two things have been shown to be true pretty much across the board: cannabis tolerance is real, and tolerance breaks work. Some people will feel the need to take more frequent, shorter breaks, while others might prefer to abstain for a significant length of time every once in a blue moon. The only way to find out what works best for you is to experiment. For bonus points, document your journey!