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Tolerance Over Time




People who devour large amounts of cannabis on a regular basis are inevitably subject to diminishing effects over time. That is why first-time smokers get a much more serious kick when they smoke cannabis in comparison to experienced connoisseurs, and conversely, cannabis consumers who have smoked for a long time must consume larger amounts of cannabis in order to get the same effect.

Research suggests that tolerance builds up in people who consume cannabis on a regular basis. One team of scientists in particular spent a great deal of time during the 1990s exploring cannabis and dependence. Beginning with a 1990 study led by Dr. Miles Herkenham of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), researchers found that the effects of cannabis are time and dose-dependent, “suggesting diminishing effects with greater levels of consumption.” Herkenham noticed that mice that received excessive amounts of THC were catatonic at first, but eventually regained their motor abilities—even while continuing to receive the high dose of THC. Their bodies had adapted.

Scientists learned that the mammal body adapts to exposure of huge amounts of THC by lowering the number of available cannabinoid receptors and thus reducing the effects over time. Similarly, consumers who smoke large amounts of cannabis aren’t going to get the same effect over time as their bodies adapt. That said—cannabis tolerance differs from other situations like opioid or nicotine tolerance, because it doesn’t appear to have any effect on dopamine production in the brain, which could lead to a more serious situation. Most experienced smokers, however, don’t need a study to confirm that tolerance affects cannabis smokers over time. It’s evident everywhere you look.

There is a very easy solution to the cannabis tolerance problem. Some people call them tolerance breaks and others call them “t-breaks,” but the concept is simple: Take a small break from consuming cannabis to reset the body’s endocannabinoid system. It re-sharpens the effects of cannabis. Taking a break for as little as three days can reset your body and your cannabinoid receptors so that you get the same effect as you got the first time you lit up. Heavier smokers, of course, need more than a few days to reset the body—perhaps a month or even longer for some people.

“I used to quit every February for tolerance. I also had an episode a few years back where I quit for a little bit because of anxiety due to what I believe was an oversaturation of my endocannabinoid receptors.”


Adam iLL boasts nearly 75,000 followers on Instagram and hosts a show called Getting High With which focuses on material that is pretty much about getting high with extremely potent dabs, extracts, strains of cannabis and so forth. Episodes were broadcast every Thursday on Adam iLL got into broadcasting at CBS Radio at 97.1 KLSX, before launching The PotCast and partnering with numerous projects such as The Secret Sesh and the High Times Cannabis Cup as a host or panelist. He was also interviewed for a Q&A with CULTURE in 2017. If anyone knows anything about consuming too much cannabis—it’s Adam iLL. After all, he calls himself “the highest host.” Regularly smoking and dabbing for a living can wreak havoc on the balance of the endocannabinoid system. Tolerance can get so bad that even a huge dab will fail to cause a noticeable effect in the heaviest of smokers. CULTURE asked Adam iLL if he’s ever gone through periods when he smoked so much cannabis that he couldn’t get high. “Yaaa” Adam iLL quickly admitted. “I used to quit every February for tolerance. I also had an episode a few years back where I quit for a little bit because of anxiety due to what I believe was an oversaturation of my endocannabinoid receptors.”

Other heavy consumers can take Adam iLL’s advice and participate in a short fast from cannabis, if your tolerance is out of sync. “I can’t think of anything significant in my life that isn’t related to or influenced by cannabis,” he said. Heavy consumers should examine their own lifestyle and consider whether or not a tolerance break is needed. Eliminating cannabis from your lifestyle for a short amount of time isn’t easy—but it’s the only way you can reset your tolerance so that you can get as high as you did the first time you smoked. Consider a tolerance break the next time you notice that you aren’t getting the same effect that you used to when smoking cannabis.