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Does Taking CBD Too Often Cause Tolerance?

We all know that taking too much THC produces tolerance—but can the same be said for CBD? CBD has a wide range of medical applications, and it’s important to know whether these become less effective over time. To find out, we’ll dive into the effects of CBD on CB1 receptors, and examine the research in question.

These days, CBD is more and more being seen as a wonder drug, and has shown effectiveness at treating epilepsy, alleviating anxiety, improving symptoms of arthritis, and reducing the risk of diabetes [1] . Whether you take it in a tincture, smoke it in flower form, or swallow it in pills, CBD is a wonderful addition to any health-conscious person’s repertoire. But is there such thing as too much CBD? Can ingesting this cannabinoid too often build tolerance to its positive effects?

To answer these questions, we’ll begin with a brief overview of tolerance formation.

WHAT IS TOLERANCE?

Tolerance is the process by which one has to increase one’s use of a drug to get the same effects one had to begin with. Tolerance is distinct from addiction or dependence, which is the compulsive use of a drug, or the need to keep taking a drug to feel “normal”. Tolerance can form through multiple mechanisms: cellular, where the cell becomes less responsive to the substance; metabolic, where less of the substance reaches the site of interaction; behavioural, where the user becomes accustomed to the substance’s effects.

A LOOK AT THC

As pot smokers will attest, regular use of THC builds tolerance—seasoned smokers will find themselves consuming many times as much as new users. Further, tolerance develops unevenly and also varies depending on individual physiology. As such, the full experience of getting high will be different the more one smokes. Many regular users take “T-breaks” or switch strains to recharge their tolerance after heavy use.

THC tolerance happens mainly through the cells. THC works by binding with CB1 receptors in the brain. When this happens repeatedly, the cells try to reverse the effect and maintain normal CB1 activity. They accomplish this through two main methods: the first is called desensitisation, where CB1 receptors start binding to cannabinoids less easily. 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; unlike desensitised receptors, which can still be activated by THC, albeit to a lesser degree, internalised cells become entirely unresponsive.

CBD, however, is a different beast. Unlike THC, it doesn’t get you high, but can encourage a relaxed feeling. CBD is responsible for many of the health benefits associated with cannabis. It also has different effects on your endocannabinoid system, and a very different tolerance profile to THC.

CBD AND YOUR ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

CBD has a different relationship to CB1 than other cannabinoids, acting as an antagonist. Through a form of activity called negative allosteric modulation [2] , CBD reduces the binding affinity of the CB1 receptors, making them less responsive to other cannabinoids. As such, the effects of CBD work in the opposite direction of THC—instead of over-activating your endocannabinoid system, it gives it a break. And in fact, many issues with the endocannabinoid system may stem from it being overactive—causing issues like anxiety and overeating.

CBD also increases the body’s natural endocannabinoids, since it competes with them for binding proteins which break them both down. CBD can be thought of as a kind of endocannabinoid-reuptake inhibitor.

This combination of antagonising CB1 receptors and increasing natural endocannabinoids produces CBD’s characteristic relaxed, focussed, and “flow state” effects. But can this effects profile be tolerance-forming?

THE EVIDENCE

Studies [3] seem to suggest [4] that CBD is not tolerance-forming, and may in fact have reverse-tolerance effects; in other words, taking CBD regularly may result in users needing less of the cannabinoid to achieve the same results. It would seem CB1 cells don’t resist negative allosteric modulation in the same way they resist direct intense stimulation. Further, 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.

More research is needed to confirm the “reverse tolerance” hypothesis, but the evidence suggests that CBD users probably don’t need to worry about tolerance. This really is remarkable, especially given CBD’s wide range of medicinal effects; many of the issues it addresses are currently being treated with heavy pharmaceuticals that are themselves tolerance-forming. CBD’s lack of tolerance-building is yet another compelling point in favour of this miracle cannabinoid.

CBD has an incredible range of health benefits, but does taking it too often cause tolerance? We'll compare possible tolerance-forming effects of CBD and THC.

Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?

Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?

Building a strong tolerance–or reverse tolerance—to CBD may actually be beneficial in the long run.

Researchers are finding that CBD oil may be able to treat the symptoms of a whole host of diseases and conditions. Sufferers of depression, anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, and even Alzheimer’s may all find relief by using CBD oil.

A common question that comes up when people first consider trying CBD oil is whether or not you can develop a CBD tolerance over time.

CBD isn’t cheap and health insurance isn’t likely to cover it any time soon, so the thought of having to take more and more over time to get the same relief can be daunting.

Here’s the currently available information on long-term CBD oil use and the potential for developing a tolerance.

Is It Possible to Build a Tolerance to CBD?

While research has concluded that long-term use of cannabis containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) results in a THC tolerance, cannabidiol (CBD) appears to work in the opposite direction. Studies and scientific reviews of CBD oil use suggest you likely won’t build a tolerance to CBD, and long-term use may actually result in reverse tolerance.

“Reverse tolerance” refers to the phenomenon in which a person needs less of a substance to feel its effects the more they are exposed to it. So over time, CBD oil users may find relief from their symptoms with lower and lower doses.

CBD is one of over 100 phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids are chemically similar to the endocannabinoids produced by the human body; both types of cannabinoids interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). While more research needs to be done, it is believed that because CBD indirectly activates cannabinoid receptors in the ECS without binding to them, it increases the number of endocannabinoids naturally produced by your body over time. The more endocannabinoids available, the less CBD oil you need to feel the benefits of a well-functioning endocannabinoid system.

Since research on CBD oil and reverse tolerance is still in its infancy, anecdotal evidence and your own personal experimentation are going to be your best resources on the topic. Even though CBD oil will not get you “high”, start off with a lower dose if you’re testing out your tolerance. It will be easiest to track and measure your ideal dosage by gradually increasing the amount you take over the course of a few weeks or months. If the benefits you’re feeling start to plateau even as your dosage goes up, you’ll know you’ve accumulated some tolerance to CBD, and it could be time to try lowering your dosage.

Effects of Long-Term CBD Use

Until fairly recently, laws against the use of cannabis and marijuana have limited the number of longitudinal studies examining long-term use of CBD. A majority of the clinical research on the effects of CBD oil does not include a testing period longer than a few months. Hopefully though, as the laws around cannabis, hemp, and CBD continue to shift, more information will become available.

Even though there’s a lack of research on long-term CBD oil use, other scientific and medical studies have yielded promising results in terms of CBD’s safety and efficacy. CBD oil is generally considered to present little to no risk for addiction or side effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even gone as far as to state “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”

There is a great deal of evidence that suggests that CBD oil may be a safer, more effective way to treat conditions that require long-term treatment, like depression and chronic pain.

CBD for Depression

Depression has become incredibly common over the years, and the medications prescribed to treat its symptoms often result in unpleasant side effects. Compounding the issue, stopping antidepressant medications can often result in withdrawal symptoms. CBD is showing promise as an effective alternative option for those dealing with depression.

In one animal study, CBD was found to have antidepressant-like effects in mice by helping to activate the 5-HT1A receptor, which is normally activated by the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. In another study, CBD was found to increase the amount of the “bliss molecule,” anandamide, in the brain. Anandamide is the neurotransmitter most commonly associated with feelings of joy and happiness.

While long-term use of antidepressants can lead to weight gain, loss of sexual function, emotional numbness, withdrawal, and even addiction, CBD oil has not been shown to produce any of these negative side effects.

CBD for Chronic Pain

Another potential long-term use case for CBD oil is in the treatment of chronic pain. Suffers of chronic pain are frequently prescribed medications with significant side effects, many of which are habit-forming. Those that wish to come off pain medications are often faced with debilitating withdrawal symptoms on top of the pain they’re already dealing with.

CBD oil, in comparison, is beginning to look like a great alternative treatment for pain. In a comprehensive review of clinical trials examining CBD’s effect on difficult-to-treat pain, it was concluded that CBD offers a promising alternative or complement to current treatments for pain management. And given the possibility for reverse tolerance, CBD oil dosages may be tapered down over time, mitigating any potential risks of long-term use.

How to Get Continual Benefits from CBD Oil

Since you’re unlikely to build a strong tolerance to CBD oil, and may in fact be dealing with reverse tolerance the more you use, how can you continue to get the most from your CBD product?

In order to properly understand the effects CBD is having on you, it is recommended that you keep a daily log. Each time you take CBD oil, write down the amount you have taken and when you have taken it. Write down any effects you experience, including any changes you notice in your physical body or mental processes. Writing these developments down will be crucial to finding your ideal dosage and deciding if CBD oil right for you in the long-run.

When it comes to choosing a CBD product, don’t be afraid to experiment with different strains, brands, and delivery formats (e.g. CBD vapes, CBD oil drops, CBD edibles). You may have to try a few different products before you find the one that works best for you. Remember to note how different products affect you—maybe a CBD vape is great for when you’re feeling anxious, but CBD drops are best for relieving pain. Finding the right CBD product(s) for your needs is a personal and exciting journey!

One of the best ways to see continual CBD benefits is to mix up your CBD oil delivery formats. In fact, you may find it most effective to use a combination of products. A CBD oil tincture or capsule might be ideal for daily use, while a CBD flower or CBD vape pen are best for on-the-spot relief.

Always talk to your doctor before you use CBD oil. While CBD oil is generally safe, there are some possible drug interactions that should be carefully monitored. If your doctor approves your CBD use, and you’re logging your experiences, you both can quickly narrow down the reasons for any negative effects.

CBD Oil Dosage

You should always follow the dosage recommendation included with your CBD oil product. If you’re looking for a more personal assessment, you might also consider speaking with a naturopathic doctor who can give you a specific dosing recommendation for your condition, age, weight, and experience with CBD.

To take some of the guesswork out of figuring out the right CBD oil dosage, we at CBD Oil Review have come up with a general recommendation, having tested and reviewed hundreds of CBD oil products:

The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.

If the desired effect is not reached at this dosage, we recommend slowly increasing your dose by 25mg every 3 to 4 weeks.

Once you’ve found an effective dose that works for you, you probably won’t need to increase it. Because of reverse tolerance, you may even find that with repeated use you can actually decrease the amount of CBD you take over time.

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Learn if your body can build a tolerance—or reverse tolerance—to CBD oil and how to maximize its benefits in the long term. ]]>