Most people taking CBD report consistent effects of the same doses with prolonged use. Does it mean that CBD tolerance is a myth?
Substance tolerance is a familiar concept to all people who take supplements and medications. The human body is very flexible at adapting to different substances — lowering their effectiveness over time.
Considering that CBD is a supplement that people take daily, it’s no wonder they ask questions about the risk of building a tolerance.
So, will you build a tolerance to CBD if you take it often?
Studies conducted on the safety and efficacy of CBD oil hold the answer.
Continue reading to learn more.
Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?
Like we said, building a tolerance to any substance is a common concept. Many of us experience it in our daily routine. When you drink coffee or tea, you need stronger dose overtime to get the same focus and energy as you did, say, a few months ago — especially if you’re a daily user.
CBD is consumed frequently; for most people, it means taking CBD twice a day; some users, however, use it four times a day because they need more CBD oil in their situation. If CBD actually holds the risk of building a tolerance, it should abide by specific mechanisms that most supplements and medications use.
Let’s elaborate on why people build a tolerance to certain substances.
How Tolerance Works
Tolerance is categorized into three major groups: behavioral, cellular, and metabolic.
Behavioral tolerance is where we become psychologically adapted to the effects of a substance; cellular tolerance involves cells becoming less responsive to a compound, which is why you need more coffee to stimulate the body when you drink it regularly. Metabolic tolerance, in turn, means that lower concentrations of a substance reach the target area.
Tolerance doesn’t have to belong to one of the three aforementioned categories and can show the symptoms of all three mechanisms depending on the interaction between a particular substance and the body.
Tolerance affects every person differently; there are different rates at which we become tolerant to a substance. Our genetic structure, physiology, history of substance abuse, as well as environmental factors, may determine how fast you build up a tolerance to substances. For some people, it may take a bit more time to develop tolerance, while others build it very quickly.
When it comes to cannabinoids, tolerance is noticeable mostly on the cellular level. Over time, the endocannabinoid receptors may become desensitized, meaning they’re less enthusiastic about interacting with the administered compound, and in some cases, will hide inside a cell so they cannot be reached by the cannabinoid.
It appears this isn’t the case with CBD.
What Happens Inside Your Body When You Take CBD?
CBD has a unique fashion of interacting with the endocannabinoid system. Rather than binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors, it affects them more indirectly. A study conducted by the Department of Neuropharmacology at Fukuoka University reveals that “the neuroprotective effects of cannabidiol are independent of CB1 blockade,” suggesting that it doesn’t work by binding directly to the receptor and shouldn’t theoretically build a tolerance. (1)
CBD uses a different mechanism, one that allows it to encourage the production of endocannabinoids and improve the binding affinity of specific receptors in the body. Through this mechanism, CBD helps the endocannabinoid system to maintain balance (homeostasis) between all vital processes within the body (2).
So, rather than forcing the endocannabinoid system to become overactive and less responsive to the compound over time, CBD enhances its functioning by modulating the activity of its receptors and ensuring more efficient use of the body’s own cannabinoids.
CBD Tolerance vs THC Tolerance
People who use THC-rich cannabis may build a tolerance to the cannabinoid because it has a direct affinity to the CB1 receptor in the brain. This is why THC gets us high and CBD doesn’t. Daily use of THC causes the user to experience less pronounced effects with the same amount of cannabis.
As mentioned, THC tolerance happens on the cellular level. THC interacts with the brain by binding with CB1 receptors. When this process is repeated regularly, the cells try to maintain normal CB1 activity by reversing the THC’s effects. They trigger this effect either through desensitization, where CB1 receptors make it difficult for THC to bind with them, or through internalization, which is the process by which CB1 receptors hide into the cell’s interior. When internalized, the cells become entirely unresponsive (3).
How Fast Does CBD Tolerance Build?
Although it’s not possible to build a tolerance to CBD, we all have a different tolerance threshold that may change over time. In other words, you may need more CBD after two years of regular use, but it doesn’t necessarily derive from building a tolerance, but rather from the changes in your endocannabinoid system and overall body chemistry.
Tolerance and its fluctuation vary depending on the following factors:
- How much CBD you’re taking
- Experience with CBD
CBD Tolerance vs. CBD Dependence
The term tolerance often has a negative connotation; most people associate it with drug addiction. However, this word is often wrongly used instead of dependence, which is the accurate term to describe what happens to drug users over time.
- Tolerance is what you experience when your body becomes less sensitive to a compound over time. This is how your system builds a tolerance to THC and caffeine, among many other substances.
- Dependence is what happens when you go through withdrawal symptoms, which can be both physical and emotional. The symptoms may range from mild such as headaches, mood swings, to life-threatening, such as depression, vomiting, heart failure, and lethal overdose.
The good news for CBD users is that it doesn’t cause any of the above. CBD has a good safety profile; it comes with a few mild side effects when you take it regularly, including dry mouth, appetite fluctuation, or slight dizziness if you take high doses of CBD oil.
What Is CBD Reverse Tolerance?
Some studies suggest that CBD can cause reverse tolerance, where less of a compound is needed to achieve the desired effects due to long-term use (4). The studies so far have found that CBD can reduce the activation of CB1 without the need to desensitize the endocannabinoid system. This interaction is particularly important for CBD users because it can reduce the side effects and tolerance-forming potential of other cannabinoids, such as THC.
As we pointed out earlier, providing a definite answer to the tolerance-forming effects of CBD is difficult because there are so many factors at play, and there’s not enough research on humans to provide conclusive results.
CBD Tolerance In A Nutshell
It is common knowledge that people build a tolerance to different substances over time. However, research suggests this isn’t the case with CBD. Some studies have even found CBD oil to induce a reverse tolerance phenomenon, causing the user to need less CBD to experience the same results after regular use.
However, CBD’s unique mechanism of interaction with cannabinoid receptors makes it challenging to study the way it affects tolerance. CBD has over 60 molecular targets, so there’s still much we don’t know about this compound.
If your CBD oil isn’t working, it’s unlikely due to an increased intolerance. Although your threshold may change over time due to factors like age, weight, and metabolism, the problem usually lies in the quality of CBD.
To ensure you’re getting a legitimate product with a proven amount of CBD, make sure you’re buying CBD oil from reputable suppliers. There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding CBD.
We hope this article has helped you clear up any confusion regarding CBD tolerance.
- Hayakawa, Kazuhide et al. “Cannabidiol prevent infarction via the non-CB1 cannabinoid receptor mechanism.” Neuroreport vol. 15,15 (2004): 2381-5. doi:10.1097/00001756-200410250-00016
- Khan, Mohammed I et al. “The Therapeutic Aspects of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) for Cancer and their Development: From Nature to Laboratory.” Current pharmaceutical design vol. 22,12 (2016): 1756-66. doi:10.2174/1381612822666151211094901
- Colizzi, Marco, and Sagnik Bhattacharyya. “Cannabis use and the development of tolerance: a systematic review of human evidence.” Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews vol. 93 (2018): 1-25. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.07.014
- Karler, R, and S A Turkanis. “The cannabinoids as potential antiepileptics.” Journal of clinical pharmacology vol. 21,S1 (1981): 437S-448S. doi:10.1002/j.1552-4604.1981.tb02624.x