There is a lingering question surrounding CBD and that is whether a tolerance builds up over time. As CBD is a cannabinoid the same as THC it would be natural to assume that it has many of the same tendencies including building up a tolerance. The truth is that CBD and THC share a few traits but they are in fact very different.
There are major differences between CBD and THC. CBD has become very popular for its ability to treat anxiety, which THC is known to trigger. CBD also doesn’t trigger psychoactivity, which THC infamously does.
Another significant difference between the two is the risk of tolerance. The main issue with THC is that when used for medicinal or recreational purposes there is a slow increase in tolerance. The initial dose will eventually become ineffective when taken regularly. CBD does not seem to trigger a tolerance. Oddly enough, it seems to have the opposite effect, a bizarre phenomenon called reverse tolerance.
How Does Tolerance Develop in the First Place?
Tolerance develops most commonly with drugs that bind directly to our endocannabinoid receptors (THC being an example). Long term use leads to an internal response and our bodies adapt to the continual presence of the compound and as such a higher dosage is required to achieve the same effect.
Research has shown that long term THC use leads to increased tolerance. THC binds strongly to the cannabinoid receptor CB1 which is responsible for the psychoactive effect. Over time THC reduces the number of available cannabinoid receptors. This was support by a study conducted in 2012 which showed that chronic THC users had fewer cannabinoid receptors than non-users. After a break from THC the same users were able to return to lower dosages and their cannabinoid receptor levels had returned to normal.
How Does Reverse Tolerance Work?
Just as the name suggests, reverse tolerance is the opposite of tolerance. Continued use of a substance bring tolerance levels down and the user needs less of the substance to achieve the desired effect. Most substances cause people to experience increased tolerance level. Everything from pharmaceuticals, nicotine, alcohol and hard drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. In some rare cases with alcohol the opposite is experienced due to severe liver damage.
There are only limited studies into the tolerance of CBD but the general consensus is that there is little to no risk of developing a tolerance. This is because CBD does not technically bind to any one cannabinoid receptor which eliminates the problem of tolerance. CBD promotes increased receptor activity unlike THC, which reduces cannabinoid receptors over time. Other receptors such as GABA receptors and NMDA receptors also respond to CBD and have also been shown to play a part in reverse tolerance.
Whatever the reason for CBD’s reverse tolerance, patients will find that they can slowly decrease their dosage over time. To find out more about dosages, check out our article on getting the best out of CBD (link to getting the best out of cbd).
Personal Anecdotes about CBD and Tolerance
There are some personal reports online where people claim to have experienced CBD tolerance when taking it for anxiety. On closer inspection however some of these complaints were down to users struggling to find a high-quality source of CBD oil.
There is however something to be aware of, called CBD saturation. This is often found in users taking CBD for epilepsy. After long-term CBD use the users may begin to experience seizures again. Common sense would dictate at that point that a higher dosage may be needed, but there is evidence to suggest that the opposite may be the answer and a lower dose or a simply a break from CBD could help restore its effectiveness.
The truth is that more research needs to be conducted, however in the meantime users have been able to find their own solutions with great results.