In This Article
- Behavioral Tolerance
- Cellular Tolerance
- Metabolic Tolerance
Is it Possible to Build a Tolerance to CBD?
Studies to date suggest it is not possible to build tolerance to CBD, and in fact frequent use of CBD appears to have the opposite effect, known as reverse tolerance.
Considering that CBD is a supplement people take frequently, it makes sense to assume the body may react the same way. However, most people taking CBD report consistent effects of the same doses with regular use.
That being said, the human body is very effective at adapting to substances and building tolerances to many different things that we ingest regularly. Some things may not produce the same effects over time.
Some users may feel they need more CBD after years of regular use to achieve the desired effects. This may not be due to building a tolerance necessarily - but rather from changes in an individual’s overall body chemistry - or the quality of CBD.
Read on to answer your burning questions about CBD and tolerance.
What is Tolerance?
The term “tolerance” implies the ability to withstand something.
When we talk about taking supplements, medication or other substances, developing tolerance means an individual must take higher doses to achieve the same effects as initially experienced.
This should not be confused with physical addiction or dependence.
A person can develop tolerance after frequent use of a supplement, medication or other substance.
If you take something as common as drinking a cup of coffee for example, you experience a boost in energy and focus.
Eventually, the effects of drinking one cup become significantly less profound.
People who drink coffee regularly will find that they must increase the number of cups of coffee they have daily to experience the same effects as when they first started drinking.
Your body begins to withstand these substances because its primary function is to keep itself in a state of homeostasis, or cellular balance. When a foreign substance is introduced, whether it’s drugs or foods or drinks, the body processes it and immediately tries to restore itself to this balance.
How Does Tolerance Work?
Tolerance is split into three major categories:
Also known as “conditioned tolerance”, this refers to a drug’s decreased effect on a specified behavior after repeated or continuous use.
Cellular tolerance implies that our cells become less responsive to a compound the more repeatedly we take it.
This is why more coffee is needed to stimulate our bodies if we have it regularly, for example.
Metabolic tolerance occurs when the body breaks down the substance at an accelerated rate, and only allows lower concentrations to reach its target area.
Tolerance can manifest as a combination of any of the three aforementioned categories above - not just one of them. This does depend on how a particular substance interacts with the body.
The rate at which we become tolerant to a substance will vary significantly from person to person. Factors that can determine how fast our tolerance builds up ranges from our:
- Genetic makeup
- History of substance abuse
- Environmental factors
We all have different tolerance thresholds. While tolerance to a specific dose of a specific substance may develop very quickly for someone, it could take someone else a little bit longer - or much longer.
CBD & Tolerance: What Happens When We Take CBD?CBD is not like other cannabinoids, such as THC. It is unique in that it behaves slightly differently when it interacts with our CB receptors.
Current research indicates that you won’t build a tolerance to CBD (cannabidiol) because it indirectly reduces the activity of the CB1 and CB2 receptors of your endocannabinoid system (ECS).
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 receptors, and theoretically should not build a tolerance.
These cannabinoid receptors form part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). They are responsible for different functions and are located across the body.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is your body’s primary regulatory system that is thought to help with our normal functioning (from our organs to the central nervous system), and is responsible for many physiological processes such as:
- Mood changes
- Muscle soreness
- Stress response
- Immune system
- Inflammation after exercise
Instead, the compound improves the binding affinity of specific receptors in the body, while encouraging the production and efficient use of the body’s own endocannabinoids. These are important in helping the ECS maintain a balance (homeostasis) between all vital processes within the body.
Some of these specific receptors are:
Serotonin ReceptorsHelps to regulate:
- Body Temperature
- Digestive Process
- Blood Flow
Vanilloid ReceptorsHelps to regulate:
- Sense of Temperature
- Hair Growth
- Maintenance of the Skin Barrier
- Embryonic Development
GABA ReceptorsHelps to:
- Inhibit or Reduce Nerve Impulses
Gamma ReceptorsHelps to:
- Induce and Modulate an Array of Immune Responses
This unique interaction does, however, make it more challenging to study its tolerance properties. More studies are needed to understand the full extent of these differences.
Therefore, because CBD doesn’t bind directly with the CB receptors, it doesn’t desensitize the ECS or make it less responsive to the compound over regular use.
CBD’s ability to promote the sensitivity of your receptors can explain why you may require less of a substance to experience the same effects - this action is also known as “reverse tolerance."
What is “Reverse Tolerance?
There is research that suggests CBD produces a “reverse tolerance” over long-term use. This is where someone needs less of a substance in order to achieve the desired effects - not more.
According to a pharmacology study, this is due to CBD’s ability to make you more sensitive to the compound over regular use.
This can happen to some users, but not all.
“Reverse tolerance” might indicate that your CB receptors are working and that the CBD has improved its effectiveness. This can lead to unexpected results when you take the same dose you’re used to. If this has occurred, it will mean you need a lower CBD dosage to produce the same desired effects.
This interaction is particularly significant for CBD users because it can reduce the side effects and tolerance-forming potential of other cannabinoids, such as THC.
There are many theories on this topic and a lot more research is required before conclusive findings can be published.
What About THC Tolerance?It is important that we separate and distinguish CBD and THC, as tolerance profiles are different for each.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive ingredient that causes a “high” sensation when administered. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause this effect.
- Studies have shown people who use THC-rich cannabis can develop a high tolerance to the compound after prolonged use.
- This happens because unlike CBD, THC binds directly with CB1 receptors primarily located in your brain, thus causing psychoactive effects.
- THC tolerance is noticeable mostly on the cellular level, especially with prolonged use. Over time, the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors will try and resist interacting with the administered compound to maintain balance and normal cell activity. This is triggered through desensitization.
- In some cases, the receptors will hide inside a cell’s interior so they cannot be bound with the cannabinoid. This is also called internalization. When internalized, the cells become entirely unresponsive.
- Over time, the receptors become less sensitive to the compound. When administering the substance, only a portion of it will trigger the receptors and cause a reaction.
- Regular marijuana users will have fewer cannabinoid receptors to trigger, thus why users result in having to increase dosages to achieve the same effects. The more you consume, the better and more efficient your body becomes at adapting to it.
Tolerance vs Dependence
People will often wrongly associate the term “tolerance” with drug addiction. “Dependence” is the accurate term used to describe what happens to a drug user over time.
To further clarify:
ToleranceThis is what you experience when your body becomes less sensitive to a compound when consumed regularly. This is also how your system builds a tolerance to THC and caffeine, among many other substances.
DependenceThis is what happens when you experience withdrawal symptoms - both physical and emotional.
The symptoms may be mild such as:
- Mood swings
- Heart failure
- Lethal overdoses
- Dry Mouth
- Appetite fluctuation
- Slight dizziness
Possible Reasons for CBD Losing its EffectivenessAlthough it is not possible to build a tolerance to CBD, we all have a different tolerance threshold that may change over time.
You may need more CBD after regular use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have developed a tolerance. There may be changes in your overall body chemistry, or the quality of CBD you have purchased could be affecting your CBD experience.
Fluctuations in effectiveness can vary depending on the following factors:
- Type & Quality of Product
- Experience with CBD
It is also essential to remember that the substance’s effects can differ depending on your medical conditions, prescription medications, and other supplementation. Any health conditions or supplementation should be spoken about with your doctor.
A Final Word
It is common for people to build tolerances to different supplements or medication after regular use - meaning users need to increase their dosages to achieve the initial desired effect.
Current research so far suggests CBD does not have these same tolerance-forming properties. Considering that CBD actively encourages crucial functions of the ECS, it would seem that building a tolerance to CBD is unlikely.
However, giving a definitive answer is still challenging. With so many factors influencing the rate at which we become tolerant, there is still much we don’t know about the compound.
Our bodies are different due to our genetic makeup, and that’s why figuring out the right CBD dosage calls for personal experimentation. If you would like guidance on recommended dosages and the best methods of taking CBD, read our article here .
If you find your CBD is not working, it is unlikely due to developed tolerance. Click here to read more the reasons as to why your CBD may not be working for you.
It’s also important to always ensure that you are getting your products from a trustworthy source. Check where you’ve purchased your CBD. Some manufacturers are selling low-quality products and your CBD could have additional ingredients that have an effect on its potency. Opt for a research-backed brand that uses innovative techniques to engineer CBD products your body can actually absorb.
Finally, if you have any questions about whether CBD or other supplements are right for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
NextEvo’s patented SmartSorb technology can help you absorb CBD faster than oil-based products, getting it into your system in as little as 10 minutes.
The data discussed herein is based on reviewing the scientific literature only.
SourcesBritish Journal of Pharmacology - Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor
Current Pharmaceutical Design - The Therapeutic Aspects of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) for Cancer and their Development: From Nature to Laboratory
The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology - The Cannabinoids as Potential Antiepileptics
National Library of Medicine - Cannabidiol prevents infarction via the non-CB1 cannabinoid receptor mechanism
National Library of Medicine - Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews - Cannabis use and the development of tolerance: a systematic review of human evidence