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Time for a T-Break!

 August 10, 2021  Written by Dr. Bex
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Generally speaking, what is a “T-Break?”

A “T-Break” (also known as a tolerance break) is refraining from cannabis (specifically, THC) for a period of time to allow your body and mind to recalibrate. THC tolerance may be common amongst heavy cannabis consumers and largely depends on the frequency and volume of use. Tolerance develops when one over-sensitizes their cannabinoid (CB) receptors with excess THC, which then reduces those receptors in numbers. 

If you start noticing that you need increasingly more cannabis to get high, it may be time to take a tolerance break. To regenerate your receptors back and rebuild your tolerance, it is generally recommended to abstain from cannabis for 2 to 28 days (yes, we realize that may be a long time…!). The longer you abstain, the greater your CB receptors are likely to reset. This may allow for a profound “novice-like” experience upon your return to cannabis!

 

In medical terminology, what is happening to the body during a T-Break? What is it that enhances the effects of cannabis after not using it for a while?

Understanding Tolerance

First off, let’s understand what cannabis tolerance is: cannabis tolerance is the human brain’s adaptation to the constant presence of cannabinoids (like THC) in which higher doses of cannabis are needed to obtain the effect of the first dose. Developing tolerance means that after some time of consuming cannabis, you become a bit resistant to it and need increasingly larger amounts to get high. Tolerance happens because of neurological phenomena called “desensitization,” “downregulation,” and “internalization.” 

As you continuously expose your body to one substance (like THC), the receptors for that substance are gradually desensitized (work/respond less properly) and the number of receptors in the brain that react to that substance decrease (downregulation) via internalization over time. These phenomena occur because your body strives to maintain balance (homeostasis) and prevent overload. As soon as these processes - desensitization, downregulation, and internalization - start, you need more of that substance to achieve the same effects.  THC is a psychoactive compound in cannabis and one of the most abundant cannabinoids that produces effects by attaching to two groups of cellular receptors: CB1 and CB2 (but has a higher binding affinity to CB1). The number of CB1 receptors in the brain reacting with THC decreases over time as they are desensitized with frequent use. In fact, one very recent study of male participants aged between 18 and 35 focusing on CB1 receptors confirmed that regular (but moderate) daily cannabis users had 20% less CB1 receptors than the participants from the control group who did not use cannabis.

Important: Defining Addiction versus Tolerance

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the development of tolerance is not addiction, although many drugs that produce tolerance also have addictive potential. Tolerance to drugs can be produced by several different mechanisms, but in the case of cannabis, for example, tolerance develops at the level of cellular targets. Tolerance is a state in which a person no longer responds to a drug in the way the person initially responded. A higher dose is required to achieve the same effect. Drug addiction (dependence or dependence syndrome), on the other hand, is a state in which a person functions normally only in the presence of a drug. It is manifested as a physical disturbance when the drug is removed (withdrawal).

What Happens During a Tolerance Break?

During a tolerance break, one is reversing the effects of the buildup of THC. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the cannabinoid receptor system in relation to cannabis tolerance “is time- and dose-dependent, and is reversible, and thus appears to be cannabinoid-receptor mediated…The result (of the study) has implications for the consequences of chronic high levels of drug use in humans, suggesting diminishing effects with greater levels of consumption.” Therefore, this act of taking a timeout from cannabis is what aids in resetting one’s system.

What Enhances the Effects of Cannabis After Not Using It for A While?

The regeneration of CB receptors enhances the effects of cannabis after not using it for a while.  In the same study noted above, after just a two-day tolerance break, test subjects started growing their CB1 receptors back.

 

Is there anything out there that aids T-Breaks?

Physical Aids

Taking Niacin supplements coupled with plenty of hydration may reduce the amount of time you have to take a T-Break as Niacin may help deplete storage of cannabinoids.

Completing fat burning exercises (whichever works best for you) can assist in re-setting your body. 

Changing your routine may help too. Although humans are addicted to routines, switching it all up from time to time can be very beneficial.  Your preferred route of cannabis-intake is stimulating your receptors at the same time and capacity. Your body will eventually get used to those cannabinoids at the same exact time and capacity, which will lead to boosting up your tolerance. However, by introducing a few changes in your daily routine, you’re shocking your body and you’re not letting it get used to cannabis. To start, try consuming cannabis at different times than usual. That may actually trick your brain into thinking you are doing something new.

Psychological Aids

Putting away all your smoking gear.

Getting rid of your cannabis products (flower, edibles, concentrates, etc.)

Surrounding yourself with people you love, attend some social events, all in all, do the things that really make you happy (except consuming cannabis)

 

What, if any, are the benefits of taking a T-Break? Is there any other reason why regular consumers should take T-Breaks?

Benefits of T-Breaks

More noticeable psychoactive effects upon a return to cannabis.

 A lower THC tolerance decreases the amount of cannabis needed and is likely to lead in one saving some money.

Ability to influence the effectiveness of cannabis and the way it interacts with the mind and body (for example, skipping consumption in the morning may encourage the onset of stronger effects during evening consumption).

Why Take T-Breaks

To help flush the system as one prepares for a mandated job-related drug test.

As part of a court order, probation, and other legal requirements.

When vacationing in an area that’s not cannabis-friendly.

Those wanting to get more out of their interactions with cannabis.

 

Is there anything else I should know? Are there alternatives that I can try? 

Switch to high CBD products for a while

CBD is a great alternative to THC. However, keep in mind that CBD diminishes the psychoactive effects of THC, so you’re less likely to feel that buzz in your head as you normally would with products containing greater amounts of THC. Nevertheless, you’re likely to receive the many therapeutic benefits of CBD such as anxiety-relief and relaxation.

Take supplements

Even though cannabis might be a natural remedy for many conditions, there are other plant-based alternatives that can get you through your tolerance break.

Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and seeds as well as in supplements) help the endocannabinoid system function properly.  According to a study conducted by the Neurocentre Magendie in Bordeaux, France, a lack of dietary Omega-3 fatty acids leads to an inhibited function of CB1 receptors, which may result in mood swings and impaired emotional behavior. To put this into perspective, if you don’t consume enough Omega-3’s, you get poor-performing CB1 receptors and the entire functioning of your endocannabinoid system is in jeopardy. This means you may automatically need more cannabis to get high.

Additionally, valerian root is thought to be a mild natural remedy for insomnia and anxiety and lavender oil capsules may also reduce anxiety and help you take the edge off and get through the day.

Try a different strain

There are thousands of strains out there with different THC to CBD ratios and terpene profiles. Try something new and different.  Check out strains with different potencies and explore what your budtender has to offer you.

Change your method of consumption

Besides smoking, you can vape or make edibles or use a tincture - just to name a few. If you’re feeling adventurous, dabbing will definitely knock you out of your shoes since concentrates tend to be much more potent than regular flower. 

A bit of a head’s up, since the digestion process takes much more time, when consuming edibles it may take up to a few hours to feel the effects.  However, once THC starts to kick in, the high is generally very strong and lasts for hours.

Use smaller rolling papers

Smaller papers, smaller joints, less cannabis. This is a good starting point and one of the easiest ways to cut the amount of cannabis you are smoking without having to quit completely.

 Limit the amount of cannabis you consume

It’s simple.

 

Photo Credit: Leafly

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