Does CBD become less effective over time?
Cannabidiol (CBD) affects everybody differently, from the amount needed for an optimal dose, to the effects felt. Tolerance to CBD appears to be equally variable from person to person, with some people finding it does feel less effective over time, while others have reported taking the same dosage and achieving the same results, even over a long period. This post will take a look at what causes tolerance to substances, tolerance observed in CBD clinical trials and discussion of tolerance in the CBD community.
What is tolerance?
Drug tolerance is the reduced reaction to a substance or drug following its repeated use. Tolerance is a common response to substances and drugs, both illicit and prescription, and results from different mechanisms in the human system:
- Cellular level: (Pharmacodynamic tolerance) where receptors become desensitised through constant interaction or there is a reduction in receptor density
- Metabolic level: (Pharmacokinetic tolerance) Affects the process of metabolising a drug or substance, it results in less amounts of a drug reaching the site it affects. Metabolic or pharmacokinetic tolerance is most evident with oral ingestion
- Behavioral level: Where the individual becomes used to drug-induced impairment with repeated use. Behavioural tolerance is seen with the use of certain psychoactive drugs
Tolerance does not mean dependence
Having an increased tolerance to a substance or drug does not mean one has an addiction or dependence. Human studies have found:
“Drug tolerance is indicative of drug use but is not necessarily associated with drug dependence or addiction”
The relationship of addiction, tolerance, and dependence to alcohol and drugs: A neurochemical approach
Norman S. Miller, MD, Charles A. Dackis, MD, Mark S. Gold, MD
CBD tolerance according to studies
According to the CBD studies carried out so far, a tolerance to CBD has not been observed.
In human studies, CBD administration did not induce side effects across a wide range of dosages, including acute and chronic dose regimens, and tolerance to CBD did not develop.
‘Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa Constituent’
School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirão Preto,
University of São Paulo, SP, Brazil
“Although tolerance to the effects of THC was observed, no tolerance was observed at any of the doses of CBD administered”
“Human studies: No studies assessing the dependence potential (withdrawal and tolerance) of CBD in humans could be identified”
Expert Peer Review for Cannabidiol (CBD)
World Health Organisation
Geneva, 6-10 November 2017
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CBD tolerance according to the community and users
Despite clinical trials claiming a CBD tolerance was unobserved in their studies, some CBD community members claim that they have felt CBD become less effective with continued use:
“After using CBD daily for about 3.5 months… I started to find slightly more was needed to get the same effect. Instead of 3 drops, I’d need 4-5 drops to calm the anxiety to the same degree”
“I used CBD daily for about a month (25-50 mg) and starting getting noticeable tolerance”
“I have had tolerance issues. I beat it by not taking a dose every day and by taking a low dose when I do. I take it for anxiety and I basically take it as needed. Few days on, few days off type of thing”
On the other hand, there are also many community members who claim to have not developed a tolerance:
“What tolerance? I’ve actually reduced my dose after a year.”
“I haven’t seen any tolerance increase over almost a year of sublingual tincture use.”
This disparity between studies and anecdotal reports justifies that more research into CBD, its uses and effect on the human body is needed.
Perhaps people are more likely to develop a tolerance if digesting CBD rather than taking sublingually (under the tongue) – see metabolic / pharmacokinetic tolerance above. Other factors like diet, dosage and the individual’s sensitivity to the substance also affect CBD tolerance.
Those users consuming a high THC content CBD product may also be noticing reduced effectiveness due to a tolerance to the THC rather than the CBD.
CBD tolerance break – resetting tolerance
If you feel as if your CBD supplementation is becoming less effective, you may want to experiment with a CBD tolerance break or cycling. A tolerance break is a deliberate reduction, or cease of consumption of a substance for a period of time to decrease tolerance levels.
In the world of recreational cannabis use, where tolerance is very real and confirmed, tolerance breaks are common practice amongst regular users who are looking to decrease tolerance. Tolerance breaks for THC can be effective after as little as 2 – 3 days of no cannabis use, but a longer break will produce more noticeable results.
Another strategy recreational cannabis users employ is to alternate between strains of cannabis used as well as mixing up their administration methods. Using this strategy, CBD users could experiment with different products made from different cannabis strains or change up how they take their CBD.
CBD-rich strains of cannabis are an exciting product of the CBD and medicinal cannabis movement. Hemp buds offer an alternative to CBD oil as a source of CBD that can be smoked, vaped or used to make edibles and ingested.