If you’ve found this article then you’ve sought out this information for one of two reasons — either you’re trying to detox any trace of THC from your system or you just haven’t been able to feel the full benefits of your favorite herb quite like you use to. We get it, building up a tolerance to THC can be stressful and annoying, not just for people who want to get as elevated as possible with a single joint or bong rip, but for people who rely on the pain-reducing and appetite-inducing medicinal benefits of THC. Once you start to develop a tolerance you may find that the benefits you once received from a single bowl smoke session just aren’t cutting it anymore, and suddenly you’re ingesting double or even triple what you use to have to. This is a habit that is going to end up burning a lot of your cash especially because, try as you might, you can literally only get so high.
Luckily there’s a solution to developing a weed tolerance — stopping. Taking what is commonly known as a tolerance break (or t-break) will allow you to once again reap all the benefits you’ve come to expect from ingesting marijuana. So whether you’re trying to pass a looming drug test and you’re worried about a few hits you might’ve taken at a party last week, or just looking to save money on weed, here’s everything you need to know about how THC tolerance works and whether or not you can mitigate the process and experience those mind-altering highs again more quickly.
Why Am I Developing A Tolerance?
Before we get into explaining THC tolerance, let’s first look at what is actually happening to get you “high” in the first place. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, “The main active chemical in marijuana is THC … cells in the brain contain protein receptors that bind to THC. Once securely in place, THC kicks of a series of cellular reactions that ultimately … causes a user to feel euphoric by acting in the brain’s reward system.” So in short, the act of getting high releases a sweet dose of dopamine which makes you feel chilled out.
The protein receptors that bind to the THC introduced to your system are known as CB1 and CB2 and are key to understanding why we develop a tolerance to the euphoric effects of THC. According to a study published by the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Medical Sciences in Foresterhill, CB1 receptors are present in the central nervous system and can often be moderators of your memory, mood, motor function, and perception of pain. This means that CB1 is the receptor largely responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis. CB2 receptors are found predominately in the immune system, giving them the responsibility of moderating inflammation in our bodies and can help combat overactive immune systems and autoimmune disorders.
So if you aren’t feeling the physical benefits you once felt after lighting up a bowl or snacking on an edible, we need to look squarely at CB1. According to the Verdes Foundation, a nonprofit organization and one of the longest operating dispensaries in New Mexico, THC interacts with CB1 by increasing the receptor’s activity which creates an adverse reaction in the body as it tries to rebalance itself by forcing the receptors to return to their normal activity. This is essentially why your high wears off and isn’t shut off instantly like a switch.
Because tolerance is affected by factors that include serving size, the potency of the product, and the frequency of use, eventually your body will recognize your habit and start to either reduce the number of available receptors, weaken them, or outright change their genetic expression to make them more averse to THC. According to research cited by Leafly, the “repeated activation of CB1 receptors initiates events inside the brain cell that leads to desensitization followed by internalization, which is the removal of the CB1 receptors from the cell’s surface.”
In short, the more you smoke, the fewer CB1 receptors there are for THC to bind to which weakens your high. Because there are a finite number of active CB1 receptors in habitual users, those receptors that do remain on the cell’s surface are weakened, which also results in even weaker feeling effects.
Basically your body doesn’t care how high you want to get. If your body thinks you’re getting too high, it’ll actively work against you to make it harder to do so. This, no doubt, ends up costing a lot of stubborn people some hard-earned cash as they try to chase a high that just isn’t possible to reach.
So How Long Is THC Going To Stay In My System?
First, let’s start with some good news. A study of daily cannabis users found that a mere two-weeks of abstinence from THC-consumption is all that it took for CB1 receptors to return to around-normal levels (though the study didn’t assess whether CB1 receptors remained desensitizes after initial exposure). That means that if you want those euphoric highs once again, a two-week break should be enough for you to experience some noticeable changes in the potency of your herb’s effects.
The bad news is that if you’re trying to eliminate THC from your system because you’re living in a non-legal state that drug tests, it’ll likely take around 30 days to eliminate all traces of the chemical from your body. That’s because THC is a lipid-soluble chemical, meaning it lives in your fat. So if you’re on the more hefty end, expect the chemical to linger in your system longer than your more slender counterparts.
However, because THC accumulates in your fat, the frequency of use also has a huge effect on the way the chemical lingers in your system. According to research gathered by Medical News Today, THC only lingers in first-time smokers for about three days, and a full week if you’re a frequent smoker who smokes three or four times per week. So if you took a hit of a joint at a party a week back, you’re all good. It’s entirely likely that all traces of THC have been eliminated from your body (with the exception of your hair).
That’s great news if you’re a casual indulger but bad news if you’re a frequent user. People who smoke several times a day, every day, can expect to have traces of THC detectable in their system for longer than 30 days after they’ve completely abstained, and you’ll have to add time to that if you have a high percentage of body fat and a slow metabolism.
Can I Speed This Process Up?
You’ll have to take solace in the fact that within two-weeks of complete THC abstinence your tolerance will rebound because aside from that there isn’t really anything you can do about lowering your tolerance faster or detoxing THC from your system.
You’ll hear a lot of stoner anecdotes out there about things you can do to lower your tolerance or beat a drug test. For the most part, they’re just that — anecdotes. We’ll dispell some of them quickly.
My homie Kevin said drinking water before a drug test will help you pass
False. Kevin is correct in his assumption that dehydration does indeed increase concentrations of THC in the body, but Medical News Today confirms that water won’t significantly alter the results of a drug test. Dehydration will, but being hydrated will achieve little else aside from really clear urine.
Exercise speeds up metabolism, right? So if I exercise, I’ll eliminate THC faster!
Yes, exercise will speed up your metabolism, and a faster metabolism will eliminate the THC quicker, but not at a rate significant enough for it to really make a difference. In fact, Medical News Today found that 35 minutes of exercise before a drug test would actually show a significant increase of THC concentrations in the body, likely a result of your fat cells releasing stored THC into the body.
What if I down some Apple Cider Vinegar?
This is a method the internet swears by, and that’s exactly why you should view it with some scrutiny. The thinking is that the vinegar either masks or clears any traces of metabolites in your urine. Clean and Healthy Me, a blog that offers drug test beating tips, explains that the method requires one to dilute two tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar in a glass of water, and continue to drink at least a gallon of water throughout the day, urinating as frequently as possible. However there is no scientific evidence that would suggest this method works, and even the blog admits that the method may have more to do with the water than the vinegar and that it “doesn’t always work as you want it to, because it affects your urine pH, density, and creatinine level,” adding that “too much diluting may cause your urine specimen to be rejected.”
How long does THC stay in your system and can you do anything about it? It depends, but generally, if you’re an everyday smoker expect it to linger in your system for at least 30 days. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything meaningfully to speed up that process.
If you want to experience stronger effects from your high-quality medical-grade marijuana, you’re going to have to give yourself at the least a two-week break here and there. If that’s absolutely not an option for you because you rely on cannabis for medical purposes, you aren’t completely out of luck. The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management suggests the rotation of cannabis as a promising therapeutic option for fighting tolerance. Switch up your strains, considering vaping or edibles if you’re a smoker, or reach for a topical, changing up your ingestion methods will make the body unable to acclimate itself to the effects of THC because of the different ways the chemical is commuting through the body.