Marijuana Tolerance: How It Works

Photo Credit: MaxPixel (https://bit.ly/2m5zKJo).

Photo Credit: MaxPixel (https://bit.ly/2m5zKJo).

Medical marijuana therapy can be a powerful tool in treating a wide variety of symptoms, but over time, can patients develop a tolerance to the therapy and thereby render it ineffective? For chronic users, marijuana may lose its potency over time, requiring users to use larger doses to experience the same effect. As with all medications, a tolerance is developed through a neurological process called downregulation, and over time, the brain reduces the number of receptors, in this case CB1 receptors, that are available to a particular substance in an attempt to maintain homeostasis.

Just as tolerance can be developed, however, tolerance can also be reduced. One study from 2016 looked at the PET scans of 18-35 year old men and found that two days of abstinence from cannabis was enough to increase CB1 receptor activity. After 28 days, the CB1 receptor activity had returned to normal, and the tolerance was lost. However, stopping marijuana use can also result in some minor withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, cravings, and boredom. Although a patient’s use is determined by the need for symptom relief or combatting specific conditions, if possible, infrequent cannabis use could be helpful in avoiding the development of a cannabis tolerance.

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.