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CBD Tolerance: Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD Products?

More and more Britons are curious about CBD products — and many who experiment with cannabidiol to support their overall health and wellbeing stick with it for the long haul.

If you’re interested in trying cannabidiol or currently use CBD products occasionally, you may wonder if you’ll build a tolerance to CBD products over time by using CBD regularly. 

The short answer is, “there’s no evidence that you will”. Dive in to explore the current evidence in more detail.

CBD Tolerance at a Glance

Tolerance can develop at the cellular level when a medication or substance continues reaching your cells but is no longer absorbed as effectively as before. It can also build at a metabolic level, in which the body absorbs the substance less effectively.

CBD remains a novel product, and research into how it works and affects the body is always ongoing. However, there’s no evidence that regular CBD consumers can build a cellular or metabolic tolerance, and the studies available now suggest that this isn’t a risk.

Tolerance can also be behavioural. In that case, consumers subjectively experience a substance as less effective than before. That can happen with CBD oil and other cannabidiol products sometimes. Take a break if you notice this effect!

How Does CBD Work?

All cannabis products, including CBD, act on the endocannabinoid system. This fascinating network of signals and receptors littered throughout the body plays a key role in regulating a shocking range of bodily functions — including memory, pain management, temperature regulation, sleep, and emotion processing. 

When you consume cannabis products containing THC, the THC binds to the two main receptions in the  endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2. CBD doesn’t seem to do that. Although it’s not clear how CBD does work, research suggests that cannabidiol may trigger the endocannabinoid system to produce more endocannabinoids on its own. 

That mechanism of action becomes important when considering if building a tolerance to CBD products is possible.

What Is Tolerance?

We’re all vaguely familiar with what building a tolerance means — needing more and more of a substance or medication to achieve the same effect. A tolerance builds up when the becomes accustomed to a substance. 

It can happen with over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, street drugs, cannabis, and even caffeine. (That’s how a morning cup of coffee turns into an all-day cappuccino habit!)

“Building a tolerance” doesn’t always mean the same thing, though:

  • Cellular tolerance sets in when your cells no longer respond to the substance effectively.
  • Metabolic tolerance means the medication or substance isn’t absorbed as effectively.
  • Mental tolerance, also called behavioural tolerance, is “between the ears”. There’s no physiological reason your medication or substance isn’t working as well if you build a mental tolerance, but your subjective experience worsens.

Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?

As CBD increases in popularity, more and more people are becoming curious about incorporating cannabidiol into their personal wellness routines. Savvy consumers want to know everything there is to know about CBD before they try CBD. Questions like “Can you build a CBD tolerance?” or even “How long does it take to build a CBD tolerance?” are only to be expected!

CBD remains an exciting novel food product, and research is always ongoing — modern science doesn’t have all the answers yet. However, a critical review report on cannabidiol the World Health Organisation published in 2018 concluded that:

  • CBD doesn’t lead to tolerance in rodent studies at any dose, and there is absolutely no sign that mice can become dependent on CBD. This is in contrast to THC, which does lead to tolerance.
  • There’s no evidence that people can build a tolerance to CBD, either. (That’s “science speak” for “there doesn’t seem to be any such thing as CBD tolerance”.)

In short, consumers who have welcomed CBD into their lives won’t build up cellular or metabolic tolerance. Therefore, there’s no physiological reason CBD consumers would have to increase their doses to keep experiencing the desired effect.

The same critical review concluded that there’s little to no risk of consumers abusing CBD — CBD is as addictive as placebo (sugar) pills; that is, not at all.

Behavioural tolerance is another matter. Since that’s a mental phenomenon, some consumers using CBD tinctures and oils for general health and relaxation could notice a subjective decrease in effectiveness, especially during high-stress periods. 

Can CBD Lead to ‘Reverse Tolerance’?

So far, so good — there is no evidence that ongoing CBD use can cause consumers to build up a tolerance, and solid preliminary evidence that it doesn’t. It gets even more interesting, though! Many CBD enthusiasts note a “reverse tolerance” effect. 

That’s exactly what it sounds like. If building a tolerance means you have to use more and more to get the same results, reverse tolerance does the opposite. After your body becomes adjusted to CBD, a lower dose may be sufficient to help you achieve the same effect. 

Is CBD reverse tolerance real, and if so, how does it work? 

The (scientific) jury is still out on that question. However:

  • While THC works on very specific parts of the endocannabinoid system (CB1 and CB2 receptors), CBD doesn’t. 
  • Research hasn’t explored the reverse tolerance effect in detail. However, one study titled Cannabinoids for Pain Management briefly speculates that CBD reverse tolerance could be linked to reduced inflammation and a healthier balance within the body.

Consumers who do notice that they can use a lower dose of their favourite CBD product to achieve the desired effect have a win-win situation on their hands, but there’s no guarantee that it will happen to you.

What Happens if You Take Too Much CBD?

Although current research shows that people do not build a tolerance to CBD products over time (and some may even develop a reverse tolerance), consumers need to use CBD responsibly.

Starting with the lowest possible dose and slowly working your way up until you achieve the desired effect is a common-sense approach. Taking too much CBD can lead to a range of side effects, including diarrhoea, drowsiness, irritability, and in extreme cases, liver toxicity.

What Should You Do if You Believe You Have Built a Tolerance to CBD Products?

While there’s no evidence that CBD users develop a cellular or metabolic tolerance, some consumers report that they need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect as before. A behavioural CBD tolerance can likely explain this phenomenon.

People in this boat may consider tapering off CBD oil and then taking a CBD tolerance break before resuming gradual use of cannabidiol products if they want to.

Final Thoughts on CBD Tolerance

If you’re curious about trying CBD oil or other CBD products, you’ll want to know if there’s any risk of building a tolerance over time. There’s good news:

  • Up-to-date research suggests that cannabidiol users don’t build a physiological tolerance to CBD products. Some users may build a behavioural tolerance to CDB oil or other cannabidiol products. (Take a break if that happens to you!)
  • There’s some speculation that CBD can cause a reverse tolerance — meaning regular consumers may be able to achieve the same effect with a lower dose after a while.

Consumers hoping to welcome CBD into their wellness routines can do so without worrying that they’ll need to take higher doses to achieve the desired effect after prolonged use. Always use the lowest possible dose to achieve the effect you’re after, and you’re good to go!



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