In the previous installment of our series for cannabis newcomers, we went over ways you can keep your cannabis tolerance in check. That said, having a high tolerance to cannabis isn’t always a bad thing. In this article, we go over the reasons why some patients actually want to have a high tolerance to marijuana as well as tactics around how to increase your tolerance to address your particular needs.
If you use cannabis regularly, you’ll likely build up a tolerance to it. In other words, you may find over time that your cannabis just doesn’t seem as strong as it used to be. Increased cannabis consumption only exacerbates the problem, because as you use more, your tolerance increases as well.
Increased tolerance means you need more cannabis, which is expensive and means putting more medicine into your system. So naturally, most folks assume that increased tolerance is always a bad thing. But, for some patients, this just isn’t the case.
There’s actually a bright side to having a high tolerance to cannabis. And depending on your individual needs, a certain level of tolerance can actually be really helpful.
One big benefit of developing a tolerance is that you’re likely to be less affected by the psychoactive elements of cannabis. Studies designed to look at the effects of cannabis use on driving ability show that cannabis use can affect a wide range of functions important for driving including:
However, when examining patients who used cannabis regularly for a long period of time, all of these negative effects disappeared. Chronic cannabis consumers seemed to function just like drivers who hadn’t used cannabis. As it turns out, a tolerance to cannabis can help patients adjust to the disorienting effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). With regular use, patients can become more functional on cannabis than with occasional use.
These findings become very important when we consider patients who need higher levels of cannabinoids to achieve their treatment goals. For example, research shows that cannabis can stop a migraine that has already begun, but only with extremely high doses of cannabis (200 mg and above). Certain conditions such as migraines require high doses of cannabis. However, many patients give up on these high doses, because they’re overwhelmed by the disorienting side effects that often come with taking a large amount of THC.
For these patients, a high tolerance to cannabis is exactly what’s called for. They need to adjust to high doses, so that they can gain the benefits of cannabis without diminished functional capacity.
Another reason patients may want to build up a tolerance is to gain more functional capabilities during the day. Many patients use cannabis medicinally, but only do so at night, because they worry about compromising their ability to function in their day-to-day activities.
This was a big worry for me when I started using cannabis. I would spend the days in pain, just waiting until I was done with all of my work. Then I’d have a few hours in the evening when I could medicate and feel better. At night, I felt sleepy and silly on cannabis—I didn’t want to risk messing up my daily routine with the same effects. And yet, I was suffering all day, and often my pain would interrupt my ability to function.
That’s when a friend suggested I try building up my daytime tolerance to cannabis. He told me that he used to feel less functional using cannabis during the day, but after a week or so of using it during his everyday tasks, the disorienting effects subsided.
I decided to give it a try, and to my surprise it worked. After only a few days of medicating with marijuana during the day, the disorienting effects disappeared. The cannabis wasn’t affecting my ability to function, and it was helping relieve my pain. I was suddenly more functional than I’d ever been in my life.
If you’re trying to use cannabis medicinally and think that building a tolerance to THC might help you, the best first step is to talk to a doctor who specializes in cannabinoid medicine. You can consult with one of HelloMD’s knowledgeable doctors; it's easy, private and 100% online. A cannabinoid specialist can let you know how high of a dose you should be on and may be able to advise on whether building a tolerance is the best step for you.
For those trying to increase the amount of cannabis they’re consuming, start with a dose you can currently tolerate and increase it slowly. Over time, you should be able to increase to your goal dose without experiencing any disorienting effects.
When it comes to building a tolerance to cannabis during the day, frequency of use seems to be the most important factor. In other words, step up the amount of cannabis you consume during the times of day when you’d like to be more functional.
That said, don’t take a full dose of cannabis when you get to work and then expect to function easily all day. I advise people to start with small doses and to practice with low-pressure activities. Try consuming cannabis when doing some work-like activities on a weekend day. Practice the type of tasks that you do daily, especially ones that you think will be difficult when you’ve consumed cannabis.
In my case, I was most worried about being able to write and communicate with people. At first, writing a paper or article seemed like an impossible task when using cannabis, and I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to handle even the simplest of conversations.
On the first day of trying to combine cannabis with work activities, these concerns were well-founded. But after some practice, my body adjusted, and I was able to find pain relief without feeling disoriented while completing my tasks.
If you can’t take time off to practice in low-pressure environments, another way to build your tolerance to cannabis is by starting with microdoses during the day. Take a very small amount, one-twentieth or less of what you were taking at night. You’re unlikely to feel much from this amount, but it will begin to get your body used to having cannabis during the day.
Over time, you can gradually increase your dose. Your body should continue to adjust to higher levels of cannabis without a loss of functional capabilities.
Tolerance can be important, whether you’re trying to gain it or get rid of it. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle. In our next installment of the Cannabis for Newbies guide, we’ll continue looking at ways to improve and customize your cannabis regimen by discussing how to use mindful awareness to achieve a better high.
Photo credit: Meireles Neto