Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?

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The skyrocketing popularity of CBD products means that people are using CBD oil throughout their days in various ways. CBD, an extract from hemp, is now found in everything from soothing topical creams to delicious gummies. Thanks to its wide range of benefits, CBD has become popular with people looking to improve their health and quality of life.

But the wide availability and frequent use of CBD products have some folks asking if it's possible to build up a tolerance to CBD and lose the benefits. So let's explore what tolerance is, if it's possible to build a tolerance to CBD and how you can make sure you're using CBD properly to gain all its advantages for your health and well-being.

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What Is ‘Tolerance’? 

In medical terms, tolerance is the state acquired after long-term use of a substance in which an increased dosage produces a diminished effect. In layman's terms, tolerance is when you build up resistance to a substance, and it doesn't work the same way anymore. 

There are three generally accepted kinds of tolerance: cellular, metabolic and behavioral. 

  • Cellular tolerance is when your cells actually grow to accommodate the presence of the substance, thus being less reactive to its existence. 
  • Metabolic tolerance is when your body gets used to breaking down the substance faster by creating more enzymes for metabolizing it. So instead of breaking it down at an average rate, your body begins to break it down faster than usual and less makes it into your system. 
  • Behavioral tolerance is when you are more accustomed to the effects of a substance. Thus, you notice the effects far less.

Many people wonder if it's possible to build a tolerance to CBD. There has been some research on the subject, so let's explore some aspects of the issue.

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Tolerance to CBD

According to recent research, the short answer to cellular and metabolic tolerance is no, we don't build a tolerance to CBD. No doubt this will surprise some people. In fact, CBD may actually cause reverse tolerance. Reverse tolerance is when the effect of a substance increases with prolonged usage. How is this possible? Let's chat about CBD and how it works real quick.

CBD is a cannabinoid that interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS). Your ECS plays a role in regulating your mood, sleep, appetite, immune response and pain sensation. CBD interacts with the receptors of this system to produce its effects. There are two kinds of ECS receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and are responsible for the psychoactive effects of other cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CB2 receptors are found mainly in the immune system and play a role in inflammation and pain.

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Researchers at the Department of Neuropharmacology at Fukuoka University conducted research that found "the neuroprotective effects of cannabidiol are independent of CB1 blockade." This means that CBD does not have to bind or connect with CB1 receptors and is likely to be less affected by the ways our bodies usually build a tolerance to frequently taken substances.

However, behavioral tolerance may become an issue for some people. A few factors play into how susceptible someone is to developing behavioral tolerance. These include the dose and frequency of CBD use, the method of CBD administration and individual differences in metabolism and body composition. 

Basically, what may happen is for those who frequently use CBD products, the elevated state of homeostasis (a state of balance in the body) may eventually result in a perceived diminished response. This happens because the person is so used to feeling the positive effects of their CBD regimen that they no longer notice them as much. 

Do You Think You're Developing a Tolerance?

Even though the science says building tolerance is unlikely for CBD, some folks may be convinced that they are developing one. What may be happening is that you're ready for a higher dose of CBD regularly. If this is the case, we recommend increasing your daily intake by a small amount like 10 to 20 mg and holding it there for a week before edging up again. Then, keep track of how it's making you feel and stop when you reach your sweet spot. 

You might also want to try taking CBD intermittently instead of daily for a period. This means taking it for a few days and not taking it for a day or two. Some people find this approach helpful because it allows them to "reset" and experience the effects of CBD more intensely.

Another suggestion is to vary the way you take CBD. For example, if you've been primarily using CBD tinctures sublingually, try adding them to your food or drink. Or, if you've been using CBD gummies, try vaping CBD instead.

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The key is to be mindful of how CBD makes you feel and adjust accordingly. If you're still convinced that you're building a tolerance, take a break from CBD for a week or two and see if that helps. Remember that everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for another.

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