In this series of “Reddit Asks, We Answer” we scour the internet (Reddit.com mostly) and try to answer some real questions that CBD users like you and I may ask and seek advice for.
Why? Because you might have the same question that may need to be answered. And we’re here to help clear some confusion.
We’ll go into detail to answer some of these questions as best as possible.
First, let’s define tolerance.
Tolerance is the process by which one has to increase one’s use of a drug to get the same effects one had to begin with. Tolerance is distinct from addiction or dependence, which is the compulsive use of a drug, or the need to keep taking a drug to feel “normal”.
Tolerance can form through multiple mechanisms: cellular, where the cell becomes less responsive to the substance; metabolic, where less of the substance reaches the site of interaction; behavioral, where the user becomes accustomed to the substance’s effects.
Next, we have to look at THC (The stuff that makes you “high”)
As regular stoners would attest, regular use of THC builds tolerance. Most seasoned smokers will find themselves consuming many times as much as new users.
THC tolerance happens mainly through the cells. THC works by binding with CB1 receptors in the brain. When this happens repeatedly, the cells try to reverse the effect and maintain normal CB1 activity. They accomplish this through two main methods: the first is called desensitization, where CB1 receptors start binding to cannabinoids less easily. The second method is called internalization, and it’s the process by which CB1 receptors are pulled from the surface of the cell into its interior; unlike desensitized receptors, which can still be activated by THC, albeit to a lesser degree, internalized cells become entirely unresponsive.
CBD, on the other hand is a different beast. Unlike THC, it doesn’t get you high and encourages a more relaxed feeling instead. CBD works with your endocannabinoid system and has a very different profile than THC.
So, can I develop a tolerance to CBD?
Simple answer, no. Let us explain.
CBD behaves different to the CB1 receptors in the ECS than other cannabinoids. Through a form of negative allosteric modulation, CBD reduces the binding affinity of the CB1 receptors, making them less responsive to other cannabinoids. As such, the effects of CBD work in the opposite direction of THC. Rather than over-stimulating your ECS, it gives it a break. And in fact, many issues with the ECS may stem from it being overactive—causing issues like anxiety and overeating.
CBD increases the body’s naturally occuring endocannabinoids since it competes with them for binding proteins which break them both down. CBD can be thought of as a “endocannabinoid-reuptake inhibitor” restoring all the goodness that CBD brings.
Studies seem to suggest that CBD is not tolerance-forming, and may in fact have reverse-tolerance effects; in other words, taking CBD regularly may result in users needing less of the cannabinoid to achieve the same results. It would seem CB1 cells don’t resist negative allosteric modulation in the same way they resist direct intense stimulation. Further, given CBD’s specific relationship to CB1 receptors, it likely helps modulate the tolerance-forming pattern of THC. Pot smokers concerned about tolerance would be wise to add some CBD to their cannabinoid diet.
We hope we answered your question throughly!