Before moving to Colorado and discovering the legal cannabis industry, I was no stranger to marijuana. My husband and I smoked recreationally, even while living in the Midwest. We understood tolerance from a very different perspective than we do today. Tolerance may not be a four-letter word, but it is definitely a dirty word in the world of recreational marijuana.
What is Tolerance?
As cannabis users continue to expose their endocannabinoid system to THC, the body begins to downregulate endocannabinoid receptors. In other words, it reduces the number of receptors which bind with THC, thus diminishing the psychoactive effect because there aren’t as many receptors. For those using cannabis recreationally, this defeats the purpose.
The good news is, although tolerance develops quite quickly, the ECS recovers quickly as well. A 2016 study showed how reduced cannabinoid receptors began to recover after just 2 days of abstinence. So, the endocannabinoid system is intelligent enough to modify itself to respond to the cannabinoids present whether they are internally produced, or come from the plant.
So for the recreational user who misses the euphoria of that first hit… you’re in luck! All you have to do is take a few days off and your ECS will build you a few extra receptors to increase your sensitivity.
A Different Perspective
If we look at marijuana from a medical, health, or fitness perspective, most times the goal isn’t about getting “high”. In fact, most patients will tell you, they want a functional medication, because just because we are marijuana users, doesn’t mean we don’t have to go to work and function as adults through most of the day.
Consider this scenario… You go to the doctor for whatever reason, and he prescribes you a new medication. Whether it’s the doctor or your pharmacist, somewhere along the way, you will probably get a warning speech which sounds like something out of a prescription commercial…
“For the first couple of weeks, you may experience dizziness, nausea, or fatigue while using this drug. Don’t operate heavy machinery or drive a vehicle until you know how you will react to the drug. Some patients may experience weakness, changes in appetite, or mood. These symptoms should subside as you continue to use the medication.”
**Side note and something to ponder – did you know the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the WORLD, in which pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise to patients directly?
Why do these side effects appear only for a short time when you first start taking the drug? Because your body needs to build a tolerance to the drug in order for those nasty side effects to go away.
So, let’s consider getting “stoned” a side-effect of cannabis. If you take THC long enough, your system downregulates your receptors to eliminate the euphoric side-effects, yet just like in the pharmaceutical example above, rather than quitting the medication for a couple of weeks to bring back the side effect, you continue dosing anyway.
This is the whole concept behind “micro-dosing.”
Micro-Dosing: Redefining Cannabis Medicine
I was still working a full-time job when I learned dabbing THC concentrates eliminates and controls my anxiety, instantly and for several hours. However, THC concentrates are very potent and create a heavy, stony feeling which is not compatible with trying to function in the real world. At the time, I still had a relatively low tolerance to THC, so if I had to be at work early, it created a problem – I needed to be able to control my anxiety through my shift, but I didn’t want to be high when I got to work. For a long time, I would wake up 2 hours early, simply so I could go back to bed and sleep off the cerebral effects before I had to get up for work.
However, as my tolerance increased, I learned two things:
1) I don’t need to feel high for cannabis to help my anxiety.
2) Less really is more.
I try think of it like nutrition for my endocannabinoid system, and just like food, I don’t want to over-do it. Instead of seeking the instant, and short-term, euphoria of being high, I started to appreciate the long-term benefit of healthfulness instead. Now, with a higher tolerance, I rarely feel “stoned,” despite dosing with cannabis concentrates throughout the day.
These lower doses provide another healthy benefit as well… smaller doses means less munchies. Once you have a tolerance, micro-dosing reduces instances of munchies because you aren’t overloading your receptors, you’re simply tickling them to wake them up.
So, if you’re a cannabis user, who wants to experience a different approach to cannabis, or need to find a way to medicate and be functional. Try micro-dosing your cannabis by taking less, but more often. You might be just as surprised at the benefits as I was!