CBD Tolerance and Dosage: How Do These Two Really Go Hand in Hand?

CBD Tolerance and Dosage: How Do These Two Really Go Hand in Hand?

As manufacturers of CBD products, we often encounter customers who ask us about how to dose with cannabidiol (CBD) to derive the most benefits from the cannabinoid as possible, without taking more than necessary.  And, while it’s true that CBD does come with some very general dosing guidelines that’re considered standard throughout the industry, there are certain factors that can have a surprising part in choosing a person’s dose on an individual level.  One factor that matters, as we will be covering in full detail here, is “tolerance”.

What is Tolerance?

Essentially, tolerance refers to the building up of resistance to the effects of a substance through repeated and frequent use.  We can find many examples, like alcohol.  A person who has never consumed alcohol before may find themselves getting drunk off of one beer, while a person who drinks daily may require several beers before feeling intoxicated.

There are actually three types of tolerances: behavioral, cellular, and metabolic. 

  • Behavioral tolerance means that we’ve gotten used to the effects of something psychologically – in other words, it doesn’t produce the same dopamine response that it used to, for example. This can apply to various forms of addiction, such as gambling, when a person is no longer satisfied gambling a small amount of money, and thus, needs to take a bigger risk in order to get the same “rush”.
  • Cellular tolerance means that the actual cells of the body become less responsive to a substance over time, and this can apply to something like alcohol or coffee, as the more frequent of a user we become, the higher the dosage we need to get the same desired effect.
  • Metabolic tolerance means that after taking a certain substance frequently enough, the metabolism actually sends lower concentrations of that substance to the target area, producing a weaker effect. Remember, a person’s tolerance to a specific substance can involve more than one of these three types of tolerances.

There is also something worth pointing out that complicates the topic of tolerance, and that’s the fact that we all build tolerance differently.  Some of us, for example, can continue to drink one cup of coffee and feel stimulated each morning, while others find that they need to increase their intake quite early on because their tolerance to caffeine builds fast.  Factors like genetics, metabolism function, environmental factors, and history of substance abuse can all determine how one individual builds a tolerance compared to another.

Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?

Cannabidiol is one of over 100 cannabinoids that naturally occur in cannabis.  With a number of cannabinoids, people build a tolerance to the effects over time, requiring higher doses to get the same effects that they used to.  The tolerance associated with cannabinoids is cellular tolerance, as the cannabinoid receptors in the body – particularly the CB1 receptors in the brain – become increasingly desensitized, requiring higher doses of the cannabinoid in order to make a meaningful impact on those receptors.  Interestingly, cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) have been found to hide within the walls of a cell to avoid interacting with cannabinoids in cannabis, as part of tolerance development.

But, what’s even more interesting is that it doesn’t seem that you can build a tolerance with cannabidiol, despite this occurring with other cannabinoids in the same plant.  Many people consume CBD once a day, and even have reported finding zero need to increase their dose with time.

So, why is this the case?  It almost definitely has to do with the unique way in which CBD is used by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is what utilizes all cannabinoids.  It appears that cannabidiol doesn’t bind directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors like most cannabinoids.  Instead, its presence in the bloodstream signals certain commands to these receptors, which in turn, lead to the effects we get from CBD, i.e., a calmer state of mind or a feeling of ease in the muscles.  Plus, because CBD doesn’t bind directly to these receptors, they are not going to get desensitized to CBD like with other cannabinoids.

Not only that, but CBD seems to stimulate the production of endocannabinoids – cannabinoids produced within the body, that regulate physiological processes just like cannabis-derived cannabinoids – while increasing how efficiently these endocannabinoids bind to receptors.  This means that cannabidiol, theoretically, enhances the body’s ability to use its own cannabinoids.

Why Do Some People Need to Up Their CBD Dose Then?

We have established that there really aren’t any mechanisms at play that would cause a person to build a tolerance to CBD.  But, at the same time, a good portion of people report that after a certain while of daily usage, they start requiring more cannabidiol to get the relief they’re looking for.  This likely isn’t due to tolerance, but rather due to the fact that our needs and our chemistry change with time. 

For example, it’s believed that the body loses cannabinoid receptors as we age.  This would imply that higher doses of cannabinoids would be required to get the same effects we’re looking for.  Our metabolism also changes as we age, and our weight can make a difference too, since how much we weigh has a lot to do with how strong of a dose we need.  Again, these aren’t caused directly by an increase in tolerance, but indirect changes in the body that affect the dosage we require to get the desired effects.

CBD and Reverse Tolerance

While more research is needed to confirm this, some believe that prolonged CBD use leads to something known as reverse tolerance.  Basically, this means that with time, we require lower doses of CBD to get the same results.  How come?  Well, simple. CBD seems to reduce the activation of CB1 receptors without causing the endocannabinoid system to become desensitized.  Fascinatingly, this phenomenon may also mean that taking CBD with THC prevents a person from building a tolerance to THC, which could have major positive implications for frequent THC users.

What About Other Cannabinoids?

As we mentioned earlier, other cannabinoids do often lead to a tolerance, due to working more directly on cannabinoid receptors, thus desensitizing them over time.  The best example is delta 9 THC – the key psychoactive component of marijuana – which’s known to lead to a cellular tolerance, causing users to require more with prolonged use.  There is less information available about tolerance with other forms of THC, like delta 8, THC-P, or even HHC.  But, it is likely that tolerance builds with these cannabinoids as well.

Still, keep in mind what we said earlier – that using CBD with these cannabinoids could reduce the endocannabinoid system’s likelihood of developing a tolerance.  If you want to put this theory to the test, try taking CBD daily along with your favorite psychoactive cannabinoids, and see if your tolerance changes after several months.

Regardless, cannabidiol is unlikely to lead to a tolerance due to behaving differently from other cannabinoids when interacting with the body’s cannabinoid receptors.  Still, you might find that you want to adjust your dosage sooner or later, because of age, changes to your weight, evolving needs, etc.  So, if you do want to adjust your dosage, there really is no reason why you can’t – CBD is gentle and nontoxic, and a higher dose is no cause for concern.