As people have begun looking to cannabidiol (CBD) for its medicinal benefits, questions have inevitably arisen regarding the implications of introducing a new chemical into your system. While CBD is being studied for its ability to help those struggling with addiction to substances like: alcohol, tobacco, and opioids; CBD itself remains a chemical compound. That being said, whether you’re using full spectrum CBD oil or isolate CBD, these extracts come from plants and so many consumers may be concerned with what this all means regarding any addictive qualities.
As anyone who’s been smoking, eating, or vaping cannabis with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for a long time may tell you, developing a tolerance is inevitable for most. It’s the same concept behind developing a tolerance with just about anything. It can happen with alcohol and painkillers too.
What is tolerance?
Drug tolerance is the reduced reaction to a substance or drug following its repeated use. Tolerance is a common response to substances and drugs, both illicit and prescription, and results from different mechanisms in the human system:
Cellular level: (Pharmacodynamic tolerance) where receptors become desensitised through constant interaction or there is a reduction in receptor density
Metabolic level: (Pharmacokinetic tolerance) Affects the process of metabolising a drug or substance, it results in less amounts of a drug reaching the site it affects. Metabolic or pharmacokinetic tolerance is most evident with oral ingestion
Behavioral level: Where the individual becomes used to drug-induced impairment with repeated use. Behavioural tolerance is seen with the use of certain psychoactive drugs
Why Do We Build A Tolerance?
When you drink alcohol regularly for a long period of time, you build a tolerance making you drink more to get the same effect as you had your first few times. Our bodies build a tolerance to substances like alcohol and medication because the receptors that are involved decrease as well as their ability to bind efficiently. Your liver also plays a considerable role in metabolizing these substances, working harder each time you consume.
Tolerance does not mean dependence
Having an increased tolerance to a substance or drug does not mean one has an addiction or dependence. Human studies have found:
“Drug tolerance is indicative of drug use but is not necessarily associated with drug dependence or addiction”
The relationship of addiction, tolerance, and dependence to alcohol and drugs: A neurochemical approach
Norman S. Miller, MD, Charles A. Dackis, MD, Mark S. Gold, MD
Does CBD become less effective over time?
Cannabidiol (CBD) affects everybody differently, from the amount needed for an optimal dose, to the effects felt. Tolerance to CBD appears to be equally variable from person to person, with some people finding it does feel less effective over time, while others have reported taking the same dosage and achieving the same results, even over a long period. This post will take a look at what causes tolerance to substances, tolerance observed in CBD clinical trials and discussion of tolerance in the CBD community.
CBD is fairly new in the market, and the current studies on this topic are still thin as of now. However, there’s some research on it. A 2011 study conducted by researchers at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Riberiao Preto in the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, explored CBD and say: “In human studies, CBD administration did not induce side effects across a wide range of dosages, including acute and chronic dose regimens, and tolerance for CBD did not develop.”
Meanwhile, another 2017 study called, “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol,” which took a deep dive into the results of 132 studies on CBD says that:
“…psychological and psychomotor functions are not adversely affected. The same holds true for gastrointestinal transit, food intake, and absence of toxicity for nontransformed cells.” It adds that, “Chronic use and high doses of up to 1500mg per day have been repeatedly shown to be well tolerated by humans.”
It turns out that developing tolerance to CBD is a very different process than developing a tolerance for THC, and it’s nearly polar opposite. Instead of developing a chemical tolerance, CBD users experience what’s known as a reverse tolerance. In the case of reverse tolerance, continued use of CBD actually results in a smaller and smaller dose being needed to achieve the same effects as time progresses. As previously mentioned, compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants work closely with the endocannabinoid system by attaching themselves to endocannabinoid receptors. While THC diminishes the effectiveness of these receptors with repeated use, and over a long period of time, CBD promotes increased activity in these receptor cells. More specifically, this means that CBD users don’t face a breakdown of the interaction that cannabidiol has within the endocannabinoid system, so it can stay continually active without diminishing its own effectiveness.
Many CBD users have reported using lower doses as time goes on because lower doses were ultimately needed to achieve the desired effects. Considering this, CBD may prove to be a financial and medical benefit for anyone interested in using it to enhance their daily lives.
Having this ability to help with symptoms without having to regularly up your dose is why this discovery is such a marvel for the medical community. Often people who use addictive prescription pills can fall prey to the fine line between addiction and tolerance. This can cause doctors even to change the type of medication you are on which can lead to unpleasant side-effects. CBD’s ability to stay effective at the same dose could change the way we do medicine.
If you are thinking of switching to CBD instead of your pharmaceuticals because you are gaining a tolerance or are tired of trying different medications that might not seem to work right each time, talk to your doctor. Explain to them your new approach to healing, and they can help you get off of medications that may be difficult to stop on your own. It is always a good idea to keep your doctor in the loop when making changes to your health.
Continue paying close attention to your body’s relationship with CBD over time to identify what dose, consumption methods, and products are right for you. Eventually, you’ll get to know your body’s unique needs and this information will give you a better pulse when it comes to medicating accurately.
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