Fact or Fiction: Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?

WRITTEN by Caleb

 | Last revised

Nov, 2022

At first glance, the question “can you build a tolerance to CBD” seems counterintuitive.

Isn’t CBD non-psychoactive? How do you build a tolerance to non-psychoactive substances?

Of course, CBD is psychoactive, but an important distinction is that it’s non-intoxicating like THC.

CBD works with our endocannabinoid system and its receptors to produce anti-depressant and anxiolytic effects.

Whether you feel its effects or not, you can build up a tolerance to CBD… Or maybe you can’t.

The problem is twofold. One, we need more research into cannabinoid tolerance. Two, everyone is different.

So what does the research say? Is CBD oil tolerance a thing? Does your body put up a CBD resistance?

Or do things work differently with CBD? Perhaps you must build up a considerable amount of CBD in your system before it begins to work.

What is Tolerance?

When people refer to cannabis tolerance, they usually mean THC tolerance.

A THC tolerance is an imbalance of the endocannabinoid system, which requires the user to need higher levels of THC each time.[1]

This develops when you use THC regularly, and your body’s cells decrease the production of endocannabinoids.

But does CBD work the same way? Do you build a tolerance to CBD as you do with THC?

Probably not, considering how these two cannabinoids work inside the brain and body.

Whereas THC binds with cannabinoid receptors, CBD interacts with our 5-HT1a receptors.[2] 5-HT1a is a subtype of serotonin receptors.

While THC is known to weaken your cannabinoid receptors over time, CBD may promote receptor sensitivity. [3]

The results of this might mean you need less CBD over time. As the compound builds up in the body, you’ll need fewer milligrams to achieve the same result.

But don’t people feel like they’ve built up a tolerance to CBD? What’s going on here?

It’s possible CBD is reestablishing homeostatic levels, giving an impression that the user has built up a tolerance. When, in fact, all they’ve done is balance their endocannabinoid system.[4]

So You Can’t Build Up a Tolerance to CBD?

So can you build up a tolerance, and do children have the same tolerance as adults?

There’s no straight answer. Talk to 10 experts, and you might get 11 different answers.

While there’s a large hole in our research, we have some promising studies on CBD tolerance.

Take, for example, a study focusing on CBD as a treatment for movement disorders. Although it wasn’t the paper’s focus, the authors wrote, “CBD does not seem to induce tolerance.” [5]

Why won’t you build up a tolerance to CBD? Among the reasons, researchers provide one of them is something called reverse CBD tolerance.

This study[6] suggests the longer you use CBD, the less you need to feel the same effects. This is because CBD doesn’t bind to cannabinoid receptors.

Likewise, another study[7] suggested CBD is “a potent antioxidant agent without developing tolerance to its neuroprotective effect, acting through a CB(1) receptor-independent mechanism.”

Of course, neither of these studies were double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical examinations. But they do seem to indicate why a build-up of CBD in your system is necessary for it to work correctly.

Suppose your condition is linked to endocannabinoid deficiencies. In that case, far from building up a tolerance to CBD, you want to build up CBD in your system so it can maintain a homeostatic balance.

A woman in white looking at a cannabis plant on a clipboard through a magnifying glass

Do You Build a Tolerance to CBD to Make it Work?

Research is pretty clear that THC results in tolerance, requiring at least a few days’ break to reset your cannabinoid receptors.[8]

But since CBD interacts differently with the endocannabinoid system, it ends up causing reverse tolerance.

Over time, daily CBD oil users may find relief from lower doses.

As mentioned, there hasn’t been a lot of clinical research on this matter. And our clinical research on tolerance hasn’t been conclusive.[9]

We know that CBD quickly exits our system.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of oral CBD, 14 patients were given 700 milligrams daily CBD over six weeks. One week after cessation, researchers found only 1.5 nanograms per millilitre in the patient’s blood.[10]

After that, CBD traces were “virtually undetectable.”

A 2018 review of existing CBD research indicated that CBD’s half-life was 2 to 5 days.[11]

So if CBD tolerance is real, resetting your endocannabinoid system won’t take long. Just a few days of no CBD, and you’re good.

But if CBD requires a build-up to work, then you need to be consistent not only with your dosages but with the timing as well.

For this reason, we recommend you keep a CBD journal to track your progress. Keeping a log that tracks how much CBD you take, how you feel, etc., will help you understand the effects CBD has on you.

CBD Tolerance – Is It Real or Not?

When it comes to CBD, whether or not you build up a tolerance will depend on who you ask.

Some researchers say yes, CBD is like any other substance. Use it enough, and your cells will become less responsive over time.

Others say no, CBD creates a “reverse tolerance,” where you can take less over time. CBD isn’t binding to your receptors. It’s instead creating balance in the endocannabinoid system.

Until we have clinical studies proving CBD resistance one way or the other, the best you can do is try CBD yourself. Keep a journal detailing your dosages and how you feel before and after.

You can also always speak to a doctor, as technically, going through the TGA is the only way to acquire CBD in Australia.

Of course, Australians are buying high-quality CBD products from the “green” or black market. You can also always try importing CBD from abroad using a freight-forwarding company.

These last two options aren’t quite above board, so we’ll leave you to decide how best to get CBD in Australia.

But unfortunately, the essential questions regarding CBD tolerance remain unanswered. At least for now.

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1. Stephen C Woods, "The endocannabinoid system: mechanisms behind metabolic homeostasis and imbalance".
2. Ethan B Russo, Andrea Burnett, Brian Hall, Keith K Parker, "Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors".
3. Natalie E. Zlebnik, Joseph F. Cheer, "Beyond the CB1 Receptor: Is Cannabidiol the Answer for Disorders of Motivation?".
4. George Kunos, Douglas Osei-Hyiaman, Jie Liu, at el., "Endocannabinoids and the Control of Energy Homeostasis".
5. Fernanda F. Peres, Alvaro C. Lima, Jaime E. C. Hallak, at el., "Cannabidiol as a Promising Strategy to Treat and Prevent Movement Disorders?".
6. Kazuhide Hayakawa, Kenichi Mishima, Kohji Abe, at el., "Cannabidiol prevents infarction via the non-CB1 cannabinoid receptor mechanism ".
7. Kazuhide Hayakawa, Kenichi Mishima, Masanori Nozako, at el., "Repeated treatment with cannabidiol but not Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol has a neuroprotective effect without the development of tolerance".
8. Jacques D Nguyen, Yanabel Grant, Tony M Kerr, at el. , "Tolerance to hypothermic and antinoceptive effects of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vapor inhalation in rats".
9. Orrin Devinsky, J. Helen Cross, Linda Laux, at el., "Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome".
10. Paul Consroe, Kurt Kennedy, Karl Schram, "Assay of plasma cannabidiol by capillary gas chromatography/ion trap mass spectroscopy following high-dose repeated daily oral administration in humans".
11. Douglas R. Smith, Christine M. Stanley, Theodore Foss,, "Rare genetic variants in the endocannabinoid system genes CNR1 and DAGLA are associated with neurological phenotypes in humans".


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Disclaimer. While we strive to relay the most factual education available, this shouldn’t replace official medical or legal consultation and recommendation. This is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Happy days.

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