Why You Don't Build A Tolerance To CBD Over Time, 2 Doctors Explain
Taking a full-spectrum hemp product containing CBD is a popular way to ease stress, anxiousness, and pain without turning to harsher prescription drugs or stimulants.*
Though there's still a lot we don't know about this plant medicine, its chill factor seems to come from the way it interacts with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short.* This system essentially keeps the body in balance, helping to regulate everything from our energy levels to our immune response. By engaging with various receptors in the ECS, CBD and other compounds in the hemp plant can leave people feeling more calm and even-keeled, even through otherwise stressful periods.* But how long do these effects last, and can they dull over time?
That's the question we posed to two CBD experts: Bonni Goldstein, M.D., a California-based physician and author of the upcoming book Cannabis Is Medicine, and U.K.-based double board-certified medical doctor Dani Gordon, M.D., the author of The CBD Bible. Here's what they had to say about whether we develop any kind of tolerance to CBD over time or have to worry about withdrawal symptoms.
Do you build a higher tolerance to hemp extract over time?
In short, the answer is no; people don't seem to build a tolerance to CBD or other hemp extracts, which by definition are very low in THC. "There is no evidence that people become 'immune' to the effects of CBD over time or need to take escalating doses to achieve the same response," Goldstein tells mbg.
She explains that this is due to the way CBD binds to receptors in the ECS. Instead of latching straight onto the receptors and telling them what to do, they seem to support the health of the ECS more indirectly. This is a main difference between CBD and THC, a psychoactive plant compound that our bodies do build a higher tolerance to over time. Unlike CBD, THC binds directly to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, like a key in a lock.
"When exposed to THC in higher doses over time, [the receptor] makes itself unavailable by moving from its location on the cell wall to inside the cell, where it is no longer available to bind to the THC," Goldstein explains. "This process is called down-regulation of the receptor."
When receptors are down-regulated, there are fewer of them available to bind to, so it will take a higher dose of THC to achieve the desired effects. This is why people who regularly take high doses of THC will develop a tolerance to it over time and might experience withdrawal symptoms if they cut it cold turkey.
"If you stop taking CBD, there is no withdrawal syndrome or symptoms like you can get with THC," adds Gordon. "However, when people stop CBD, their symptoms may come back to pre-CBD levels, and that can confuse people into thinking they are having a 'withdrawal' effect from the CBD—but this isn't the case as far as we know so far."
How to find the sweet spot.
This means that once you find the right dose of CBD-rich hemp extract for your needs, you should be able to stick to it in the long run.
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"Generally, people can start at a lower dose, around 10 to 15 mg two to three times a day, and gradually increase the dose over a period of weeks until they feel the desired effect, whatever that may be for them," Gordon says. She has seen that 60 mg per day is usually enough to help with generalized stress and pain relief, but everyone's tolerance will be different. The important thing is that you keep track of how much you're taking and how it makes you feel.
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The bottom line.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn't bind directly to endocannabinoid receptors and therefore shouldn't lead to increasing tolerance over time. By starting with a low amount and gradually working your way up, you should be able to find an ideal dose that you can stick with in the long run to ease stress and anxiousness.*