Is it Time for a T-Break? All About THC and Strain Tolerance

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
May 10, 2022
Last updated:
May 2, 2024

Have you ever found your cannabis medicine isn’t providing the same relief it once did? There could be an explanation for this.

During extended treatment with medical cannabis, patients may begin to feel a shift in the effectiveness of their medication. Suddenly the same dose or frequency doesn’t provide the same relief. This is when patients may want to consider a short T-break, also known as a tolerance break, to help reset the effects of their medicine.

What Is a T-Break?

A T-break, or tolerance break, is when a patient takes a break from using cannabis to reset their sensitivity to THC.

So how long does it take for THC tolerance to reset? Online recreational forums say that two weeks is the ideal T-break. This 2018 paper suggests a tolerance break of at least 48 hours for medical cannabis patients. Another 2016 study found that tolerance starts returning after two days.

For patients, launching into a THC tolerance break can be a bit more complicated. In many cases, it may not be possible to suddenly cease taking their prescription altogether, or abstain for weeks at a time.

Hence why it’s so important to speak with a doctor. For any medical cannabis patients who feel like it’s time for a T-break, or if they just have questions about the process, it’s likely time to schedule an appointment for a follow up consultation.

How Does THC Tolerance Develop?

When people rely on cannabis regularly, it’s possible to become desensitised to the effects of THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the most abundant compounds in cannabis. It’s responsible for many of the more notable effects and is linked to a number of medical benefits.

THC works by interacting with cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors, which affect the central nervous system and brain.

When someone uses THC for extended periods of time, the human body downregulates the CB1 receptors—in other words, it reduces the amount of CB1 receptors available. As a result, the same amount of THC doesn’t have the same effects as before.

Many patients have the initial instinct to take larger doses or increase the frequency of consumption. But this may actually have the opposite effect.

As this 2020 study points out, a THC tolerance is more likely to develop with higher frequency of use, and higher THC content in the product itself.

The good news? CB1 receptors can recover surprisingly fast once they are no longer exposed to THC.

Planning a T-Break and What to Expect  

While some people feel fine on a T-break, others experience mild discomfort.

A sudden THC abstinence may lead to symptoms of:

  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Vivid dreams
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty sleeping

These symptoms occur because the endocannabinoid system is adjusting to the lack of THC. But fear not! These uncomfortable symptoms are usually mild, and should pass within a few days.

One thing to consider when taking a tolerance break is that you could experience some of your initial symptoms. For example, for patients using medical cannabis to soothe pain, pain levels might be difficult to manage during the T-break.

In this case, patients should consider alternative ways to manage symptoms in the interim. For example, that might include using CBD products, massage techniques, or gentle stretching to take the edge off. Again, this is why it’s so important to work closely with an experienced doctor to determine the best course of action in every situation.

How To Avoid Developing THC Tolerance

Medical cannabis is a highly personalised medicine. Everybody reacts differently, even to the same product.

A doctor experienced in cannabis medicine can help patients find the right approach to avoid tolerance build-up. That means selecting the right THC:CBD ratio, the right dose, and the right product for each specific situation.

A few of the ways doctors may approach tolerance build-up is to focus on finding the most effective minimal dose. Another is to try high-CBD, low-THC products. Again, there are lots of options available to patients.

Finding Medical Cannabis Advice in Australia

As with all medicines, always follow the advice provided by a medical practitioner.  Doctors experienced in prescribing cannabis medicines are the best point of call for advice on T-breaks. They can offer personalised treatment plans that are specific to your conditions, tolerance, and preferences.

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