· By Tarleton Walmsley
Tolerance breaks are sweeping the cannabis influencer space as a growing number of people seek to moderate their cannabis use. We think this mindfulness around cannabis consumption is wonderful, but we’ve also noticed some questionable guides to taking a tolerance break. So we wanted to add our thoughts to the mix!
What’s a Tolerance Break?
A tolerance break is when a regular cannabis consumer pauses their THC consumption for a predetermined amount of time. This “T-break” might last 48 hours or 6-8 weeks, depending on a person’s goals. These goals might include: becoming more intentional about cannabis use and examining dependency concerns, passing a drug screening, saving money, getting ridiculously high when the break is over, or giving your body a rest so it can reset its cannabinoid receptors.
Some people decide to hide their smokeware and stop THC consumption cold turkey. Others slowly reduce THC over days or weeks and then discontinue use while admiring their smokeware as art. Some people who aren’t interested in changing their rituals but do want the benefits of a lower tolerance swap THC for non-intoxicating CBD, CBG, or herbal smoking blends.
These are all valid approaches and worthy goals. Just don’t call it a “Weed Detox” okay?
How We Take Tolerance Breaks
It’s tricky to talk openly about cannabis from our home base in North Carolina where THC is illegal for both recreational and medical use. At the same time, we think it’s important to share a wide swath of information within and beyond the local cannabis community. With that in mind, here are some totally anonymous experiences with tolerance breaks.
“I’ve been a regular cannabis consumer for much of my adult life. It provides critical support for my chronic illnesses and has given me some delightful and insightful recreational experiences. I believe it’s a positive addition to my life overall, but I want to be mindful of my use with the goal of having a balanced, long-term relationship with the plant. Adding non-intoxicating cannabinoids to my ritual has helped tremendously and I now prefer the “entourage effect” of a blend of THC, CBD, and CBG.
In late 2022, I began preparing for a family caregiving role that would require me to perform complex, critical healthcare tasks day and night for three months. I knew that THC could not be part of that experience.
Several months in advance, I began adding less and less THC to my grinder and increasing the amount of CBD and CBG. It was a gradual and easy transition into a THC-free phase of life that gifted me increased mental clarity and energy while still providing support for insomnia, ocular pressure, and joint pain. My goals for this T-break did not include reducing my smoking habits or examining dependency concerns, so much of the “lock up your smokeware, go cold turkey, tell all your friends and followers about your T-Break” advice didn’t feel relevant to me.
I also bristled at a “detox” of any kind and generally don’t do well with extremes. I was concerned that going from daily THC consumption to zero cannabinoids and then back to daily consumption might exacerbate other extremes that I’ve wrestled with over the years. I wondered if it might activate all-or-nothing food aversion or cleaning habits that I have done so much work around and continue to manage with moderation and self-compassion.
Gradually swapping THC for non-intoxicating cannabinoids and herbal smoking blends was an ideal fit for me. I noticed the positive effects immediately and the more challenging aspects were minimized. I feel good about giving my CB1 receptors a rest while continuing to engage my CB2 receptors so that I can receive the medical support I need to live a full life. Future T-breaks may include examining my relationship with smoking and dependency, but for now, this CBD + CBG + herbal smoking blend tolerance break is just right for me!
– Blue Jay Dreamin’
"My favorite way to partake is a bit old school, with a little flower and a bowl. I enjoy consuming in my living room, surrounding myself with interior design books and candles burning, cats snuggling nearby, journaling and crafting, or watching movies and tv shows. It’s a ritual that is meant to be slow and intentional, just for me, as a way to tap into my creative side but also as a way to help with sleep and anxiety. So when my partner and his 11 year old kid moved in five years ago, I knew my daily consumption habits would need to change. My tolerance breaks began unintentionally when our week on/week off schedule started.
At first, I thought I’d go for a sneakier method–alone time in my half bathroom, window open, blowing smoke directly out the screen and using hairspray to mask any lingering odors. Lol. This was before room sprays and odor-masking candles came on my radar, clearly. Next I opted for outdoor-only smoke time, which was fine but depending on the weather, it could be uncomfortably hot or cold and I worried about snooping neighbors. Besides, both options quickly made me realize I was missing out on the rituals that I enjoyed along with my consumption. These were “quick fixes” that didn’t really keep me focused on my “why” and “how” for consuming, but rather as a means to an end–getting high. That’s when I started to revisit my relationship with cannabis and understood that while I love the getting high part, so much of it was about the intentionality and ritual.
That’s when I started implementing my tolerance breaks. On the weeks when we were in kid zone, I’d take breaks and on weeks when we were kid-free, I’d partake to my heart’s content. The breaks helped me become much more thoughtful about my consumption and its benefits over time have been helpful too–my supply lasts longer and my tolerance remains steady with the week on and week off method."
– TT Bong Lord
So you want to take a tolerance break. First, congrats! Your interest in trying a T-break is a sign that you’re curious and mindful about your THC use. Secondly, there’s no right way to do this or one method that’s superior to another. It’s all about finding a process that is aligned with your personal goals. Here are some general suggestions that some people find useful. We hope you see this as a jumping off point for your own tolerance break explorations!
Think deeply about your goals and why you’re curious about taking a tolerance break. Do you want to be more mindful about your cannabis consumption, have a super stoney experience when it’s over, pass a drug screening, prioritize other aspects or events in your life, or rest your endocannabinoid system so that you can nurture a healthy long-term relationship with cannabis?
Consider how long of a break you’d like to take. Would 48 hours give you the clarity you’re seeking or do you want a few weeks or months of THC-free living? Are there certain life events when you do or do not want to consume? These answers will likely relate to your “why.”
Imagine yourself taking the tolerance break. Do you want to choose a date to stop all consumption or reduce your THC gradually over a few weeks? Would non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD or herbal smoking blends support your goals or might they prevent you from examining smoking habits and dependency?
Although cannabis is often described as not being physically addictive, you will likely notice changes in your body and mind that may feel challenging, especially if you consume cannabis to address medical concerns. Consider this when you’re crafting your plan and have some ideas of where to turn if you feel discomfort. That could be a fun new exercise or adventure activity, a craft project to keep your hands busy, spending more time with family and friends, an herbal smoking blend to support sleep, or expanding your mind with a class or books on a topic that fascinates you.
For some people, one of the rewards of taking a tolerance break is a big stoney experience at the end. If you’d like to go big, take a moment to think about what you’ve learned on this journey and document that in a meaningful way through words, sound, or art before you take that first sweet hit of THC.
A tolerance break is an opportunity to refine and redefine your relationship with cannabis. When it’s over, you might realize that you prefer daily life with little or no cannabis, or have new motivations for moderation, or feel extra confident that your regular consumption levels are just right for you.
Have you taken a tolerance break? Want to give it a try? Let us know in the comments!
All images by Ian Shiver for Garden Party.