Will I Build a Tolerance to CBD If I Take Too Much?
Read Time: 5 minutes
Studies consistently show that CBD demonstrates a vast array of therapeutic benefits. The minimum effective serving sizes can range from anywhere as low as 25mg a day (which is the commonly recommended serving size to start with) to ~3,000mg, as is the case with the FDA-approved CBD medication used to treat epileptic seizures. CBD products, including CBD softgels & capsules, CBD edibles, and CBD oil tinctures have been proven to be safe across this wide range—making them quite popular as a natural treatment option compared to alternative pharmaceuticals (which are comparably effective, but with far more negative side effects).
But can you build a CBD oil tolerance? Building metabolic tolerance to a compound can be frustrating because it usually means you’ll either have to take a “tolerance break” or increase the concentration of whatever you’re taking to still feel the effects.
There have been more studies done on THC tolerance than on CBD, but because they are both cannabinoids that act on the cannabinoid receptor system in similar ways, scientists suggest that conclusions about THC can be translated to both.
Understanding How CBD Tolerance Works
Before gauging your CBD tolerance level, let’s first cover the different types of tolerance. First, there’s metabolic tolerance, which is the overconsumption of a substance that results in the body not effectively breaking down or metabolizing a given substance. The second type is behavioral tolerance, which is seeing a reduction of the behavioral effects a substance can induce. Lastly, there’s functional tolerance, which is when the body gets used to a substance to a point where it needs more of it to feel the desired effect.
Next, consider what CBD effect you want to experience. Do you want to experience the psychological effects of CBD? Or maybe the physical benefits of taking CBD before workout exercises? Knowing what you want to get out of CBD helps you decide the best way to take CBD. From there, you can monitor and gauge your tolerance.
The variety of minimal serving sizes required for CBD depends primarily on the desired outcome, but “endocannabinoid tone” also plays a vital role in determining how large a serving size is necessary. “Endocannabinoid tone” is used to describe the specific makeup of an individual’s endocannabinoid system (or ECS). More specifically, endocannabinoid tone is a function of three things: the number of endocannabinoid receptors, the level of endocannabinoids (such as anandamide and 2-AEA), and the activity of enzymes that produce and break down these parts of the ECS.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD act on the body by interacting with the ECS’ feedback mechanism. This dynamic system adapts in response to different concentrations of cannabinoids in the body, allowing it to react appropriately.
Does CBD Affect People Differently?
Everyone’s ECS functions slightly differently due to variations in endocannabinoid tone. Various diseases and conditions interact differently with these conditions, too. Furthermore, studies show that there are differences in how male and female rats metabolize cannabinoids, leading to differences in sensitivity.¹
While there may be significant differences in the ways different bodies react to CBD, the research suggests that sensitivity to benefits tends to remain the same within an individual.
Will I Build a Tolerance to CBD If I Take Too Much?
It’s been recorded that while people can develop a tolerance to the inebriating effects of THC over a relatively short amount of time, this desensitization doesn’t apply to its therapeutic benefits. This means patients using THC to treat medical issues can stay at a consistent serving of THC medication for several years.²⁻³ This reliable effectiveness has made THC- and CBD-dominant preparations essential for people dealing with chronic pain. Some may even develop a reverse CBD tolerance, which is when they need a lower CBD dosage as time goes on. Fortunately, this effect doesn’t apply when you’re using a topical cannabis product like CBD oil.
Because THC and CBD act similarly on the endocannabinoid system, it’s likely that your body doesn’t develop a metabolic tolerance to CBD’s functional benefits. (Though different outcomes may call for larger serving sizes.)
What Should I Do If I Feel Like I’m Building a CBD Tolerance?
Since studies have shown that tolerance to THC’s intoxicating effect (i.e., the feeling of being “high”) is possible over a short period of time, it’s not uncommon to wonder whether these effects encompass some of THC’s mental and emotional benefits, as well. If the body can become desensitized to the “high,” could it also become desensitized to feelings of relaxation, euphoria, or calm?
Cannabinoid tolerance would likely be built over time with long-term use (i.e., “chronic use”). This would mean taking the same serving of cannabinoids nearly every day for several days. CBD consumption on an as-needed basis likely wouldn’t lead to any sort of desensitization or uptick in tolerance, and you’re less likely to experience any withdrawal symptoms.
With this in mind, there are a few things you can do to bring your tolerance down or, in other words, re-sensitize yourself to CBD’s effects.
Taking a tolerance break
If your symptoms allow, take a few days off from your usual CBD dosage. This nudges your endocannabinoid system to change the number of receptors it produces in the cells of your body. The adjustment in your endocannabinoid tone will likely allow for your typical serving of CBD to deliver the same benefits you desire.
Increasing serving size
If you’d rather not try a tolerance break, it’s perfectly fine to consider simply increasing your serving size. Remember—many people make the mistake of thinking that the CBD product is not working when in reality their serving size is simply too low. So, be sure you understand CBD potency levels before deciding on the serving size.
It’s been demonstrated repeatedly that CBD use is safe and effective across a wide range of serving sizes. Experimenting with your CBD serving size and different administration methods is the best way to determine the product most fitting for your needs—as well as a helpful exercise in paying closer attention to how your body feels and reacts.
Bottom Line: You Probably Won’t Build a Tolerance to CBD’s Benefits
In short, research so far shows the body can show signs of THC withdrawal symptoms and build a tolerance to the inebriating effects of THC, but not to its benefits. This suggests that our bodies wouldn’t develop a tolerance to CBD’s benefits either. If symptoms worsen, you may just need to try a larger serving size—or a different method of taking your CBD. That being said, if your current serving size or products are working for you then don’t stress—no need to switch things up.
¹Greene, N. Z., Wiley, J. L., Yu, Z., Clowers, B. H., & Craft, R. M. (2018). Cannabidiol modulation of antinociceptive tolerance to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Psychopharmacology, 235(11), 3289–3302. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-5036-z
²Ware, M. A., Wang, T., Shapiro, S., Collet, J. P., & COMPASS study team (2015). Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS). The journal of pain, 16(12), 1233–1242. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2015.07.014
³Russo, E., Mathre, M. L., Byrne, A., Velin, R., Bach, P. J., Sanchez-Ramos, J., & Kirlin, K. A. (2002). Chronic Cannabis Use in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2(1), 3–57. https://doi.org/10.1300/j175v02n01_02