Marijuana Tolerance: Is a Break Necessary? What to Do

Marijuana is an herb that contains a chemical called THC. This chemical is what produces the high that people experience when they use marijuana. The high causes mind-altering effects that vary depending on the strain and the individual experience of the user.

In the U.S., marijuana is the illicit drug that is most commonly used, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. While some states have legalized its use for medical or recreational purposes, it is still illegal at the federal level.

Those who use this drug should know more about tolerance, the effects of the drug, and when to take a break from using it.

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Signs of Marijuana Tolerance

Marijuana can be eaten or smoked. When someone smokes it, the THC in the marijuana goes from the lungs to the bloodstream quickly. THC is then carried to the brain via the blood. When someone eats marijuana, it is absorbed by the body more slowly. It can take up to 60 minutes to start feeling its effects.

There are receptors in the brain that THC acts on. The areas of the brain that have the most of these receptors are what marijuana activates. This results in the high that people experience. The effects may include:

  • Altered senses
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble with problem-solving and thinking
  • Altered sense of time
  • Impaired body movement
  • Impaired memory

When marijuana is taken in high doses, the following effects are possible:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis

In the Western world, the THC content of marijuana tends to be lower, so dependence on marijuana that leads to drug-seeking behavior tends to occur less frequently, according to research in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. This could also reduce how quickly people develop a tolerance to this drug.

Marijuana Tolerance

Whether people develop a tolerance to marijuana is a topic that is frequently argued. Some data does show that people who use marijuana regularly may develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects, according to research published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

This research further determined that the element with the highest degree of tolerance was a person’s cognitive function. In some cases, full tolerance was observed. Partial tolerance was seen in acute intoxication, cardiac effects, and psychotomimetic effects.

Once someone becomes tolerant of marijuana, they will usually need to consume more to continue achieving the high they desire.

In some cases, once tolerance is achieved by someone who usually ingests marijuana, they need to start smoking this drug to experience the high that the THC chemical provides.

Do You Need a Break?

Taking a break from marijuana use will ultimately lower tolerance. If someone has a marijuana use disorder, they ultimately need to step away from marijuana use altogether. In the U.S., it is estimated that 9 percent to 30 percent of people who use marijuana develop a marijuana use disorder, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Those who develop a marijuana use disorder may experience some effects when they attempt to stop taking the drug.

  • Grouchiness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anxiety

How severe these effects are ultimately depends on the individual, but even when they are mild, they make it more difficult to stop using marijuana. The timeline for how long they last varies, but on average, most people report that withdrawal symptoms subside within about a month of discontinuing marijuana use.

In cases of substantial abuse, addiction to marijuana is possible, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Taking a break from marijuana is something that casual users can typically do on their own. However, those who regularly use the drug might need some assistance to stop using marijuana. Many rehabilitation facilities across the U.S. can help people who want to stop using marijuana.

How to Deal With a Tolerance to Marijuana

Once someone develops a tolerance to marijuana, there is a chance that they will need help to stop using the substance. It is important to remember that marijuana is a drug. There are clinical signs that indicate that a person is struggling with marijuana addiction.

The treatment needed for marijuana dependence or addiction is similar to the treatment required for any drug addiction. The first step is determining if the person will most benefit from inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Outpatient programs can provide the appropriate setting for people who can continue with everyday life while receiving treatment. These programs allow people to go to work, live at home, and attend school while they receive treatment.

An inpatient program requires that people in recovery from substance abuse to live at a treatment facility. The average stay is 30 to 90 days. How long someone needs to attend an inpatient program will depend on their needs and their level of dependence or addiction.

Whether someone chooses inpatient or outpatient treatment, the overall programs are similar in what they offer. The first step provides detox if the person requires it. This may include medications and behavior therapy.

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Group therapy and individual counseling are common elements of the recovery process, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people to recognize negative behavior and thinking patterns so that they can change them. This therapy also emphasizes helping people to learn coping skills that can help them avoid future substance abuse.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) allows people to create plans for the future and develop methods to keep them motivated to meet their goals.
  • Contingency management (CM) is another option for therapy. This works to reinforce positive behaviors by providing incentives to those who remain abstinent from using marijuana.
  • Twelve-step facilitation therapy uses the 12-step model for support and to help clients remain abstinent from marijuana use.

Therapy can be individual or in a group. Group counseling might also include peer-to-peer support.

When Is Help Needed?

Because many states throughout the U.S. are legalizing marijuana, many people believe it is a safe drug. However, there are issues that people should know about regarding its use, abuse, and potential for tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

If you are struggling with the abuse of marijuana or a rising tolerance to it, it is likely time to reach out for help. With comprehensive addiction treatment, you can step away from the fog of marijuana abuse and embrace a more balanced life in recovery.

If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction or abuse, Arete Recovery is here to provide the help and resources that someone may need while they follow the path to sobriety. Our addiction specialists are on-call 24/7, so call now at (855) 781-9939 to get connected to the help you need, or contact us online.