Tolerance is a very familiar concept to millions of people, as the body has a very easy time adapting to different substances and reducing the effectiveness of their effects over time. If we think about something like CBD, a supplement that is consumed daily, it is normal for many people to automatically ask: “am I going to develop a tolerance to CBD?”. Luckily, research might have the answer. So to find out more, keep reading.
What happens if you keep taking CBD?
Developing a tolerance to any substance is not a new or strange concept, many of us even experience it in our daily lives. When having something as common as a tea or a coffee; the first few times you drank it, the increased energy and focus made work deadlines easily missed. Now, however, instead of one cup, you need several, with clearly less intense effects.
Given the frequency with which CBD is consumed, it is logical to assume that the body will react in the same way that it does with substances such as tea, coffee or sugar. Considering the different forms CBD can be taken—edibles, tinctures, oils, capsules, and topicals—it’s a perfectly valid concern. However, before we can answer whether the body creates a tolerance to the effects of CBD, we first need to look at how tolerance works.
Understand how tolerance works
Tolerance falls into three main categories: cellular, metabolic, and behavioral. Cellular tolerance implies that cells become less sensitive to a compound, so in the example above, we need more coffee to stimulate our body. Metabolic tolerance, on the other hand, is when the amount of a substance reaching the target zone is less, while behavioral tolerance is when we become psychologically connected to the effects of a substance. Interestingly, tolerance does not have to fall into one of the three fields described above, and can manifest as a combination of mechanisms depending on how a particular substance interacts with the body.
It is also essential to keep in mind that the level of tolerance to a substance varies greatly from person to person. Each of us is unique in our genetic makeup, and as such, our physiology differs as well. While for one person tolerance to a specific dose of a specific substance may take three weeks to develop, for another person it may take much longer.
In the case of cannabinoids such as THC, cellular tolerance is very common, especially with prolonged use. Over time, to combat the overload of activity of our endocannabinoid system, the cannabinoid receptors are less enthusiastic about binding to the compound, and in some cases are withdrawn within a cell so that they cannot bind. Fortunately, this is not the case with CBD; instead, researchers have discovered that the compound can have the opposite effect, causing a mechanism known as reverse tolerance.
CBD and tolerance: what happens inside our bodies?
The reason CBD acts differently from cannabinoids like THC is due to the way it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. Instead of directly binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors, it takes a more indirect role. In the aforementioned study, Fukuoka University’s Department of Neuropharmacology found that “the neuroprotective effects of cannabidiol are independent of CB1 blockade,” implying that the compound does not have to work by binding directly to receptors and, theoretically, , is less likely to do so through tolerance mechanisms.
Instead, the compound can improve the binding affinity of certain receptors and promote the production of endocannabinoids, compounds vital to maintaining balance (homeostasis) through the endocannabinoid system. This action is called “reverse tolerance” and is used to explain why it sometimes takes less of the substance to feel the same effects, rather than more. Instead of forcing our endocannabinoid system to become overactive and reject the compound over time, CBD takes over and manages receptor activation for us.
CBD appears to have the opposite effect on tolerance
Although there is much more at play when it comes to tolerance than just three mechanisms, studies so far suggest that CBD does not develop tolerance. What’s more, it can reduce the activation of CB1 receptors, without the endocannabinoid system having to desensitize. The potential for this interaction is significant, as the compound may also reduce side effects and the development of tolerance to other cannabinoids.
As we have previously highlighted, giving a definitive answer to the development of a tolerance to the effects of CBD remains a challenge. Considering the number of factors that influence the speed at which we develop tolerance, much more research is needed on this. However, the early results appear to be very favorable, which is very encouraging, and based on what has been discovered so far, we can provide a temporary answer to the initial question of “am I going to develop tolerance to CBD?”.
The answer appears to be no, and regular CBD use may actually require less of the substance to feel the same benefit over time. Keep in mind that the compound actively supports other crucial functions of the endocannabinoid system, and it seems that CBD tolerance is not something we need to worry about at the moment.