During your time as a Medical Cannabis patient, you may have noticed that your medicine gradually loses its effectiveness. As a result, your Pharmacy Medical Provider (PMP) has suggested that you take brief and regular breaks. You do and discover that things go back to normal. Your medicine starts working again. Do you understand why this is?
Those of us in the Medical Cannabis field recommend that patients take regular breaks. The breaks are sometimes referred to as tolerance breaks – or T-breaks if you prefer. The reason for our recommendation is found in the name itself: tolerance.
Tolerance is a physical reaction to a drug, a reaction that occurs when a person’s body gets used to that drug. Tolerance can be experienced with any kind of drug whatsoever; it is not limited to Medical Cannabis. But in the cannabis realm, tolerance is the result of how cannabinoid receptors in the brain interact with the drug.
A good way to illustrate tolerance is to discuss THC. As you know, THC is the cannabinoid that produces the high feeling in cannabis users. That feeling is the result of how THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the brain. If you only used Medical Cannabis once every few weeks, it is likely that the CB1 receptors would continue functioning normally. If you used every day though, it would be a different matter.
Cannabinoid receptors can gradually get used to the amount of THC they are exposed to. When that happens, you have the condition known as tolerance. Your brain gets used to a certain amount of THC in your system and adapts accordingly. Now, you do not experience the same effects from the same dosage. You need to increase your dosage to achieve the effects that you are looking for.
At this point, it must be made clear that tolerance is not dependence. Tolerance is simply a physical reaction to using Medical Cannabis – or any other drug, for that matter. This is not to say that marijuana dependence is impossible. It’s not. But the likelihood of it being a problem for Medical Canada’s patients under the supervision of a Qualified Medical Provider (QMP) are pretty low.
The reason for taking breaks is not to prevent dependence. Rather, it is to allow the cannabinoid receptors to reset themselves. The interesting thing is that there is no black-and-white formula we can apply to every Medical Cannabis patient.
A long-term patient using mostly Type I (THC dominant) products on a daily basis may need a break of several weeks if they have gone 10-12 months without a break. Such a long break might be too difficult for some patients, especially those who rely on Medical Cannabis to treat chronic pain. Perhaps a better plan would be to set aside three days per month as break days. The days need to be consecutive if they are at be of any value.
The bottom line is that Medical Cannabis patients should consider taking regular breaks so that tolerance doesn’t become an issue. Otherwise, obtaining medicines can get awfully expensive. Managing tolerance makes it possible to consistently use the least amount of medicine to feel better.
If you are a Medical Cannabis patient and have any questions about tolerance or taking breaks, consult with your medical provider. That could be your QMP, LMP, or PMP. Regardless, your medical provider should be able to explain tolerance to you and recommend an adequate schedule for taking breaks. Please heed their advice. It is offered for your benefit.