Medical marijuana has turned out to be a miracle medicine for untold numbers of patients. As more states embrace it, stories of how medical marijuana helps patients will only become more frequent. Yet lurking in the background is something that does not get a lot of press time: doctors recommend patients take time off every now and again.
In the early days of pushing for medical marijuana, some 20+ years ago, proponents argued that marijuana doesn’t create tolerance. We now know that this is not true. Patients can develop tolerance after using THC products for a length of time. The whole point of taking time off is to break the cycle. Tolerance is not a good thing, and doctors want to avoid it at all costs.
48 Hours Every Month
In a recent Utah in the Weeds podcast, utahmarijuana.org medical provider Tim Pickett asked his guest if she had recently taken any time off. He went on to explain that it is a good idea to take 48 hours off every month. Pickett frequently makes the suggestion during podcasts.
Taking 48 hours off gives the body an opportunity to reset. Without that opportunity, the effectiveness of any medical marijuana product can be compromised. As previously stated, the issue is tolerance. As a patient’s tolerance builds, marijuana’s effectiveness fades. Taking time off breaks the tolerance cycle for most patients.
Why Tolerance Occurs
Unlike hemp, marijuana contains the psychoactive compound THC. You might already know that THC is the compound that creates the euphoric feelings marijuana is known for. Such feelings are the result of how THC affects cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC activates those receptors.
Over time, the brain gets used to THC’s effects. The end result is less activation of the cannabinoid receptors. Patients notice it in the sense that their medical marijuana is not as effective as it used to be. It doesn’t work as well unless they take a higher dose or use the same dosage more frequently.
In short, tolerance is the state in which a patient’s brain tolerates a certain amount of THC without activating cannabinoid receptors. The best way to get out of that state is to stop using for a short time. This allows the brain and cannabinoid receptors to reset.
How Health Officials Feel About Tolerance
Understanding the realities of tolerance in the medical marijuana arena might help you understand why health officials are so concerned about it. As a general rule, marijuana is not considered highly addictive. It is certainly not in the same league as cocaine and heroin. Nonetheless, addiction is always a possibility when tolerance is part of the equation.
Tolerance is not good for any type of prescription medication. That much cannot be argued. When opioid patients develop tolerance to their prescriptions, they need higher dosages or stronger drugs. One thing easily leads to another and the patient is on their way to addiction.
People taking sleeping medications are advised to not depend on them permanently. Why? Because tolerance is an issue. Patients can get to the point where they simply cannot sleep without assistance. That is not good.
Follow the Doctor’s Instructions
Medical marijuana is still new enough that we don’t fully understand the long-term consequences of tolerance. It is something to be concerned about, which is why it’s fairly common for doctors to recommend taking time off.
If you are a new medical marijuana patient, please follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. Assuming they recommend taking time off every month, do so. Taking time off breaks the tolerance cycle and makes medical marijuana safer.