Can You Develop a Tolerance to CBD from Vaping?


Staff member
Mar 28, 2019
Does your body increase or decrease tolerance for CBD? By John Astrab.

CBD works much differently than THC, alcohol or opioids, so the normal progression of tolerance doesn’t exactly apply.

And as with most things related to hemp and cannabis, we don’t have a lot of studies just yet – and CBD tolerance is still not perfectly understood.

Plus there are so many variables when someone takes CBD that what might seem like tolerance or reverse tolerance may actually be caused by something else.

However, we are building a lot of anecdotal evidence from CBD users, and there seems to be a pattern as far as CBD’s effectiveness (or perceived effectiveness) over time.

It goes something like this for a lot of people –
  • Not effective or slightly effective
  • Increasingly effective
  • Decreasingly effective
Let’s take a look at why this pattern seems to form.

Phase 1 – Reverse Tolerance (?)
Your body makes a chemical called 2-AG which is similar to CBD. When you start vaping CBD, your body is not used to such large amounts and really doesn’t know what to do with it. So it basically discards a lot of it.

illustration of brain and CB1 receptors

This is one reason a lot of people get little or no relief from vaping CBD initially.

However, this is quite often counteracted by the placebo effect which we will cover a bit later.

In any case, there seems to be a sort of reverse tolerance to start out. Some folks quit vaping CBD at this point and conclude that it doesn’t work – which is a shame because they were probably in the verge of relief.

Low and slow doesn’t work
There is another problem which may appear as reverse tolerance but it’s not.

Almost invariably, people try CBD in such small amounts at first that it’s just not enough to have any effect.

For some reason, a lot of experts recommend vaping with small doses of CBD initially and then working up to higher amounts.

Also, quality CBD vape products are not cheap. And people are reluctant to spend $100 or more on something that may or may not work.

So they buy an inexpensive vape juice that has 100 mg in the whole bottle. Each puff is so weak that they figure that CBD is just snake oil.

Plus, if someone has never smoked or vaped before, their inhaling technique might be ineffective. You must learn how to inhale CBD properly to have the maximum effect.

My advice is to buy high-quality, highly concentrated vape products right from the beginning and finish them completely before you decide if CBD is right for you – or you might not ever get to phase two.

Phase 2 – Increasing Effectiveness
If people stick with it however, most eventually find that they start feeling better and better. The pain, anxiety or depression are markedly lower.

This could be that your CB2 receptors become acclimated and more available to CBD.

And certainly the placebo effect comes into play at this point. The pain or anxiety starts to subside, and we are ecstatic. We associate vaping CBD with relief and the very act of inhaling eases our minds and bodies.

This is the happy zone. Our bodies are reacting favorably to a new chemical and the results are amazing. Our serotonin levels have increased and we are measurably happier.

For most people, this state can be maintained indefinitely when they find the right products and dosages.

For others, there seems to be a drop off in effectiveness. And they need to vape CBD in higher and higher amounts for the same feeling of relief.

Phase 3 – Decreasing Effectiveness
woman looking at a CBD vape cevice

Here are some possible reasons that you might feel that you are building a tolerance to CBD or that CBD vape seems to be letting you down:

  • CBD Tolerance actually occurs
  • Bio-novelty wears off
  • Placebo effect ends
  • Base line pain is lowered
Some of these are real physiological effects, others are changes in our perceptions.

CBD Tolerance Occurs
As I said, medical research is lacking right now, but there is some evidence to suggest that some people build a physical tolerance to CBD.

A recent study focused on children being treated for epilepsy with CBD. It found that 30% experienced a drop off in effectiveness after about 8 months. We’re not sure about the actual bio-mechanics of this yet, but it seems like a real thing.

Bio-Novelty Wears off
Did you ever start a new diet, exercise routine or sleep schedule and the results were incredible?

And then a month later they weren’t.

We have an evolutionary predisposition to try different things. We can get rewarded short-term for novelty. Then our bodies adjust and what was new is now normal.

Placebo effect Wears off
As with bio-novelty, the placebo effect doesn’t stay at the same level forever. If you vape CBD over a period of time, you just don’t maintain the same level of expectation or anticipation.

Base Pain level is lowered
As much as we like to think so, we don’t remember the intensity of pain accurately. (Otherwise women would only ever have one kid!)

So let’s say when you started your pain or anxiety level was 9, and vaping CBD was bringing down to 3.

Using CBD over time may lower you base level to 5. So bringing it down to 3 is not nearly as dramatic.

You feel like it’s just not working as well as it was. But in fact it’s still working the same.

young man vaping CBD

How to Counter CBD Tolerance
Whatever the cause, here are some things to try in order to reverse any real or perceived tolerance to vaping CBD:

  • Increase dosage
  • Cut back or abstain temporarily
  • Use different profiles or brands of full spectrum hemp extract
  • Try Hemp with higher levels of THC – if legal in your state.
  • Add terpenes
  • Use different methods of delivery (tinctures, edibles, patches)
  • Try different times of day
  • Use different dosages from day to day
  • Concentrate and be more mindful of CBD’s effects
  • Experiment and evaluate results in a thoughtful way
Of course, increasing the dosage is an option, but you can’t do that indefinitely.

And taking a break from CBD will also work, but you don’t want to do that for long if it’s helping you.

So the real point is – just like with exercise – try to keep your intake of CBD new and fresh.

Take a short rest from CBD, switch brands, add terpenes (or THC if possible). Switch to gummies – your body processes edibles differently than vapes or tinctures.

Just change your CBD routine when you feel like it’s getting stale and you should be able to counteract any real or perceived tolerance – and continue enjoying the wonderful benefits of hemp.


Written By John Astrab
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Apr 2, 2019
I am considering Vaping CBD, what is the best way to take CBD, is it by oil dropper or Vaping?


New member
Jun 21, 2019
Article translation is here . I changed the title for SEO reasons. Thank you very much for the opportunity to share this info!
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