Could dopamine fasting lower your tolerance to cannabis?

Published Mar 1, 2023 02:00 p.m. ET
Unsplash / Wahid Sadiq

After using cannabis for a long time, the idea of going without it to complete a truly effective tolerance break could be enough to make you feel uneasy. This is especially true if you’re someone who relies on its benefits to manage medical issues such as a lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, inflammation, or chronic pain.

When cannabis is no longer working the way you’d hope or expect, it may lead you to look for other, less challenging ways to reset your body’s tolerance to cannabinoids, and many end up considering dopamine fasting as it’s really the only widely discussed alternative to giving it up completely for a little while. However, the implication that dopamine fasting could potentially deliver this amazing side effect though notable, may be deceiving.

What is dopamine

Dopamine aka the feel-good hormone is one kind of monoamine neurotransmitter that exists in the brain, acting as a messenger, communicating between nerve cells and the rest of the body which relaxes blood vessels, reduces insulin production in the pancreas, and acts as a protector of the gastrointestinal lining. Its release is simply a part of the way the body's reward system works, and it plays an integral role in many natural functions such as arousal, sleep, attention, movement, memory, and learning.

The human body is hard-wired to seek out things that release a large amount of the hormone, and that is a large part of why humans are so susceptible to addiction.

What is dopamine fasting?

Dopamine fasting is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that is intended to help people to become less dependent on the rush that follows the brain's release of dopamine, which often leads individuals to pursue higher levels of stimulation to achieve the feeling they crave.

In essence, it’s the elimination or reduction of pleasurable activities and substances that may result in higher levels of dopamine coursing through your veins, which may include things like eating certain foods, engaging in sex, using recreational drugs or even viewing social media.


The theory is that not partaking in activities and drugs that release dopamine for a period of time (which may be anywhere from days to weeks or months) should make those same things far more enjoyable when a fast is complete. However, many experts say this is not a scientifically proven approach.

The goal is to make people feel less drawn to supposed unhealthy stimuli, much like your average tolerance break. Giving the brain some time to reset may not be a bad thing, but there is very little evidence to suggest it could be effective for anyone including avid cannabis users.

The problem with dopamine fasting to improve tolerance

The issue with dopamine fasting is that it is not scientifically proven to significantly reduce cravings for destructive behaviors, and even if it were to work, according to how-to guides online you’d need to eliminate most activities you enjoy, which isn’t really a healthy state of being. The world around us is designed to tempt us to engage and interact, and ultra-low levels of the neurotransmitter could come with dire consequences in the form of depression, lack of energy, and all-around feeling unwell.

Instead, experts suggest putting aside certain short periods that are dedicated to destructive behaviors. For example, someone might consider only partaking in cannabis and other pleasurable activities for 30 minutes in the middle of the day and once more at night. This way, the natural balance of hormones in the body isn’t causing significant discomfort or leading to episodes that leave you feeling worse than ever before.

Tolerance breaks could save you more money than you think


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