Dear Mother,

How come when I take a break from smoking pot I always tend to get super, super high the first time after I start back up again? Are there any benefits to taking short breaks from cannabis beyond saving some money, or is it all in my head?

— Power Puffer

Dear PP,

Thanks for your question! Taking a break from cannabis — if that is something you're interested in exploring — can definitely have some benefits, and it sounds like you've experienced a few of them already. Let's take a look at exactly what those benefits are, why they happen, and why it's not a bad idea to take a pot-related pause every now and again.

If you are a daily cannabis consumer, your body can start to build up a tolerance to it. What does that mean? It means that it can take more marijuana to get the high feeling that you're used to. A lot of the time, folks assume that the quality of their stash has gone down, but if you're a regular smoker, you could actually be the issue. Various studies have shown that your body's cannabinoid receptors are reduced over time with frequent use (causing you to need more cannabis to feel that high). Taking anywhere from a few days to a few weeks off cannabis will restore your cannabinoid receptor levels, thereby decreasing your tolerance levels once again.

In addition to the money you'll save by not spending it all on cannabis, you'll find yourself experiencing some other side effects during your break, as well. Your appetite, sleep, memory, and more are all impacted by taking a break.

You might find yourself a little cranky over the first few days, but once you get past that, your mood should be a-OK! A lot of folks rely on cannabis as an after-work relaxer, so not having that can be a little frustrating at first. Try and schedule something during the time you usually smoke — maybe a relaxing massage, a trip to the movies, or a meal out with friends if you have the means. Exercise, meditation, and other forms of self-care can also be great (and free) replacements for your post-work puffing, too. 

And speaking of eating, you might notice a decrease in appetite once you take a hiatus from smoking. This can be a beneficial or detrimental side effect, depending on your own personal situation. If it helps not having the munchies all the time — awesome! There's nothing to really worry about, and your appetite should return to normal within a month at the most, as long as there aren't any other factors present (like an illness). However, if you are worried about not being hungry enough, try and graze or snack throughout the day instead of forcing yourself to make it through big meals. Keep healthy, protein and fat-filled snacks near you like nuts, avocado, or homemade beef jerky.

Your sleep will be impacted by a pot break, as well. You might actually find it more difficult to fall asleep without cannabis, especially if you were using it as a sleep aid. However, once you do fall asleep, you may just be amazed at what you find: vivid and memorable dreams! Cannabis suppresses REM sleep — the part of the sleep cycle associated with dreams — which is why you may not experience many, if any, dreams if using cannabis regularly. When you take a break from it, though, the dreams that occur during REM sleep will come back stronger than ever. It's called the "rebound effect" and it's only a temporary response, but is definitely one that could be pretty psychedelic, even without any THC!

Taking a break from cannabis can also help improve memory function. If this is something you were having an issue with, a month-long break could actually help improve that cognitive function. So, if you're worried about your memory being a bit faultier than usual, perhaps a pot break will help!

One of the neat things about taking a tolerance break is that when you first smoke up again you'll feel like a marijuana newbie. It will only take a few hits off the old bowl to get you perfectly toasted, and that effect can last for a few days (longer if you space out how much/often you smoke once off your hiatus). So definitely take it slow the first few times you reintroduce the plant to your body! 

— Mother