Welcome back to Stoned Sex, the column where I’ll be exploring the intersection of sex and sativas, intercourse and indicas, often through first-hand experience and interviews with experts.
For this week’s edition, we’ll be diving into the ups and downs of tolerance breaks and how to go about your dating life while taking a hiatus from Mary Jane. 'Stoned Sex' will be running every other week, so make sure to stay tuned for the next dose.
Once upon a time, 10mg of THC got you so high that doggos on the street made you sob at the mere sight of their cuteness. But now, that same dose barely dulls your social anxiety. Perhaps it’s time for something called a “t-break,” also known as a tolerance break. That’s when you take a hiatus from pot (gasp!), and it’s meant to reset your system so you don’t have to smoke an eighth of weed, or eat a whole bag of edibles, just to get your desired buzz.
And, while cannabis isn’t physically addictive, it can cause psychological dependence. So, rather than throwing up or shaking, you may feel anxious, unlike yourself, and awkward in social situations without cannabis. Research suggests that our tolerance increases with time. So taking a break is a great way to find elevated joy from those delicious 10mg edibles again.
That said, tolerance breaks aren’t for everyone, and they’re much easier said than done. Plus, even if it’s something you know your brain (and wallet) needs, removing the ganja glasses can make dating more difficult, especially if cannabis is your preferred social lubricant. So, that’s what this week’s Stoned Sex is all about: how to survive a tolerance break without destroying your relationship(s).
Why Take a Tolerance Break?
There are plenty of reasons why people take breaks from our goddess Mary Jane — too many to name, in fact. Many abstain from weed for a bit simply because they’re frustrated with how much weed they have to consume to get stoned. That situation can make toking with friends difficult because one person requires a dose of THC that will get everyone else blitzed ‘till next Tuesday. At that point, a high tolerance starts to impact social situations and the ability to vibe on the same level as others, which isn’t fun.
Also, weed isn’t free. So, the more THC someone needs, the more money they spend, which won’t be easy on the wallet. For instance, puffing through a full $60 vape cartridge every week will add up to more than $3,000 a year. Yikes.
For those prone to the munchies, taking some time off inevitably leads to less cannabis and Cheetos, which is an easy way to re-adjust your diet and health. Even without quitting cold turkey, people can make efforts towards a more nutritious lifestyle by stocking up on healthier snacks such as fresh fruits, or veggies and hummus.
Munchies can be distressing, especially if you have a history of an eating disorder. But remember that they can also be a good thing. If you have a low appetite or trouble keeping on weight, cannabis can help you consume the calories your body needs by stimulating your appetite. So, as with any supplement or medication, before you stop using cannabis entirely, take a conscious inventory about how and why you use the plant.
Some have to take breaks because of drug testing at work or because they won’t have access to weed while traveling to non-legal states or countries. While cannabis is safe, it’s still a substance. So some people press pause just to give their bodies a chance to regulate on its own.
“Cannabis is already in my day to day life, so it naturally works itself into my love and sex life,” said High Times columnist Gaby Herstik. “I recently took a tolerance break for about two weeks. My heart was feeling physically weird and my lungs were feeling a little unhappy.” After two weeks, she welcomed cannabis back into her life with clearer lungs, an open heart, a sharp mind, and a lower tolerance.
The good thing is that there are no rules around how long a tolerance break should last. You can chill out from weed for a few days or six months to remove THC from your system, depending on your goals. Two weeks or 10 days is a popular length for a t-break. If you need to pass a urine test for work, it generally takes around 30 days for THC to become undetectable in your body, if you’re a semi-regular user. But how to pass a drug test is a topic for a whole different story.
How Does a Break From Weed Affect Your Love Life?
Whether you’re a medical patient or not, cannabis reduces anxiety and can help you relax before a date. “I’ll smoke a little before to make me less nervous. Sometimes it has the opposite effect, though,” Herstik said. “But, for the most part, I like to smoke to feel more in my body.”
Cannabis makes dating (and life in general) way easier. It calms nerves, and can even help you bond with your partner in a positive manner because it reduces negative bias in emotional processing. Marijuana is an established aphrodisiac — emotionally, mentally, and physically. In addition to calming bedroom anxiety (of course, too much THC can induce anxiety) weed increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and eases pain. Cannabis users have solid reasons for loving stoned sex. You don’t even need a partner. “I use it for masturbation,” Herstik said.
So when you take all of that away, you’re faced with the prospect of dating (and fucking) without your medicine, which is more than daunting. It’s worth noting that, for many people, cannabis is a very real medicine. It’s ill-advised to stop taking it suddenly, the same way abruptly taking a break from using SSRI antidepressants is not recommended. So, ultimately, tolerance breaks aren’t for everyone.
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“I believe tolerance breaks are a bad idea, especially for people using cannabis as a way of living with trauma or mental health issues,” said Axl, a medical patient and former trauma counselor. “The sudden removal of a coping mechanism can be extremely destabilizing. Any reductions of intake need to be done slowly, with extra emphasis on other coping strategies and ways of self-soothing. Sex is where we’re at our most vulnerable, and therefore the place we need to treat ourselves with the most care and compassion.”
If you rely on cannabis for medical reasons, but want to lower your tolerance, you can try carefully lowering your dose, or opting for more CBD than THC. Additionally, some methods of intake are stronger than others. If you want to give your lungs a break, opt for a vape instead of bong hits, or switch temporarily to low-dose edibles or tinctures. Also, be sure to avoid dabbing and highly potent concentrates (including certain vape pens). And when you do decide to return to the dab rig or pen, make sure you’re not getting these products from sketchy sources. The vaping illness rocking the nation is not a joke.
How Do You Make It to the Other Side?
If you’re a medical cannabis patient interested in a tolerance break, talk to your doctor before making any changes. They, or a pharmacist, can work with you to adjust your dosage. Some medical dispensaries offer this type of assistance. Even if they don’t, it’s still worth bringing it up with your budtender and seeing what information they offer.
For recreational users, the easiest way to avoid awkward dating during a t-break is — surprise! — by not dating. Herstik, who is happily single and independent, says she only went on one date during her tolerance break — on the very last day to celebrate. “I ended my tolerance break by sharing a joint with this guy which felt celebratory,” she said.
Herstik explained that the hardest part of her tolerance break was the ritual of smoking marijuana. She missed picking out buds, grinding them up, rolling a joint, and then lighting up. Herstik practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and worked with crystals to keep rituals a part of her life during her two weeks away from weed.
“Instead of getting stoned from weed, you work with stones,” Herstik said. “Working with a pink stone like rose quartz, or jade or malachite, is a super heart-opening way to get connected to your body.”
If you’re partnered with a fellow cannabis user, try joining forces by taking a tolerance break together. “If you and your partner are both consumers, consider taking a tolerance break at the same time, partially in solidarity and partially to be accountability buddies for each other — reminding each other to drink water, eat nourishing food, and consume hemp-CBD as needed to support your endocannabinoid system in the absence of THC,” said Ashley Manta, relationship coach and Cannasexual founder. If only one of you is halting cannabis use, Manta suggests not consuming in front of the other and offering support and encouragement. Massages and tea can’t hurt either, especially if you use cannabis to fall asleep.
And after the tolerance break is over? Be ready to sore through the clouds when you pick up a pipe or papers again. Just remember: you have a low tolerance now, so start with a joint rather than a 100mg edible or multiple dab hits. “Taking a break was like a cleanse,” Herstik said, “which made it really fun to smoke a celebratory joint with someone and then have good sex after.”
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