One of the downsides of delta 8 THC is how quickly the body builds up a tolerance.
After just 3 or 4 weeks of consistent use, you’ll need to increase the dose of delta 8 by nearly double to experience the same intensity of effects. This could lead to addiction if left unchecked.
The good news is that tolerance to delta 8 is reversed just as fast as it develops.
By simply taking periodic breaks, the addictive potential of delta 8 THC is slim.
With that said, here’s everything you need to know about addiction to delta 8 THC.
WHAT IS DELTA 8 THC?
Delta 8 THC is one of many THC analogs. The most common analog is delta 9 THC — which is responsible for the characteristic high from marijuana.
Delta 8 THC is similar to delta 9 but with more of a relaxing focus. It’s thought to be less likely to induce feelings of anxiety, paranoia, or stimulation — instead, providing the user with a feeling of calmness and relaxation.
Other THC analogs include delta 10 THC (more stimulating), THCP (a highly potent form of THC), and THCV (a mild but stimulating form of THC).
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, it made hemp and all of its derivatives, including delta 8, legal at the federal level as long as it’s made from hemp. This has been the number one driver for the emerging delta 8 THC market over the past year.
THE TRUE CAUSE OF ADDICTION
“Addiction is not a disease that you inherit. It’s a physiological and psychological composition for life stress.” — Gabor Maté.
Addiction is a complicated issue that goes beyond any inherent addictiveness of a given substance.
People can be addicted to sex, gambling, extreme sports, or food even though none of these activities are what we’d consider “classically addictive” like heroin or cocaine.
Humans can become addicted to any substance or activity that solves a “problem” for them. The most common problems they solve are feelings of inadequacy, depression, stress, or pain.
Drugs like cocaine make us feel better, faster, and more effective. People who struggle with inadequacy often find solace in stimulants like cocaine because of their effectiveness in solving this problem.
People who are depressed or live in a reality they deem uncomfortable often find release in substances and activities that distract them from reality — such as gaming, sex, dissociatives, or opiates.
Addiction can happen to any substance. As long as it serves as a release from an uncomfortable reality, alleviates chronic debilitating pain or anxiety, or gives you a temporary feeling of adequacy, it’s possible to become addicted to it.
In the early stages, it’s this feeling of release that can become addictive. This is later amplified by substances that have physically addictive qualities.
For example, someone may use alcohol because it allows them to escape the uncomfortable reality they’re living in.
At first, they’re addicted to the feeling the drug provides, but over time, the body will start to adapt to the drug and resist its effects. They need larger doses to get the same effects, and they start to feel sick whenever it starts to wear off.
The user is now no longer using the substance purely for release — they’re using it because if they don’t, they become sick.
IS DELTA 8 THC ADDICTIVE?
Just like anything else, delta 8 THC can become addictive if abused.
Delta 8 gives users a chance to escape reality temporarily. Its calming effect helps users stop overthinking about things or focusing on underlying problems in their life that’s making them feel stressed, anxious, or depressed.
If you’re using delta 8 THC to escape your reality and start relying on it to provide this relief every day, or multiple times a day — there’s a good chance you’re going to become addicted to it if you’re not already.
It’s important to remember why you’re using delta 8 THC (or any substance). Are you seeking a release from reality? Are you trying to overcompensate for constant feelings of stress and anxiety?
These issues are complex and deeply rooted in past experiences and lifestyle habits. It’s better to focus on what’s causing these unwanted feelings than relying on the effects of a substance to solve it for you.
DOES DELTA 8 THC CAUSE WITHDRAWAL?
Withdrawal is what happens when someone is physically addicted to a substance and stops taking it.
People who are physically addicted to alcohol will feel shaky, dizzy, irritable, depressed, and anxious whenever they stop drinking. They need to keep drinking to prevent symptoms of withdrawal.
Delta 8 THC can cause mild withdrawal symptoms in only the most severe cases of addiction. Withdrawal symptoms usually include feelings of lethargy, mild headache, or nausea. These symptoms last 3 or 4 days before going away completely.
While uncomfortable, these effects are a world of difference from the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, cocaine, opiates, or benzodiazepine medications.
UNDERSTANDING ADDICTION TERMINOLOGY
There is some confusion between tolerance, dependence, and addiction. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they mean very different things:
Tolerance is a natural response and can happen to any medication or substance.
It’s a sign your body has gotten used to a drug or a certain dose of a drug. The reason why tolerance is formed depends on the type of drug being used.
In delta 8 THC, tolerance forms because the body makes adaptive changes that directly counteract the effects of delta 8 at the receptor level.
A lot is going on here, but the basic idea works like a thermostat in your house. Say you set the temperature to remain at 72ºF. If you kick on a space heater, the heat will initially cause the temperature to increase. The thermostat will then make adjustments to compensate for the heater (such as running the air conditioner more often). This keeps the temperature at a cozy 72ºF.
This is the same concept with delta 8 THC (or any substance). Initially, you’re able to change the internal conditions by taking the substance. But over time, the body will make adjustments to counteract these effects to maintain the ideal balance.
Dependence forms when your body can only function normally with the presence of a drug.
If you stop taking the substance or reduce the dosage, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
This is an entirely different process from tolerance, but the two are still related.
The type of tolerance is what determines if dependency forms or not.
If the body becomes tolerant to a compound by simply ignoring the compound, we won’t become dependent on that substance. This is the case with delta 8 THC. The more we take, the less it works, but we don’t require the delta 8 to maintain internal body conditions.
Other drugs, such as prescription opiates or amphetamines, cause dependence because tolerance develops differently to these substances. Instead of the body ignoring the drug, it physically hides its target receptors. This means that if the drug isn’t in the system, these receptors can’t be activated — leading to imbalance and withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms happen when we stop taking a drug we’re dependent on. The symptoms of withdrawal are usually the opposite of the effects of the drug. For example, withdrawal from anti-anxiety medications mainly involves anxiety. Withdrawal from opiate painkillers is pain. And withdrawal from amphetamines is severe lethargy.
Addiction is a chronic condition that goes beyond dependence.
When we’re dependent on something, it means we need the substance to feel “normal.” When this happens, it’s tough to stop taking it despite having a clear negative impact on one’s overall health and wellbeing.
Delta 8 THC isn’t inherently addictive like opiates, stimulants, or other addictive substances because it doesn’t cause full-fledged dependency and withdrawal.
With that said, addiction goes further than that. People can become addicted to pretty much anything — gambling, shopping, coffee, sex, and so on. Anything that causes the user to feel a release from something negative — like stress, insomnia, or pain — can become addictive.
HOW FAST DOES TOLERANCE FORM TO DELTA 8 THC?
For delta 8 THC, tolerance forms relatively quickly.
After about 2 weeks of daily use, you’ll likely notice you need to take roughly 25–50% higher doses to feel the same effects.
Delta 9 THC takes about 3 or 4 weeks to reach this point, and CBD requires about 3 or 4 months of daily use to get to this point.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DELTA 8 THC ADDICTION?
The key feature of addiction is the continued use of a substance or activity despite clear negative consequences on one’s health, social relationships, or general wellbeing.
Here are some of the warning signs for addiction to delta 8 THC:
- Using delta 8 THC daily or multiple times per day
- Continued use despite persistent negative side effects (such as coughing, lethargy, or nausea)
- Spending all available resources on delta 8 THC
- Closing off from friends and family
- Negating daily responsibilities like cleaning, cooking, or work
CAN I PREVENT DELTA 8 THC ADDICTION?
The number one way to prevent addiction to delta 8 THC is to ask yourself why you’re using it. Is your relationship with delta 8 THC healthy or unhealthy?
If you’re using it now and then because it’s a good way to chill out and relax, you’re probably not going to get addicted anytime soon.
If you’re using it because the thought of not using it makes you uncomfortable or out of compulsion despite it having a clear negative impact on your health, finances, or relationships — you may be on the path to addiction.
For people using delta 8 THC regularly, tolerance breaks can go a long way in preventing dependency and addiction.
WHAT IS A TOLERANCE BREAK?
A tolerance break — also known as a T-break — involves taking scheduled breaks to allow the body to reverse any tolerance formed to the substance before it becomes noticeable.
It works by skipping delta 8 doses every so often.
There are a few philosophies surrounding delta 8 tolerance breaks:
- Take 3 days off per week (most effective)
- Take a week off every 3 weeks (moderately effective)
- Take a month off every 3 months (least effective)
Fortunately, delta 8 THC tolerance is reversed just as quickly as it forms. Users with even the highest degrees of tolerance report complete reversals in 2 weeks or less.
This is important to note because if you’ve been using delta 8 for a long time, you may be used to a certain dose. If you take a break and then jump right back into this same dose, it could be much stronger than you’re anticipating.
Always start with a lower dose than usual after you’ve taken a tolerance break.
SUMMARY: WHEN SHOULD I TAKE A DELTA 8 TOLERANCE BREAK?
Your body will form a tolerance to delta 8 THC with repeated use over time. If you’re using delta 8 THC, you may need to take a break every 2 or 3 weeks to ensure it’s still affecting your body.
You can take maintenance tolerance breaks by skipping 3 days out of every week or do an extended break for a week every month.