It's actually a smaller percentage of people that get stuck using THC or cannabis too heavily.
Estimated at 8%.
We have a whole review on whether hyperactive brain activity from glutamate and inflammation is driving heavy use but, we're going to focus on tools that help taper use.
We just wrapped up the THC Freak-out Guide, what science says about THC's slow racheting down of our stress response systems over time.
Tolerance is definitely a thing with THC as it hits CB1 receptors in the brain too hard and for too long compared to the natural player, anandamide.
As a result, the body pushes back and will actually reduce CB1 receptor numbers and activity.
This feels pretty bad since anandamide is our primary stress response buffer…a big wet blanket in the brain!
After all, anandamide is named after the Hindu goddess of bliss!
Examples of its action:
- The runner's high (sorry endorphins)
- THC's high!
It takes at least 30 days for the DNA to be turned back on in order to restart our natural CB1 activity so the question is…
How on earth do we survive this rebalancing while also addressing the reasons we probably originally found THC hit our system so well?
That's what we're covering here! Based on hard research.
Our Top 10 List for Tapering THC
- Get to the bottom of why THC felt so right
- The THC taper schedule
- CBD isolate - the opposing force
- Pregnenolone - our natural THC restraint
- PEA - our natural THC backup
- Myricetin - cheating the craving code
- Steroidal hormones and Vitamin D
- Good fats - Omega 3 and PS
- Magnesium glycinate and NAC - the glutamate gates
- Medicinal mushrooms and/or psilocybin
Let's get to it!
Get to the bottom of why THC felt so right
When you first started really using cannabis, did it go something like this?...
"My brain was running too fast. Repetitive thoughts. Worries. Pot just slowed things down so I could breathe"
Got your attention?
We have a million+ words and 1000's of hours of NIH research across the site.
One element keeps coming up again and again.
Early life stress, infection, or trauma can set off a chain reaction across the brain that continues for life (we'll look at how to reverse this).
It can even be in utero (especially 3rd trimester or preemie birth) or from past generations!
This "markup" occurs in our epigenome, a system layer just on top of our DNA which determines which genes are turned on, how long, and how much!
Most of the activity happens specifically in our immune system genes. Inflammation. Brain inflammation in our case!
Huge implications from this:
- GABA - our brain's "brake" pedal gets downregulated
- Serotonin - our stress response buffer and mood manager goes down
- Dopamine - our reward and modification center goes down
- Cortisol - our stress hormone goes up
- Glutamate - our brain's "gas" pedal goes up
We have deep dives on each of those but this speaks to two main results:
- Stress hits way too hard (including social stress)
- The brain is running way too fast
This quickly causes anxiety, depression, and a range of issues.
THC initially feels like a big wet blanket on all of this because that's what CB1 activity does.
Anandamide is our backup stress response buffer when everything else is failing. The problem is that it's created as needed and broken down almost immediately.
THC isn't. This causes the pushback but if we're going to taper cannabis, we have to not only address this withdrawal but also why THC felt so good, to begin with.
We have to calm the immune system (inflammation) which just gushes out glutamate (the brain is red-lining the engine).
Look…we're ALL dealing with some baggage. I changed schools every 2 years. My spouse has dyslexia (school was a literal torture). And worse!
That "stuff" is etched into our basic machinery….now! Cannabis was just self-medication.
Most of what we see below goes after that piece and/or makes the transition (tolerance) easier.
Here's the general cause and toolkit (don't worry...we'll go through it all below):
Let's get real practical first.
The THC taper schedule
Cold turkey is not advised with heavier and longer term cannabis use.
Remember, THC slows things down and the brain will actually ramp up glutamate (the opposing gas pedal) to counter this.
With enough use, stopping cannabis immediately can result in seizures (a rush of too much glutamate) as a result.
We're all out of balance!
So, it's recommended to slowly taper down the level of cannabis over a minimum of 30 days but maybe even 2-3 months depending on how you feel and how much you support with the options below.
If you're trying for the 30 day period, slowly dropping 25% a week is a good estimate but adjust according to how you feel and situational changes (periods of stress, etc).
We're going to directly support the key pathways with tools that don't build tolerance while also trying to "edit" out the prior markups from early life stress, trauma, and/or infection.
The initial 10 days can be the worse depending on the tapering schedule but studies show that 30 days is the point where CB1 receptors come back online after NO use.
We need to address the effects of THC withdrawal!
That's our goal.
Let's turn to the tools to make this much much easier.
CBD isolate - the opposing force
We have a full review on CBD and THC addiction or withdrawal.
While THC directly spikes CB1 activity, CBD supports CB1 in a feedback mechanism.
It boosts CB1 activity…when low! A safety net. Exactly what we need when tapering.
It does this by blocking FAAH, the pathway that breaks down anandamide.
This is all about getting our natural anandamide function back online but:
- CBD has no "high" - doesn't push in excess
- CBD does not build tolerance since it doesn't push CB1 into excess
- CBD does not cause addiction - no spike in dopamine
CBD is really the first line of defense for THC or cannabis misuse. In fact, the "entourage" effect really speaks to how CBD counters many of the excesses of THC.
See CBD versus THC here.
In fact, studies in the brain show how CBD will counter the brain remodeling that occurs from THC..especially if you used it in your teens.
More importantly, it directly supports GABA and serotonin while calming stress response and glutamate!
For our taper schedule, studies on opioid withdrawal had a split schedule:
- 600mg daily for the first 10 days or on really hard days
- 300mg daily for days 11-30 or as needed
The 600mg is for bad withdrawal symptoms and to keep glutamate at bay.
The 300mg actually speaks to the process of brain repair called neurogenesis!
This is the key to longer term healing and rewiring of addiction circuitry.
Finally…the medical community has caught up:
In the first randomized clinical trial of CBD for cannabis use disorder, 400mg and 800mg CBD were safe and more effective than placebo at reducing cannabis use.
The 400mg level was the most effective…again neurogenesis is really key to brain repair (the 300 level from above).
Check out the full review on CBD for THC withdrawal and use the FIRST50 discount code on the 6000mg bottle. A full dropper is 200mg. After meals and hold under the tongue for up to 60 seconds to boost and speed availability.
Next up…the mother of all hormones has a special trick.
Pregnenolone - our natural THC restraint
Here's the pathway for both men and women:
- LDL cholesterol is converted into pregnenolone
- Pregnenolone then cascades into every steroidal hormone (estradiol, DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, etc).
Progesterone drives GABA (the brain's "brake" pedal) and estrogen/testosterone drives serotonin (primary stress response buffer).
We'll cover steroidal hormones below because they may be a key missing piece but preg has another trick up its sleeve with THC.
Pregnenolone is our brain's natural "greening out" player.
When THC hits the brain, our body tries to counter its excess with pregnenolone.
Don't take our word for it!!:
Recent preclinical data demonstrate that the neurosteroid pregnenolone (PREG) inhibits THC activation of cannabinoid receptors and decreases symptoms of marijuana intoxication. In addition, other studies show that PREG inhibits drug-seeking behavior.
"Inhibits drug-seeking behavior". What???
This is ground zero for what we need right now.
You can easily supplement pregnenolone while eating good fats (learn why the type of fat is so important to brain function and inflammation).
We have a massive review on pregnenolone but know that THC use is slowly eating up your steroidal hormone pipeline. Pregnenolone steal.
For preg, the standard dose was from 30mg to 90mg daily and we use this one.
Let's turn to another cannabinoid. This time, one that is already in your body.
PEA - our natural THC backup
We avoid CBG, CBN, delta8, and CBC because they push pathways in one direction…so just a different (albeit slower) form of tolerance.
PEA however is fascinating.
It's a backup to our back-up (anandamide) in times of stress and tapering is definitely stressful.
But what matters for us:
PEA has anti-craving effects in cannabis dependent patients, is efficacious in the treatment of withdrawal symptoms, produces a reduction of cannabis consumption and is effective in the prevention of cannabis induced neurotoxicity and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Of course, it does…directly supports our natural endocannabinoid system which THC is juicing up.
- No "high" (which means excessive activity)
- No tolerance
- No addiction
A great tool for tapering cannabis and THC.
The dose ranges from 300-1200mg daily and we used this one. The safety profile is strong (or we wouldn't include it).
Okay…now some very exciting news from the obesity field with a focus on dopamine (reward circuit).
Myricetin - cheating the craving code
There's a great deal of buzz right now around anti-obesity drugs called GLP1 agonists such as semaglutide (Ozempic). It runs around $30K annually and requires injections.
A fascinating 'side effect" of this class of medication is a reduction in heavy alcohol use and a reduction in other drug cravings (cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine, and….THC!)
Newer research is showing how this gut-based molecule (GLP1) not only drives food cravings but directly affects the circuit for all cravings!
Now..what if we can affect the same pathway with a natural and very safe option?
Hello, myricetin! Myricetin is a natural plant material found in red wine which is very similar to quercetin (see our fisetin review).
researchers found that dihydromyricetin (DHM), a flavonoid compound isolated from Hovenia and teas, blocked acute alcohol intoxication and alcohol tolerance and prevented signs of withdrawal when co-administered with ethanol. DHM also greatly reduced voluntary alcohol drinking in rats
Here's the key piece…myricetin appears to balance the dopamine system and reduce cravings!
Myricetin boosts GLP1 and this is at the heart of its effect:
GLP-1 modulates dopamine levels and glutamatergic neurotransmission, which results in observed behavioral changes.
People…this may be the most exciting new research since…CBD research!
The safety profile of myricetin is very strong and its effects build in 2 weeks. We have a full review of myricetin because the effects are profound and far-reaching.
Let's address a key pathway that may be outgunned.
Steroidal hormones and Vitamin D
We have massive reviews on:
- Estrogen and mental health
- Progesterone for sleep, anxiety, and inflammation
- Testosterone guide with a focus on mental health
There's no getting around their power to address everything we're talking about.
They are the dam that holds back the damage from stress, inflammation, and everything that's ramped up from early stress, trauma, and infection.
Forget reproduction and libido.
We're talking brain repair!
One example…of thousands.
Estrogen directly drives serotonin, our primary stress response buffer.
In men, testosterone is turned into estradiol in the brain via boatloads of aromatase so…same effect.
Serotonin has a side hustle though…it directly drives BDNF, our brain's fertilizer.
Here's the rub…if we have stress and brain inflammation, the result is excessive glutamate which is toxic to neurons.
We looked at how THC may be an immediate port in the storm of glutamate in the brain.
BDNF is tasked with cleaning all that up! It's losing the battle after the priming from early stress, infection, or trauma.
More importantly, BDNF rewires the brain…including the pathways of addiction!
To "overwrite" this, we need BDNF and in fact, some drugs will dampen BDNF which is why addiction so hard to beat.
Findings suggest that when marijuana use escalates, the BDNF pathway becomes more deregulated. Analyses confirm that age of marijuana use onset influences the magnitude of these changes.
This is tolerance! It's why it can be so...hard...to....change.
So…get back to the basics. Check your steroidal hormone levels.
There's a clear gender difference with cannabis use disorder:
Now go read our testosterone guide to see how T levels have dropped over the past 20 years across every age band!
Like almost in half.
Then…go read our fats review to see one big reason why.
Low T is practically epidemic as we're swirling around in estrogenic effects (food, plastics, seed oils, etc).
Women are not immune and too much estrogen counters progesterone which calms inflammation and supports GABA, our brain's brake pedal.
Get your levels tested. Support as needed with bioidentical with your naturopath/doctor.
There's no "band-aiding" poor steroidal hormone function.
Also…get your Vitamin D levels tested. D is a steroid we get from the sun with powerful effects on everything we've discussed. Quick update...we're no longer in the sun like our ancestors!
Endocrinologists want us at 50-60 ng/ml and many people are deficient!
This entire steroidal hormone complex has to be addressed!
There's clearly a strong connection between steroidal function and cannabinoids:
The recent discovery that pregnenolone, the precursor of all steroid hormones, controls cannabinoid receptor activation corroborates the link between steroid hormones and the endocannabinoid system.
Let's turn to that "fats" question.
Good fats - Omega 3 and PS
We have a massive review on how our fats have been substituted over the past 40-60 years much to our chagrin.
It's primarily about the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6!
Omega 3 (think fish oil) is anti-inflammatory while Omega 6 can be inflammatory when excessive.
The brain and nervous system are especially susceptible to this effect.
Two interesting aspects from both a cause and cure angle.
First, omega 3's do much of what a person originally got from THC (before tolerance kicked in):
A new study in animal tissue reveals the cascade of chemical reactions that convert omega-3 fatty acids into cannabinoids that have anti-inflammatory benefits - but without the psychotropic high.
See…originally you were coming for the anti-inflammation in the brain but then staying for the addiction and drop in natural levels (tolerance).
Omega 3 fats are a cleaner way to offset this loss of cannabis.
In fact, Omega 3 shares a key pathway with cannabinoids in the brain that directly balances dopamine (the addiction piece) function:
Interestingly, the activation of PPARγ and PPARα with selective agonists has been shown to decrease mesocorticolimbic DA activity and block neuropsychiatric symptoms similar to CBD and omega-3s, raising the possibility that CBD and omega-3s produce their effects through PPAR signaling.
To translate the Klingon...CBD and Omega 3s stimulate a pathway called PPAR that balances dopamine function and keeps the brain...level.
There's a percentage of heavy cannabis users that are using THC to keep dopamine suppressed in an older brain region to calm a host of bad symptoms from hallucinations, paranoia, extreme anxiety, and agitation, etc.
In fact, people with schizophrenia actually have elevated anandamide levels…the brain is trying to offset this dopamine imbalance.
The old theory was that cannabis raises schizophrenia risk. The newer research is indicating that people with high risk are using cannabis to self-medicate...but eventually making their situation worse due to tolerance.
Omega 3s target this key dopamine pathway at the heart of a range of pretty serious symptoms.
CBD also directly calms this imbalance (see CBD and psychosis).
By the way, anandamide is a fat itself! Check out the fats article (eye-opening) but Omega 3's are a great tool for tapering THC.
Let's turn to that glutamate (gas pedal) piece.
Magnesium glycinate and NAC - the glutamate gate
Many people we talk to express that they like cannabis because it slowed down their racing thoughts.
Of course, tolerance builds and that actually goes the other way with time but are there ways to calm glutamate and bring the brain back to balance?
We need to introduce GABA, the "brake pedal" of the nervous system. It directly opposes:
- Glutamate - the brain's gas pedal
- Cortisol - our primary stress hormone
- Histamine - inflammatory excitatory player in the brain - key to allergies and insomnia
Balancing GABA and glutamate may be key to this whole process.
Everything above helps here (big shocker) but there are two other key tools that are safe.
Magnesium glycinate is our metallic stress response buffer.
Mag directly supports GABA and the glycinate allows it to cross the blood brain barrier better.
We have a massive review on magnesium glycinate for anxiety, sleep, and inflammation.
Mag function is front and center:
Magnesium is involved in all the stages of addiction. Magnesium deficit enhances the vulnerability to psychoactive substance addiction. Stress and trauma reduce the brain magnesium level and at the same time favor addiction development.
Hmmm… stress and trauma. It's outgunned!
Most importantly for tapering cannabis, it keeps glutamate under wraps:
Magnesium reduces the NMDA receptor activity and glutamatergic activity.
We take 100mg 3-4 times daily (great before bed). Super safe and a great tool for tapering and just mental health generally. We use this one.
NAC is another great player with a different pathway. NAC acts like a glutamate "sink" when excessive.
It also supports our detox pathway called glutathione.
Here's the key piece..
NAC is found to be effective in promoting cannabis abstinence in CUD. NAC is found to be effective in reducing cravings in CUD.
CUD - cannabis use disorder.
We're not surprised. Again, the net effect of brain inflammation from early trauma and/or poor steroidal hormone repair…is damage from glutamate!
Have to turn off that firehose and NAC is a powerful lever there.
Finally…addressing the original sin.
Medicinal mushrooms and/or psilocybin
It could have been a complicated birth. Maybe influenza in 3rd trimester. Maybe trauma at age 5. Social isolation at age 13. Traumatic injury at age 21.
Take your pick, it's hard down here.
The brain is a prediction machine at its core… making sure bad stuff doesn't happen to us…again.
Vigilance goes up. Fear goes up. Inflammation (immune system) goes up.
And stays up. Never…ever…let that happen again.
We have to edit this out of our "code" and most of that info resides in the immune system.
How do we know?
Psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) is about to revolutionize mental health. We have a massive review here.
Fascinating new research is showing that the long term effects of psilocybin are from DNA being turned on/off in the….immune system!
Wow! Effects on anxiety, depression, and a range of mental health issues come from changing the markups to our immune system.
Let that sink in. This means we can edit out the effects of past trauma!
That's great and all but does it really translate?
A new study just showed that a single psilocybin treatment decreased heavy alcohol use by 88% and ½ the participants had stopped drinking 6 months later.
What? Look…alcohol addiction has been a brutal slog of failed interventions forever now.
An anonymous online survey of individuals reporting cessation or reduction in cannabis, opioid, or stimulant use following psychedelic use in non-clinical settings.
Before the psychedelic experience 96% met SUD criteria, whereas only 27% met SUD criteria afterward.
SUD (including cannabis) is substance use disorder. John Hopkins is all over this research but expect more crazy results like this.
Look…there's no accounting for psil just balancing GABA or serotonin or the opioid system from one use.
This can only be epigenetic editing to our trauma code!
We looked at how to edit our mental health past code.
Psychedelics aren't legal…yet.
You can also look to medicinal mushrooms to have a more slower effect (CBD also causes "fear extinction"...a slower paced but powerful effect).
We have a medicinal mushrooms and mental health with effects across every pathway mentioned.
This is about long term repair and balance!
Check out the review. Exciting times…a complete jump in options.
Cannabis should be recreational…not self-medication. Tapering with supportive tools that fill the original gap for what cannabis was used to replace/support…until tolerance killed the party.
Be well. Take care of each other. Take care of yourself.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.