Tolerance is your body’s ability to process a certain amount of a drug. Low tolerance means that your body can only process a small amount of a drug (i.e., it takes less drugs to feel the effects) and increased tolerance means your body has learned how to process increased amounts of the drug (i.e., it takes more drugs to feel the effects). Tolerance develops over time, so the amount of a drug a long-time user needs to feel the drug’s effects is a lot greater than a newer user.  Tolerance also wavers depending on several factors including, weight, size, illness, stress, compromised immune system, and age.  Most importantly, tolerance can decrease rapidly when someone has taken a break from using a drug whether intentionally  – for example, while in drug treatment or on methadone detox – or unintentionally – for example, while in jail or the hospital.  Research has also shown that tolerance is effected when a person uses drugs in a new or unfamiliar environment, and therefore at a higher risk for overdose.

Prevention Tips:

  • Use less when you are sick or you haven’t used—even a few days of abstinence or decreased use can lower your tolerance.
  • If you are using after a period of abstinence, be careful and go slow
  • Do a tester shot, or go slow
  • Use different method, i.e. snort instead of inject
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