Marijuana Withdrawal: What You Need To Know
Withdrawal from any drug is well known to be a distressing experience. When you withdraw from a drug that you are addicted to, it’s not only your whole body that can be affected but your mind too. While withdrawal is an incredibly hard thing to go through, when you succeed, it can be life changing.
If you think you may have a marijuana dependency and want to discover a new healthier you, we’ve put together the cold hard facts about marijuana withdrawal and tips to get you through it.
It won’t be easy – but it could change your life.
What is Marijuana Withdrawal?
When you’re taking any substance for a length of time the human brain and body begin to adapt to the active ingredients and chemicals within the substance.
If you’ve been using marijuana for some time, you might notice that you need more of the drug to get the same high that you once used to. This is due to the body adapting to the regular use of marijuana, by changing the chemistry in the brain to accommodate the active chemicals in it, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
As time goes on the brain actually becomes dependent on having these substances in it, therefore causing a withdrawal effect when the substances are not present. This causes what we know as marijuana withdrawal, where users display a range of symptoms that are due to the chemistry of the brain readjusting.
Marijuana Withdrawal: Myth or Reality
When it comes to marijuana, unlike other drugs, there is a lot of debate around whether withdrawal is a myth or reality. This comes down to marijuana’s reputation as a ‘natural’ drug which doesn’t have the same harsh effects on the body as its manufactured chemical brethren.
However, although marijuana is a natural botanical, over the years humans have purposely altered the properties of the plant through selective breeding to change the chemical composition significantly.
This means that while in the past marijuana withdrawals may have been non-existent or extremely mild, in the potent plants that we farm today, this isn’t the case. The elevated levels of THC, in particular, have an intense effect on the brain leading to the very real effects of marijuana withdrawal when use ceases.
What Causes Marijuana Withdrawal Effects?
To understand what exactly cases marijuana withdrawal effects, it’s necessary to know how the chemicals in marijuana impact the brain. The main psychoactive substance that users feel the effects of when using marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
THC works on the human endocannabinoid system. The human body naturally produces cannabinoids, which the brain processes through the endocannabinoid system.
THC works on the same cannabinoid receptors that the body’s natural cannabinoids do, however when THC is introduced to the system it overwhelms them, leading to the effects that you feel when using marijuana.
The brain becomes used to and even reliant upon this constant overstimulation and so when not receiving THC, it begins to send out signals to motivate the user to take more of the drug. These signals are experienced as marijuana withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?
When ceasing the use of marijuana for your health, you may experience few withdrawal symptoms or many. This depends on a variety of factors and the individual, including the volume and frequency of marijuana use, the way that it is taken, and the strength of the product. Some of the most frequently seen symptoms in marijuana users experiencing withdrawal from the drug can be seen below.
Using marijuana can result in an increased appetite also known as the ‘munchies’ which leads to THC affected people craving food, and lots of it.
The flipside to this effect for those experiencing marijuana withdrawal is that they may struggle to eat due to a decreased appetite.
This can be dangerous due to the lack of appetite preventing an individual from receiving appropriate macro and micronutrients from their food that are essential to health.
Changes in Mood
Those withdrawing from marijuana may feel irritable, depressed and that their moods change quickly without being able to control them. This can last for many weeks when withdrawing from marijuana. Exercise can help to ease changes in mood.
Snapping at everything and everyone at the slightest hint of frustration? A common side effect of marijuana withdrawal is increased irritability. Ensure that you prepare yourself with strategies to cope with irritability – a therapist can help with this.
While marijuana is renowned for putting users into a relaxed state that helps them to sleep, marijuana withdrawals can have the opposite effect. When the brain is busy detoxing from the chemicals in marijuana, other parts don’t function as well.
This can lead to trouble sleeping when trying to wean yourself off the drug. Avoiding caffeine is a great idea to keep sleep patterns more normal when withdrawing from marijuana. Eventually, your sleep cycle will return to normal, meaning you will be able to sleep soundly once again.
Another thing our brains like to do to signal to us that they want more or less of what we’re giving it? By causing a headache, of course! If you’re dehydrated, tired, or straining your eyes you might develop a headache.
The same is true when you go through marijuana withdrawal. Your brain wants more of the stimulating drug marijuana, without it, you can experience a headache instead. Gee, thanks brain.
Another weird set of withdrawal symptoms that you might not expect when quitting cannabis are stomach issues. Diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps can all be associated with marijuana withdrawal. An increase in fiber in your diet, healthy food, and drinking plenty of water can help.
When you decide to quit marijuana, it takes strength and resolves. This is because up to five weeks after you quit, you’ll likely still have cravings. Look into methods of diverting your time when a craving strikes like doing a puzzle or brain teaser, knitting or chewing gum.
The good news is that over time your physical cravings will disappear completely – then you just have to work on the mental triggers.
Body temperature regulation can be affected when withdrawing from marijuana, so you may experience chills and hot flashes which can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. When your body has fully detoxed from THC these will end.
Going along with an inability to regulate body temperature is sweating. Sweating can be embarrassing, however, it does not cause harm. This symptom will settle down after the detox period is over.
Sometimes going along with other marijuana withdrawal symptoms is depression. If you have a prior history of depression, speak to your doctor about ways you can care for your mental health when quitting marijuana.
Average Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline
You might be wondering what to expect if you want to do your body a solid and quit marijuana. Unfortunately, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, takes much longer to leave the body than other drugs. This can mean that marijuana withdrawal may continue for months or even weeks.
First symptoms are usually experienced within 2-3 days of quitting marijuana. Between days 4-14 is usually when the strongest onset of symptoms occurs, and depression can be prevalent during this time.
The average overall marijuana withdrawal timeline is generally between 30-45 days, depending on a number of factors including heaviness of use, length of time using, body weight and general health.
How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?
The average duration of marijuana withdrawal has been shown to be from two weeks to more than 45 days, depending on a number of factors, including frequency and heaviness of use and length of time using.
The fact that the process of withdrawal continues for so long can make marijuana a difficult drug to quit, however with support from a medical professional and self-care it is possible.
Marijuana Withdrawal Tips
There are many ways to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms naturally and also with professional help. Remember, while it is difficult to go through marijuana withdrawal using all the resources available to you can help to result in your success.
Exercising is a wonderful natural antidote to many symptoms. Natural endorphins flood the body after exercise, leading to an increase in serotonin which elevates your mood naturally. It also helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
The ancient practice of meditation is an excellent way to control and relax your mind and find peace, which can have flow-on physical benefits. Try using a traditional meditation program or mindfulness every day to focus your mind and relieve stress.
Talk to Your Doctor about Antidepressants
If natural ways of improving your mood and relieving stress aren’t working, don’t suffer in silence. Your doctor may be able to assist your marijuana withdrawal symptoms by prescribing antidepressants. Depression and anxiety treatments are serious conditions and should never be ignored.
Try Group or Individual Therapy
Another thing that can be hugely beneficial is sharing your struggles with other going through the same thing. Group therapy is an excellent way to feel supported by others in the same situation as you.
Group therapy does involve sharing your private thoughts and feelings with others, so if you’re not comfortable with that, individual therapy is a better option. Talking through your issues with a therapist can be an empowering way of overcoming your addiction.
Go to a Detox Facility
If you’re not coping on your own when trying to quit marijuana, there are other options. A detox facility is an excellent way to quit marijuana under medical supervision and with a range of supports in place.
If you are worried you won’t succeed on your own or have failed in the past, a detox facility is a great option.
Overcoming addiction and quitting any drug for good is a long and difficult journey, but with courage, determination and the right tools, a healthier lifestyle can be achieved. Marijuana withdrawals are certainly hard to get through, but the reward is a healthier and happier you – which everyone deserves!