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  • Marijuana Withdrawal: What Are the Symptoms and Timeline?

    Many people believe, falsely, that marijuana is not addictive; this belief comes from the fact that the withdrawal symptoms of marijuana are not as dramatic as other drugs like cocaine or heroin.

     Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

    But research over the last 15 years suggests that marijuana does have addictive potential, especially for teenagers. Current estimates indicate that one out of ten regular cannabis consumers develops a psychological addiction.

    People that smoke (or “vape” using vaporizer) marijuana for several months or years experience withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop. And that is a sign of physical dependence.

    What causes marijuana withdrawal?

    Marijuana does have addictive potential, especially for teens and individuals that frequently use the drug.

    THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. If it is consumed repeatedly over an extended period, the brain will develop a tolerance to the drug.

    In response, the user will need higher and higher doses to reach a similar effect. The brain and the body become accustomed to regular marijuana intake and begin to rely on the drug. This is how physical dependency becomes a reality.

    From that point forward, the weed user will experience unpleasant sensations when they go too long without the drug: withdrawal symptoms.

    Luckily, these symptoms are not very dangerous, though unpleasant.

    What are the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal?

    Symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana include troubled sleep, irritability, loss of focus, anxiety, headaches, cravings, sweating, chills, a depressive state, and insomnia. These sensations are similar to the experience of breaking a tobacco addiction. They are not life-threatening but can be disruptive enough that the user may have a difficult time being fully functional until the symptoms stop.

    How long do marijuana withdrawal symptoms last?

    The marijuana withdrawal timeline begins one day after the last intake of the drug. The most difficult withdrawal symptoms will occur on the second and third days and may include headaches, cravings, sweating, chills, and gastrointestinal distress. The withdrawal timeline will continue for up to two weeks while the symptoms slowly fade.

    Day 1

    The first symptoms appear immediately after the active molecules of THC have been processed. The body expects another dose, having learned to rely on a regular supply of cannabis. Not receiving the marijuana, the body’s expected chemical balance is disrupted.

    At this point, the first symptoms begin to kick in, typically several hours after the last marijuana dose, or the following day.

    The user will begin to experience:

    • Troubled sleep. The most common symptom of marijuana withdrawal is insomnia. Insomnia can manifest itself as a complete failure to sleep, or waking up regularly during the night. During the early detoxification, people may experience very vivid dreams or nightmares, which can make relaxation and recovery at night very difficult.
    • Irritability. The lack of proper sleep and relaxation can make people prone to lose control over their emotions. Irritation is common, as people become tired, but are unable to sleep. They may experience a range of previously-suppressed aggressive feelings. Some may experience outbursts, others irritation, and still others episodes of rage. These negative emotions are often accompanied by a lack of humor and a decreased sex drive.
    • Loss of focus. Another byproduct of the constant fatigue is the loss of concentration, and difficulty learning, memorization, and memory.
    • Anxiety. It is quite common for individuals at the beginning of their cannabis withdrawal to experience anxiety attacks. The soothing effects of marijuana are no longer active, so the people react the opposite way, and feel uneasy and anxious.

    Days 2-3

    The period of peak withdrawal symptoms occurs between 48 and 72 hours after the last cannabis use.

    Marijuana consumers in that early stage of detox will likely face some unpleasant consequences:

    • Headaches are common during the detoxification stage, usually during the first three days. They usually weaken over time and ultimately fade away.
    • Strong cravings. After the initial shock of withdrawal, almost every marijuana user will begin to crave the drug.
    • Sweating and chills. Many users suffer from night sweats and chills, which should fade after a few days. The sweating is triggered by your body attempting to rid itself of toxins.
    • Gastrointestinal distress. More than 30% of former marijuana addicts report that they have had some form of eating problem. Most often, marijuana users suffered from a loss of appetite, which caused mild weight loss. Others reported digestive issues such as stomach cramps and nausea.
    • The risk of relapse. The discomfort and cravings are strong relapse triggers.

    Days 4-14

    Symptoms start to fade gradually, but some may persist, such as:

    • Depressive states. The brain’s chemistry is undergoing changes trying to adapt and function without THC. Mood swings and emotional issues are not uncommon and are a sign of the brain reestablishing a healthy chemical balance.
    • Cravings. Cravings will persist in almost all of former marijuana users on detox. Cravings are a natural consequence of the body adapting to the absence of THC.

    After Days 15

    After two weeks, most of the withdrawal symptoms should disappear.

    However, some may continue for several months until they fully dissipate. That is especially the case for severe addicts. They can expect:

    • Coughing. After two weeks, people may begin coughing up phlegm. This is a result of the body attempting to clear the lungs after extended abuse.
    • Insomnia usually stops after two weeks to a month. But it can take up to two months until you return to a regular sleep cycle.
    • Depression and anxiety can go on for several months. It may be the case that the user has an underlying mental issue, and should see a therapist. Do not hesitate to get help.


    Variables Influencing the Intensity of Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

    What factors affect marijuana withdrawal symptoms?

    Factors that affect marijuana withdrawal symptoms include the frequency and length of the use during the marijuana habit; the amount of cannabis usually consumed; the tolerance level developed; a user’s emotional and physical vulnerability; general health and metabolism, and amount of body fat.

    Many factors can impact the duration and the intensity of the withdrawal phase. Not every person will necessary experience all the same symptoms as others.
    • Frequency and length of use. The longer you use marijuana, the more it builds up in your body.
    • The amount of cannabis that someone typically consumes in one intake.
    • People that developed a greater physical dependency on marijuana will need to expect more intense withdrawal symptoms.
    • Emotional and physical vulnerability. People that are less able to handle stress will likely experience more severe withdrawal symptoms from cannabis.
    • General health and metabolism. The healthier the person and the better the metabolism, the quicker the person will get rid of toxins and end unpleasant withdrawal sensations.
    • Body type. Fat tissues store THC molecules; as a result, the more fat that you have in your body, the more storage space you provide for toxic cannabis molecules. Most women naturally have more fat, and are therefore likely to retain more THC in their bodies than men.

    Finally – What Can I Do To Reduce Discomfort?

    Luckily, quitting marijuana is not as difficult as withdrawing from other drugs. Medical supervision is usually unnecessary because the symptoms, while unpleasant, are not dangerous. In many cases, people manage to quit on their own when properly motivated.

    Depending on your situation, there is a lot you can do to ease your withdrawal period.

    What You Can Do At Home

    Here is what you can try at home to soothe milder detox symptoms:

    • Stay hydrated by drinking 2-3 liters of water per day. Avoid sodas and drinks with sugar or other artificial sweeteners.
    • Eliminate coffee and caffeine until your sleep cycle returns to normal.
    • Do not use other substances while you are detoxing from marijuana. That means: stop drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and consuming other drugs. If you are taking medication, talk with your doctor about your cannabis detox.
    • Eat healthy food, and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
    • If you have digestive problems, cut down on fats and sugars considerably.
    • Exercise every day, even if only for a short while. By exercising you will 1) boost your mental health and 2) increase the speed at which your body removes toxins through sweat.
    • Eat foods like bananas, lemons, green leafy vegetables, melons, and tomatoes. These will replenish potassium and other minerals you lose through sweat.
    • Take a nice warm bath to relax you and improve your mood
    • Surround yourself with supportive people, whether that is your family and friends or online forums and local support groups.

    Get Professional Help

    If you can’t deal with your withdrawal period alone, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

    • Medical assistance. If you experience debilitating pain or gastrointestinal issues, ask your doctor to prescribe you specific medications. These medications can include treatments for digestive problems, sleeping pills, or anxiolytics.
    • Get therapy. Individual counseling is always helpful during any step of recovery. Look for psychologists specializing in behavioral therapy. There also various support groups in every major town, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Marijuana Anonymous.
    • Go to rehab. For people struggling to deal with withdrawal symptoms or additional substance abuse, the best option may be to go to rehab. As well, people who deal with co-occurring mental or physical health issues should consult medical professionals. Most likely, they will receive a referral to an inpatient rehab center. These places are very well equipped to help users recover from marijuana dependence and addiction.