Withdrawal from Marijuana
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, insomnia, depression, and symptoms can start as early as 24 hoursLast updated: June 1, 2018
It is possible to become dependent on marijuana without becoming addicted, but typically, showing symptoms of withdrawal is indicative of marijuana use disorder. THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors which help communicate various brain functions such as problem solving and learning new skills. When these processes are interrupted by THC with repeated use, it becomes harder for the brain to recalibrate these functions.
Withdrawal symptoms can start as early as 24 hours since the last dose, however depending on your level of dependency, symptoms may not begin until 3 days out.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms’ severity will be highly dependent on how long the person used for, what means they consumed (smoked/ingested), and the amount. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms typically start 1-3 days from the last dose. This is also when symptoms are at their peak.
Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal cramps
- Mood swings
- Sleep disorders
In the brain, cannabinoids communicate and control our appetite, mood and memory. THC bonds to these receptors and affect these functions, causing increased appetite. Because of this, many people suffer weight loss when they quit marijuana.
Additionally, THC also connects to receptors that affect our waking and sleeping cycles which is why it causes sleepiness tired. This is also why it causes restlessness and eventually sleep disorders when withdrawal kicks in.
Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline
Marijuana withdrawal starts between 1 and 3 days after the last use and typically lasts 2 weeks. Again depending on the amount used and the amount of time used, the timeline will vary.
Days 1-3: During the first few days when withdrawal sets in, it’s very common to experience restlessness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, irritability and a general lack of focus or inability to focus. More severe cases may experience tremors or insomnia.
Days 4-7: For many, the symptoms in days 1-3 carry over into days 4-7. In addition however, some notice abdominal cramps, nausea, headaches, sweating, chills, loss of appetite and weight loss. In addition, this is when cravings tend to set in.
Days 7-10: During this time period, cravings, irritability and a lack of concentration continue to varying degrees. However, this is also when mood swings, aggressive behavior, sleep disorders, and mild depression can manifest.
Days 11-14: The withdrawal symptoms that remain at this point are insomnia, mild depression, anxiety, and a frequent cough (if marijuana was primarily smoked).
The long term effects of marijuana on fully developed adults are still up for debate, but for youths and adolescents some of the changes to cognitive function are permanent. The ability to problem solve and learn new skills becomes much more challenging.
That said, even in adults, many have reported ongoing memory problems, mild depression, and a lack of motivation.
How To Handle Marijuana Cravings
Relapse continues to be one of the most trying aspects of addiction, made all the worse by cravings. One of the challenges with marijuana is, with its increasing legal status, it’s very easy to come by regardless of your environment.
To counteract cravings, there are three things you should do.
- Use breathing and relaxation techniques to take yourself out of the situation. Ideally, this will calm your body, making you able to see the big picture instead of the immediate gratification of marijuana.
- Find a new activity. If you become fixated on using marijuana, then you need to find another activity to busy yourself with. The best kind of activity is something physical where you end up concentrating on the task at hand instead of thinking about using marijuana. A jog, a pickup game, or workout are all great ways to stay clean.
- Leave the situation. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing may be a trigger. Remove yourself from the situation even if it’d conventionally be referred to as a faux pas.
Marijuana Withdrawal Treatment
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has not approved of any drugs or medications to specifically treat marijuana withdrawal. However, due to withdrawal typically causing an increase in anxiety and restlessness and sleep disorders, doctors often prescribe medication to target those symptoms. That said, there are ongoing clinical trials to aid marijuana withdrawal symptoms. The two main drugs being tested with are buspirone (and anti-anxiety medication) and zolpidem (a sleep aid). These can help curb the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, allowing someone in recovery to think clearly while their body is suffering. Beyond medication, many people pursue therapy to treat marijuana withdrawal. For one, there is cognitive-behavioral therapy to help marijuana users recognize their behavior and subsequent triggers. This helps coach them to make healthier decisions. The second, is motivational enhancement therapy which aids with the loss of motivation from extended marijuana use. This form of therapy can help set goals and map out how to achieve them to keep you motivated. The immediate gratification that comes from each step helps achieve the overall, long-term goal.