Can You Have Withdrawals From Cannabis?

April 18, 2023
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Can you have withdrawals from weed?

We all know that weed isn't a “hard” drug. In fact, you can't really even "withdraw" from it in the traditional sense. However, we've all been there - you take a break from smoking weed and suddenly start to feel like crap. You have no appetite, you can't sleep, and you're just overall feeling lousy. But is this really withdrawal? Or are you just experiencing the typical side effects of stopping weed? It turns out that, like with any other substance, your body can become accustomed to THC. So what happens when you try to stop smoking weed? Can you have withdrawals from weed? Here's what you need to know.

Is THC withdrawal a real thing?

It can be very challenging for regular cannabis users to deal with cannabis withdrawal syndrome after taking a planned short break from weed or if they need to abstain entirely. Although this isn't nearly as severe as withdrawals caused by alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, we might initially feel annoyed or mildly uncomfortable without our beloved herbal remedy. This withdrawal may resemble what one might experience upon giving up caffeine cold turkey.

According to Roger Roffman, a researcher at the University of Washington who has devoted more than 25 years to studying marijuana use, withdrawal is not a big issue for most marijuana users. The withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana are generally not experienced by people who use it occasionally or for short periods at a higher dosage. However, in the case of smokers who smoke a lot of pot for a long time, withdrawal may occur, Roffman says. 

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms: what the science says

According to 2017 research published in the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, there is a growing body of evidence both in animal and human studies suggesting that cessation of regular and long-term use of marijuana is associated with a distinctive withdrawal syndrome characterized by behavioral and mood disturbances of mild to moderate intensity. 

Long-term exposure to cannabinoids alters the brain's neuronal circuits. According to researchers, the cannabinoid (CB1) receptors in the human brain can be desensitized and downregulated by regular cannabis consumption.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis withdrawal, and it can be quite different from one individual to another. In addition, the severity of symptoms you experience once you withdraw from weed depends on many factors, including usage frequency and overall health. However, some commonly occurring withdrawal symptoms can appear within 2 to 3 days after stopping heavy use.

When you decide to stop smoking cannabis, you may become more anxious and irritable than your usual temperament, have difficulty eating and sleeping, and even suffer from an upset stomach and headaches. However, there are no life-threatening risks associated with marijuana withdrawal symptoms—their predominant threat is making people relapse when they have been abstaining from cannabis for an extended period. So how long should you expect these symptoms to last? 

Within 24 to 48 hours of quitting, the changes to the brain caused by THC begin to reverse, resulting in normal receptor function within four weeks. So ultimately, it's not a psychological process; instead, it's a physiological one caused by the body becoming accustomed to life without marijuana.

What helps THC withdrawal symptoms?

When you opt to withdraw from weed, you can help yourself get through the initial phase of the process by making some positive lifestyle changes and using tried and true coping strategies:

● Take part in physical activity to help ease your body's tension.

● When you need support or space, let your family and friends know.

● Avoid participating in loud, crowded events that cause you anxiety.

● Meditate or practice relaxation techniques.

● Stay away from caffeine close to bedtime and establish sleep rituals.

Some marijuana consumers may take to smoking a joint to ease THC withdrawal symptoms they experience when trying to give up smoking pot, just as those with alcohol use disorders might take to drinking to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

However, unlike alcohol or illicit drugs, there are no serious risks associated with side effects of stopping weed cold-turkey or going through the detox process on your own. You will likely experience weed withdrawals if you give up smoking marijuana after a long period of regular use. When these symptoms become intense enough, you might turn back to smoking to find relief, based on how much and how frequently you smoke.

As a result of marijuana withdrawal, you may temporarily experience unpleasant symptoms that interfere with your school, work, or daily routine. Although weed withdrawal might be challenging for some, keep in mind that it will pass. Having patience is key. It's never easy to change habitual behaviors, but it can be transformative when supported by those around you.

A few final thoughts on cannabis withdrawal

If you're looking to abstain from using cannabis, whether for personal or professional reasons, it's important to be mentally prepared for the potential withdrawals you may experience. You may experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, and cravings in the early days or weeks after quitting. But don't worry; these temporary symptoms will eventually disappear.

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