Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychotropic substance with widespread recreational use worldwide, surpassed only by nicotine and alcohol.
Marijuana use and prevalence of regular use has increased in most developed countries, due to its popularity amongst a range of groups. This in turn has led to an increase in marijuana abuse and the number of people seeking treatment for cannabis-related problems across Europe.
While marijuana withdrawal isn’t as dangerous as opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal, users still experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.
Many people often opt to detox at home because they believe that cannabis withdrawal doesn’t require a medical detox, however, despite the mild withdrawal symptoms, there is still a risk of experiencing complications.
While the majority of withdrawal symptoms are psychological, it is still advised you complete your detox with a registered rehab clinic.
If you have developed a cannabis use disorder and wish to find out more about cannabis withdrawal, detox and treatment, get in touch with our admissions team today.
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
As is the case with most addictive substances, heavy marijuana use for prolonged periods can lead to withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to stop.
Withdrawal will affect each person differently depending on a number of factors such as duration of use, gender, height, weight and general health. Users who have developed a mild dependence on the drug may be able to stop using relatively quickly. However, chronic users who have built up a tolerance might need more help overcoming their addiction.
The symptoms of cannabis withdrawal can manifest both physically and psychologically.
Physical withdrawal symptoms
The physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are not too severe and typically peak sooner than the psychological symptoms. The frequency and amount of marijuana used prior to stopping will affect the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most common physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:
- Stomach pains/abdominal pain
- Changes in appetite or weight loss or weight gain
- Sleep problems, Disturbing dreams
- Headaches, vomiting
- Restlessness and Sweats, chills, tremors, fever and other flu-like symptoms
- Nicotine withdrawal (if you smoke cannabis with tobacco)
The effects of withdrawal will vary in severity for each user, and although they are not dangerous, some may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. In rare cases, marijuana withdrawal symptoms can cause complications, especially where someone has quit marijuana suddenly. It’s important to remember that the chances of experiencing marijuana withdrawal symptoms will increase based on the duration of use.
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Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
A study by the British Journal of Psychiatry states that there is significant evidence that taking cannabis leads to acute adverse mental effects in a high proportion of regular users. Many of these effects are dose-related, but adverse symptoms may be aggravated by con- situational factors including youthfulness, personality attributes and vulnerability to serious mental disorders.
Cravings involve the persistent desire to use cannabis during any period of abstinence. Although many regular cannabis users don’t believe they are addicted to the drug, users who had recently quit reported experiencing intense cravings for marijuana when abstinent.
Irritability, mood swings and restlessness are common cannabis withdrawal symptoms and can range from mild annoyance to intense anger. It is recommended you seek the help of a therapist or counsellor if you begin to display symptoms of aggression that last for more than a week, as this could indicate a deeper issue being masked by substance abuse.
Anxiety is a symptom often associated with a cannabis high, but it is also a distinctive sign of withdrawal. Anxiety and paranoia are often exacerbated once you stop using cannabis, which is why counselling and therapy are strongly advised as part of treatment, as there may have been an existing anxiety problem before you started using cannabis.
While depression and persistent sadness is a well-known psychological withdrawal symptom, it’s important to remember that cannabis misuse can often mask other psychological issues such as depression. It’s important these potential issues are addressed once detox is complete, as this can increase your chances of maintaining sobriety.
Cannabis Withdrawal Timeline
The cannabis withdrawal timeline and intensity of symptoms will depend on:
– How much cannabis do you smoke
– How frequently do you smoke cannabis
– If you quit ‘cold turkey’ rather than cutting down your use
However, users can typically expect:
1-3 days – Symptoms will be mild but noticeable
4-7 days – Symptoms will peak
8-10 days – Most symptoms will have stopped by this stage
For chronic users, symptoms may continue for up to four weeks. This is because the active ingredients in cannabis are stored in the body’s fat cells and can take up to a month to be released.