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Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms & Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline

Marijuana, which consists of the dried flowers, leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems of the cannabis plant, is commonly known by other terms such as weed, pot, and cannabis.1 Marijuana contains several unique compounds called cannabinoids, which include tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. As the primary psychoactive component of marijuana and other cannabis substances, THC has intoxicating or mind-altering properties.1 Marijuana can be used via smoking, vaping, or being infused into foods or drinks.1 Some people also smoke the high-THC oils, resins, or concentrates extracted from the marijuana plant, in a process called “dabbing.2

Marijuana is the most used drug after alcohol and tobacco.2 In 2020, 17.9% of people aged 12 and over (49.6 million) had used marijuana in the previous year.3 Although many may not think of it as addictive in the way that other drugs can be, marijuana use can be problematic and may lead to the development of a marijuana-related substance use disorder (SUD) or marijuana addiction.1

For those who begin regular use before age 18, the risk of developing a marijuana use disorder is increased.1 The average THC content of marijuana and other cannabis products has also been increasing, which may also make eventual marijuana addiction more likely.1

If you or someone you love is struggling with marijuana use, a marijuana rehab or detox program may be able to help. Coping with marijuana withdrawal can be challenging, but appropriate support can help you or your loved one get through these symptoms and to the other side of marijuana dependency or addiction.


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Marijuana Dependence and Withdrawal

Marijuana dependence may develop after repeated use, meaning that individuals may feel that they are unable to function normally without the presence of the drug, and may experience certain uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug.4,5

Over time, marijuana dependence may develop as the brain adapts to exposure to the drug by both decreasing the production of natural endocannabinoid neurotransmitters and becoming less sensitive to them.5 When people who are dependent on marijuana stop consuming the drug, they may experience symptoms such as mood issues, irritability, trouble with sleep, cravings, restlessness, and physical discomfort.5

Though they tend to be relatively less severe than some other types of acute substance withdrawal (such as alcohol withdrawal or opioid withdrawal), marijuana withdrawal symptoms can still be unpleasant and may present a challenge for people seeking to recover from marijuana addiction. Though there are no medications specifically approved for treating marijuana use disorders, many people benefit from the supervision and support of a drug detox program to help them stop using the drug more safely and comfortably. 2,7


What is Marijuana Withdrawal?

After cutting back or stopping use of marijuana, an individual may experience several withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana can be physical and psychological and may range in severity for different people. Symptoms may develop within a week after stopping prolonged or heavy marijuana use and are usually observed within the first 24 hours after cessation.6,7

What Happens When You Quit Marijuana Cold Turkey?

When a person is thinking about stopping their drug use, they may consider quitting marijuana cold turkey. To quit marijuana cold turkey means to completely stop using the drug without any taper or weaning—to go from use of the drug to no use at all. When this occurs, individuals have the potential to experience withdrawal symptoms. While marijuana withdrawal symptoms may be less severe than those experienced with other substances, they may still be uncomfortable or difficult to deal with. So, while the abrupt stopping of marijuana use may not be dangerous or pose a high risk, it can still pose challenges that may make it more complicated to stop marijuana use.


Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

The extent and severity of marijuana withdrawal symptoms depend on a variety of factors, including the amount and frequency of drug use, length of marijuana use, the magnitude of physiological dependence, and general health. Not everyone experiences withdrawal when quitting marijuana, but those who have used marijuana heavily for a period of a few months or more often struggle with withdrawal.6

So, what are marijuana withdrawal symptoms? Some potential withdrawal symptoms of marijuana include:6,7

  • Irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sleep difficulties (e.g., insomnia).
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Headache.
  • Fever, chills, and sweating.
  • Shakiness or tremors.
  • GI issues (including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting).

Because withdrawing from marijuana can cause several of these symptoms to arise, trying to detox at home can be uncomfortable. A supportive marijuana rehab or detox program can help people to be more comfortable during this difficult part of early recovery. This may involve psychiatric treatment to address underlying mental health concerns, psychological counseling to facilitate behavior modification, and increased coping skills for stress reduction.6


How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?

Again, be aware that timelines for marijuana withdrawal recovery may be different for everyone and can depend on a variety of factors such as general health, level of use, and length of prolonged use.6 Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 24 hours and reach their peak levels of severity by day three.6 Symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks before they largely resolve.6


Getting Help for Marijuana Withdrawal

Currently, no FDA-approved medication treatments exist for cannabis use disorder or withdrawal.6 And though marijuana withdrawal might not always require immediate or intensive medical attention, the treatment team at a medical detox program can administer symptomatic medications and incorporate behavioral strategies to keep people more comfortable and improve prognosis in those trying to quit using cannabis.8

It is important to note that detox alone is typically not enough to lead to long-term recovery from addiction.7 Detox is often the first stage of the recovery process, but it only involves getting a substance out of your body, managing your withdrawal, and making sure you are stable.7

Ongoing treatment is needed after detox to ensure your marijuana dependence and/or addiction is addressed.7 In an ongoing substance use treatment program, you can get help in learning new ways to cope with triggers for addiction and develop coping skills to use in the place of using substances when under stress. Ongoing treatment can help support your long-term recovery.

Recovery from marijuana addiction is possible. After detox, rehab will help address the underlying issues that contributed to addiction.9 Within substance use treatment there are different types of programs including:9

  • Long-term residential treatment usually lasts for several months and requires participants to live at the facility for the designated time.
  • Short-term residential inpatient treatment generally includes at least 3-6 weeks in a hospital or rehab facility.
  • Outpatient programs vary depending on your individual needs. Participants attend treatment at designated times and days while being able to return home at night.

Rehab includes treatment such as:9

  • Individualized drug counseling consists of behavioral therapies to help treat addiction.
  • Group counseling can provide social support and encouragement from others going through similar experiences.
  • Education about the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Marijuana and public health: Frequently asked questions.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Cannabis (marijuana) drugfacts.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Is marijuana addictive?
  6. Patel J, Marwaha R. Cannabis Use Disorder. [Updated 2022 Feb 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538131.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Treatment Improvement Protocol—TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  8. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of effective treatment.

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