Attitudes have changed toward marijuana in recent years. Many states have legalized the use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana, and more states may join in the future. Because of this, the misconception that marijuana is not addictive continues to spread. The truth is marijuana can be addictive, and if you stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 10 Americans who use cannabis will become addicted. That number jumps to 1 in 6 if you begin using marijuana before the age of 18.
Smoking marijuana a handful of times may not be enough to cause symptoms when you no longer use it. For people who smoke marijuana regularly, it may be a different story. Withdrawing from regular marijuana use can lead to symptoms that include trouble sleeping, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.
Symptoms of withdrawal
Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:
- diminished appetite
- mood changes
- sleep difficulties, including insomnia
- loss of focus
- cravings for marijuana
- sweating, including cold sweats
- increased feelings of depression
- stomach problems
These symptoms can range from mild to more severe, and they vary from person to person. These symptoms may not be severe or dangerous, but they can be unpleasant. The longer you used marijuana, the more likely you are to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms may not be as severe as withdrawal symptoms from other substances. Opioids, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin can produce severe, even dangerous, withdrawal issues. Still, many people who stop using marijuana do experience physical and psychological symptoms.
That’s because your body has to adjust to not having a regular supply of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. When you regularly smoke marijuana, your brain develops a tolerance for it.
The more you smoke, the more your brain depends on this supply of THC. When you stop, your brain has to adjust to not having it. As your body becomes accustomed to this new normal, you may experience unpleasant symptoms. These are symptoms of withdrawal. In some cases, these symptoms can be so troublesome people choose to begin smoking again to get a reprieve.
Management and prevention
If you’re ready to quit, talk with a doctor or a substance abuse specialist about your options. You may not need any special instructions, but it’s always a good idea to consult someone about your decision. If nothing else, this person can be a good source of inspiration and accountability.
If you smoked regularly and often, tapering off and slowly reducing your marijuana use may help you ease into a marijuana-free life. If you only smoked occasionally, you may be able to stop entirely without any step-down.
When you’re ready to quit, take these self-help steps to make the initial withdrawal period of 24 to 72 hours easier.
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and avoid sugary, caffeinated beverages like soda.
- Eat healthy foods. Fuel your body with a generous supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean protein. Avoid junk food, which can make you feel sluggish and irritable.
- Exercise every day. Squeeze in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. This provides a natural mood boost, and it can help remove toxins as you sweat.
- Find support. Surround yourself with friends, family members, and others who can help you through any withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
Most people will not need professional help to quit marijuana. However, in some cases you may be better able to quit and stick with quitting if you have guidance and medical assistance.
These resources may be helpful:
These short-term programs are designed to help people get through the initial drug-free phase. They provide assistance and medical attention as you manage the symptoms of withdrawal.
Inpatient rehabilitation center
These medical facilities are designed to assist people for more than 25 days. These facilities help a person stop using drugs, including marijuana, and then manage the underlying issues that led to drug use and may lead to relapse if not dealt with correctly. These are also helpful for people dealing with multiple addictions at once, such as alcohol abuse and marijuana abuse.
Intensive outpatient programs
Outpatient rehabilitation programs often require multiple meetings or sessions each week with a therapist, substance abuse expert, or other mental health specialist. However, you’re not required to check into a facility, and you’re free to come and go on your own.
Support groups and therapy
One-on-one therapy may be useful as you cope with the underlying issues that lead to drug use. Likewise, connecting with people who face many of the same scenarios and questions as you in a support group can be a good way to find accountability and support during this next phase of your life.
While the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may not be as severe as those of some other controlled substances, such as cocaine or heroin, marijuana withdrawal is real. People who smoke cannabis can become addicted. You may experience symptoms like trouble sleeping, mood swings, and irritability when you quit.
These symptoms are rarely dangerous, and most of them will stop within 72 hours after your last use of marijuana. In the long term, finding guidance and accountability with a therapist or support group is encouraged. Staying sober is easier when you know you have people supporting you.