Perceptions of marijuana use differ greatly, encompassing debates on its social acceptance and medicinal value. However, prolonged usage may culminate in marijuana use disorder, particularly among early starters. In 2022, approximately 6.7% of the U.S. population aged 12 and above were diagnosed with this disorder. Those who attempt to quit after habitual use might experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms, a condition termed as cannabis withdrawal syndrome, which complicates the cessation process. Yet, recovery from marijuana addiction is possible with the right treatment. This article explores the withdrawal process from marijuana, including its symptoms, how long they last, and the role of treatment in stopping usage.
What is Marijuana Withdrawal?
Marijuana withdrawal describes the series of uncomfortable symptoms experienced by frequent users—those who consume cannabis, also known as pot, weed, or Mary Jane, on a daily or weekly basis—when they attempt to reduce or stop their use. The condition, termed cannabis withdrawal syndrome, affects a substantial number of regular users. Research involving over 23,000 individuals who regularly consumed marijuana found that nearly half reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stopped using the drug.
While withdrawal from cannabis does not pose a significant risk of severe health complications, the discomfort it causes can hinder efforts to quit, often leading to relapse. Symptoms are quickly relieved by resuming marijuana use, making it challenging for users to stay off the drug.
Causes of Marijuana Withdrawal
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing heavy marijuana use, whether it’s a regular habit, binge use, or due to addiction, is common. A study by Duke University involving 496 adult marijuana smokers attempting to quit revealed that 95.5% encountered at least one withdrawal symptom, with 43.1% experiencing two or more symptoms. The intensity and number of symptoms reported were closely related to the frequency and quantity of marijuana consumption.
Participants who smoked marijuana daily reported the highest number of withdrawal symptoms. Interestingly, even individuals who used marijuana less than once a week reported experiencing symptoms of moderate intensity during withdrawal.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
Marijuana withdrawal, often referred to as cannabis withdrawal syndrome, is a condition that emerges from the body’s physical reliance on cannabis after prolonged heavy use. This reliance is due to alterations in the brain’s chemistry, which leads to compelling cravings for cannabis and unpleasant physical reactions when its use is reduced or stopped. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis can lead to addiction, with individuals who begin using cannabis before the age of 18 being at a much higher risk of developing an addiction than those who start as adults.
Common symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include:
- Strong cravings for cannabis
- Increased thirst and symptoms of dry mouth or throat
- Elevated hunger and appetite levels
- Sensations of mild euphoria
- Increased sexual arousal
- Distinct or vivid dreams
- Irritability and bouts of anger
- Restlessness and challenges with relaxation
- Symptoms associated with depression and anxiety
- Feelings of nervousness
These manifestations highlight the potential for addiction to cannabis, particularly among younger users, emphasizing the necessity of recognizing and addressing withdrawal symptoms.
Why Does Marijuana Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?
Marijuana withdrawal occurs because the body becomes accustomed to the presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component found in the cannabis plant. THC, along with terpenes that give marijuana its distinct smell and taste, affects the brain’s chemistry, leading to the well-known psychoactive effects of marijuana use. As THC levels in marijuana have increased significantly over time, from an average of 3.8% in the 1990s to 12.2% in 2014, the brain and body grow dependent on these higher concentrations of THC for normal functioning.
When regular marijuana use is suddenly reduced or stopped, the body must adjust to the lack of THC, leading to a range of withdrawal symptoms. These can include both physical discomforts, such as headaches and sleep disturbances, and psychological challenges, like anxiety and cravings for the drug. The initial physical symptoms of withdrawal typically subside as the body adjusts, but the psychological desire for marijuana can persist, complicating efforts to quit.
This increase in marijuana potency over the years means that withdrawal experiences today may be more intense than those encountered in the past, underlining the growing complexity of managing marijuana cessation and the withdrawal process that follows.
Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline
The duration of marijuana withdrawal varies among individuals, influenced by factors like how frequently and how much cannabis was consumed, as well as a person’s overall health.
How Long Do Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Here’s a general timeline of what to expect during the marijuana withdrawal process:
- Initial 3 Days: Withdrawal symptoms start to manifest, peaking around the third day with possible vomiting, stomach pain, and excessive sweating. During this period, cravings can make individuals restless, increasing the risk of relapse. This phase underscores the importance of seeking professional support.
- Week to 10 Days: Symptoms reach their zenith during this phase. While physical discomfort may begin to lessen after the fourth day, psychological symptoms such as depression may intensify, presenting challenges as the body adjusts to the absence of THC.
- 10-20 Days: Symptoms gradually subside, and by the end of the second week, many individuals start feeling more stable. Continuous treatment remains crucial to sustain recovery progress.
- Beyond 30 Days: The body typically rids itself of THC within a month, but symptom relief, particularly for insomnia, lethargy, and psychological effects like anxiety and depression, may extend beyond this period for some. In heavy users, traces of cannabinoids can linger for up to three months.
It’s essential to recognize that while the immediate physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may diminish within a few weeks, the psychological impact can last longer, necessitating ongoing support and treatment to fully navigate the recovery journey.
Who Is Most Likely to Experience Marijuana Withdrawal?
Marijuana withdrawal can affect anyone who frequently uses cannabis, whether for pleasure or health purposes, especially if they are habitual, long-term users. The likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms escalates with the regularity and quantity of marijuana use.
Research indicates possible gender differences in how individuals experience marijuana withdrawal. According to a 2015 study in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, women who sought treatment for cannabis use disorders were found to suffer from more acute and severe withdrawal symptoms than men. The findings highlighted that women had heightened levels of irritability, restlessness, anger, and even violent outbursts, as well as gastrointestinal discomfort, including nausea and stomach pains. These findings highlight the necessity for gender-specific considerations in treating and supporting individuals aiming to recover from cannabis addiction.
Managing Marijuana Withdrawal
Dealing with the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal can be smoother with positive lifestyle changes and coping strategies. Here are some effective ways to ease the withdrawal experience:
- Stay active with regular exercise to help lessen stress and physical discomfort.
- Keep open lines of communication with friends and family, sharing when you need support or space.
- Avoid situations that heighten your anxiety, like loud or crowded settings.
- Practice relaxation methods such as meditation to bring peace to both mind and body.
- Establish a soothing bedtime ritual to enhance your sleep, and cut down on caffeine later in the day.
The process of quitting cannabis might not always require medical oversight, yet there are instances where inpatient detoxification or outpatient detox is recommended for the best outcomes. This is especially true for those dealing with simultaneous mental health and cannabis use issues, individuals with additional health complications, those diagnosed with a severe level of cannabis use disorder, and persons with a history of using multiple substances, including opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines. The withdrawal from these substances can be dangerous and might necessitate medical detoxification to ensure safety.
After detox, it’s vital to engage in a structured treatment plan. This can include participation in either residential inpatient programs or intensive outpatient programs, both of which provide a comprehensive range of therapeutic interventions. Such programs usually offer individual and group counseling, along with behavioral therapy sessions, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Focuses on enhancing self-control and ceasing substance misuse through the identification and alteration of challenging behaviors.
- Contingency management (CM): Employs a system of incentives for positive behavior changes, such as maintaining sobriety or attending therapy sessions.
- Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): Aims to quickly foster internal motivation for change, drawing on personal strengths and the desire for improvement.
Despite the absence of FDA-approved medications specifically for treating marijuana use disorder or preventing its relapse, evidence suggests that behavioral and psychosocial interventions are effective in addressing these challenges and supporting long-term recovery.
At Iris Wellness Group, we provide comprehensive support for those navigating cannabis withdrawal and use disorder, aiming to boost the chances of a successful, long-term recovery. Our dedicated team is here to explore recovery options with you and assist you on your journey to wellness. Reach out today by calling 423-401-9630 or filling out our online form to speak with our admissions team and learn more about how we can support your journey toward a healthier, substance-free future.
Marijuana Withdrawal Treatment at Iris Wellness Group
At Iris Wellness Group we specialize in providing targeted and compassionate treatment for individuals struggling with marijuana withdrawal in Chattanooga, TN. Recognizing the unique journey of each person affected by cannabis addiction, our dedicated team offers personalized care plans designed to address the specific needs and challenges of our clients. Our goal is to support individuals on their path to recovery, helping them achieve a healthier, substance-free lifestyle through a comprehensive approach to treatment.
Treatment Options for Marijuana Withdrawal:
- Outpatient Detox: Offers medically supervised detoxification services to safely manage withdrawal symptoms in an outpatient setting.
- Outpatient Treatment: Designed for those who require flexible treatment schedules without intensive daily commitments.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Ideal for individuals needing more support than standard outpatient care, providing a structured therapy schedule while allowing patients to live at home.
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Serves as a bridge between inpatient care and outpatient treatment, offering comprehensive day-long therapy sessions for more intensive care without an overnight stay.
To complement our range of treatment options, Iris Wellness Group integrates a holistic approach to therapy, targeting the multifaceted aspects of marijuana addiction. Understanding that recovery is not one-size-fits-all, we tailor our therapy programs to meet the individual needs of our clients, focusing on not just overcoming addiction but also on fostering long-term wellness and resilience.
Therapies Offered for Marijuana Withdrawal:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Aims to identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors related to cannabis use.
- Individual Therapy: Offers a private setting for patients to explore personal issues and challenges related to their addiction.
- Group Therapy: Provides a supportive environment where individuals can share experiences and strategies for coping with addiction.
- Family Therapy: Engages family members in the treatment process to heal relationships and build a supportive home environment for recovery.
If you or someone you care about be grappling with marijuana withdrawal or addiction, it’s crucial to act now. Contact our marijuana rehab in Chattanooga, TN at 423-401-9630, to embark on the path towards a life free from drug dependence.