If you’ve been smoking marijuana regularly for some time and recently stopped, ask yourself: “Did I experience any of the following within 1-4 days of quitting?”
Depressed mood. Restlessness. Panic attacks. Difficulty falling asleep. High anxiety levels. Irritability. Persistent headache. Queasy stomach/no appetite.
A “yes” to any (or a number) of these may indicate you were experiencing ‘cannabis withdrawal syndrome,’ which was added to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used to diagnose mental health issues.
According to Yu-Fung Lin, an associate professor at the University of California, these are typical symptoms that show up in chronic or heavy marijuana users who quit—those who’d been imbibing every day. But he added, “Cannabis withdrawal syndrome can be triggered by not only quitting weed altogether but also significantly decreasing your use of it.”
Elaborating upon this, Dr. Timothy Fong, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and a member of the steering committee of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, says, “The minimum reduction needed to cause withdrawal varies from person to person, reflecting our individual biological differences.”
He adds, “When you’re in a state of withdrawal, your body is working hard to get to normal function. It’s such a stress on the body, which explains why it feels like death.”
According to both Lin and Fong, symptoms usually peak one to four days after the last use and gradually dissipate in a few weeks’ time.
Not everyone who quits smoking pot, or significantly decreases their use of it, experiences withdrawal. According to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, about 12% of regular marijuana users reported symptoms.
It’s important to point out research indicates the frequency of cannabis consumption seems to be more important than potency. Dr. Lin says, “Consuming weed every day, even at low doses of THC, can result in the biochemical changes that might, in turn, lead to withdrawal.” And Dr. Fong Health notes, “Issues like a lack of sleep, dehydration, and poor nutrition can render you even more vulnerable to the stress of restoring normal body function.”
So, the main question is: What do you do if you have cannabis withdrawal symptoms? Start by talking with your doctor about connecting you with an addiction professional or treatment center. That way, you can get the support, medications, and other interventions necessary to best address your symptoms.
At the very least, while you’re abstaining one day at a time, try some anxiety-reducing strategies to relieve your symptoms: practice meditating (learn from a meditation teacher or find and use a meditation app) to calm your racing mind; take a cold shower to ground you in the present; attend an NA meeting and see if their 12 Steps approach can work for you.
Once you’ve quit using marijuana on a regular basis, according to Dr. Fong, your body begins to return back to what it was like before you started it. But if you find yourself struggling with cannabis addiction, making your way through the withdrawal symptoms is the first step to quitting for good.
While the typical cannabis withdrawal symptoms may require 3 to 4 weeks to subside and you find yourself returning to your “normal” self again, the benefits can far outweigh the efforts involved. Those who do quit report having greater energy, eating and sleeping more consistently, and improved mental clarity and emotional stability.
Fortunately, help is available for those who are looking to free themselves from the effects (and any undesirable consequences) of daily cannabis use. However, while getting on the internet or picking up the phone is a simple act, admitting you need help and asking for it can be anything but easy. Have courage, for many have been in your shoes, have made that first contact with their doctor, an addiction professional or a treatment center, and are now well on their way to a new life in recovery.
BoardPrep Recovery Center provides expert advice and treatment for cannabis use disorders and addiction. BoardPrep’s services include treatment programs for adults and an early intervention program for high school-age teens who may be showing early signs of substance use. Contact a professional at BoardPrep today by calling 866.796.4720 to find out more.