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Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawals are mild, but can cause relapse

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Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Compared to withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting alcohol or other drugs, cannabis (marijuana) withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild, but they are uncomfortable enough to cause many who try to quit to relapse to relieve those symptoms.

In other words, marijuana withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening—their main danger is causing someone who really wants or needs to quit smoking weed to fail.

Answering these 10 questions may help you determine if your marijuana withdrawal symptoms are severe enough to tempt you to relapse if you try to quit.

Overview

Just as alcoholics who are trying to quit drinking may pick up a drink to relieve the sometimes life-threatening symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, marijuana smokers may light up a joint to relieve the discomfort they experience when they try to stop smoking.

This can be a serious problem for smokers who need to quit to keep their job or who have been court-ordered into treatment. One study found that 70.4% of users trying to quit smoking marijuana relapsed to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.  

Prevalence

A Duke University study of 469 adult marijuana smokers who tried to quit found that 95.5% of them experienced at least one withdrawal symptom while 43.1% experienced more than one symptom. The number of symptoms the participants experienced was significantly linked to how often and how much the subjects smoked prior to trying to quit.  

Those who were daily smokers experienced the most symptoms, but even those who reported using cannabis less than weekly experienced some withdrawal symptoms of moderate intensity.

Symptoms

Following is a look at some of the most common symptoms associated with marijuana withdrawal.

Cravings

One of the symptoms most reported by people trying to quit smoking marijuana is a craving for marijuana or an intense desire for more. In one study, 75.7% of participants trying to quit reported an intense craving for marijuana.  

Although many regular smokers of marijuana do not believe they are addicted to the drug, one hallmark of addiction is craving when you try to stop, whether it’s heroin, alcohol, gambling or sex addiction. Craving is the most common symptom reported by former marijuana users in the early days of abstinence.

Mood Swings

The second most common symptom reported by those who have tried to quit smoking marijuana is mood swings. Former users report emotional symptoms of depression, anxiety and irritability. Irritability and anger are common symptoms for anyone who is giving up a drug of choice, especially if they are forced by circumstances to quit.

More than half of those who try to quit marijuana report mood swings.   Typically, these symptoms begin to diminish after two to three weeks but can linger in some up to three months.

Sleep Disruption

Insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of drug withdrawal, whether the drug is marijuana, alcohol or prescription painkillers. Just as someone who is alcohol-dependent or someone who has been addicted to opiates experiences difficulty trying to sleep after they quit, marijuana smokers also find falling to sleep difficult.  

Insomnia symptoms after you stop smoking cannabis can last a few days or a couple of weeks. Some smokers find that they can experience occasional sleeplessness for a few months after quitting.

But insomnia is not the only sleep disruption problem associated with marijuana withdrawal. Some people who have stopped smoking pot report having nightmares and very vivid dreams that also disrupt their sleep.

These frequent, vivid dreams typically begin about a week after quitting and can last for about a month before tapering off. An estimated 46.9% of former smokers report sleep disruption problems.  

Others who have quit smoking report having “using dreams” in which they dream they smoke marijuana. Some former smokers have reported having these types of dreams years after they stopped using marijuana.

Headaches

One of the most common physical symptoms reported by those who stop smoking is a headache.   Not everyone who stops smoking marijuana experiences headaches, but for those who do, the headaches can be very intense, especially during the first few days after quitting.

Headaches associated with cannabis withdrawal can last for a few weeks up to a couple of months. Headaches, like most other symptoms of withdrawing from marijuana use, will usually begin one to three days after quitting and will peak two to six days after stopping. Symptoms usually fade after two weeks, but some former smokers report continued symptoms for several weeks or even months later.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms reported by researchers include:

  • Appetite change
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Digestion problems
  • Cramps or nausea after eating

Others have reported night sweats, loss of the sense of humor, decreased sex drive, or increased sex drive. Some former users have reported shaking and dizziness.  

Physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal tend to be less intense, peak sooner and fade more quickly than the psychological symptoms associated with quitting. The frequency and amount of marijuana the smoker used prior to stopping affects the severity and length of the withdrawals.

Resources

If you have decided to quit smoking weed, or you have been forced by circumstances to quit, chances are you will experience some kind of withdrawal symptoms. Depending on how much and how often you have been smoking, these symptoms could become intense enough to drive you to relapse to find relief.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

You don’t have to do it on your own. Seek help from your healthcare provider to deal with the physical symptoms of withdrawal or seek help from a support group like Marijuana Anonymous to handle the psychological symptoms.

Symptoms linked to cannabis (marijuana) withdrawal may be milder than those from alcohol and other drugs, but they are intense enough to cause some concern. Here are some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.

Can You Use Cannabis to Restore Your Natural Sleep Cycle?

Insomnia isn’t that uncommon

Sleep is essential for maintaining our mental and physical health, yet it eludes many adults.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 50 to 70 million U.S. adults experience symptoms of a sleep disorder. About 30 to 40 percent of the population will experience insomnia at some point in their lives, and about 10 to 15 percent of adults will deal with chronic insomnia.

So if getting shut-eye is becoming harder and harder, you’re not alone.

With so many people experiencing sleeping disorders, there’s been a rise of interest in one controversial cure: cannabis. Many in the medical marijuana community refer to cannabis as an effective treatment, with little to no side effects, for a range of sleeping disorders.

“Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle,” says Dr. Matt Roman, a medical marijuana physician.

Whether you have a sleep disorder or you’re having difficulty sleeping after a stressful day, cannabis might be a choice for you. Marijuana’s analgesic properties might provide some relief for those with chronic pain, while the anti-anxiety properties can soothe a stressed out mind and body.

There are different strains of marijuana. Some are more energizing, and some are calming and sedating depending on the balance of the different cannabinoids.

First, here’s a quick primer on the science behind marijuana. This herb works because it contains different cannabinoids, two of which you’ll see most often:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has a number of health benefits, and is nonpsychoactive, meaning it doesn’t cause you to feel “high.”
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid, is primarily responsible for that “high” feeling.

Something else THC is responsible for? Inducing sleep . So you’ll want a strain that contains more THC than CBD.

According to a 2008 study , ingesting marijuana strains with higher levels of THC typically reduces the amount of REM sleep you get. Reducing REM sleep means reducing dreams — and for those who experience PTSD, it could mean reducing nightmares.

So the theory is that if you spend less time dreaming, you’ll spend more time in a “deep sleep” state. The deep sleep state is thought to be the most restorative, restful part of the sleep cycle.

Still, REM is important for healthy cognitive and immune functioning, and marijuana with higher THC levels could impair your sleep quality if taken long term.

But this isn’t true across the board. Some studies have found that sleep can actually be impaired by regular use of marijuana. It’s clear that marijuana changes sleep cycles.

Smoking of any kind is a known health risk and should be approached with caution. Also, medicinal use of marijuana is still illegal in many areas.

Talk to your doctor about your sleep cycles. There may be long-term health consequences with interrupted REM, because much of the immune function repair takes place in deep sleep.

Please use marijuana responsibly. As with all forms of smoking, your risk of COPD can increase. Smoking marijuana is hazardous to the lungs, especially for those with asthma or other respiratory conditions. The use of marijuana while pregnant or breastfeeding isn’t recommended.

Long-term marijuana use has been shown to have changes on the amount of gray matter in the brain. For teenagers, marijuana seems to have even more profound long-term and lasting effects on the brain and isn’t recommended.

Marijuana use isn’t recommended for anyone under 25 years of age because of the long-term effects on learning and recall.

More research on marijuana for medicinal purposes as well as the risk of COPD is still needed.

Is cannabis an answer to entering the land of sleep? From strains to timing, here’s what you need to know about cannabis as a nightcap.