Marijuana is often portrayed as a drug with almost no dangers, but this does not mean that it is entirely harmless. People who regularly use marijuana can develop a dependence on it. When those with a marijuana abuse issue stop taking the drug, they can suffer from withdrawal. According to 2016 research published in the Neuroscience Journal, half of all daily marijuana users end up dealing with withdrawal at some point. Here is what you need to know about dealing with withdrawal from marijuana.
What Causes Marijuana Withdrawal?
When a person repeatedly uses cannabis over a long period of time, the body undergoes changes in how it interacts with marijuana and creates other mood-altering chemicals in the brain. The brain essentially lowers its reaction to dopamine to accommodate the heightened dopamine levels that occur whenever marijuana is used. Dopamine is a type of brain chemical that is useful for maintaining calmness, boosting one’s mood, and fine-tuning the movements of muscles. When a person stops using marijuana, they are left with diminished levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters essential for maintaining mood and health. This ends up leading to withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
What Are the Signs of Withdrawal From Marijuana?
Almost everyone who stops using marijuana after a period of abusing it heavily will notice some signs of withdrawal. The exact symptoms can vary in severity, and not everyone gets the same symptoms. However, most people who deal with withdrawal agree that it is fairly unpleasant. The symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana may include one or more of the following issues:
- Trouble sleeping
- Diminished appetite
- Intense dreams or nightmares
- Stomach pain
- Mood swings
- Excessive sweating
According to the DSM-5, anyone who has three or more of those symptoms and has recently quit smoking marijuana after using it for several months can be diagnosed as having withdrawal.
In addition to the more severe withdrawal period, there is also a period of time where the body has to readjust to life without regular marijuana. People report feeling generally tired, fuzzy, and vague. They may feel like emotions are dulled or exaggerated, and their responses to emotions and activities may seem erratic. In some rare cases, withdrawal from marijuana may trigger other mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Many people also find that they tend to get a bit of a rebound after withdrawal symptoms fade away. Those who were struggling with insomnia during withdrawal may sleep for abnormally long amounts of time while people who had no appetite for a few weeks may suddenly have an intense appetite.
Does Marijuana Abuse Have Any Other Side Effects?
Withdrawal symptoms are definitely one of the worst parts about chronically abusing marijuana, but they are not the only side effect. Those who frequently use the drug may suffer from memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety. This can combine to result in diminished performance at work or school, and people may struggle to gain motivation for self-improvement activities. Marijuana is particularly dangerous at a young age, since using it while the brain is still developing has been linked to more issues with depression and anxiety later in life. In people predisposed to psychiatric issues like schizophrenia, using marijuana at a young age can make symptoms show up earlier than they otherwise would.
How Do You Treat Withdrawal From Marijuana?
Marijuana withdrawal can be so unpleasant that people contemplate taking the drug again, since using marijuana will instantly end withdrawal. However, there are other methods for dealing with withdrawal from marijuana that do not affect sobriety. In general, it is essential to stay as healthy as possible. Get light exercise, eat healthy foods, and sleep as much as possible to give the body time to heal and recover.
Those dealing with pain, insomnia, or mood changes due to withdrawal may have the option of using medication to treat their symptoms. Over the counter pain medications, heartburn medications, and digestive aids can all help some of the frequent complaints of discomfort while basic sleeping pills can temporarily be used to manage insomnia. Those suffering from depression or anxiety during withdrawal may want to talk to their doctor about a prescription for antidepressants or other mood stabilizers.
Therapy is another helpful tool for dealing with withdrawal from marijuana. Standard psychotherapy techniques can be very useful for dealing with substance abuse, and motivational enhancement therapies can help clients to power through the days when withdrawal makes it seem hard to ever stop using marijuana. To get helpful coping techniques for overcoming withdrawal and cravings, cognitive behavioral therapy can be quite helpful.
What Is the Timeline of Marijuana Withdrawal?
Knowing a little about the timeline for withdrawal will help you to know what to expect when you stop using marijuana. Typically, withdrawal symptoms start sometime in the first week after a person quits using marijuana. They can begin as early as 24 hours after stopping marijuana or take several days to become apparent.
Once a person first starts noticing withdrawal symptoms, they will continue to get more and more severe. On average, the peak in severity of symptoms occurs 10 days after a person starts using marijuana. After symptoms peak, they start to gradually wear off. Usually, it takes between 10 to 20 days after the peak before symptoms fade away to an unnoticeable level. The length of withdrawal time is directly linked to how much a person used marijuana. A person who used high amounts of marijuana frequently is more likely to have a longer withdrawal period.
Finally getting through withdrawal does not mean that you are necessarily free of marijuana abuse issues. People often still need to deal with cravings or the issues that led them to abuse drugs in the first place. If you or a loved one you know is struggling to overcome a marijuana dependence, St. John’s Recovery Place can help. Feel free to contact our admissions team at any time to get the help you need.