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Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

If a person smokes marijuana extremely often for a long period of time, they may become addicted to the drug. According to the NLM, “It is more likely to happen if they use marijuana every day, or started using it when they were teenagers.” One of the signs of marijuana addiction is dependence which can cause the person to experience withdrawal symptoms if they are not able to use the drug.

These symptoms can become very irritating and make it hard for a person to interact with others, work, go to school, and otherwise function in society. In addition, those who attempt to quit marijuana after using it for a long time will often have trouble fighting their cravings and be tempted to return to marijuana in order to curb the other withdrawal symptoms. Though not as physically intense as the syndromes caused by heroin and not life-threatening like those of alcohol, marijuana users can struggle with severe withdrawal symptoms that make it extremely difficult to stop abusing the drug.

What are the Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal?

According to a study on the diagnosis of the marijuana withdrawal syndrome, “A less well-known consequence of daily, repeated marijuana use is a withdrawal syndrome, characterized by a time-dependent constellation of symptoms” (NCBI). These symptoms may include:

  • Decreased appetite
    • Often when individuals smoke marijuana, they become hungry, a condition referred to by users as the munchies. When a person stops abusing marijuana, they may experience the opposite effect. This can sometimes lead to weight loss which may be problematic when coupled with other symptoms also caused by marijuana withdrawal.
  • Abdominal pain
    • This issue is less common but can still be experienced by consistent users who suddenly stop smoking. While the pain is not usually as intense as that which is caused by opioid drug withdrawal, it can still make a person very physically uncomfortable.
  • Shaking
    • Someone who stops abusing marijuana suddenly may experience shaking or tremors. Again, these will not be as severe as those caused by other withdrawal syndromes (like alcohol), but they are often very irritating for the individual by making physical activity very difficult. This symptom, above all others, often becomes the most noticeable to other individuals.
Marijuana withdrawal

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms include anxiety and restlessness.

  • Anxiety
    • This is a side effect commonly caused by the loss of marijuana’s relaxing effects. The person may also feel anxious about the fact that they are not smoking when they may feel that they need to for a number of different reasons. Most individuals who are dependent on the drug will make any excuse to abuse it and not being able to will make them feel anxious.
  • Restlessness/Insomnia
    • Many withdrawing users have trouble sleeping, a result which is made worse by both anxiety and tremors. The lack of sleep can make all other symptoms much more frustrating to deal with for the individual.
  • Depression
    • Depression is often a part of many other withdrawal syndromes and can become very intense after chronic marijuana abuse. The individual may start to feel apathetic about their life and not want to go anywhere. This effect especially may take a prolonged amount of time to wear off.
  • Irritability
    • As a result of not being able to smoke and of experiencing the other symptoms listed above, those withdrawing from the drug can become extremely irritable and difficult to be around.
  • Cravings
    • Like other withdrawal syndromes, marijuana can produce cravings when an individual is unable to smoke. The intensity of these cravings may vary from person to person, but in some cases, they have been known to be severe.
  • Fever
    • Sometimes, users can become feverish and even experience chills which is similar to the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Marijuana withdrawal as a result can often feel like a bad case of the flu.
  • Sweating
    • Sweating is extremely common, especially during the times where the user feels most feverish.
  • Headache
    • Consistent headaches are another withdrawal symptom associated with marijuana.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a large amount of research when it comes to marijuana withdrawal as compared to other withdrawal syndromes. However, many individuals who have attempted to quit the drug after abusing it for many years have attested to similar issues which allow for a fairly accurate depiction of the marijuana withdrawal syndrome .

How Long Do Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

According to another study on marijuana dependence, “Most symptoms begin during the first week of abstinence and resolve after a few weeks” (NCBI). In certain cases, the symptoms may last a little longer, depending on the amount the person abused and the frequency of the abuse, among other factors. The time in which these symptoms exist, however, can seem very prolonged to withdrawing individuals. It can be extremely difficult for them to abstain from the drug as a result of these symptoms, which is why many people seek treatment during this time.

What are the Treatments for Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?

The NIDA states, “Currently, no medications are indicated for the treatment of marijuana use disorder, but research is active in this area.” The second study on marijuana dependence states that this option needs to be made available as soon as possible, as many individuals struggle with recovery because of their intense withdrawal symptoms.

While different medications are still currently being tested for their effects on these symptoms, therapy has been used to some degree of success. However, marijuana dependency and addiction treatment has not been as successful as other substance use disorder treatments. On average, those who seek treatment have “attempted to quit more than six times” (NIDA). “More treatment options are needed,” according to the first study, in order to combat the low rate of success for marijuana use disorder treatment.

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are often ignored by general society, especially when compared to the syndromes caused by other drugs of abuse, but they can become extremely intense when an individual who has been abusing marijuana for years attempts to stop suddenly. Without the proper treatments, these symptoms can cause a person to feel extremely isolated, unhappy, and ill-tempered. However, the symptoms can be combatted with at-home remedies as well, such as soaking in a hot bath, drinking plenty of water and other liquids, taking over-the-counter medication for pain, and using exercise to fight both irritability and insomnia.

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