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Cannabis Withdrawal | Psychological & Physiological Symptoms

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Cannabis is a popular drug used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. However, prolonged use of cannabis can lead to dependence, and quitting the drug can result in a range of psychological and physiological symptoms. 

Cannabis withdrawal is a relatively new area of research, and many people are unaware of the challenges that can arise when trying to quit the drug. This article will explore the psychological and physiological symptoms associated with cannabis withdrawal and provide tips on how to manage them.

What is Cannabis used for?

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for various purposes for thousands of years. The plant contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most well-known and psychoactive compound. Cannabis is commonly used for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Medicinally, cannabis has been used to alleviate symptoms of various medical conditions, including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It has also been used to stimulate appetite and promote relaxation in patients with certain medical conditions.

Recreationally, cannabis is used for its psychoactive effects, including euphoria, relaxation, and altered sensory perception. It can be smoked, vaporized, or consumed in food or drink products. The use of cannabis for recreational purposes is legal in some countries and states, while in others it remains illegal or restricted to medicinal use only.

What is Cannabis withdrawal?

Cannabis withdrawal refers to the set of symptoms that can occur when a person who has been using cannabis heavily or for an extended period stops using it or reduces their use. The severity and duration of the withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the amount and frequency of cannabis use, history of cannabis overdose, the method of use, and individual factors such as age, gender, and overall health.

Is it common to have Cannabis withdrawal? 

Yes, it is common to experience cannabis withdrawal when someone who has been using cannabis heavily or regularly for an extended period of time stops using it or reduces their use. According to research, around 50% to 90% of people who use cannabis regularly may experience some form of withdrawal symptoms upon quitting or reducing use.

While not everyone who uses cannabis will experience withdrawal symptoms, heavy and long-term use is more likely to result in withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued. Additionally, factors such as the method of use, the amount and frequency of use, and individual differences can also affect the likelihood and severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Cannabis Withdrawal:

The symptoms of cannabis withdrawal can be both psychological and physiological. 

Psychological symptoms

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite

Physiological symptoms

Physiological symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal distress

In severe cases, some individuals may experience vivid dreams, a decreased sex drive, and even hallucinations.

How to manage Cannabis withdrawal? 

Fortunately, there are several strategies individuals can use to manage their cannabis withdrawal symptoms. First and foremost, it is important to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional or addiction specialist to develop a personalized plan for managing withdrawal.

One strategy that has been shown to be effective in managing cannabis withdrawal is gradual tapering. This involves slowly reducing the amount of cannabis consumed over a period of weeks or months, rather than stopping abruptly. This allows the body to adjust gradually to the reduced levels of THC (the main psychoactive component of cannabis) and can minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Another effective strategy for managing cannabis withdrawal is engaging in healthy habits and behaviors. This can include regular exercise, a healthy diet, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and social support. Exercise has been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression, while a healthy diet can provide the body with the nutrients it needs to heal and recover. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Finally, it is important for individuals to be patient and persistent in their efforts to manage cannabis withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and may last for several weeks or even months, but with the right strategies and support, individuals can successfully overcome their dependence on cannabis and live a healthier, happier life.

How long can Cannabis withdrawal symptoms last? 

Overall, the intensity and duration of cannabis withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and depend on factors such as frequency and amount of use, as well as individual differences in biology and psychological makeup.

In general, most when getting off cannabis, withdrawal symptoms will begin within 1-3 days after the last use of cannabis and may peak within the first week. These symptoms may last for several days or weeks, but they typically begin to improve within the first 2-3 weeks after quitting cannabis.

Cannabis Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline of cannabis withdrawal can be broken down into three stages: 

1-2 days

During the first 1-2 days of cannabis withdrawal, the acute stage sets in. Symptoms experienced during this stage can include mild to moderate insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and loss of appetite. These symptoms usually last for a few days and are generally not severe.

1 Week

As the first week progresses, the sub-acute stage begins. Symptoms during this phase are normally psychological and can include continued insomnia, depression, and intense cravings for cannabis. These symptoms may be more intense than those experienced during the acute stage, and can last up to four weeks.

3 Weeks

By week 3, the final stage of cannabis withdrawal may occur, lasting for several months. Symptoms during this stage can include mood swings, decreased energy, and decreased motivation. While less severe than withdrawal from other drugs, cannabis withdrawal can still be challenging for those experiencing it.

Cannabis Detoxification  

Cannabis detoxification refers to the process of abstaining from cannabis use and allowing the body to eliminate any traces of the drug. During this period, it is important to be mindful of what you ingest to ensure that your body is properly nourished and supported.

What is safe to ingest during Cannabis detox?

It is safe to ingest a healthy and balanced diet during cannabis detox, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It is also recommended to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to support the body’s natural detoxification processes.

What you should avoid during Cannabis detox?

During cannabis detox, it is best to avoid substances that may interfere with the body’s ability to detoxify, such as alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods. These substances can increase inflammation and stress on the body, which can interfere with the detoxification process.

It is also important to avoid using other drugs, including prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs, unless they are prescribed or recommended by a healthcare professional. Using other drugs during cannabis detox can interfere with the body’s ability to properly detoxify and can also increase the risk of adverse reactions or complications.

Bottom Line: Managing Cannabis Withdrawal

In conclusion, cannabis withdrawal is a real phenomenon that can occur when regular users of the drug stop or reduce their consumption. While the symptoms of withdrawal may be less severe than those experienced during withdrawal from other drugs, they can still be challenging to manage. 

However, with the right strategies and support, individuals can successfully manage and overcome cannabis withdrawal symptoms. By being aware of the potential withdrawal symptoms and seeking appropriate support and resources, individuals can successfully navigate the process of cannabis withdrawal and move towards a healthier, drug-free lifestyle.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.