Going through cannabis withdrawal

Can You Experience Withdrawal After Quitting Cannabis?

Cannabis is often hailed for its therapeutic benefits and recreational enjoyment. However, it also carries numerous risks, and one aspect rarely discussed is withdrawal. As cannabis becomes increasingly integrated into legal markets and societal acceptance, understanding the nuances of its effects on the human body, including potential withdrawal symptoms, becomes paramount. 

Let’s shed light on the reality of cannabis withdrawal, its symptoms, and how individuals can navigate through this phase if they decide to quit. Remember, just because cannabis is legal in California (and many other states) does not mean it’s safe. Using the drug at any age can lead to negative health consequences, such as permanent IQ loss, lower career achievement, relationship problems, reduced life satisfaction, mental disorders, and breathing and heart problems. 

The Science Behind Cannabis Withdrawal

The idea of withdrawal might traditionally be associated with substances like alcohol or opioids, but research shows that quitting cannabis after prolonged and heavy use can indeed lead to withdrawal symptoms. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), recognizes cannabis withdrawal syndrome, lending clinical credibility to the experiences of those who report these symptoms upon cessation.

Symptoms of Cannabis Withdrawal

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can vary widely among individuals, influenced by factors such as frequency of use, potency of the cannabis consumed, and individual physiological differences. Common symptoms reported include:

  • Mood fluctuations. Users may experience irritability, anxiety and depression.
  • Sleep disturbances. It’s common for people going through cannabis withdrawal to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also experience vivid, unsettling dreams.
  • Physical discomfort. For those physically dependent, withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, nausea, sweating and more.
  • Cravings. Quitting marijuana can lead to cravings, or a desire to use the drug to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms tend to emerge within the first week after cessation and can last up to two weeks, although intensity and duration can vary. Typically, the more cannabis you use, the more severe your withdrawal symptoms will be. 

Why Does Withdrawal Occur?

The underlying mechanism of cannabis withdrawal lies in how the active ingredients of cannabis, particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), interact with the brain’s endocannabinoid system. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, mimicking the effects of naturally occurring endocannabinoids. These receptors play a key role in regulating mood, sleep, appetite and pain sensations. Regular cannabis use can lead to alterations in this system, and sudden cessation can disrupt the body’s new norm, leading to withdrawal symptoms as the body readjusts.

Managing Cannabis Withdrawal

For those who decide to quit and face withdrawal symptoms, several strategies can help manage this period and reduce the risk for mental health problems:

  • Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet. This can help alleviate physical symptoms.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can boost mood and reduce anxiety.
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. This helps regulate the body’s internal clock and can ease sleep disturbances.
  • Seek support. Whether from friends, family or support groups, having a support system can provide encouragement and accountability.
  • Consider professional help. For severe symptoms, consulting a healthcare professional or addiction treatment specialist can offer additional strategies and, if necessary, medication to ease the withdrawal process.

The Path Forward

While the phenomenon of cannabis withdrawal might not affect every user, it’s an important consideration for those who use cannabis heavily and contemplating cessation. Recognizing and understanding the potential for withdrawal can prepare individuals for what to expect and arm them with strategies to manage symptoms effectively. 

As cannabis continues to occupy a complex space within our society, it’s important to foster an open dialogue. This includes discussing the potential challenges of using cannabis, such as withdrawal and cannabis-induced psychosis. To discuss your options for marijuana treatment, contact Awakenings Treatment Center in Agoura Hills, CA today.