Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox
The ongoing debate about the pros and cons of marijuana use hasn’t ended with the push for nation-wide legalization. If anything, it has heated up. Although there is no known lethal dose and no deaths have been directly linked to marijuana abuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 10 people who abuse cannabis will become addicted. If use begins before the age of 18, that number jumps to 1 in 6.
Is it Difficult to Stop Using Marijuana?
Any habit that builds over time is going to be difficult to break. Given the social aspects of marijuana use, quitting can also lead to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. In that aspect, it’s similar to giving up alcohol, which is another addictive substance with a strong social component.
That’s why it’s essential to have a firm support network while going through recovery treatment. Peer pressure is a huge component for those who begin smoking marijuana, especially when use begins as a teenager. There’s also a greater chance of developing dependence with early onset of use because the portion of the brain that regulates decision-making and impulsive behavior isn’t fully formed yet. This can lead to delayed development of these skills. Residential programs are helpful because they take the substance user out of their immediate environment long enough to develop new coping skills and build the confidence to face life sober.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
When marijuana use is stopped, it leads to some of the same withdrawal symptoms that are experienced with other drugs; it just hits to a lesser degree, and the symptoms are more psychological in nature. Each person’s experience with quitting marijuana abuse is different. Some can put it down and walk away, while others have a difficult time coping with symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.
Some Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings and irritability
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty focusing
- Cold sweats, or night sweats that are accompanied by nightmares
- Cravings for marijuana
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of depression
In severe cases, which are rare, smoking pot with high levels of THC can trigger serious health and mental health problems like chronic respiratory illness, mood disorders, and memory impairment.
Just as there’s no way of knowing how exposure or use of marijuana will affect an individual, there’s no way of knowing how they will handle marijuana withdrawal. That’s why marijuana detox may be necessary in order to deal with physical discomfort and psychological effects like anxiety and depression, which can become severe.
There is no standard medication used for marijuana withdrawal, but a few have proven helpful. One is Baclofen, which is an antagonist that blocks the GABA receptors in the brain and inhibits the release of chemicals like dopamine, glutamate, and noradrenaline from several neurotransmitters. This controls the reward response associated with substance abuse. Another helpful drug is Vistaril (hydroxyzine). It’s an antihistamine, but it has proved useful for managing anxiety.
Timeline for Marijuana Withdrawal
Withdrawal may or may not be intense, but the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may be felt longer than with other drugs because THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, stores in the fat cells. Some of the substance may be released weeks later as a result. That is one of the reasons that people can still test positive for marijuana after urinalysis for up to 30 days from last use.
People who seek treatment for marijuana addiction are generally individuals who are daily users with a long history of smoking marijuana. Those who were occasional users may be able to quit with no adverse reactions. In some cases, other substance use issues make medically assisted marijuana detox necessary. There be health or mental health problems that need addressing as well.
The timeline for marijuana withdrawal varies from case to case, but the first 24 – 72 hours are the most difficult. With this drug, long-term inpatient treatment may not be necessary, but individual therapy and group support after the initial withdrawal period will help break the habit and reestablish healthier patterns of behavior. Those who lack stability in their lives may benefit from a longer stay in rehab. The typical duration in a drug treatment program is from 30 – 90 days, with after care offered in most cases. Ongoing attendance in a 12-step or other peer support network is also beneficial for long-term recovery and relapse prevention.
Are you ready to get help?
If you’re ready to take the first step toward finding recovery, contact Stepping Stone Center for Recovery today. Our addiction specialist can answer any questions regarding our program and the treatment options that are available to you.
Marijuana and its Effects on the Brain
We’ve already mentioned the possibility of delayed development in teens who use marijuana, but what about other effects on the brain? Whenever the body becomes used to an activity or substance, it becomes a habit and dependence is possible. One of the first symptoms of marijuana dependence is a tolerance for the drug, which occurs rapidly with regular use. Tolerance means that it takes increasingly larger amounts to obtain the same effects.
Like most drugs, marijuana targets the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. Every time someone with a substance use disorder smokes, snorts, or injects a drug, the brain’s circuitry is flooded with dopamine. This is the neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates emotion, cognition, and motivation.
Repeated or heavy use diminishes the brain’s natural ability to produce dopamine on its own, leading to dependence on artificial stimulation from drugs just to function normally. Over-stimulation also reinforces the addictive behavior and encourages further misuse. When the supply is stopped, marijuana withdrawal occurs.