Marijuana withdrawal may not be widespread among marijuana users, but it is a growing concern as marijuana use expands. Currently, cannabis use disorder affects about 4 million people in the US.

What is Marijuana Withdrawal?

Marijuana withdrawal (or cannabis withdrawal) is when specific negative symptoms, both physical and psychological, occur when someone who smokes marijuana regularly stops using it.

There are loads of misconceptions when it comes to using marijuana, and one of the biggest is the belief that it’s not possible to become dependent on cannabis; that it’s easy enough to stop at any time. That’s not always the case

Whether you use marijuana recreationally or for medical purposes, it is possible to become dependent on marijuana with regular use. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 10 Americans who use marijuana will become addicted.

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If you only smoke marijuana from time to time, it is unlikely that you’ll experience any marijuana withdrawal symptoms. If you use marijuana regularly and are looking to quit, here’s what to expect when you stop using marijuana and some treatment options to explore.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal differ from person to person. And some may be more severe than others.

  • Cravings for marijuana
  • Headaches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mood changes, e.g. Increased feelings of depression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stomach pain
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Strange dreams

The experience of cannabis withdrawal depends on a variety of factors, including the overall health of the individual using it, how frequently and for how long it has been used, and potentially, a person’s biological sex. One study from 2016 found that women may experience a greater number of cannabis withdrawal symptoms at a higher intensity compared to men.

How Long Do Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms typically present within one week after an individual who has been using marijuana daily (or nearly daily) for at least several months suddenly stops. The more a person smokes marijuana, the more their brain depends on delta-9 tetrahydrocannibol (THC)—the primary psychoactive ingredient. During marijuana withdrawal, the body must adjust to not having a regular supply of THC.

According to American Addiction Centers, research that has investigated the typical course of symptoms shows that there is a marijuana withdrawal timeline to be expected. Symptoms will likely begin within 1 week after stopping; symptoms peak within 10 days; and following a peak of symptoms, there is a steady decline over a period of 10—20 days.

Some individuals may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (known as PAWS), lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. PAWS symptoms vary, but can include depression, mood swings, and chronic pain. In this instance, it is vital to consult with a mental health professional.

What Can You Do to Cope with Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you plan to reduce your marijuana use, cut back slowly to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Making a few healthy lifestyle changes can also help ease the transition. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Continue or start exercising.
  2. Get enough sleep, going to bed and waking up at the same time every night to create a regular sleep cycle.
  3. Ask for help if you need it.
  4. Try meditation to help relax and focus your attention.

If you are finding marijuana withdrawal symptoms too difficult to cope with, talk with a doctor about your options.

Marijuana Withdrawal Treatment

Approved Medication

There are currently no approved medications designed specifically to treat marijuana withdrawal. But there are a variety of medications that can be used for some of the symptoms. For example, your doctor may prescribe Ambien if you are struggling with severe difficulty sleeping during marijuana withdrawal.

Rehabilitation Centers and Programs

If you are finding sticking with quitting difficult, there are a whole host of rehabilitation centers and programs that can provide motivation, support, and guidance when stopping using marijuana for good. Detoxification centers are designed to help you through the initial stages of marijuana withdrawal, while intensive outpatient programs offer multiple meetings and sessions per week with medical and mental health professionals. If you are addicted to multiple substances, you might consider an inpatient rehabilitation center, where you can receive on-hand medical support for around a 1-month period.

Mental Health Guidance and Support

Mental health counselors or therapists can provide support during marijuana withdrawal and can help you understand and navigate any underlying issues that led you to become addicted in the first place. Attending support groups in your area can also be a great way to stay on track when quitting marijuana and a means of connecting with other people in the same situation as you.

While marijuana withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be unpleasant and challenging to deal with. If you, or someone you care about, are considering or in the process of stopping using marijuana, reach out to your doctor or mental health professional for further guidance and support.

Last Updated: Oct 9, 2020