Marijuana can cause withdrawal symptoms that last up to two weeks.
When someone who uses marijuana tries to quit, they may experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, and headaches. These effects usually begin around two days after quitting and can last up to two weeks.
Although marijuana withdrawal symptoms aren’t as serious as other drugs, they can be intense enough to cause a relapse. If someone is having difficulty quitting, it may be a good idea to consider professional treatment.
What is Marijuana Withdrawal?
Like many drugs, marijuana can cause withdrawal symptoms, especially if used heavily or for a prolonged period of time. However, those who use cannabis even once a week can also experience withdrawal symptoms.
Marijuana can be addictive, and some users may find it difficult to quit. People who attempt to quit marijuana often start using again due to the withdrawal symptoms. In fact, about one-third of cannabis smokers relapse in response to withdrawal, according to a 2010 study.
Chronic cannabis use leads to changes in cannabinoid receptors, the receptors that marijuana attaches to. According to a 2012 study, THC causes the desensitization and downregulation of CB1 receptors.
This means that it decreases the number of CB1 receptors in the brain, which is why you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using marijuana.
The good news is that your brain tends to adjust back to normal fairly quickly. According to a 2016 study, the process of downregulation begins to rapidly reverse after two days without cannabis, and continues to improve for up to 28 days.
Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can be psychological or physical.
According to a 2010 study of nearly 500 cannabis users, the most common withdrawal symptoms were psychological. Cravings were experienced by 75% of participants; mood changes by 50%; sleep disturbances by 46%; and decreased appetite in 49%.
The most common physical symptoms were weight gain and headaches. In the study, 23% of users experienced these symptoms while trying to quit. Users also tended to rate these physical symptoms lower on the intensity scale.
- Craving for cannabis
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Loss of concentration
- Muscle twitches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Upset stomach
How Long Do Symptoms Last?
For most people, marijuana withdrawal symptoms last up to two weeks.
In a 2010 study, participants began experiencing acute symptoms anywhere from one day to one week after quitting. The symptoms reached their peak within two days to two weeks. Another study found that the symptoms were the worst between days two and six.
Physical symptoms and aggressive behaviors had a quicker onset, quicker peak and lasted for a shorter amount of time. Psychological symptoms tended to last longer.
Trouble falling asleep was the longest-lasting symptom. This was followed by strange dreams, sleeping less and waking up earlier than usual.
The withdrawal period varied greatly among study participants, lasting from one and a half weeks to over a year. However, for most participants in multiple studies, the symptoms lasted up to two weeks.
Treatments For Marijuana Withdrawal
There are a few ways to ease marijuana withdrawal without relapsing.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medication specifically aimed at treating marijuana dependence. However, according to research, some medications may relieve specific withdrawal symptoms.
These medications include the sleep aid Ambien, the anti-anxiety medication buspirone and the anticonvulsant drug gabapentin. Other withdrawal symptoms can be treated by over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen for headaches, antihistamines for nausea or melatonin for insomnia.
Some doctors may prescribe a low dose of benzodiazepines to help manage insomnia or prevent relapse. However, some people believe that benzodiazepines are more harmful and addictive than cannabis itself.
Since psychological withdrawal symptoms are usually the most intense, psychotherapy is also a good option. If you are using cannabis to “numb” your feelings or experience mood problems when quitting, you may want to consider seeing a therapist that specializes in addiction.
Research has shown that cognitive and behavioral therapies and motivational enhancement therapies can be effective for marijuana dependence.
If you are experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms, rehab may also be a good option. Unlike other drugs such as heroin, quitting marijuana doesn’t require a traditional detox or hospitalization. But the support of medical professionals and the resources offered can make either inpatient or outpatient treatment helpful.
Before seeking professional help, you may choose to treat your withdrawal symptoms with home remedies. You can start by identifying which symptoms you’re experiencing. Here are some home remedies for common marijuana withdrawal symptoms.
- Mood changes: Try activities that reduce stress such as taking hot baths, journaling or talking to a friend. Yoga, meditation and exercise have also been shown to be helpful mood-boosters.
- Sleep difficulty: If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, you can try a melatonin supplement. Creating a relaxing nighttime routine involving reading, herbal tea or meditation may also help. You should also try to avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Craving for marijuana: Try to eliminate triggers such as boredom or hanging around certain groups of friends. If you typically use cannabis at a certain time of day, try replacing it with a more productive habit such as reading or exercise.
- Headaches or stomach pain: Drinking plenty of water can help relieve headaches. Using a heating pad and drinking ginger tea or an all-natural ginger ale can help with stomach pain and nausea.
The Bottom Line
Although marijuana’s withdrawal symptoms aren’t as intense as other drugs, they can make it difficult for a user to quit. Psychological symptoms tend to last longer than physical symptoms, but all symptoms tend to subside after two weeks.
If you’re having trouble staying sober, try home remedies that target specific symptoms. If that doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about medication, therapy or rehab.