Marijuana is a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant. It can make you feel relaxed and euphoric (extremely happy). Since states have started legalizing the drug, many people assume it’s harmless.
However, regular use of marijuana can lead to marijuana dependence. When you’re physically dependent, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you try quitting marijuana.
Marijuana Withdrawal Is Real
Marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. If you use marijuana regularly or for a long time, your body might start relying on THC to function normally.
When you stop using the drug, your body must adjust to the lack of THC. During this adjustment period, you may experience symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
Marijuana withdrawal can cause both physical and psychological symptoms.
Physical symptoms may include:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting
Psychological symptoms may include:
- insomnia (trouble sleeping) and other sleep disturbances
- mood swings
- cravings for marijuana
Unlike withdrawal from drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines, marijuana withdrawal usually isn’t life-threatening. However, it can be highly uncomfortable. In fact, many people relapse (start using marijuana again) to stop the discomfort.
Some people can manage marijuana withdrawal symptoms at home, especially if they surround themselves with supportive friends and family.
However, if your symptoms are severe or last more than a couple weeks, or if you lack a good support system at home, you should seek medical advice.
In most cases, your doctor will recommend gradually reducing your marijuana use instead of quitting the drug cold turkey.
This strategy, which is called “tapering,” lets your body slowly adjust to life without marijuana. It can prevent withdrawal symptoms, or at least make them easier to manage.
Your doctor may also suggest that you attend a drug abuse detox center. There, a team of medical professionals will monitor your symptoms as you slowly cleanse your body of marijuana.
They may also prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms, which may include:
- a sleep aid called zolpidem (brand name Ambien)
- an anti-anxiety medication called buspirone (BuSpar)
- an anti-epileptic drug called gabapentin (Neurontin or Horizant), which can reduce anxiety and insomnia
In addition, while they’re not yet widely used, a class of drugs called fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitors (FAAH) inhibitors may ease withdrawal symptoms by preserving the body’s natural cannabinoids (compounds found in cannabis).
Along with potentially providing medication, the best marijuana detox centers also encourage people to:
- exercise regularly
- eat well
- stay hydrated
- engage in wellness activities like meditation, yoga, and journaling
Because these activities improve your mental and physical health, they can help you complete detox more quickly.
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
Marijuana dependence is often a sign of marijuana addiction, also known as marijuana use disorder. Common symptoms of this disease include:
- intense cravings for marijuana
- tolerance (needing higher and higher doses of marijuana to feel the desired effects)
- withdrawing from family and friends to spend more time getting and using marijuana
- neglecting work or school to spend more time getting and using marijuana
- feeling unable to go about your day without marijuana
- feeling unable to stop using marijuana despite wanting to
If you experience these symptoms, you may need to attend a marijuana addiction treatment program after you complete detox.
These inpatient and outpatient programs offer recovery-focused services like:
- cognitive-behavioral therapy, where you can work with a mental health professional to identify triggers for your drug use and change unhealthy behaviors
- support groups, where you can share coping strategies with other people who are recovering from substance use disorders
- contingency management, where you can receive tangible rewards (such as gift certificates) for not using marijuana
If you or a loved one struggles with marijuana use, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our substance abuse and addiction treatment programs.