Man smoking marijuana
Contrary to popular belief, long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction, a condition characterized by compulsive marijuana use despite significant interference with life functioning. Once you decide to quit using marijuana or “weed,” you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. It can be a challenging time, but marijuana detox and substance abuse treatment programs can help you get through the toughest part and reach your long-term recovery goals.
Read on to learn about:
- Marijuana withdrawal syndrome.
- Length of withdrawal symptoms.
- Protracted withdrawal symptoms.
- Treatment for marijuana withdrawal.
- Aftercare planning.
- Get help today.
Marijuana Withdrawal Syndrome
Marijuana withdrawal syndrome may occur after you abruptly stop using marijuana following a period of habitual use. Chronic marijuana use causes changes in the brain that result in a tolerance to the drug. Over time, your body adapts to the presence of marijuana in your system and you need increasing amounts to achieve the same high. Additionally, long-term marijuana use can cause physical dependence, which means that the body relies on the drug to function normally and the user will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms with cessation of use.
Everyone’s body composition and specific amount of drug use are different. Your unique experience of marijuana withdrawal syndrome will depend on how long and how frequently you used marijuana. If you used other substances simultaneously, that will also affect your withdrawal process. Other factors such as activity levels, existing medical conditions, and temperament also play a role in how marijuana withdrawal will affect you.
Marijuana or cannabis withdrawal syndrome is typically characterized by the following symptoms 1:
- Irritability, anger, or aggression.
- Nervousness or anxiety.
- Sleep difficulties, such as insomnia or disturbing dreams.
- Decreased appetite or weight loss.
- Depressed mood.
- Physical discomfort in the form of abdominal pain, shakiness, tremors, sweating, fever, chills, or headache.
If you need help quitting marijuana, call our helpline at 11111 for information and treatment options.
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
Typically, marijuana withdrawal symptoms present within approximately one week of stopping marijuana use 1. Acute withdrawal symptoms, on average, last for around five days, though everyone experiences withdrawal differently 2. Some symptoms may persist for well beyond the acute withdrawal phase. These persisting withdrawal symptoms, known as protracted withdrawal, can last for several weeks after acute symptoms have been resolved 2.
Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms
Protracted or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a condition that occurs after you have stopped using marijuana or other illicit substances. A person suffering from PAWS may experience persistent withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, and insomnia 3. These symptoms may last for weeks or even months after the last date of marijuana use.
Some common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include 2,3:
- Sleep difficulties.
- Impaired concentration, learning, and problem-solving.
- Memory problems.
- Anxiety or feelings of panic.
- Difficulty maintaining relationships.
- Sensitivity to stress.
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
These symptoms can interfere with daily life and your mood, which is why many former users may return to drug use. Unfortunately, this often results in a cyclical pattern of using and abstaining from the drug of choice. There is help available and seeking substance abuse treatment may be just what you need to manage these unpleasant symptoms and break the cycle.
Treatment for Marijuana Withdrawal
Marijuana withdrawal treatment therapy
It may be difficult to quit using marijuana on your own due to withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and social temptations. Luckily there are many different treatment options available to help you manage withdrawal, quit using marijuana, and build coping skills to promote long-term sobriety.
Short-term drug detox programs can provide you with around-the-clock medical care to help manage acute withdrawal symptoms. It is important to note, however, that short-term detoxification programs are not a substitute for comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs. Most patients transition from drug detox into an inpatient or outpatient program to work towards recovery. Inpatient programs require that you live at the treatment facility while recovering from a marijuana addiction, while outpatient programs allow you to live at home and continue working or going to school while attending a treatment facility when it works with your schedule.
Treatment usually involves a combination of methods to give you the best chance of maintaining your sobriety. Many treatment programs offer a mixture of individual therapy, group counseling, relapse prevention skills classes, and ongoing medical care to promote abstinence. Treatment options for marijuana abuse recovery include 5:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Used in inpatient and outpatient settings, CBT is a form of psychotherapy that addresses unhealthy ways of thinking that lead to harmful behaviors. CBT helps patients develop self-control and healthy coping skills.
- Contingency management: This intervention involves monitoring marijuana use, urges, and cravings in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Patients are rewarded whenever they resist the negative behavior (drug use) and opt for healthier behaviors.
- Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): Using internal motivators, MET helps patients achieve rapid results by putting their own resources and goals to use to counteract the urge to use marijuana.
For more information about your treatment options and substance abuse treatment facilities near you, call our helpline at 11111.
Medications Used in Detox
At this time, there are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of marijuana withdrawal syndrome 5. However, there is ongoing research surrounding the effectiveness of various medications, particularly for sleep problems during withdrawal. Ambien, a sleep aid, BuSpar, an anti-anxiety medication, and Neurontin, an anti-epileptic medication, have all been shown to improve sleep in those experiencing marijuana withdrawal 5.
Treatment programs help patients obtain sobriety, but it’s important to continue putting in the work once you complete a program. Relapse is common within recovery; according to one study, 49% of recovering marijuana addicts relapsed the first day that marijuana was available to them 6. Ongoing support can help to both minimize that risk and get you back on track in the event of a relapse. Aftercare involves any form of treatment following the completion of a recovery program. Creating and following an aftercare plan helps to build upon all the skills you learned in rehab and strengthens your chances of success after treatment.
Aftercare options include:
- 12-step programs: Fellowship programs, such as Marijuana Anonymous, guide you through a series of steps aimed at helping you win the battle against addiction. 12-step programs emphasize making amends with yourself and loved ones.
- Non-12-step programs: Alternative programs, such as SMART Recovery, use an evidence-based approach to recovery and emphasize personal empowerment.
- Individual therapy: One-on-one sessions with a trained counselor can help you identify ongoing stressors and find coping skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Group counseling: Facilitated by a mental health professional, group counseling sessions provide you with an opportunity to learn from other people in recovery and utilize sober social skills.
Get Help Today
Abstaining from marijuana may seem like a daunting challenge now, but with treatment and support, you can reach sobriety and live a healthy, happy, drug-free life. Call our helpline today at 11111 for marijuana addiction treatment information.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Protracted withdrawal.Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory, 9(1), 1-8.
- University of California Los Angeles. (2016). Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008). What is substance abuse treatment? A booklet for families.
- National Institutes of Health. (2016). Marijuana.
- Haney, M., Bedi, G., Cooper, Z. D., Glass, A., Vosburg, S. K., Comer, S. D. & Foltin, R. W. (2013). Predictors of marijuana relapse in the human laboratory: Robust impact of tobacco cigarette smoking status. Biological Psychiatry, 73(1), 242-248.