What is Marijuana Withdrawal Like?: Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Photo of Samantha Bothwell, MA Samantha Bothwell, MA Info icon
Calendar icon Last Updated: 06/10/2022

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Marijuana is a widely used recreational drug. Many people believe that marijuana use is harmless and doesn’t lead to dependence or addiction. However, research shows that this drug is both addictive and can cause dependence, which means you’ll experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop or quit use. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and distressing.

How Does Withdrawal from Marijuana Trigger Symptoms?

Chronic marijuana use can lead to physiological dependence, which means your body requires the presence of cannabis in order to function optimally. This means that if you suddenly stop using or significantly reduce your use, you will experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms, which are a physiological reaction to the absence of the drug. Marijuana dependence is most likely to happen if you use it regularly, particularly if you have used it daily or almost daily for a few months.2,3

Although adults and adolescents both can experience symptoms, marijuana withdrawal symptoms are seen more often in adults.3 This is likely due to the fact that adults are more likely to use marijuana daily.3

What Are the Physical Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?

There are different types of marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Physical symptoms include:2,3,4

  • Sleep difficulty, such as trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Changes in appetite, such as increased or decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Headache

Some research shows that women are more likely to experience more severe physical withdrawal symptoms compared to men.1

What Are the Mental and Emotional Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal from marijuana can also lead to mental and emotional symptoms, such as:2,4

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Vivid nightmares

Research shows that anxiety is a significantly distressing symptom for people with marijuana withdrawal.4 Symptoms of withdrawal-induced anxiety include:5

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling on-edge or wound up
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having a hard time controlling worry

Are Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Dangerous?

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are known to be mild compared to other substances.2 There isn’t any research that shows that marijuana withdrawal is deadly or dangerous. Withdrawal from marijuana is comparable to the symptoms you may experience if you stop using tobacco after using it for a while.4

However, these symptoms can be uncomfortable enough that it can increase the likelihood that you may relapse.4 Although marijuana withdrawal symptoms alone may not be dangerous, the risk of returning to use can lead to a compulsive pattern of use, making it difficult to quit using marijuana.

Although marijuana withdrawal symptoms alone may not be dangerous, the risk of returning to use can lead to a compulsive pattern of marijuana use known as addiction. A marijuana addiction can be difficult to overcome without professional treatment.

When Do Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Start?

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms usually start within two days after stopping use and may continue for up to one month.4 Research shows that these symptoms tend to peak around ten days.4

How is Marijuana Withdrawal Treated?

As with other substances, marijuana withdrawal can be treated in a professional detox facility. Professional detox involves a set of interventions aimed at managing symptoms and obtaining a medically-stable, substance-free state. Marijuana detox can occur in several settings with varying levels of intensiveness, including:

  • Medical detox: In a hospital setting or free-standing detox center, you’ll receive 24/7 medical care, oversight, and supervision from a team of doctors and nurses. This is the most intensive option and isn’t typically necessary for marijuana withdrawal, although it may be helpful if you have a co-occurring mental health or medical condition.
  • Nonmedical residential detox: You reside at the detox facility while withdrawing from marijuana, receiving peer and social support but no medical oversight. This might be a good option for you if you are tempted to return to marijuana use while detoxing.
  • Intensive medical outpatient detox: You live at home and attend detox treatment sessions at a facility during the day for several hours per day, receiving medical care from licensed nurses.
  • Standard outpatient detox: You attend therapy and medical visits at a doctor’s office or a home health care agency. This is the least intensive option and may require you to have a strong motivation to quit due to temptations and triggers in your everyday environment.

Depending on the marijuana detox program you choose, you may receive a variety of interventions to aid in the marijuana withdrawal process, such as:1

  • Symptomatic medications, such as fever-reducers
  • Detox counseling
  • Treatment of any medical conditions or symptoms that arise
  • Psychoeduction about marijuana
  • Motivational interviewing to enhance motivation to enter treatment after detox

Co-Occurring Marijuana Withdrawal and Physical or Mental Conditions

If you have co-occurring mental health or physical conditions, you are more likely to benefit from inpatient detox. A co-occurring condition means that you have another condition in addition to marijuana withdrawal or cannabis use disorder. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) indicates that withdrawal symptoms tend to be more severe for people with co-occurring mental health conditions.3 Getting treatment for marijuana withdrawal and any co-occurring conditions can be beneficial and may reduce the risk of relapse.

Once you complete marijuana detox, it’s essential that you transition into a dual diagnosis treatment program that specializes in treating the unique challenges of a marijuana addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

Marijuana Withdrawal and Your Environment

Environmental factors play a role in the marijuana withdrawal and recovery process. If you do not have enough social support or need additional support to improve your overall functioning, you may also need inpatient detox.1 This is because inpatient detox is a highly structured and intensive environment in which you are separated from your everyday using environment, including those you regularly use marijuana with and paraphernalia like bongs or pipes.

A strong support system can be extremely beneficial, both in the early stages of recovery like detox and in later stages of recovery; however, if you need a new social network, you may want to try inpatient detox or a nonmedical residential detox program where you can meet sober friends and community.

Can You Detox from Marijuana at Home?

Some people are able to detox from marijuana at home while others may need professional support from a treatment team to ease their marijuana withdrawal symptoms.

At home, if you are experiencing emotional symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety, you may need to turn to your support system. Remember that these symptoms won’t last forever, but they are just really uncomfortable right now. Having support during this process can help you get through it and lessen your chances of returning to marijuana use.

If you experience physical symptoms, you can ask your doctor for over-the-counter medications or a prescription that can help you manage these symptoms. Always be honest with your doctor about the marijuana withdrawal process so they can let you know what type of medication will be appropriate for you during this time.

Post-Detox Treatment

Although getting through the withdrawal process is an important part of recovery, the journey doesn’t end there. Getting treatment from a rehab can help you work through the emotional, psychological, and behavioral factors that may have contributed to your marijuana use. A marijuana addiction treatment program will create an individualized treatment plan tailored to meet your unique needs and goals. Your treatment plan may consist of a variety of treatment modalities, such as:

  • Individual therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Peer support meetings
  • Case management
  • Medication for mental health disorders
  • Drug education
  • Aftercare planning

If you or someone you love is showing signs of marijuana addiction or marijuana withdrawal, call (800) 662-HELP (4357) to speak with a treatment specialist who can discuss your options for help.

Resources

  1. Bonnet, U. & Preuss, U.W. (2017). The cannabis withdrawal symptom: Current insights. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 8, 9-37.
  2. National Library of Medicine. (n.d). Marijuana.
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
  4. Hesse, M. & Thylstrup, B. (2013). Time-course of the DSM-5 cannabis withdrawal symptoms in poly-substance abusers. BMC Psychiatry, 13(258), 1-11.
  5. National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Anxiety Disorders.

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