Addiction Treatment

What is Marijuana Withdrawal Like?

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Last updated: 09/20/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As the most popular illicit drug of abuse, 76.8 percent of drug users reported marijuana as their drug of choice in 2010, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While the jury’s still out in most U. S. states, marijuana’s benefits as a medicinal treatment can quickly turn into negatives when this drug is abused on a regular basis.

As with most drugs of abuse, marijuana causes withdrawal effects with decreased dosages. When users try to stop using, marijuana withdrawal effects appear in full force.

Compared to cocaine and heroin, marijuana’s potency runs considerably lower, which lessens the severity of symptoms associated with marijuana withdrawal. Albeit so, users still have difficulty abstaining from the drug when trying to break an addiction habit.

Marijuana withdrawal effects can vary from person to person, though both physical and psychological symptoms are to be expected by all. Likewise, the duration of the withdrawal period can vary, but typically runs longer for long-time users.

Marijuana Effects

Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana users often experience depression during withdrawal.

Marijuana, one of the few drugs that carry both stimulant and depressant properties, interferes with a specific brain chemical network known as the endocannabinoid system. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this system plays a central role in regulating dopamine neurotransmitter secretions throughout the brain.

Dopamine regulates a range of bodily functions, some of which include:

  • Memory
  • Movement
  • Coordination
  • Pleasure
  • Thinking

With long-term marijuana use, dopamine levels become depleted, which causes marijuana withdrawal symptoms to develop. When a person stops using, marijuana withdrawal effects will continue until brain chemical levels return to normal.

Physical Withdrawal Effects

Marijuana withdrawal effects stem from the brain’s attempt to correct for low dopamine levels. These physical effects directly correlate with the bodily systems regulated by dopamine.

Physical marijuana withdrawal effects include:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tremors

In general, these effects can vary in intensity depending on a person’s overall health and the severity of the addiction. This means someone who is naturally prone to sweating may well experience profuse sweating when going through withdrawal.

Psychological Withdrawal Effects

While marijuana’s effects directly alter dopamine levels in the brain, dopamine imbalances offset other essential neurotransmitter chemicals, such as GABA, serotonin and acetylcholine. These cumulative effects inevitably disrupt a person’s overall emotional state, which causes psychological marijuana withdrawal effects to develop.

Psychological withdrawal effects typically take the form of:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • aggression

Withdrawal Duration

Marijuana withdrawal periods can run anywhere from two to 30 days depending on a person’s overall health status. Marijuana’s chemical structure also makes for a fat-soluble material that can easily reside within the body’s fat tissues. When this happens, the withdrawal stage will continue until all traces of the drug are flushed from the system.

Other factors that affect how long withdrawal will take have to do with a person’s weight, amount of fluids consumed and metabolism rate. As long-term marijuana use leaves the body’s chemical system in a state of chaos, withdrawal periods can run considerably longer.

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