Cannabis (marijuana) withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild when compared to the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting alcohol or other drugs. But they can also be uncomfortable enough to cause someone who is trying to stop using marijuana to relapse in an effort to relieve the challenging symptoms and discomfort.
Marijuana withdrawal symptomsare not life-threatening; their main danger is causing a person who really wants or needs to quit to return to using the drug to ease these symptoms.
What Is Marijuana Withdrawal?
Research suggests that marijuana withdrawal symptoms may occur due to this drug's effects on the body's cannabinoid receptors. With regular marijuana use, cannabinoid 1 receptors are desensitized and downregulated. Once the drug is stopped, they start to repair and it is during this time of repair that withdrawal is typically experienced.
After quitting marijuana for one to two days, or significantly reducing its consumption, you may notice symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms tend to peak within two to six days, while people with higher levels of use can potentially experience marijuana withdrawal for several weeks.
Just as people who are trying to quit drinking may pick up a drink to relieve the symptomsof alcohol withdrawal, people who are trying to stop using marijuana may light up a joint to relieve the discomfort they experience due to cannabis withdrawal.
This can be a serious problem for people who need to quit marijuana to keep their job or who have been court-ordered into treatment. It also makes it harder for people choosing to quit, whatever their reasons.
How Long Does Withdrawal From Marijuana Last?
Marijuana Withdrawal Prevalence
One study estimates that 40% of people who use cannabis recreationally experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting this drug. Other research indicates that this rate may be much higher for people diagnosed with cannabis dependence, putting it closer to 90% for this population.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now lists cannabis withdrawal syndrome as a criterion for diagnosing cannabis use disorder or dependence.
Whether or not you experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms can depend on a variety of factors. Among them are how often you use marijuana and if you also use other substances, such as tobacco or other drugs, as this can increase your likelihood of withdrawal.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
The following are some of the most common symptoms associatedwith marijuana withdrawal.
One of the symptoms most reported by people trying to quit marijuana—or most any substance, including cocaine, heroin, and opioids—is acravingor intense urge for more. And the severity of these cravings can help predict subsequent drug use.
Withdrawal cravings can range from "I would really enjoy using right now" to "I feel like I need marijuana so badly that I can't think of anything else." Learning how to manage these cravings is an important part of preventing marijuana use relapse.
Another common symptom reported by those trying to quitmarijuanais mood swings. In a 2019 study of 1,527 people who regularly use this drug, 76.3% experienced nervousness or anxiety when stopping its use, 71.9% felt feelings of hostility, and 58.9% had a depressed mood.
Irritability and anger are common symptoms for anyone who is giving up a drug of choice, especially if they feel forced by their circumstances to quit. Psychological withdrawal symptoms may also be more prevalent in females versus males.
In a 2022 study involving 905 people, almost half (47%) reported sleep difficulties when stopping marijuana use. Previous studies have suggested that this number might be even higher, just above 68%.
After you stop using cannabis, insomnia can last a few days or a couple of weeks. Some people may find that they experience occasional sleeplessness for several months after quitting.
But insomnia is not the only sleep disruption associated with marijuana withdrawal. Some people who have stopped using marijuana report having nightmares or very vivid dreams that also disrupt their sleep.
Sometimes they have "using dreams," which are dreams that you are using marijuana. This occurs in roughly one-third of people in recovery and generally decreases over time.
One of the top physical marijuana withdrawal symptoms reported in one piece of research was decreased appetite. This may occur, at least in part, because marijuana typically increases appetite. Take it away, and the desire to eat would naturally go down.
This marijuana withdrawal symptom often appears soon after quitting and it usually goes away just as quickly, enabling your appetite to return to normal within a fairly short period of time.
Not everyone who stops using marijuana experiences headaches, but for those who do, the pain can be very intense—especially during the first few days after quitting. In some cases, stopping marijuana use can lead to migraines.
One explanation for this is that cannabinoids have been shown to increase kynurenic acid (KYNA) levels in the body by reducing enzyme inhibition. Once these cannabinoids are taken away, the level of KYNA decreases, leading to more frequent migraine attacks.
Although less common, other marijuana withdrawal symptoms reported by researchers include:
- Fever or chills
- Reduced appetite
- Stomach pain
Physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal tend to be less intense, peak sooner, and fade more quickly than the psychological symptoms associated with quitting. The frequency andamount of marijuanaused prior to stopping can affect the severity and length of the withdrawals.
The reason you use marijuana may determine how many symptoms you experience. For example, in a study of people who use this drug to help ease their pain, more than half reported having multiple withdrawal symptoms.
Coping With Marijuana Withdrawal
If you or a loved one are trying to quit marijuana and experiencing withdrawal symptoms, there are a few things you can do to help ease the discomfort:
- Get physically active. Engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic activity can help improve sleep-related issues when going through marijuana withdrawal. Go for a bicycle ride, take a hike, or take a class at a gym. Get your heart rate up during the day so you can sleep better at night.
- Rely on your social network. When you feel withdrawal symptoms building up, reach out to a family member, friend, or someone else that you trust who can provide social support. Talk to them about how you feel and use their strength to help you get through the discomfort.
- Consider a nicotine patch. Research has found that using a nicotine patch appears to help reduce withdrawal symptoms in people who have used cannabis at least five times per week for a year or longer, even if they didn't also use tobacco products. These patches do have potential side effects, so talk to a healthcare provider to learn whether this is the right choice for you.
When to Consult a Healthcare Professional
If you are trying to stop or reduce your marijuana use and are finding it difficult to abstain long-term, you don't have to go through this alone. A healthcare provider can provide options for reducing the symptoms of withdrawal. Some medications have been found helpful for this purpose, for instance, and with few adverse side effects.
A mental health professional can also help with the psychological effects of marijuana withdrawal. Motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are known to help treat cannabis use disorder. At a minimum, a therapist can teach you some tools to help you better cope with withdrawal and the symptoms you are experiencing.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Research states that brain receptors called cannabinoid 1 receptors start to return to normal after 2 days without marijuana, and they regain normal functioning within 4 weeks of stopping the drug.
Cognitive testing found that memory (specifically the ability to learn and recall new information) improved only among those who stopped using marijuana. Investigators concluded that those who stopped cannabis use were better equipped to learn new information efficiently.
Withdrawal will likely fade within a period of 10 days.
Unlike cannabinoids that contain THC, CBD is generally well tolerated as it has a low risk of addiction. Although addiction or dependence on CBD is not impossible, it is not common. As a result, little to no side effects or symptoms of withdrawal have been reported in people who stop using CBD.
Symptoms can include insomnia, irritability, changing moods, depression, anxiety, aches and pains, cravings, fatigue, hallucinations and nausea. The person may be hot and cold, have goosebumps, or have a runny nose as if they have a cold.
Some symptoms commonly associated with withdrawal include: Changes in appetite. Changes in mood. Chills or shivering.
Drugs and alcohol change the chemical makeup of the brain, and regular use of mind-altering substances can cause dependence to form. Brain circuitry and chemistry will attempt to regulate as drugs and/or alcohol process out of the body after dependence has formed, and this causes withdrawal symptoms.
The symptoms of withdrawal typically start within 24 hours of your last use and peak after two to three days. Although the majority of symptoms last about two weeks, some chronic users have reported having insomnia, night sweats and unbalanced emotions for several months.
There's no solid data on exactly how long it takes for CB1 receptors to recover, so you'll have to experiment a bit. Some people find that a few days does the trick. Most online forums advise that 2 weeks is the ideal time frame.
Most people with CHS who stop using cannabis have relief from symptoms within 10 days. But it may take a few months to feel fully recovered. As you recover, you begin to resume your usual eating and bathing habits.
Upon demand (typically by activation of certain G protein-coupled receptors or by depolarization), endocannabinoids are liberated in one or two rapid enzymatic steps and released into the extracellular space.
The "cannabinoid" receptors in the brain — the CB1 receptors — outnumber many of the other receptor types on the brain. They act like traffic cops to control the levels and activity of most of the other neurotransmitters.
- Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids. ...
- Exercise Regularly. ...
- Manage Stress Better. ...
- Lower Alcohol Consumption. ...
- Use Phytocannabinoids.
Stay focused; don't break
Pick a date and stick to it. You'll find that the discipline it takes to not smoke will carry over to all areas of your life. There's going to be times where you're tempted to break, but make a promise to yourself that you won't smoke.
Tolerance breaks should be mostly adequate for most cannabis users by 48 hours. However, chronic or heavy, long-time consumers may opt for a longer t-break depending on their needs.
Take a hot shower! The hot water and steam can help relax your body, and the time in the shower can help you work through any pesky or anxious thoughts that are keeping you from enjoying your high. Alternately, you can make taking a hot shower the entire point of getting high.
People with CHS suffer from repeated bouts of vomiting. In between these episodes are times without any symptoms. Healthcare providers often divide these symptoms into 3 stages: the prodromal phase, the hyperemetic phase, and the recovery phase.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Treatment
Hot baths and showers can help relieve the severe symptoms that occur during the hyperemetic phase. It is important to address any dehydration that may be present due to excessive vomiting, and sometimes intravenous fluid administration is necessary.
The human body naturally produces endocannabinoids. They are present in various organs and tissues, such as the muscle, brain, and circulating cells. Endocannabinoids become active when they bind with a cannabinoid receptor. The receptors are also located throughout the body.
- Hemp seeds & oil.
- Chia seeds.
- Flax seeds & oil.
- Sardines and anchovies.
- Eggs (pasture-fed or omega 3 enriched only)
Medium and high-intensity exercise has been shown to activate the endocannabinoid system (73). Research also shows that exercise significantly upregulates CB1 receptors and enhances CB1 receptor sensitivity, which is why exercise can protect against the consequences of stress (68, 72, 74).