Monday November 6, 2017

By Morgan Smith


Whether you’re about to start your job search or just need a little tolerance break, you may be thinking about giving marijuana the boot. If you’re a heavy consumer, this could leave you worried about potential side effects. But is marijuana withdrawal even a real thing? We’re breaking down the facts to help you understand what kind of symptoms you might experience after stopping cold turkey.

To be completely blunt, there’s been a minimal amount of research conducted on marijuana withdrawal due to the schedule I status of cannabis. But from what’s been done, here’s what we do know.

Is Marijuana Withdrawal Real?

First things first, we want to emphasize the fact that marijuana is not an addictive substance. So it’s nothing like withdrawing from drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. These substances have addictive chemicals that impact your system much more severely than cannabis. But that doesn’t mean you won’t struggle to stop consuming cannabis or feel any effects after quitting.

Although cannabis isn’t addictive, it will still be difficult to stop a hard habit if it’s part of your routine and environment.

Abstaining from marijuana will result in a different experience for everyone. Most of it has to do with how long you’ve been consuming cannabis – and how much you were consuming on a daily basis. Obviously, a long-term consumer will experience more intense withdrawal symptoms compared to a person who consumes less frequently.

Think about it. Your endocannabinoid system has gotten used to processing these extra cannabinoids and now it has to return to its normal state. You already know that THC stays in your system for a while, so it needs some time to fully clear the body before you start feeling ‘normal.’

Symptoms of Cannabis Withdrawal

Studies have shown that it takes two days of abstinence for your cannabinoid receptors to start the cleansing process and a full four weeks to return to neutral. And because internal endocannabinoid receptors are responsible for controlling psychological and physical attributes, shutting off cannabis use will show some external signs and behavior change.

A person going through marijuana withdrawal may experience slight symptoms like headaches, trouble sleeping or irritability. A few studies have found that people have nightmares or strange dreams, angry outbursts and muscle aches.

You may experience a couple headaches after quitting cannabis.

Others have felt anxiety and depression, and the most extreme cases involve a bit of nausea and sweating. Again, it all depends on your level of consumption frequency but the most common symptom is insomnia, lasting anywhere from a few nights to a few weeks.

The earliest research on cannabis withdrawal effects (from 1976) studied 53 men that were hospitalized for 21-42 days after cessation of cannabis use, and reported symptoms of sleep disturbance (89%), restlessness (89%) and irritability (62%). Fast forward to studies from the 2000s, which found that patients suffered from anxiety and physical discomfort.


All in all, marijuana withdrawal may be more psychological than physical. And although it may be uncomfortable, exercise, a healthy diet and meditation can help overcome some of the symptoms. Just remember, cannabis is a non-addictive substance and while heavy users may experience slight symptoms if they abruptly stop, it’s nothing to be afraid of and the symptoms are quite mild.

Have you ever taken a break from cannabis? Share your experience below!

Morgan Smith Morgan Smith

A born and raised Hoosier and Indiana University alumna, Morgan Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in the Denver area. Morgan has worked with B2B, nonprofit and regional publications, but especially enjoys learning and educating others about the inner-workings of the cannabis industry. Her freelance writing supported her recent six-month solo backpacking trip to South America where she climbed volcanoes, played with llamas and jumped off a bridge.

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