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Marijuana (hashish, grass, weed, or cannabis) is among the most widely abused of substances in the US. The 2014 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), for instance, estimated that 8.4 percent of the entire American population aged 12 and above - which is close to 22.2 million people) abused the drug the month before the survey. This was the highest percentage reported of active marijuana users in 12 years.
Although laws and attitudes about marijuana use are becoming more permissive in some states, the drug is still known for the potential harm it can cause. Today, some of the negative side effects of abusing the drug include sleep disturbances, learning problems, increased heart rate, anxiety, addiction, and withdrawal.
In particular, withdrawal is among the biggest hurdles that stand in the way of quitting the drug. In a recent study, up to 30% of all the people who take marijuana recreationally or medicinally eventually develop marijuana use disorder.
This medical term covers the abuse of the drug, as well as dependence on and addiction to it. In part, the risk of developing this problem depends on age. This means that if you start using the drug in your teens, you will be 4 to 7 times as likely to develop marijuana use disorder as you start using it as an adult.
That said, when you quit using weed, you can free yourself from the various negative side effects it causes. In 2014, for instance, more than 100,000 people voluntarily sought treatment for marijuana abuse.
Even so, you should remember that you may experience withdrawal when you stop using this drug. In fact, research shows that this could be one of the main hurdles standing in your way to a life free of marijuana.
Fortunately, there are detoxification programs that can help you quit using, find full recovery, and eventually avoid relapsing back to your old habits.
Still, you won't have a smooth sailing going through withdrawal after years or even months of actively abusing marijuana. That said, withdrawal affects all users differently, with long term and heavy users suffering more severe effects than those who have not used the drug for as long a period or as heavily.
Read on to find out more:
Withdrawal occurs when you are dependent on an addictive and intoxicating substances and you suddenly stop using it. If you repeatedly use marijuana, for instance, you will experience withdrawal when you quit. This is because your brain and body may have adapted or gotten used to having THC (the active component in weed).
Therefore, when you suddenly remove the drug, you might experience some adverse withdrawal symptoms - at least until your body and brain have had time to readjust to a new state free of the drug. This process typically takes some days or weeks.
Still, the withdrawal symptoms you will suffer as a result of prolonged marijuana abuse will be different from those you would have experienced if you were addicted to another substance - such as alcohol or heroin.
In the past, there was some debate about the potential of weed to cause withdrawal. However, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) included cannabis withdrawal in its DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), one of the handbooks used by healthcare professionals in the US. This handbook now lists all the mental disorders that are medically recognized, including addiction to and withdrawal from marijuana.
Luckily, withdrawing from marijuana does not come with severe physical symptoms, at least not in the same way that other addictive substances like opioids and alcohol do. Instead, you may experience the withdrawal on a psychological level.
Still, it is essential that even though these withdrawal symptoms are not particularly dangerous, they will still post adverse risks - particularly if you decide to withdraw from marijuana on your own.
That said, if you experience withdrawal after you stop abusing marijuana, you might suffer feelings of depression and anxiety. Studies now show that those who are depressed are more likely to start using marijuana to overcome their suffering - although they eventually become dependent on it - more so than people who are not depressed.
Among these people, withdrawing from marijuana might worsen the depression, which may compel them to start using the drug again to deal with these intense feelings. This is how dependence usually begins.
Even though marijuana has a number of reportedly beneficial purposes - such as for its medicinal value - it is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I substance. This means that it can negatively affect your life.
However, most people who support the legalization of cannabis have a common misconception that the drug is completely safe and that it carries no risk for addiction. What they do not know is that abusing this substance can bring on a variety of harmful effects, which may include:
Over time, using marijuana may also become problematic and eventually cause dependence. DSM-5, in particular, now recognizes cannabis withdrawal syndrome and cannabis use disorder.
Cannabis withdrawal syndrome tends to occur when you suddenly stop abusing the drug after a prolonged period of active and heavy use. The withdrawal symptoms may show up about a week after you stop using, and will come with various unpleasant effects.
The withdrawal symptoms will develop because you are already physically dependent on marijuana at this point. When you abuse weed consistently for a relatively long time, your body may adapt to having the substance in it. Additionally, it might become desensitized to some neurotransmitters in your brain, including endocannabinoid, which occurs naturally as endogenous cannabinoid in the brain.
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms will vary from one users to the next. For instance, if you have a mild dependency on the drug, you should be able to stop abusing it without any outside help. Chronic users, on the other hand, would already have built up tolerance to marijuana, meaning that they might need some help to kick the habit for good.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms include decreased appetite, chills, excessive sweating, and flu-like symptoms. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to deal with these symptoms of withdrawal, although research is being done about potential treatments.
A recent study, for instance, has been researching the use of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis) as a potential drug to ease these withdrawal symptoms by tapering or weaning the user off marijuana.
In the meantime, as you continue attempting to stop abusing the drug, you might benefit from most of the supportive interventions and help provided through professional detoxification, treatment, and rehabilitation.
In the treatment program, for instance, you will have medical staff members monitoring your withdrawal symptoms and making you feel even more comfortable as you undergo marijuana withdrawal.
As mentioned earlier, these symptoms will vary depending on your level of dependency. For instance, if you only have mild dependence on the drug, you may experience some minor psychological and physical discomfort, typically accompanied by restlessness and headaches.
However, if you have a severe form of dependence and addiction, you may have to contend with even more intense symptoms, including insomnia, chills, fever, and sweating.
That said, cannabis withdrawal was only recognized recently as a diagnosable and treatable mental health conditions. The criteria to meet to be diagnosed as having marijuana withdrawal include:
a) You must have taken weed regularly for a minimum of several months before you try to quit
b) You must exhibit some symptoms (a minimum of three), including:
Some of the common physical symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include:
When you stop using marijuana after months or years of heavy use, you may also experience the following psychological symptoms:
The other withdrawal symptoms you might display as a result of continued marijuana abuse include:
These symptoms ought to be severe enough that they cause significant differences in your ability to function normally. They must also not be associated with another illness or physical/psychological impairment.
Although the following are not generally included in the officially created criteria for marijuana withdrawal syndrome, you might still experience them when you stop abusing weed after months/years of active and repeated use:
If you take today's high potency weed on a daily basis, you may wonder what will happen if you decide to stop. Research shows that more than 50% of all active marijuana users will experience withdrawal.
When this happens, you might suffer poor sleep, declining appetite, and some form of abdominal pain. At this point, you may have a hard time eating or sleeping unless you take the drug.
Your irritability and anxiety may also increase, and you might even experience limb spasms and muscle twitching. Luckily, most of these symptoms should diminish after about a week - even though the experience is by no means easy to bear. This is why most heavy users will go back to marijuana if only to make these symptoms go away.
In particular, if you are a chronic user, withdrawal can prove to be quite uncomfortable. To make life a bit easier, you may therefore wish to undergo professional detoxification.
This type of detox is especially recommended for anyone with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder, meaning that they are addicted to another drug or other drugs over and beyond marijuana.
For instance, if you have a co-occurring addiction to alcohol and benzodiazepines, your withdrawal symptoms might be exacerbated when you decide to stop using all of them at the same time.
By undergoing inpatient detoxification, you will have a far much easier time easing off marijuana until it completely clears from your system. This may help to reduce your cravings and the chances that you will relapse.
During detox, you will also have a medical team at hand to walk through all the other additional treatments you may need. After that, you might also opt to continue your recovery at a drug and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation facility. This way, you will increase your chances of avoiding relapse and staying sober.
Other reasons why a detox program might work better for you include:
Currently, there are many different outpatient and inpatient treatment centers offering marijuana detoxification services in-house. If your dependence on the drug is somewhat mild, then an outpatient program might work best. However, you would be better off with an inpatient program particularly if your addiction is more severe.
Overall, finding the right detox center might also mean that you will soon be able to overcome your need for marijuana and addiction to the effects it creates in your body and brain. After that, you can choose to either go back home or sign up for a longer term rehabilitation program to completely take you off the drug so that you never have to suffer these marijuana withdrawal symptoms ever again.
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