marijuana withdrawal and detox

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Marijuana has become a cure-all to many people who believe emerging science supports their views. They think that it’s much less harmful than alcohol, never caused a death from overdose, and that it’s not at all addictive. 

Those first two facts are true. But, more reports emerge every day of people suffering from withdrawal symptoms after attempting to stop their marijuana use. So, what changed?

In a study by the National Institute of Health on almost 40,000 samples of cannabis analyzed over 19 years, they found that strains in 2014 were as much as 80% more potentthan they were in 1995.

Today’s marijuana plants have a much higher THC potency than they did in 2014. At the time of the study, the average strain was 12%. Now it’s not uncommon to see concentrates and waxes advertises in the 90th percentile.

This increase in concentration changes the way the body interacts with the cannabinoids in marijuana. Once a tolerance develops, the potential for addiction begins. Read on to learn more and understand the science behind withdrawal and detox. 

What Causes Marijuana Withdrawal?

Although most people think marijuana is not at all addictive, they’re wrong and don’t have a basic understanding of addiction science. Within the chemical structure of cannabis, there are two primary cannabinoids — THC and CBD.

These cannabinoids in marijuana interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This is a chemical system that regulates your pain control, temperature, appetite, pH level, sleepiness, and wakefulness, among other things. 

The molecules of THC and CBD are the same size as other natural cannabinoids that perform the same functions found in the human body. Their shape allows them to bond to the same receptors.

When someone uses marijuana frequently, these receptors are overstimulated and the body starts to produce less natural cannabinoids. This, in turn, leads to the body becoming dependent on THC and CBD to eat, sleep, and feel good. 

When a frequent smoker stops using, over time their body will start to go back to normal. But for a while, there can be very frustrating withdrawal symptoms. 

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms 

The majority of people who have quit marijuana after daily use say that they had trouble adjusting because of physical withdrawal symptoms. The higher the percentage of THC in the bud you were smoking, the worse the potential is for you to experience the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Cold sweats
  • Waking up in the middle of the night for no reason
  • Not being able to fall asleep
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inconsistent moods
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Inability to focus

The symptoms are severe for some, but for most should subside within a few weeks of sobriety.

Duration of Marijuana Withdrawal

Unfortunately, for those that develop marijuana withdrawal symptoms, they tend to stick around for a while. Some users have even reported problems sleeping and eating months after their last puff.

To ensure you have the shortest withdrawal possible, make sure that you take care of your body and put yourself first. 

Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline 

Since marijuana has been illegal for many years, there is very little research on what the withdrawal timeline looks like. Most of the information we have comes from people who have shared their personal experiences.

Frequent users say the symptoms of withdrawal can start as soon as the high wears off. But for most, it takes two to three days to begin to see them. 

During that time, the addict will feel irritable and twitchy as their body tries to readjust. Most people report this initial phase of detox lasting about two weeks. After that time, the most intense cravings should have passed and the body starts to return to normal.

Detoxing from Marijuana on Your Own 

If you’re going to try to detox from marijuana on your own, medically speaking you’re in the clear. Although the withdrawal symptoms of marijuana are annoying, they’re far from life-threatening. 

Just make sure that you have a solid plan in place and that you’re fully committed to quitting. It can be difficult to remain firm in your decision unless you make major changes.

Medical Detox for Marijuana 

So if marijuana is safe to quit cold turkey, why would you need a medical detox? Well, many people use marijuana to cover up pain and anxiety they’re experiencing. Being in a regulated environment can make it easier to quit.

How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect

At a detox facility, you’ll receive healthy food like fruits and vegetable to help your body remove the THC from its system. You’ll also be prompted to exercise. They’ll also teach you strategies to cope with your cravings.

A medical detox facility can also offer you the support you need to quit for good. Many times, those who begin detoxing on their own have too many voices around them trying to convince them that marijuana is harmless. When you enroll in treatment, you’re making a monetary commitment to your sobriety in the optimal environment for success.

Medications Available for Marijuana Detox

Since marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, there is no FDA-approved medication to help you get through detox. Fortunately, the symptoms are less severe than those faced by people trying to detox from opioids, stimulants, or alcohol.

To help your body through the process as quickly as possible, you need to make sure that you increase your water intake and avoid fatty foods. THC is stored in your fat cells and it can slow down the process.

Find Treatment Today

Now that you have a better understanding of what marijuana addiction really is, the science behind it, and what the potential withdrawal symptoms are, you can put together a plan to achieve sobriety.

Consider attending support groups, getting encouragement from family and friends, and incentivizing yourself to be successful.

And if you’re still struggling, contact us today for an evaluation. Don’t waste another moment.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.