Is Marijuana Withdrawal Real?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer includes an answer to the question: “But withdrawal usually means there is an addiction to the drug. And marijuana isn’t addictive or dangerous like other drugs, is it?”

OK, so the longer answer answers a longer question, but still … the bottom line is that marijuana withdrawal, or cannabis withdrawal, is a real “syndrome” and can indicate extra difficulty in treatment [Link here to cannabis withdrawal study from Illinois].

A recent study about teenagers who use marijuana shows that one in six teens who use marijuana will get addicted to it, and about half of those who use it every day will do so. And of those who quit smoking it, about 40 percent report experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

So What is Marijuana Withdrawal?

As with withdrawal from other drugs like heroin, cocaine, alcohol and even caffeine – yes, caffeine can have addictive qualities – there is a process in which a person using the drug can be dependent, where the body reacts negatively to a lack or loss of the drug in the system. Basically, it is a crummy mood with physical manifestations that didn’t usually occur while you were ingesting the drug, whatever it was.

Symptoms of withdrawal vary from drug to drug, but if you have been a regular or heavy user of marijuana and you are trying to quit, there is a decent chance that you may suffer withdrawal if you truly were addicted to the drug. You may find yourself feeling cranky or sad or depressed a day or two after quitting. If so, then you were addicted and you are going through withdrawal.

The good news is that cannabis withdrawal doesn’t last long – usually no more than a week. If you can resist the intense cravings for seven to 10 days and not smoke again, then you just might have a chance to quit for good.

What are Some of the Symptoms?

There are some physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal that can be similar to withdrawal from nicotine, alcohol or heroin, so it can be tough to spot unless it is known that you only take cannabis and are not using the other drugs. But some of the most prominent symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include insomnia, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and loss of appetite or weight loss. You may get these symptoms one at a time rather than all at once, and they may start to appear a couple of days after your last hit.

Will I Have Withdrawals if I Quit?

To be fair, experts consider the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, to be a very low-level addictive drug  using it heavily and very regularly can be another thing.

Overall, less than 1 in 10 people who use marijuana experience dependence and thus go through withdrawal after quitting use. This is usually consistent with the numbers of people who use heavily (more than four times a week), and its true that not everyone in this group will experience such withdrawals.

But let us be clear: Just because you may not experience withdrawal does not mean marijuana isn’t a problem. Withdrawal only means that your body developed a dependence on it. Even if you’re not dependent, it still has side effects that can affect your life adversely. We’re just hoping to give you a hint to be observant to whether you might be dependent on cannabis, so you can get yourself the treatment you deserve.

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