What Are Possible Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Avoid Them

Cannabis “withdrawal?” For regular, long-term cannabis consumers who want to take a tolerance break or need to abstain completely, cannabis withdrawal syndrome can be a mild but very real challenge. It’s nowhere near the severity of withdrawal induced by tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, but it may be irritating and mildly discomforting for a few days. In fact, it may most resemble the withdrawal a daily coffee drinker might feel upon going cold turkey.

Cannabis Use Disorder

According to the National Institutes of Health, “2.5 percent of adults — nearly 6 million people — experienced marijuana use disorder in the past year [2015], while 6.3 percent had met the diagnostic criteria for the disorder at some point in their lives.” An increase in case parallels the increase in marijuana use concurrent with expanding legalization.

Internet Mental Health defines cannabis use disorder as “the continued use of cannabis despite clinically significant distress or impairment…Typically includes a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.”

Symptoms of cannabis withdrawal “are much less severe than those associated with withdrawal from chronic opioid or depressant use,” researchers with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) wrote in a 2015 study, “but aversive enough to encourage continued cannabis use and interfere with cessation attempts in some individuals.”

Many factors can impact the duration and the intensity of the withdrawal phase. Not every person will necessary experience all the same symptoms as others.

Timeline

Symptoms typically emerge on the first quit day and peak within 2 or 3 days. Symptoms generally dissipate by a week or two, though insomnia can linger beyond this point for 30 days or longer.
Most people find that symptoms come and go over the first few days.
While many people find that not one symptom is overwhelming, the additive effect of a combination of symptoms can become quite distressing.

How to prevent symptoms of marijuana withdrawal?

According to German researchers who recently published an overview of the current CWS knowledge in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation, discontinuation of regular consumption can lead to one or a number of these symptoms:

Sleeping problems

  • Avoid caffeine after lunch time.
  • Stay away from staring at your computer, TV, smartphone, or eReader for hours before bed.
  • Use comfortable bed in room with cool temperature and no light.
  • Try natural remedies like Melatonin or Valerian Root.

Anxiety

  • Stop caffeine intake completely
  • Exercise moderately daily
  • Warm baths relax body and brain
  • Seek medical advice on use of prescription meds like benzodiazepines

Weakness or Dizzines

  • Some individuals report feeling dizzy. When you start to feel dizzy, it can often help to lie down as soon as possible.
  • If you have severe cases of vertigo, close your eyes while lying down.
  • If you’re overheated, get a cool drink and move to a shaded, air conditioned area.

Headaches 

  • Use over-the-counter headache anti-inflammatory remedies like acetaminophen or ibuprofen according to directions.
  • Drink 8 or more glasses of water each day.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, meditation, or bio-feedback.
  • Seek advice on nutrition.

Sweating

  • Some people end up sweating more than they normally would during withdrawal. Eat foods like bananas, lemons, green leafy vegetables, melons, and tomatoes. These will replenish potassium and other minerals you lose through sweat.

Restlessness or Dysphoria, a feeling of general unease or dissatisfaction

  • Breathe fresh air deeply.
  • Pursue a favorite activity, especially involving moderate aerobic exercise.
  • Seek counseling.
  • Withdraw from the angry situation.
  • Apologize those your anger may offend and communicate your need for understanding.

Nausea or Stomach pain

  • Readjust your diet to drop fatty foods, dairy, and spices.
  • Choose cold foods which don’t have the aroma of hot foods.
  • Drink your beverage after eating.
  • Try a popsicle, warm tea, or soups to reduce the upset stomach.
  • Seek medical advice for prescription medications.

Craving for resumed cannabis use

At some point in time, most people will experience a craving to use marijuana again. This is because you stimulated your brains pleasure center and kept feeding it chemicals to make you feel good. Cravings diminish with time. So, you’ll find that relief is about a week away. And, when cravings occur, they tend to go away within 30 minutes. You can often defeat the craving by distracting yourself. You’ll feel the temptation coming, so take a walk, use your treadmill, make a phone call… You can plan on how you will spend that 30 minutes. If you spend the time walking the dog, vacuuming the floor, or taking a shower, you will lose the craving.

The research and numbers available to us suggest that marijuana is not as addictive as other behaviors. And, its withdrawal symptoms are much less severe. For the great majority of marijuana users, dependency reaching addiction never happens, and withdrawal is little more than an exercise in will power.

A cannabis use disorder, it is possible. An addiction – almost never!