Whether they use weed for recreational or medicinal purposes, people can develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. These withdrawal symptoms may include cravings, restlessness, irritability and sleep problems.

Weed, or cannabis, is the “most commonly used illicit drug in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In recent years, more states have legalized the recreational and medicinal use of weed. However, based on a 2018 survey from Washington State, legalization does not seem to have significantly increased use. That said, weed use has been gaining a lot of attention.

There are many misconceptions about whether people can become addicted to cannabis. The truth is that it is possible to become dependent on, or even addicted to, cannabis with regular use.

Over 300,000 people begin treatment for cannabis use disorders in the U.S. each year. Research from 2012 suggests that 30.6 percent of those who use cannabis had cannabis use disorder in 2012–2013.

This article will explore how and why a person can develop withdrawal symptoms from weed, as well as how to treat them.

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Withdrawal symptoms can include restlessness, irritability, and sleep issues.

People who use weed regularly and then stop abruptly can experience some withdrawal symptoms.

While many people use weed a without experiencing withdrawal effects, regular use can develop into cannabis use disorder. In severe cases, this can take the form of an addiction.

Experts define addiction as continued cannabis use despite negative consequences in a person’s life, such as issues relating to their family, job, or relationships.

Weed withdrawal symptoms peak within the first week of quitting and can last up to 2 weeks.

Symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • irritability
  • difficulty sleeping
  • decreased appetite
  • restlessness
  • cravings for cannabis
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain

Some research suggests that women may experience a greater number withdrawal symptoms of higher intensity when compared with men. However, more research is needed.

Cannabis is the name for dried extracts from the plant Cannabis sativa. This plant contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and terpenes, with THC contributing to the primary psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use.

THC defines the potency of cannabis products, while terpenes define the aroma and flavor. The more THC the cannabis contains, the greater the effect on the brain.

Using weed regularly means that the brain and body get used to a regular supply of THC. When this supply is stopped, the body takes some time to adjust to not having it. This causes uncomfortable physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Once the brain and body have adjusted to not having THC, the physical withdrawal symptoms will stop. People may still experience psychological cravings for some time, however.

Over the years, based on samples of confiscated cannabis, potency has steadily increased. The THC content has risen from around 3.8 percent in the 1990s to 12.2 percent in 2014.

This indicates that the current effects of cannabis, including withdrawal, may be more extreme compared with their effects in previous decades.

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It can take a month for the brain to return to normal function after quitting weed.

The mood difficulties and physical discomforts of withdrawal peak in the first week of quitting and can last up to 2 weeks.

Though the physical effects of withdrawal will stop after the drug has left a person’s system, the psychological symptoms can last longer.

Research states that brain receptors called cannabinoid 1 receptors start to return to normal after 2 days without cannabis, and they regain normal functioning within 4 weeks of stopping the drug.

People may feel cravings for cannabis after they have stopped using it, especially in contexts and settings where they are used to using cannabis.

Each year in the U.S., over 300,000 people enter treatment for cannabis use disorders. There are many places that people can go for support, to get help with stopping using cannabis, and to cope with withdrawal symptoms.

People in the U.S. can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration‘s national helpline on 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They offer a free, confidential 24/7 helpline for people facing mental health or substance abuse problems.

People can also speak to their doctor or a local health clinic about cannabis withdrawal. Specialists can recommend local resources, including detoxification centers and support groups, that people can use.

According to some sources, the average adult who seeks treatment for cannabis use disorder has used cannabis nearly daily for the past 10 years and has tried to quit at least six times.

The type of treatment may depend on whether or not the person has any comorbid disorders, such as psychiatric problems or addiction to other substances.

Some current treatment options include:

  • Rehabilitation or detoxification centers. Though many people will not need to use an inpatient rehabilitation service, people with severe cannabis use disorder, poor social functioning, or comorbid psychiatric disorders can benefit from these services.
  • Outpatient therapy. Outpatient rehabilitation programs involve working with a psychotherapist or other mental health provider and attending sessions on a consistent basis.
  • Support groups. A person may be able to find local or online support groups to connect with others with cannabis use disorder.
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Forming a support network with friends and family can help.

Withdrawal symptoms are different for everyone. They also vary in severity based on the length of time a person has used cannabis.

While withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, they are not usually dangerous in comparison with withdrawal from alcohol or opioids, which can be life-threatening.

For a person who uses cannabis daily, slowly reducing use might make quitting easier. If a person only occasionally uses cannabis, they might be able to stop altogether.

If a person is ready to quit cannabis use, they should make sure to take care of their body during the peak withdrawal period within the first week.

Try to ease the symptoms of withdrawal using the following methods:

  • Eat a varied diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. Sugar and junk food can make a person feel worse.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Caffeinated beverages might make symptoms worse.
  • Get plenty of sleep to allow the body to rest.
  • Try to get some exercise each day to stay active.
  • Get support from family and friends for motivation and accountability.

Though specialists currently consider them to be off-label uses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse say that certain medications may help with the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal. Such medications include those that people use for sleep disorders or anxiety.

According to the CDC, research has linked cannabis use with numerous negative health consequences. These include memory problems, an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, lung problems from smoke, and mental health symptoms such as those related to anxiety and paranoia.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse state that there is substantial evidence in both animal and human studies that cannabis exposure early in life can result in cognitive impairments such as problems with memory, learning, and altered reward systems in the brain.

People can become dependent on, or even addicted to, cannabis. They may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

A person might experience poor sleep, mood swings, or stomach problems.

Resources are available to those who are interested in quitting weed or cannabis.