Marijuana is the street name for the cannabis plant. It’s the number one drug used by Americans; an estimated 4.4 million people suffer from a marijuana use disorder. Many states in the U.S. are legalizing recreational and/or medical cannabis use. But just because it may be legal in your state doesn’t necessarily make it safe, and it definitely doesn’t change the fact that using marijuana affects your brain chemistry.
There is a lot we still don’t know about this drug, but we do know that marijuana is addictive. If you’re attempting to stop using it, you’re likely to experience cannabis withdrawal syndrome.
What Causes Marijuana Withdrawal to Happen?
Marijuana contains cannabinoids, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive component of the drug. When you consume marijuana, THC activates receptors in your brain and body. It is THC that’s responsible for making you feel “high.”
When using marijuana, you’re ingesting a surge of the plant’s cannabinoids, but your body also creates its own cannabinoids. Over time, marijuana use can cause your body to decrease its own natural production of cannabinoids. This is because your brain and body have built-in mechanisms to ensure that you keep the number of cannabinoids at your natural level.
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms happen as a result of this decrease in your body’s natural cannabinoid level. This imbalance without a substance is referred to as being “physically dependent.”
Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline and Symptoms
Stopping the use of marijuana can lead to signs and symptoms of withdrawal. The marijuana withdrawal timeline can start in as little as a few hours after taking the drug. For many, the peak of marijuana withdrawal symptoms may not occur until around the seven-day mark. Withdrawal symptoms can last up to two weeks.
The most typical marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:
- Irritability, anger, or aggression
- Reduced appetite or weight loss
- Depressed mood
- Stomach pain
- Shakiness or tremors
These are some of the most common symptoms that individuals physically dependent on cannabis experience. Other symptoms are also reported. Less common signs and symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include, but are not limited, to:
- Trouble concentrating
- Racing heart
- Runny nose
Is Medical Supervision Necessary During Marijuana Detox?
No. You’re unlikely to die while detoxing from marijuana, but the process can be uncomfortable and distressing. It can be made much more comfortable under the supervision and treatment of medical professionals.
Since the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are uncomfortable, some people begin using the drug again to relieve their discomfort. Using a substance to ease withdrawal symptoms can become a vicious cycle. For some people, it can prevent them from successfully stopping their marijuana use on their own. When you have the support of experienced professionals in medical detox, you know you’re not alone, and you have the help and encouragement of others to keep you on your path.
Some people who are addicted to marijuana sometimes also use tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs. In these complex cases, medically supervised detox may be necessary because withdrawal from certain substances can be dangerous. For example, alcohol withdrawal can lead to death. The side effects of quitting marijuana can be unpleasant enough without adding in the withdrawal of other substances. Medically supervised detox is a good option because you’re able to work with healthcare providers, who can use medications to make the detox experience more bearable.
What to Expect During Medically Supervised Marijuana Detox
The first step in taking control of your addiction is getting past the detoxification stage. Cannabis withdrawal syndrome, as we mentioned before, can be unpleasant and a barrier to sobriety.
During medically supervised detox, you’ll be under the supervision and care of medical personnel. The medical team is trained to understand what you’re experiencing and how best to keep you comfortable. The medical staff will keep a close eye on you and your health to ensure you’re not in too much discomfort throughout the marijuana detox process.
In some medically supervised detox settings, like at Footprints to Recovery, working on co-occurring disorders is possible. Common co-occurring disorders include depression and anxiety. Perhaps depression or anxiety is the reason you use marijuana in the first place. If that’s true, addressing depression and/or anxiety is key to overcoming your marijuana addiction. During detox, you can also participate in one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions.
Can Medication Help with Marijuana Withdrawal?
Currently, there is no medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that is FDA-approved for cannabis use disorder, but other medications may be useful in decreasing unpleasant marijuana withdrawal effects. These could include medications that help with:
- Muscle aches
When you detox from marijuana under medical supervision, medical professionals will check in on you often to assess whether medications are a good option for you.
What Happens After Marijuana Medical Detox?
After you detox off marijuana and any other drugs on which you’re physically dependent, you should think about entering treatment for your addiction. As you enter normal life again, the temptation to use marijuana will still be there, especially because it’s easy to acquire in many states. Treatment will teach you coping skills to handle your triggers without marijuana.
There are various treatment options available, like:
Each person’s path is different.
Throughout the detox process, you’ll work with a dedicated group of counselors, medical professionals, and other personnel. This team of people is trained to evaluate your substance use disorder and guide you toward the program that will give you the best chance at remaining free from marijuana and other addictive drugs in your future.
After completing treatment, you may want to consider a sober living house. Sober living houses are supportive, live-in facilities that house people in the early stages of recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. You’ll live with people who understand your daily struggles and are supportive of you staying sober.
You’re not alone, there’s a program available to meet your specific needs. And those suffering from addiction to marijuana have an excellent chance of remaining sober after a structured treatment program. According to research, the relapse rate of cannabis use disorder after successfully completing treatment is only 6.63% over three years.