Although many medical and recreational marijuana users consider it relatively harmless to use when compared to other controlled substances, there are in fact a slew of issues that can arise from stopping the drug after prolonged use. Unfortunately, many people have been told for years that there are no negative effects related to marijuana use or that it’s not addictive, leading to the mainstream belief that this substance can be used as much as desired and then dropped at any time without suffering withdrawal symptoms.
Just like with other drugs such as alcohol and nicotine, marijuana withdrawals can cause the user to experience negative physical or psychological effects. There is no way of telling in advance what side effects you will experience when stopping marijuana use abruptly, as everyone’s body is different, but there are numerous factors that can be used to gauge the intensity and length of withdrawal symptoms. Most people will only experience minor physical discomfort, but long time use can result in much more severe marijuana withdrawal symptoms.
Determining Factors in Marijuana Withdrawal Severity
Length of Use
Any substance used for a long period of time can produce negative effects and dependency, even food ingredients like sugar can be habit forming and cause dependency either mentally or physically. Marijuana withdrawals are no different, and the impact of negative effects on your mental or physical conditions can greatly depend on how long you’ve been using it.
Have you been using marijuana for a week, a month, a decade or more? Short term marijuana usage isn’t likely to product any serious withdrawal symptoms, but consistent use for a span of years can make this a very difficult habit to break.
In general, the less amount of time you have used any habit forming substance, the less impact it will have on you when you quit. The longer and more regular the use, the more uncomfortable you’re going to feel if you stop.
Frequency of Use
In addition to how long you’ve been using marijuana, the consistency of use is only going to determine how difficult it is to give it up for good. The human body is very adaptable, and your physiology or mental capacities will adjust to almost anything that becomes a daily habit. If you are in the habit of going to sleep at the same time every night, but then you change your schedule, your brain is still going to produce melatonin at the same time you would usually be going to bed. Melatonin is a chemical that tells your body when it’s time to sleep.
The same concept goes for marijuana withdrawals. If you are use to smoking in the mornings and after work almost every day, then if you go without using marijuana at those times, you’re going to start feeling adverse effects. Human beings are creatures of habit, and when we break our long time behaviors, it’s going to be uncomfortable until our bodies can adjust.
Typical Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
Although the symptoms, effects and length of time needed to adjust is different for everyone regarding long term marijuana use, there are some consistent effects that users regularly report. The severity of these symptoms can greatly depend on how long and how consistently you’ve been smoking marijuana.
Some users report little or no discomfort when discounting marijuana use, while others will be bothered by issues for weeks or even months. However, most of the side effects of marijuana withdrawals are less severe than other habit forming substances.
It should also be noted that marijuana stays in your system for a very long time compared to alcohol or pharmaceuticals. Cannabinoid metabolites can remain detectable in your body for anywhere between 4 and 21 days after your last use, depending on how heavy of a smoker you are.
Users often report that marijuana gives them a calm relaxed feeling and can make it easier to deal with various social situations. When your mind and body become reliant on marijuana for relaxation, you may feel the exact opposite effect when you discontinue use. You could feel much more anxious in social situation, even among friends or family, and especially when you’re encountering new scenarios.
Your brain is constantly trying to compensate for the intake or lake of chemicals introduced into your body, so if a drug makes you feel a certain way when you use it, you will generally experience the extreme opposite of that feeling when you stop using it. You may also feel an elevated heartbeat or rapid breathing, even when you’re just sitting quietly by yourself.
Marijuana is well known to increase your appetite, often referred to as “the munchies”, and has also proved effective in helping people who suffer from low appetite due to medical conditions. When you stop the drug, you may feel a reduced urge to eat or lose your appetite all together for a time, contributing to sudden weight loss.
Addiction or dependency on substances will not only impact your physical condition, but also your mentality. Often times users report the mental side effects of marijuana withdrawals are worse than the physical, as you can have difficulty focusing on any task while you are consumed with a desire for marijuana. Using marijuana stimulates your brain’s pleasure center to make you feel good, and when that chemical is taken away, your brain will send signals indicating a desire for more.
With prolonged use of marijuana, a user can become very attached to it, even personifying it as almost a companion in their life. When stopped, marijuana withdrawals can induce depression or a feeling of sadness, almost as if you’ve lost a friend or loved one. This feeling can sometimes be compared to the depression people feel when ending a long term, close relationship.
Sleeplessness is one of the most common marijuana withdrawal symptoms that users report, as most people get into the habit of smoking before bed in order to help them fall asleep. Since your body has become reliant on marijuana for sleep, stopping it can cause you to become restless and unable to calm down your thoughts, making it very difficult to sleep.
Although many habitual marijuana users may say that it’s a harmless drug and is non-addictive, there are plenty of studies that have proven very adverse effects and withdrawal symptoms associate with quitting substance. Not every user will experience every withdrawal symptom and the severity can depend on a variety of factors, but there is a definite impact on your physical and mental conditions until your body adjusts to the lack of marijuana.