Marijuana Withdrawal and Detox

People with a dependence on marijuana may suffer withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit. Medical detox programs can help people get sober and avoid relapse.

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Understanding Marijuana Withdrawal

Like other addictive substances, heavy or prolonged marijuana use can increase a person’s risk of withdrawal when stopping. While marijuana withdrawal isn’t as dangerous as harder drugs like crack cocaine or heroin, many users still face withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.

The symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana vary between each user. Some people with mild marijuana dependencies are able to stop on their own. However, chronic users who have built up a tolerance might need more help kicking their habit.

If you’ve struggled to quit using marijuana on your own, a medical detox program may be the answer you’re looking for.

Do I Need Detox for Marijuana Withdrawal?

Withdrawal from marijuana can be uncomfortable – especially for chronic users. A medically supervised detox is especially recommended for those who have co-occurring disorders, including addictions to other types of drugs and mental health conditions. In particular, addictions to other drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms a person experiences during marijuana withdrawal.

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Medical detox is designed to help people slowly ease off of a substance, such as marijuana, until it’s completely cleared from their system. This helps to reduce the intensity of any withdrawal symptoms they might have. Once withdrawal symptoms improve, a medical team will walk patients through any additional treatments they might need. Many people opt to continue recovering at a rehab center so they’ll have the highest chance of staying sober and avoiding relapse.

Other reasons for choosing a detox program include:

  • Having a mental disorder that co-occurs with a marijuana addiction.

    Many people use marijuana to self-medicate a mental health problem. Medical detox sets the groundwork for treating the marijuana addiction alongside an underlying co-occurring disorder.

  • Making multiple attempts to quit marijuana but being unable to do so.

    Some habits die hard, and marijuana is no exception. The uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana make it difficult to quit without the help of medical professionals.

  • Not living in a stable, substance-free environment.

    If your living situation encourages substance use, overcoming your marijuana addiction might feel impossible. Sobering up in a detox program can provide a safe and comforting home away from home.

Today, there are numerous inpatient and outpatient treatment centers that offer in-house marijuana detox services. Explore the top rated options below or browse our rehab directory here.

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Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of withdrawing from marijuana vary according to an individual’s level of dependency. For example, a person with a mild dependence on marijuana may experience minor physical and psychological discomfort, such as headaches or restlessness. On the other hand, those with severe forms of marijuana addiction may endure more intense withdrawal symptoms, including sweating, fever, chills and hallucinations. In general, the longer the individual has used marijuana, the more severe their symptoms will be. Luckily, in most cases marijuana withdrawal symptoms will largely subside after about a month in most cases.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood changes
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach pains
  • Appetite loss/weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia or fatigue

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If someone smokes today’s high-potency marijuana daily, what happens if they stop? Fully 50 percent will suffer withdrawal symptoms. Sleep will be poor, appetite will decline and there might be vomiting or abdominal pain. A 17-year-old daily user recently told me, ‘I can’t sleep or eat at all unless I smoke.’ Anxiety and irritability increase. Some users experience muscle twitching or limb spasms…Most symptoms will clear in less than a week, but the experience is rough. Many heavy users resume smoking in mid-withdrawal.

- Dr. Grace M. McGorrian, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2015

Detox Options for Marijuana

In cases where the patient resides in a state where marijuana is legal and possesses a legitimate prescription, doctors may use a tapering down method to help users overcome withdrawal symptoms. This method involves reducing the amount and frequency of marijuana used over a period of time. Tapering off the drug allows the brain to slowly adjust to lower levels of THC, resulting in less intense withdrawal symptoms. In most circumstances, however, use of marijuana is ceased immediately upon entering detox, and non-narcotic comfort medications are provided.

While some are able to safely detox from marijuana on their own, doctors are able to prescribe medications to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. For example, metoclopramide or promethazine can help with nausea and vomiting. Headaches or muscle pains can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen. It is important to consult a doctor about how to best treat withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?

The duration of withdrawal from marijuana is different for everyone. For most heavy marijuana users, withdrawal symptoms begin on the first day after quitting and peak within 48 to 72 hours. Symptoms generally last two to three weeks and dissipate over time.

Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline
Day 1 During the first day of withdrawal from marijuana, feelings such as irritability, anxiety and insomnia are common.
Days 2 – 3 This period is typically the peak of withdrawal symptoms. Cravings can be strong, so relapse is most likely during this time. Sweating, chills and stomach pains have also been reported during this period.
Days 4 – 14 Over the next several weeks, symptoms generally improve. However, depression can set in as brain chemistry changes and adapts to functioning without THC. Marijuana cravings may still be present as well.
Days 15+ Most, if not all, symptoms should be gone by week three. Those with severe psychological addictions have reported feelings of depression and anxiety for up to several months after discontinuing marijuana use.

Treating A Marijuana Addiction

After safely detoxing with the help of medical professionals, a person with a psychological dependence on marijuana should seek further treatment at a rehab center.

An outpatient program is best suited for those with milder forms of marijuana dependence, while inpatient programs are recommended for more severe addictions. Outpatient programs are available to those who wish to remain at home during treatment, but also want the help and advice of professionals as they pursue recovery. Inpatient programs provide a high level of care in a structured environment, allowing people to focus solely on their recovery.

If you or a loved one is ready to shed a marijuana addiction, the time to act is now. Contact a treatment provider today who can help weigh your options.

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