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Marijuana Withdrawal and Detox

Usage of marijuana alters the structure and function of brain in such a way that it fails to work normally in the absence of drug. So when an addict stops taking the drug, the brain demands it to be supplied that results into unpleasant and painful symptoms referred to as withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can appear at complete discontinuation of drug as well as on decreasing the amount taken. Withdrawal symptoms only appear when the user has developed the dependence for the substance.

Marijuana Withdrawal and Detox

Table of contents:

  • 1.Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
  • 2.The Duration Withdrawal Lasts For
  • 3.To Treat Withdrawal Symptoms
  • 4.Marijuana Detoxification

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms:

The first step towards recovery is quitting the drug and after that, the body starts to remove toxins from the system that have accumulated from the years of usage. This results into withdrawal symptoms. In case of marijuana, the withdrawal symptoms are not as severe but still they can be highly uncomfortable. Symptoms can vary from one user to the other depending upon the dose and period of time the drug was used for. The symptoms produced from withdrawal are also dubbed as marijuana withdrawal syndrome. The symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Excessive aggression
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Nightmares
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Fatigue

Though marijuana withdrawal symptoms are not as severe but they can last for much longer as compared to other drugs. The reason is that the key chemical present in marijuana, THC, has an ability to last in the system for several weeks. These symptoms make the process of quitting much more difficult and that is the reason most addicts prefer to go back to using the drug rather than bearing the pain.

The Duration Withdrawal Lasts For:

Time period for which withdrawal symptoms last may vary from one user to the other. Light users usually experience less severe withdrawal symptoms for small periods of time while the opposite is true for heavy users. The symptoms also start to appear earlier for heavy users and may peak within 48 hours of taking the last dose. The other factors that affect withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Genetic disposition
  • Length of abuse

These symptoms appear because chemicals present in the drug alter the structure of brain in such a way that it starts thinking it needs the foreign chemical coming from the drug for its functioning so when the chemical is not supplied, withdrawal symptoms are produced that force the addict to take more drug.

Timeline For Withdrawal:

  • Day 1:
    Light symptoms such as anxiety, reduced sleep and restlessness are experienced by the addicts.
  • Day 2 to 3:
    From the 2nd day, the symptoms start to reach their highest point, especially for heavy users. Sweating, chills, shaking and stomachache is frequently experienced by the addicts. This is the most sensitive period since addicts are at a very high risk of relapsing during this time.
  • Days 4 to 15:
    The physical symptoms now start to get better and the pain lessens but the mental and psychological symptoms start to appear. It happens because brain tries to adapt to new condition where it has to work without THC. Anxiety and depression are commonly experienced.
  • Day 16 and coming days:
    The symptoms now start to disappear but heavy users can continue to experience them for even longer periods.

Although physical symptoms are completely gone, depression and anxiety can last for years even after the drug has been quit.

To Treat Withdrawal Symptoms:

So far, FDA has not approved any medications to treat marijuana addiction. There are medications available to ease the withdrawal symptoms produced from heroin, cocaine etc but unfortunately, no similar drugs are available for marijuana. But a number of strategies can be adopted to make the pain bearable:

  • Use of antidepressants:
    Antidepressant and ant anxiety drugs can be prescribed to cope up with depression and anxiety caused after quitting. But during the process, medical supervision is necessary since these drugs are addictive themselves.
  • Seeking therapy:
    Therapy can help recovered people stay motivated and not relapse. It can also ease the psychological pain and teach the person positive coping mechanisms.

A number of simple activities have also been found to be helpful such as:

  • Taking hot baths
  • Exercising
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Consuming cranberry juice to facilitate the process of detoxification
  • Reducing the intake of fatty food
  • Eating potassium rich foods such as bananas, citrus fruits, melons etc to make up for lost potassium through sweating
  • Meditation

Marijuana Detoxification:

Although marijuana detoxification process can be completed at home but seeking professional help is highly recommended. The patients stay under constant supervision that reduces the risk of relapsing. The professionals can guide the patient in a much better way, helping them make the process less difficult. Detoxification is not all that is needed for the recovery but in fact, it is first step towards recovery. Since there are no drugs approved by FDA to be used to deal with withdrawal symptoms, certain therapies can help.

  • Contingency Management: This procedure includes rewards for the patients when they behave in certain ways such as avoid drugs even after severe cravings.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: This approach encourages the patients to set goals for themselves and achieve them. The patients are kept motivated throughout to work towards their goals. Therapists can help the patients to develop a strategy to achieve their goals.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This approach works by educating and counseling patients. They are helped to give up on negative habits and replace them with healthier ones.

It has been found that patients who seek help are more likely to recover than the ones who try to do it on their own. Also, they are at a lesser risk of relapsing.

Very rarely, detoxification process can be fatal because of the severe reaction produced by the body. The excessive vomiting and sweating leaves the body undernourished and dehydrated that can result into death. But death is extremely rare in the case of marijuana addiction.


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