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Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline & Symptoms

Written by Gretchen Koebbe

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Deep Shukla, PhD, MS

Medically Reviewed

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This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

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Last Updated - 08/10/2021

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Updated 08/10/2021

Key Takeaways

  • Marijuana withdrawal can lead to physical symptoms like fever, chills, and insomnia, and psychological symptoms like depression and anxiety.
  • Withdrawal symptoms may last 2–3 weeks, with most symptoms at their highest during the first week and then receding over subsequent weeks.
  • Duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms may vary depending on how long the patient used cannabis, dosage, and any other comorbid disorders.
  • Treatment at an inpatient or outpatient marijuana detox can provide the support and medical care needed to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.
  • Cannabis detox at home is not advisable and may result in relapse due to exposure to triggers.

The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can lead to significant discomfort and cause a relapse. Learn more about the symptoms and time-course of marijuana withdrawal.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are similar to those observed with nicotine dependence. The withdrawal symptoms may differ from one individual to another in their duration and intensity. Withdrawal symptoms due to dependence on weed generally involve irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, cravings for cannabis and physical pain.

Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal

Physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include weakness or tiredness, decreased appetite and weight loss, abdominal pains, sweating, nausea, fever or chills, and headaches.

Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal

The psychological symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include depressed mood, disturbances in sleep patterns including insomnia, anxiety and nervousness, agitation, irritability, dysphoria, anger, unpleasant dreams, and drug cravings.

Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline

Abstinence from marijuana use generally results in withdrawal symptoms that last for about 2–3 weeks. The onset of symptoms generally occurs within 1–3 days after abstinence and the symptoms reach their peak during days 2–6.

After a week of abstinence from cannabis use, most of the withdrawal symptoms start to subside. Some symptoms like difficulty sleeping may show a fluctuating pattern whereas unpleasant dreams tend to occur throughout the withdrawal period. Other symptoms like cravings and depression may also persist for several weeks after the onset of abstinence.

Factors Impacting Marijuana Withdrawal

Various factors affect the duration and severity of cannabis withdrawal symptoms, including the duration of marijuana use, the doses used, the use of other substances, current life stressors, and personality traits. The levels of cannabinoids in marijuana and the method of intake may also influence withdrawal duration.

The two major factors that influence the severity and duration of marijuana withdrawal include the drug use history of the individual and the personal characteristics of the individual. Severe dependence on marijuana, determined by the frequency, dose, and duration of drug use, tends to result in more severe withdrawal symptoms that last longer. Polydrug use, including the use of alcohol and tobacco, can result in more severe withdrawal symptoms as well. Similarly, the presence of a co-occurring psychiatric disorder can have an impact on withdrawal symptoms.

Physiological and other personal characteristics including gender, genetics, age, and overall health also determine the duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms. THC is absorbed by adipose or fat tissue and body fat content and the metabolic rate of an individual may determine the duration of withdrawal symptoms.

FAQs About Marijuana Withdrawal

Is marijuana addictive?

Marijuana is the third most commonly used substance after alcohol and nicotine. Although marijuana is considered to be safe for consumption by some people, considerable scientific research indicates that long-term marijuana use can result in the development of physical dependence on the drug, making marijuana use necessary to function normally. Individuals may also become addicted to marijuana. Around 9% of individuals who use marijuana are likely to develop dependence, relative to 15% of individuals who try cocaine. Approximately four million individuals in the United States fulfilled the criteria for marijuana addiction in 2015. Furthermore, prolonged use of marijuana can cause tolerance, characterized by the need for larger quantities of the drug to achieve the desired effects.

What cause marijuana withdrawal?

Long-term marijuana use can lead to physical dependency. As people become dependent, they develop a tolerance for the drug and need to consume greater quantities of the drug to achieve the desired effects. For someone who is dependent, lowering or stopping use can result in withdrawal symptoms as the brain and body react to the removal of the drug.

How is marijuana withdrawal diagnosed?

Abstinence from marijuana use after intake over a long period of time can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Individuals with drug dependence or addiction are often defensive about their drug use or try to rationalize their substance use. For the accurate diagnosis and treatment of marijuana addiction and its withdrawal symptoms, it is essential for the individual to be honest with the doctor about their history of drug use as well as about instances of drug relapse while undergoing detoxification. According to the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM 5th edition), to be diagnosed with cannabis withdrawal requires the presence of at least three of the following symptoms within one week of stopping use: irritability, anger or aggression, nervousness or anxiety, sleep difficulties including insomnia and unpleasant dreams, decreased appetite, depressed mood, and restlessness. To be diagnosed as withdrawal symptoms, patients must have symptoms that cause significant distress and result in impaired functioning in their social or occupational lives. Furthermore, these symptoms should not be a consequence of another primary condition such as a mood disorder or withdrawal symptoms from a different substance.

How long does marijuana stay in your system?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound present in marijuana. THC enters the bloodstream via the lungs when marijuana is smoked. Some of the THC is metabolized by the liver into water-soluble metabolites and excreted through the urine. The remaining THC is rapidly absorbed by adipose tissue (fat deposits) and organs such as the liver, brain, heart, gonads, and lungs. THC is then passively released back into the blood and subsequently excreted through urine. This results in a long half-life for marijuana. The half-life of marijuana in infrequent users in 18-30 hours, but the half-life of marijuana may range between 5-13 days in the case of frequent users.

Can I detox from marijuana at home?

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can cause significant distress and often lead to relapse. Although it is possible to detox at home, this is not advised. Although there are many detox kits available online, they are not approved by the FDA and may be unsafe, especially due to the presence of adulterants. Home remedies for marijuana detox and natural therapies for cannabis detox are also not advised as there is no medical supervision and there are no studies to back up their effectiveness. Healthy nutrition may be helpful to counteract the changes in appetite induced by marijuana withdrawal, while exercise and other physical activities are useful in alleviating stress-related symptoms. Engaging in hobbies and other activities may provide a useful distraction from the withdrawal symptoms.

When is a medical detox advised for marijuana withdrawal?

Medical detox is the most effective method of detoxification, especially for cases of severe marijuana addiction or in cases involving co-occurring mood or substance use disorders. Medical detox involves 24-hour care provided by doctors and nurses and helps the individual to cope with the withdrawal symptoms using behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy. Outpatient cannabis detox involves visiting a detox clinic for treatment but allows individuals to carry on with daily life activities such as school or work. Outpatient detox tends to be less expensive than inpatient detox.

How to Cope with Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are not life-threatening like those observed during withdrawal from other drugs. However, marijuana withdrawal symptoms can cause significant discomfort and the severity of these withdrawal symptoms can cause a relapse.

Discontinuation of marijuana use all at once, i.e. stopping marijuana use cold-turkey can lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms. Hence, it is advisable to gradually taper the marijuana dosage to reduce discomfort and prevent a relapse.

How Detox Helps

Both inpatient and outpatient detox involve various behavioral approaches, including group therapy, individual therapy sessions and support groups. These behavioral approaches can help the individual deal with the psychological symptoms of marijuana withdrawal. These approaches also involve a social component and provide the individual with the necessary support to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors at the detox center can also prescribe medications that can alleviate the withdrawal symptoms and make them more manageable. Furthermore, an inpatient detox can provide a drug-free environment and the necessary intensive care to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Treatment at a detox should be followed by enrollment in rehab for long-term recovery and to reduce the chances of relapse.

Detoxing Off Marijuana

In most cases, the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal resolve by themselves and treatment at a medical detox is not necessary. When detoxing at home, a few measures in addition to tapering the dose of marijuana intake may prove useful. Having a plan can prevent a relapse. For example, medical advice should be sought before undergoing detox, and the help of a friend or a family member should be secured for emotional support and in case of an emergency. Detoxification must be undertaken in a calm and non-stimulating environment.

Adhering to a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits, lean meats, and vegetables, while avoiding a calorie-rich and high-sodium diet, can help the detoxification process. Since marijuana is stored in fat tissue, a low-calorie diet and exercise can help boost metabolism and burn off fat. Drinking plenty of water and tea can also help clear the drug from the system. Mood disturbances involving anxiety, depression, and irritability are commonly observed during withdrawal from marijuana. Practicing yoga and meditation or engaging in other relaxing activities can help improve mood.

When to Find Help: Marijuana Rehab in Florida

Long-term use of marijuana can cause physical dependence on the drug that may be severe enough to cause addiction. Marijuana addiction is characterized by an inability to control drug use despite negative consequences on social and occupational functioning. It is essential to seek treatment in such a scenario of severe marijuana dependence and addiction.

Detoxification is the first step in the process of treatment of marijuana dependence and involves helping the individual cope with the withdrawal symptoms. Although detoxification may be undertaken at home, treatment at an inpatient or outpatient detox facility can reduce the chances of a relapse. Detoxification only involves the elimination of the drug from the body. Treatment at a rehabilitation center is necessary after detoxification to address the psychological issues underlying marijuana abuse.

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