People have been using cannabis for thousands of years. In the last century, however, governments began outlawing its use; some governments based their decision on conservative fears, whereas others crumbled due to economic pressure from competing industries.
One of the most prolific arguments in support of cannabis legalization is that cannabis is not addictive, and thus will not cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it.
Well, sadly, this is not true. Like any other substance that you put into your body, your body will adapt itself to receive it regularly, thus leading to some withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop. With cannabis, these symptoms will be mild when compared to other addictive substances like opioids or alcohol. But there will be symptoms nonetheless.
Firstly, however, we need to look into why we go through cannabis withdrawal at all.
What is Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome?
A study conducted by Udo Bonnet and Ulrich Preuss found that, when you regularly consume cannabis, it leads to “a desensitization and down regulation of human brain cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors.”
This essentially means that the CB1 receptors in your body get weaker and less sensitive to natural stimulation in the body. This process does begin to reverse itself within the first 2 days of abstinence, finally going back to normal within about 4 weeks of avoiding cannabis. This ties in rather perfectly with the expected symptoms of Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome.
Desensitization of the CB1 receptors essentially hurts everything that is helped by those receptors being triggered. Anything that your body would trigger the CB1 receptor to help with is hindered in some small way when going through CWS.
This is also, coincidentally, the opposite effect of what happens when you use CBD (the non-psychoactive component of cannabis) to treat certain medical conditions. So if you’re thinking about quitting weed, here are a few weed detox symptoms you can expect.
#1: Sleeping Problems
By far one of the most common symptoms from Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome (CWS) is trouble sleeping.
This is of course usually called insomnia, and will result in you lying awake, staring at your ceiling, wondering where you went wrong in life to deserve not being able to sleep.
This symptom is common in all types of withdrawal, and it’s a result of your body not understanding why you’re not giving it what it’s used to. Your body just doesn’t understand why you haven’t taken any cannabis recently, so it’s having trouble processing things normally.
Common ways to deal with this kind of insomnia are what you’d expect – various herbal remedies, counting sheep, warm milk, etc. It’s important to remember, while lying in your bed at 3am, that this insomnia is only temporary. It’s not the kind of chronic insomnia that forces people to stay awake for weeks at a time; this will likely only last a few days or a week or two at most.
Have some warm milk, take a bath and maybe go to your local pharmacy for some sleep aids (or better yet, take CBD oil). It’s only going to be temporary, but it is certainly going to be pretty annoying.
#2 Sweating and Weakness
If you’ve ever smoked weed, you’ve probably felt a little bit more invincible, a little more able to deal with life and ignore some pain. Well, it’s actually true – cannabis acts as a natural painkiller, allowing your body to more easily deal with pain and overall making you a bit more resilient.
But as soon as you stop smoking weed frequently, you’ll once again get the opposite effect.
You might wake up feeling weak, finding it difficult to complete arduous tasks or work out as you regularly do. You’ll start sweating, even if it’s cold.
“What’s wrong with me?!” you’ll think. Well, don’t panic. This is easily one of the most common symptoms of any type of withdrawal.
Your body is experiencing a bit of shock at not having its normal dose of cannabis, that’s all. It’s confused why it isn’t having its CB receptors activated as frequently, so it thinks something is slightly wrong with you. It deals with this by trying to limit your physical activity and making you sweat.
Your brain is a very silly thing, so it tries to treat itself as if it has some sort of infection or illness. So don’t worry, as it will pass. You’ll be back to your regular strong, non-sweating self in no time.
#3 Nausea & Stomach Pain
Everyone is familiar with the pangs of hunger when imbibing a lot of weed. Better known as the munchies, these hunger pangs are the reason you order a large Domino’s pizza despite the fact that you’ve already eaten dinner and dessert.
Oddly enough, once you quit smoking weed, you may find yourself with the opposite problem: nausea.
This is pretty common when dealing with any kind of withdrawal, so don’t be too frightened. You might wake up with a sore stomach, or you might get queasy when you see food – or you might get both!
The best solution is to take some antacids or other common over-the-counter medication and try and avoid sickly foods for a little bit (also, some people have even been taking CBD oil to good effect for symptoms of temporary nausea).
#4 Craving for More Cannabis
This symptom is the worst one for your commitment to quitting weed, if that’s your end goal. Not unexpectedly, when you try and quit a substance that your body has become used to, your body tries to get you to use it more.
This is linked to the desensitization of the CB1 receptors caused by regular cannabis use. When your body is so used to cannabis appearing and encouraging the CB1 receptors, they become desensitized, and then, when you quit, the brain suddenly finds itself without sufficient CB1 receptor activity. This then causes you to want to ingest cannabis, as your brain has begun to treat it as something you need to have to keep going.
Well, don’t worry too much – you’re going to be fine. The urge isn’t anywhere near as bad as that with alcohol or cigarette withdrawal. It’s commonly compared to the withdrawal symptoms of quitting coffee after regular-moderate use.
You will want it, sure, but not in the all-pervading, endlessly desiring way that cocaine and alcohol addicts suffer from. Though you might resort to overeating to try and cope with it, consider instead going for a run or participating in more regular exercise.
The adrenaline and serotonin released by exercise can also help deal with the cravings, as well as making you healthier!
This final symptom will surprise you with how much it can bother you. Dysphoria is a general feeling of unease or dissatisfaction, all without exactly being able to figure out why. Some philosophers have described it as a feeling called “ennui”, but perhaps they too were also going through CWS.
Dysphoria, as the name might imply, is the polar opposite of the feeling of euphoria. This general feeling of dissatisfaction is hard to pin down, making it all the worse because you feel like you can’t do anything about it.
This is generally a symptom that people misconstrue as depression, mostly because it often follows on from that disorder. However, if you have recently quit using weed, experiencing this feeling is probably a result of that, so it will pass.
There isn’t really a way of dealing with this feeling, other than knowing that it will pass. A general population study conducted by Hasin et al. and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that over 30% of people who go through CWS suffer from this feeling of dysphoria. This at least means you’re not alone!
Try and center your mind, drink a calming tea, or go for a jog – it’s going to be okay.
Final Thoughts on the Side Effects of Quitting Weed
That’s a pretty big list of symptoms that we just mentioned, with some of them looking pretty frightening. However, don’t worry too much, as most of them won’t last long or be overly intense.
Though your body is confused and worried about why it’s previously over-stimulated CB1 receptors are being neglected, it will begin to rebuild its normal level of CB1 receptor activity in about 2 days.
This means you’ll likely only have to deal with the symptoms from anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks. After that, you’ll be back to how you were before.
Even better, Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome isn’t like the withdrawal from other substances – you’re not going to suffer long term damage or continuous cravings throughout your life, like cigarettes or alcohol.
Once you quit weed and go through the symptoms of CWS, you’re pretty much completely fine. Your body goes back to how it was before you smoked and, assuming you didn’t develop any other conditions that exist as a possible side effect of excessive cannabis use – such as psychosis – you’re going return completely to normal.
If you’re thinking of quitting weed for whatever reason, there’s no need to worry yourself. Sit back, relax, drink some chamomile tea and go for a run. The symptoms are going to be mildly unpleasant, but they’ll pass quickly.
Also, as a parting message, be advised that several studies have recently come out showing CBD oil (a cannabis-based non-psychoactive extract) to have incredible properties for helping deal with all sorts of addiction and withdrawal.
If you’re body is struggling with the cold-turkey marijuana abstinence, seriously consider giving a quality CBD hemp oil a try, as many thousands of people swear by its mollifying effects.