While it hasn’t been proven that marijuana is an addictive substance, it’s believed to produce a psychological dependency that is clearly marked by various symptoms of withdrawal. Anyone who’s been smoking pot for an extended period and takes a break can attest that marijuana withdrawal is a real thing.
Understanding Marijuana Withdrawal
Withdrawal occurs with pretty much any substance a person uses regularly. While people typically associate withdrawal with hard drugs like heroin and meth, other substances that alter the chemistry of the brain will elicit withdrawal symptoms as well.
Alcohol withdrawal can kill you if you’re accustomed to drinking heavily every day for years. Ever try to quit eating sugar? Way worse than marijuana withdrawal any day. Caffeine will do it too. And while marijuana withdrawal isn’t usually associated with crazy intense psychological withdrawal symptoms, it does tend to happen nonetheless.
Marijuana withdrawal can happen to anyone who uses it on a regular basis. This includes both recreational and medical cannabis consumers. A person who uses cannabis regularly (think more than once a week) experiences withdrawal as a result of the interaction of cannabinoids like THC and CBD in cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
The regular use of marijuana will change the state of cannabis receptors in the brain. When a person who’s been using cannabis suddenly stops, cannabis receptors must return to the state they were in prior to marijuana use. This is causes a chemical change in the brain, which in turn causes symptoms of withdrawal.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
There have been several studies on marijuana withdrawal. Researchers have found that not only can marijuana produce psychological withdrawal symptoms, but physical symptoms as well. Some of the most common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:
- Brain fog
- Insomnia/trouble sleeping
- Angry outbursts
- Nightmares/strange dreams
- Perceived restlessness
- Changes in appetite
- Muscle aches
- Muscle twitches
- Gastrointestinal upset
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are typically psychological. There is however, a small percentage of people that will experience some physical withdrawal. Dr. David Gorelick, psychiatry professor at the University School of Medicine, has conducted several studies on marijuana withdrawal. He says, “A minority of individuals who experience cannabis withdrawal (about 10%) experience physical symptoms.”
Substances that Change Brain Chemistry Typically Involve Withdrawal…Cannabis Included
Gorelick explains marijuana withdrawal by comparing it to other substances that change the chemistry of the brain. “Cannabis is a psychoactive drug which activates the same brain reward regions as do other abused drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, etc.,” he says.
This isn’t to say that marijuana holds the dangers these other substances do in the slightest. No one has ever overdosed from overconsumption of cannabis. Marijuana is far from deadly, and doesn’t promote dangerous diseases like many other psychoactive substances.
Withdrawal however, can be very real. Whether taking a tolerance break or giving up weed for good, people who are accustomed to using cannabis are likely to feel different when they suddenly stop.
Have you experienced marijuana withdrawal? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.