Heavy marijuana users who give up smoking marijuana often face similar withdrawal effects as those addicted to other drugs. Because they have built up a tolerance to marijuana, their dependence on it may result in some unpleasant symptoms when abstaining from the drug. The body goes through a detoxification process because it is used to receiving marijuana on a regular basis. The symptoms may not be as strong as with other drugs. Marijuana users may have to overcome temptations to return to the drug during the withdrawal period.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Irritability and Insomnia
A study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that people quitting marijuana experienced irritability, anger and insomnia, according to the research reported in the January 2008 issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence 1. The 12 subjects smoked marijuana and cigarettes regularly. Quitting marijuana alone and tobacco alone had similar intensity in withdrawal symptoms. Quitters of marijuana had more difficulty sleeping than tobacco quitters, however feelings of anger and anxiety were more pronounced when quitting tobacco. A review of human and animal studies found that marijuana withdrawal had similar effects to other substance withdrawal syndromes, it was reported in the November 2004 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry 2. There were emotional and behavioral effects and symptoms of physical discomfort.
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Many marijuana users experience the opposite effects of smoking when they quit, according to the University of Wisconsin Health Services in Madison 3. Instead of hunger, a strong effect of marijuana smoking, they experience a loss of appetite during withdrawals. They have excessive salivation when quitting instead of dry mouth from marijuana use. They may have a decreased pulse rate and sometimes tremors. People who used marijuana as a control for their anger may become more aggressive and experience mood swings or irritability when quitting.
- Many marijuana users experience the opposite effects of smoking when they quit, according to the University of Wisconsin Health Services in Madison 3.
- They have excessive salivation when quitting instead of dry mouth from marijuana use.
Although there are immediate effects of quitting marijuana, there may be no long-term effects. A 2001 study showed no signs of cognitive changes following 28 days of abstinence from marijuana, according to the Harvard University Gazette. However, there were signs of impairment during the initial withdrawal period. The study focused on 63 heavy marijuana users, 45 former heavy users and 72 who had used marijuana no more than 50 times. The subjects were given intelligence, attention, learning and memory tests throughout the 28 days. During the first seven days, the heavy marijuana users had lower scores than the others on memory tests. But by the 28th day there was no significant difference among the groups.
- Although there are immediate effects of quitting marijuana, there may be no long-term effects.
- During the first seven days, the heavy marijuana users had lower scores than the others on memory tests.
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- Johns Hopkins Medicine: MARIJUANA WITHDRAWAL AS BAD AS WITHDRAWAL FROM CIGARETTES
- The American Journal of Psychiatry: Review of the Validity and Significance of Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome
- University of Wisconsin Health Services: Marijuana: Addiction and Other Issues
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 2019.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is Marijuana? Updated April 2020.
- Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(40):E2657-2664. doi:10.1073/pnas.1206820109
- Ribeiro L, Ind PW. Marijuana and the lung: hysteria or cause for concern? Breathe (Sheff). 2018;14(3):196-205. doi:10.1183/20734735.020418
- Huang YH, Zhang ZF, Tashkin DP, Feng B, Straif K, Hashibe M. An Epidemiologic Review of Marijuana and Cancer: An Update. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24(1):15-31. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-1026
- Patrick ME, Bray BC, Berglund PA. Reasons for Marijuana Use Among Young Adults and Long-Term Associations With Marijuana Use and Problems. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2016;77(6):881-888. doi:10.15288/jsad.2016.77.881
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: the Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: the National Academies Press; 2017.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is marijuana a gateway drug? Updated July 2019.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana: How Can It Affect Your Health? Updated February 27, 2018.
- Colizzi M, Bhattacharyya S. Cannabis use and the development of tolerance: a systematic review of human evidence. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018;93:1-25. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.07.014
- Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858
- Winters KC, Lee CY. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005
- Bonnet U, Preuss UW. The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: current insights. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2017;8:9-37. doi:10.2147/SAR.S109576
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders. Updated April 2020.
Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.