Most of us know cannabis as a hobby or medication that provides things like relaxation, euphoria, and relief from pain or stress – and it certainly works well. However, sometimes, marijuana works a little too well, and we just don’t know when to quit. While marijuana is absolutely less addictive than substances like cocaine or even alcohol, about 9% of people who use it form a dependence. In turn, that means you can experience some unpleasant cannabis withdrawal symptoms when you decide to stop smoking.
How Cannabis Works in the Brain
To understand how cannabis withdrawal symptoms begin, you need to know how marijuana affects your brain immediately and over the long term. Marijuana is chock full of cannabinoids- little structures that attach to receptors in the human endocannabinoid system. This system regulates a whole host of functions including sleep, motor control, and mood.
It turns out our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids on their own, so when you consume the THC in marijuana, things get thrown all out of whack. The feelings of euphoria, hazy thinking, and a decrease in coordination you get after smoking are all due to the THC binding to your brain’s cannabinoid receptors.
That’s all well and good in the short term, but consuming THC regularly changes the way your body produces and distributes its natural endocannabinoids. Imagine it this way: if someone suddenly started bringing you breakfast in bed every day, you’d start getting used to it eventually. You’d get tired of the same meal, and want more of it, or maybe better quality cooking – forgetting the fact that you used to have to make breakfast all by yourself.
In this scenario, the free breakfast is THC and the enjoyable effects that accompany it. When you stop smoking after a long stint, your body has gotten used to the cannabinoids from marijuana and forgets how to make its own. And it is not a pleasant learning curve to experience.
What Symptoms to Expect
As we said, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are a walk in the park when compared to the withdrawals from harder drugs, but they’re still not pleasant. Because your body is recalibrating to function without a flood of non-native cannabinoids, the systems governed by your endocannabinoid system may be affected. Here is what you might experience:
- Mood swings & irritability
- Changes in appetite
- Vivid or disturbing dreams
- The shakes/tremors
Taken altogether, these symptoms are pretty scary. However, remember that 50% of users with an established dependency actually experience hardly any or none of these symptoms even when going cold turkey. If you’re one of the other 50% that do experience some or all of these symptoms, they’re at their worst about ten days after your last use and get better from there.
How to Avoid or Minimize Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
If you’re concerned about stopping cannabis consumption, you’ve got a few options for making things easier, or even avoiding symptoms altogether. Here are some tips:
- Don’t Go Cold-Turkey: The best results happen when long-term users taper off marijuana rather than stopping suddenly. While cannabis withdrawal symptoms aren’t the worst, they are unpleasant enough that many cold-turkey quitters simply go back to smoking to avoid them.
- Eat Healthily: Your body is already confused and trying to reset itself to produce cannabinoids on its own. Don’t make things harder on it by filling up on junk food and treats! Ensuring you have all the nutrients you need is a critical step in managing any withdrawal symptoms you may have.
- Pick Up a Hobby: While symptoms like insomnia and nausea are difficult to get around, the most reported symptom is nervousness and the feeling of being restless. Sometimes, there’s no good way to combat this except getting out of the house and/or finding relief by putting your focus into a constructive activity.
Marijuana is a wonderful plant, with the power to soothe many ills. Even when someone becomes dependent on it, the withdrawal symptoms are hardly a nightmare and are certainly manageable.
Article By: Spencer Grey