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Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms appear within 1-3 days and can last up to two weeks. It isn’t life-threatening, but it is associated with a variety of mood and gastrointestinal symptoms.

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People who are dependent on weed or cannabis and suddenly quit using this psychoactive drug may experience unpleasant marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Although less intense than withdrawal from drugs like opioids, alcohol, stimulants, and benzodiazepines, cannabis withdrawal can still be distressing. 

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Dependence typically occurs when someone is addicted to marijuana. Although many people falsely believe marijuana addiction doesn’t exist, about 30% of people who use cannabis develop cannabis use disorder.[1] Additionally, THC levels have increased steadily over time and are now about three times the concentration they were 25 years ago—something that undoubtedly contributes to physiological dependence and weed withdrawal.[2]

In an analysis of published studies of marijuana withdrawal that included 23,518 participants, researchers found evidence of cannabis withdrawal in 47% of users. As a result, researchers said that withdrawal symptoms appeared to be “common” in heavy cannabis users.[10]

What Is Marijuana Withdrawal?

Marijuana withdrawal, also called cannabis withdrawal, occurs when someone who is dependent on weed abruptly stops smoking or consuming it.

Cannabis withdrawal is a real phenomenon. While research is ongoing, studies suggest the problem is chemical and not behavioral. Marijuana can persist in regular users for as long as seven days, triggering changes in brain signaling the entire time. Brain cell signaling is limited, so people feel sedated and calm. When chronic users quit, signaling can return to normal and cause feelings like anxiety, stress, and nightmares.[11]

This is because chronic marijuana use causes neuroadaptations in the brain in which the brain cells and receptors adjust to the presence of weed and now need it to function properly.

Research shows that about 47% of people who regularly use marijuana experience weed withdrawal symptoms. Although these symptoms aren’t dangerous, they can be uncomfortable.[3] 

In some cases, cannabis withdrawal syndrome may cause serious enough symptoms that people may relapse in order to ease these symptoms. In these cases, it’s necessary to get professional detox help in order to successfully quit use.

What is Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Marijuana withdrawal isn’t typically as intense as withdrawal associated with other recreational drugs. Symptoms can include the following:[3-5]

  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Marijuana cravings
  • Fever
  • Chills

Contrary to popular misconceptions, marijuana withdrawal is fairly common. Research shows that between 50% and 95% of people enrolled in cannabis addiction treatment have experienced withdrawal.[5]

How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?

Everyone’s marijuana withdrawal experience may differ depending on many factors. However, weed withdrawal symptoms typically appear within one to three days after last use.[5]

These symptoms then build in intensity and peak around one week after cessation. From there, they gradually dissipate and resolve within about one or two weeks.[5]

Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline

This table explains a typical marijuana withdrawal timeline:[9]

Time Since Last UseExperience
24-48 hoursInsomnia, irritability, decreased appetite, shakiness, sweating, and chills
Days 2-6Symptoms peak in intensity
Day 7Physical symptoms fade, but anger, aggression, and depression appear
Day 14Mental health improves

Protracted Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

Protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal symptoms are symptoms that linger for weeks or months after the acute cannabis withdrawal symptoms have resolved. These symptoms may include: [5]

  • Yawning
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration issues
  • Periods of increased sleep and appetite followed by lack of appetite and insomnia

These symptoms can fluctuate and flair up during times of stress. They can also increase the risk of relapse to marijuana use, which is why receiving ongoing support and therapy is so important.

Factors That Affect Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana withdrawal syndrome can vary depending on many factors, including:[7]

  • A person’s individual physiology
  • Amount of marijuana used and frequency of use
  • Previous withdrawal experiences
  • Comorbid medical conditions
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Genetic factors
  • Gender (research shows women tend to experience more severe symptoms)

Cannabis Withdrawal Treatment: Inpatient & Outpatient Detox

If a person is experiencing marijuana withdrawal, they may be able to get through it without treatment if their symptoms are not severe. However, this does increase the chance that they might relapse and will continue to use marijuana even when they want to quit.

People struggling with marijuana withdrawal should start with a visit to the doctor. Tools like the 16-item cannabis withdrawal scale can help medical professionals grade the severity of your discomfort. If you’re feeling very ill, your doctor can help you find the right treatment program.[9]

Your risk of a difficult marijuana withdrawal is also higher if you use other substances (like alcohol) or have an underlying mental health issue (like anxiety).[9] Anyone with these additional risk factors should consider enrolling in a qualified marijuana withdrawal program.

Professional cannabis detox treatment can provide you with support, care, and monitoring you need to withdraw from marijuana and manage your distressing symptoms.

Options for cannabis withdrawal treatment include:

  • Medical detox: Medical detox is likely not necessary for marijuana withdrawal since it’s not typically dangerous but it may be helpful for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Inpatient detox: Inpatient detox can occur in freestanding detox centers or within addiction treatment facilities and offer 24-hour support and supervision to manage your symptoms.
  • Outpatient detox: Outpatient detox involves attending treatment during the day and returning home in the evening. This may be a good option if you need flexibility while quitting marijuana.

Medications for Cannabis Withdrawal

In 2021, researchers examined several medications that have been used in marijuana withdrawal programs. They point out that the studies on the efficacy of these drugs came with flaws. For example, many people got therapy in addition to medications, so it’s hard to know if the drugs worked or the therapy helped more. However, they suggest that these medications might be useful, as long as more studies on efficacy are done first:[9]

  • Cannabis agonists, such as dronabinol or oral THC
  • FAAH inhibitors, such as PF-00457845
  • Anticonvulsants, such as quetiapine or gabapentin
  • Mood stabilizers, such as lithium
  • SSRIs, such as escitalopram
  • GABA receptor agonists, such as zolpidem

The researchers point out that all medications carry the risk of side effects. Doctors should measure the potential harm these drugs might cost, given that they’re largely untested and unproven in people who use marijuana. In some cases, it might be wiser to provide supportive care to help people move through marijuana withdrawal naturally without relapsing.[9]

Post-Detox Addiction Treatment

Although detox is an important first step on the continuum of marijuana addiction care, treatment doesn’t end once you’ve gone through withdrawal and stabilized. Detox doesn’t help you address the underlying influences that caused your marijuana use in the first place.

To create lasting change and long-term abstinence, you need comprehensive and integrated treatment, where you can learn coping skills and relapse prevention strategies and build a sober community.

Updated April 18, 2024
  1. Addiction (Marijuana or Cannabis Use Disorder). (October 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Know the Risks of Marijuana. (September 2022). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  3. If Cannabis Becomes a Problem: How to Manage Withdrawal. (May 2020). Harvard Health Publishing.
  4. Is Marijuana Addictive? (July 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  5. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association. (2013).
  6. Pharmacological Treatment of Cannabis Dependence. (2011). Current Pharmaceutical Design.
  7. The Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome: Current Insights. (April 2017). Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation.
  8. Quitting Marijuana: A 30 Day Self Help Guide. University of Notre Dame.
  9. Clinical Management of Cannabis Withdrawal. (November 2021). Addiction.
  10. Prevalence of Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms Among People with Regular or Dependent Use of Cannabinoids. (April 2020). JAMA Network Open.
  11. Cannabis Use, Abuse, and Withdrawal: Cannabinergic Mechanisms, Clinical and Preclinical Findings. (April 2021). Journal of Neurochemistry.
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