Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms: Self-Treatment
For someone who has been smoking cannabis (weed) heavily for years, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant. High anxiety, low mood, brain fog and insomnia are just a few signs of weed withdrawal.
Fortunately, unlike benzodiazepines and alcohol, cannabis withdrawal is never fatal. This means that you can safely detox from the comfort of your own home.
How long does it take brain receptors to return to normal after quitting Weed?
Research shows that cannabinoid brain receptors start to return to normal after just 2 days without weed. They regain full normal functioning within 4 weeks of stopping all cannabis use.
Cannabis (Weed) withdrawal symptoms
If you are a regular weed user, when you first quit the drug, the onset of withdrawal symptoms can happen within a few hours. You may begin by feeling restless and anxious and experience cannabis cravings. Further symptoms may develop over the course of the next few days.
Withdrawal symptoms of Weed can include:
- Brain fog
- Increased sweating
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor appetite
- Insomnia - difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Unable to stop thinking, racing thoughts
Whilst these symptoms may feel difficult to sit with, they do pass relatively quickly. After about a week, your brain will have adapted to being without cannabis and withdrawal symptoms will decrease. The acute stage is over within 1 to 2 weeks of stopping weed.
Note that if you are also addicted to alcohol, or to a benzodiazepine like Xanax or Valium, you should seek medical treatment. This is because withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines is much more serious and can cause life-threatening complications.
How to treat symptoms of cannabis and weed withdrawal at home
Getting through weed withdrawal can be tough, but there are things that you can do to make it a little easier on yourself.
When you are going through the symptoms of weed withdrawal, exercise can be your new best friend. Exercise will help you boost your endorphins. This will help improve your mood and help you to sleep better at night. If you can, rigorous exercise like swimming, running, lifting weights or yoga is great, but any physical movement will have you feeling a little better and less anxious.
When you have stopped smoking cannabis, your appetite will probably not be great at first. You will rarely want to eat, and when you do, it might not taste so good. Your appetite will usually return within a few weeks of stopping weed. In the meantime, make sure that you eat good quality food regularly. This will help your body and mind to heal much faster.
While people withdrawing from opioid drugs like heroin need to rest up for a few days, this can be counterproductive for people stopping cannabis. Too much time on your hands can increase cannabis cravings and worsen your mood. Staying active and busy will make time pass more quickly.
Take time to unwind
That being said, don’t overdo it! If you start feeling stressed out, it is OK to spend some time decompressing. Now can be a good time to watch films and indulge in some self-care.
People often smoke cannabis to reduce stress in their life. When you stop smoking, you may feel that stress more acutely for a while. Meditation can effectively lower stress whilst you are doing it, and in the period after. If you keep doing it, your resting stress levels should decrease drastically.
Connect with people
You may feel like isolating while you are going through the symptoms of weed withdrawal, due to certain feelings. Connecting can help though. Try to have someone you can call or go for coffee with who has already quit pot. You can also consider attending a recovery group for people stopping marijuana use. Marijuana Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous both welcome people who are attempting to, or who have already, quit cannabis.
Your doctor may be able to prescribe you medication to help with initial insomnia, a common symptom of cannabis and weed. Note that you should only take this for a very short amount of time and that you absolutely should not take medication that is not prescribed for you. If you do this, you risk getting hooked on it as a replacement for cannabis.
Post-acute cannabis withdrawal symptoms
After the acute stage of weed withdrawal is over, some people begin suffering from post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). PAWS is a collection of symptoms that is less severe than the acute phase of withdrawal but still challenging for many people attempting to quit. It typically comes in waves, with signs increasing for a few days before reducing.
Symptoms of PAWS withdrawal from cannabis and weed include:
- Body aches
- Poor cognitive functioning
- Brain fog
PAWS from cannabis typically lasts up to 6 months, though it can last as long as a year or more.
Decrease PAWS from cannabis withdrawal
Fortunately, as with reducing cannabis withdrawal symptoms, PAWS can also be treated. While cannabis withdrawal management is all about making you feel better in the short term, addressing PAWS means looking at short-term and long-term solutions.
Treatment for reducing Weed PAWS withdrawal symptoms:
This works for weed PAWS symptoms too. Exercising regularly helps neurotransmitters in your brain that are affected by cannabis to recover quicker. In the short term, getting moving provides you with endorphins that will get you through difficult days.
Looking at the reasons why you got addicted to cannabis can help you find the keys to reducing the PAWS stage of weed withdrawal. You may find that your cannabis use started due to a trauma that you experienced. Working through that trauma with a therapist may help to reduce the symptoms of PAWS, as the stress that you experience from unprocessed trauma is relieved.
Recovery groups for cannabis addiction and withdrawal
Going to groups like Marijuana Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery provides you with support from people who have similar experiences and goals. These groups also provide you with a framework for recovery, and meetings where you can listen to other people’s wisdom, and share your own experience. These three elements all help reduce stress, which is the main driver of PAWS symptoms.
Alternative healing modalities for trauma
Modalities like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) can play a part in reducing Cannabis withdrawal PAWS symptoms. The first uses rapid eye movement to process trauma. The second involves a series of stress positions that release the psoas muscle, where a lot of the trauma in our bodies is stored. If you have trauma, having these sessions will reduce PAWS symptoms.
Sound healing uses the power of sound waves to reduce stress in your body and brain. You are likely to find some relief after one of these sessions. Sound baths and healing can be very relaxing and help to reduce stress levels that contribute to the symptoms of weed PAWS withdrawal.
Remind yourself why you’re doing it
When the going gets tough during PAWS, cannabis cravings can kick in. When these happen, thinking about all the reasons why you are quitting marijuana can help you not to give in. After all, if you return to cannabis use, you will only have to face the whole withdrawal process once again.
Why quit smoking cannabis?
Many people consider cannabis to be a benign drug that cannot cause harm. This is unfortunately not true. Long-term cannabis use can cause serious damage to both your body and your brain. There are numerous benefits to quitting cannabis
Cannabis use can lead to psychotic disorders
A large body of scientific evidence has shown that regular cannabis smoking can increase your risk of developing a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia. This is especially true if you have a family history of the disorder.
The number of people experiencing psychotic disorders due to smoking weed has been increasing in the past decade. This is due to the prevalence of the cannabis available containing far higher levels of THC (the main psychoactive ingredient) than previously. Smoking high-strength weed causes a significantly elevated risk of developing psychosis due to its effects on your brain.
Cannabis use can lead to anxiety and depression
Cannabis smokers are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than those who do not smoke the drug. This is likely because regular cannabis use alters brain chemistry in a way that amplifies negative emotions. Cannabis is also a depressant drug with psychoactive properties.
Once someone quits weed, they may go through a period of rebound anxiety and depression. This almost always decreases over time and improves.
Cannabis use can impair cognitive function
Scientists have shown that chronic cannabis use can impair cognitive function, including memory, attention, and executive functioning. This effect is most pronounced in young people, whose brains are still developing.
If you feel like your ability to think has been reducing recently, do not panic. Many symptoms of cognitive decline can be reversed after cannabis use has ceased and once the symptoms of weed withdrawal have stopped.
Cannabis use can lead to addiction
If you smoke cannabis regularly you may develop an addiction. This means that you will have cannabis withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit, and will often continue using cannabis despite negative consequences. Cannabis addiction is a serious medical condition, that requires specific treatment or a recovery programme to prevent cannabis relapse.
Cannabis use can cause respiratory problems
Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains harmful chemicals that can damage the lungs. This can lead to several respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and lung cancer.
Sometimes, chemicals are sprayed onto cannabis to increase its weight and therefore price to users. These additives may be incredibly harmful and can resemble THC crystals, making it incredibly difficult to tell the potency and toxicity of the drug being used.
Additionally, weed is often smoked with tobacco. Tobacco in itself is known to cause a whole host of health issues related to the heart and lungs.
Cannabis use is expensive
People who are addicted to cannabis often spend hundreds of pounds a week on the drug. Over a year, this adds up to many thousands. When you quit smoking, think about buying yourself something from all the money that you saved by not buying cannabis.
Rehab treatment for cannabis withdrawal
If you have had a dependency on cannabis for many years, and you use large amounts of cannabis each day, this is known as chronic cannabis use. In instances such as this, you may find it difficult to quit weed by yourself, you may find withdrawal symptoms too much
The same is true if you use cannabis to medicate mental health problems. Many people who find themselves addicted to cannabis have an underlying mental health issue that they were trying to subdue by using cannabis. Anxiety, depression and PTSD may all be lessened by using cannabis but only in the short term. In the long term, weed will only compound the symptoms of any mental health illness.
The problem is that when someone wants to quit weed, these mental health problems still remain. They have not been resolved. You may even find that they have worsened due to being untreated, and, because of the detrimental effects that cannabis has on the brain. Attempting to stop smoking cannabis is far more difficult in such cases, as mental health issues should be treated simultaneously with addiction.
In either of the scenarios, inpatient rehab can work really well. At rehab, you will be in the care of professionals who can provide medical treatment for your cannabis or weed withdrawal symptoms. You may also be able to get a diagnosis for a co-occurring disorder, should you need one. Note that you need to be clean for at least a few months before a healthcare professional can give you an accurate diagnosis. Once you have this, you can then receive effective treatment.
Alternative treatment to cannabis rehab for withdrawal
Not everyone has the time or money to go to rehab. If you have an addiction to cannabis that you cannot stop yourself, consider going to a recovery group that can support you.
If you suspect you may have a co-occurring disorder, you must get a diagnosis from a mental health professional, so your mental health problem can be addressed. You will need to have a period of sobriety before you do this.
Weed withdrawal symptoms can mimic mental health issues, hence why a period of abstinence is helpful for a correct diagnosis. Cannabis support groups can help to hold you through this difficult period by providing social connection, support and a recovery focus.
Symptoms of withdrawal from synthetic cannabis “Fake Weed”
Synthetic cannabinoids are drugs that are designed to mimic the effects of THC in cannabis and weed. They are often more potent than natural cannabis plants, and their side effects and withdrawal symptoms can be far more severe.
Side effects from synthetic weed use include:
- Severe psychotic episodes
- Kidney damage
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks and death
- Serious mental health conditions
There are many different types of synthetic cannabinoids. A packet of synthetic weed may have one active ingredient (the chemical that gets you high), or it may have several. They may even have chemicals in that are not synthetic cannabinoids, and are from a completely different class of psychoactive compounds.
Withdrawal symptoms for synthetic weed products are usually stronger than those from natural cannabis products. This is something to bare in mind before you attempt to quit any type of fake weed.
Synthetic cannabis withdrawal symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Poor cognitive functioning
- Brain fog
You should only go through synthetic cannabinoid withdrawal under the care of a medical professional at a hospital or rehab centre. This is due to the dangers inherent in going through withdrawal from these substances by yourself.
Having the assistance of a medical professional means that you will be monitored to make sure that your vital signs are OKAY, and will be administered with medication if you need it.
You can get through cannabis withdrawal symptoms
Quitting smoking cannabis is challenging, but there are plenty of approaches that you can implement that will help to make the process much easier. Once acute symptoms are over, use this guide to power your way through PAWS and treat cannabis withdrawal symptoms at home.
If you are dependent on synthetic cannabinoids and are struggling to quit, you should seek professional help. The same is true of weed addiction. Nearly every person that suffers from an addiction or mental health problem requires some kind of professional input to help them recover.
Cannabis addiction can seem like a hopeless situation. However, rest assured that many of us have successfully quit weed and embraced the recovery process. We can help show you the way and connect you to like-minded others within our recovery platform.
You can also access free local treatment for cannabis withdrawal within our hub of hope
- Pharmacological treatment of Cannabis dependence: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171994/
- What are marijuana's long-term effects on the brain? (2018).
- Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report
Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/available-treatments-marijuana-use-disorders
- Is marijuana addictive? https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
- Marijuana withdrawal: symptoms, timeline and expectations: https://www.psycom.net/marijauna-withdrawal
- PAWS Post acute Withdrawal Syndrome: https://www.rehabguide.co.uk/post-acute-withdrawal-syndrome/