Let’s be honest, none of us really want to just stop smoking cannabis. With all its potential medical benefits and the kickass high it provides us with, there’s little conviction to just quit the habit.
However, we at Weed World understand that everyone’s lives present different situations. Some may need to stop for an upcoming drug test. Others may find that cannabis just isn’t doing it for them like it used to.
Whatever your case may be, you’re probably curious as to how giving up weed is going to affect your brain and body. The thing is, giving up weed affects us all differently just as smoking it does. Our bodies and brains are extremely unique and no set of research can properly determine what will happen to YOU.
Luckily, what will happen is very minimal. Since cannabis is much a lighter substance in comparison to alcohol or opiates, withdrawal symptoms are at a minimum – sometimes, they aren’t even noticeable at all. Furthermore, unlike other substances, it only takes about a month to fully give up marijuana.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look into what happens to your brain and body when you give up cannabis. From there, we’re going to offer some advice as to how to handle any potential withdrawal symptoms.
The First Three Days
Similar to breaking any other habit, the first three days are usually the worst of the worst. It’s during this time that your body and brain must adjust to not having any chemical influence upon it. During this adjustment is when your body will return to homeostasis – it’s organic self.
Of course, not everyone who smokes weed will undergo this metamorphosis. A major factor is how often you intake cannabis. For example, chronic smokers (those who smoke multiple times a day) will generally experience the worst of the worst. Whereas light smokers (those who take a puff or two at the end of the night) may not feel anything at all.
Withdrawal symptoms vary greatly depending on a number of different factors, including your body weight, age, gender, and overall personality.
However, generally speaking, most people will experience difficulty sleeping during this time. Though we might not all directly use cannabis to help us get a good night’s rest, there’s no denying that a quick toke helps us get some easy shut-eye. Though there are no clear-cut studies revealing why this is, a number of self-reports indicate that cannabis can help improve the quality of sleep, decrease sleep disturbances, and reduce the onset latency of sleep. ¹ With that said, the reverse generally happens when you quit.
Along with this, you may find yourself more irritable. This isn’t always necessarily a factor of quitting weed itself. Rather, it’s a factor of a lack of sleep along with other withdrawal symptoms. Irritability is our body’s natural way of handling stress and there’s no denying that quitting weed is bound to bring on a bit of stress. Especially, for those of us who have become so accustomed to it.
Finally, one of the most important withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience is anxiety. Again, not everyone ingests cannabis to ease anxiety. However, since cannabis activates various parts of the brain that diminish anxiety, it’s common for people who quit to feel anxious for the 72 hours that follow their final toke.
The Following Week
Though it isn’t always the case, some people have reported feeling depression a week after quitting weed. Science has discovered that smoking marijuana does increase serotonin and dopamine levels within the brain – serotonin being responsible for happiness and mood regulation with dopamine acting as a neurotransmitter for feelings of pleasure. ³ The lack of these two chemicals is often what’s found in those struggling major depressive disorder.
Again, whether this occurrence will affect you or not has much to do with how much you smoke and how accustomed your brain has become to the intake of cannabinoids.
However, it’s worthy to note that this effect usually doesn’t last a long time. Unlike opioids, cannabis doesn’t inhibit the brain’s natural circulation of dopamine and serotonin with its own replica of these chemicals. Rather, it triggers these chemicals to produce more than the normal expectancy. ⁴
Not to mention, our brains are powerful machines and have very little difficulty re-learning how to create these chemicals without the influence of cannabis. For this reason, people who experience depression due to marijuana withdrawal usually only do so for about a week or so.
After a Few Weeks
One of the most common reports among people who quit cannabis is they experience extremely vivid dreams. There is some science backing this up. According to Dr. Hans Hamburger, a neurologist and sleep expert, weed interferes with a person’s potential to experience REM sleep – the period which is responsible for most people’s dreams.
“If you’ve been taking a drug that suppresses a certain phenomenon for a while, then that phenomenon will come back stronger when you stop using that drug,” Hamburger told Vice. “That’s what we call ‘the rebound effect’ – which is also noticeable in people who take a lot of sleeping pills. If they stop taking those, they often get very strange and intense dreams. That is also often the reason why people keep taking those pills – they become dependent on them, which is to say, addicted.
“It is a temporary attempt to catch up on all the dreaming you missed when you were smoking weed. It usually goes away after two to three weeks. Your body will know when it’s all caught up and ready to go back to business as usual.” ⁵
After a Few Months
Generally speaking, almost everyone’s withdrawal symptoms to cannabis dies down after a few months. Again, this is highly determined by how much you smoke and how long you’ve been smoking for. People who have been smoking multiple times a day for the past few years are naturally going to have more difficulty than those who have smoked lightly only for six months.
With that said, some people may experience insomnia within the months following cannabis abstinence. This is especially true for those who experience nightmares due to the vivid dreaming mentioned above.
Letting go of a cannabis habit is without much easier than most substances out there, including tobacco, alcohol, and opioids. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t come without its struggles. We understand that you may be having some difficulty overcoming some of the above-mentioned withdrawal symptoms and, if so, we have some advice on you can overcome these minor hurdles.
Advice for Overcoming Marijuana Withdrawal
Since everyone is affected differently when they quit weed, the way they go about overcoming withdrawal symptoms will naturally vary. You may find the following advice doesn’t suit your preference and, if so, that’s okay. What truly matters when it comes to beating symptoms is figuring out what works best for you.
With that said, we’d like to start our advice off with a little cannabinoid that’s well-rounded and meant to balance out any imbalance THC may cause. We’re talking about cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD is similar to THC in the sense that it influences our endocannabinoid system (ECS). However, the big difference is THC activates C1 receptors – which inevitably causes the high we experience – whereas CBD seeks to balance out both C1 and C2 receptors. Due to this effect, CBD can be a powerful agent in counteracting any negative withdrawal symptoms you might feel when quitting marijuana.
In fact, CBD works so well, researchers have even considered using it as an agent to treat people with substance abuse disorder. ⁶
Furthermore, if you’ve stopped smoking weed as a means of passing a drug test, you can be safely assured CBD will not appear on this drug test. All legal CBD products must contain either 0.3% THC or less in order to hit the shelves. This small amount usually doesn’t appear on drug tests – however, if you still remain skeptical, you can always purchase a CBD isolate which contains no THC at all.
Still, if you’re looking to avoid cannabis products altogether, there are plenty of other over-the-counter options to overcome various withdrawal symptoms. We at Weed World are a big fan of all-natural supplements and have compiled a shortlist of agents that can be used for battling specific symptoms.
● Anxiety – One of the most powerful organic alternatives for battling anxiety is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as it influences serotonin production in the brain. People experiencing a lot of anxiety may also be interested in passionflower, valerian root, licorice root, or ashwagandha.
● Depression – There is no go-to when it comes to natural supplements for depression. However, a few popular ones include SAMe, saffron, lavender, chamomile, ginseng, and St. John’s wort.
● Insomnia – The best sleep aid for anyone experiencing anxiety has to be melatonin. This is the chemical our brain naturally produces as we fall asleep and taking a supplement of the chemical produces the same effect.
● Irritability – If you need to enhance your mood, we suggest using either St. John’s wort or SAMe.
Overcoming cannabis withdrawal symptoms isn’t too difficult. For whatever reason you’ve decided to stop cannabis, we’d like to reassure you that there is no need for treatment like other substances. If you take the time and have the mental willpower, the minor hurdles that come with withdrawal are something anyone can overcome.
Written and Published By Paul James In Weed World Magazine Issue 146
¹ PubMed: The use of cannabinoids for sleep: A critical review on clinical trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31120284
² Recent patents on CNS drug discovery: Cannabinoid-related agents in the treatment of anxiety disorders: current knowledge and future perspectives https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691841/
³ Nature: The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5123717/
⁴ Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine: A Brain on Cannabinoids: The Role of Dopamine Release in Reward Seeking https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3405830/
⁵ Vice: Why Your Dreams Are Suddenly So Intense After You Stop Smoking Weed https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7b7gn4/why-are-your-dreams-suddenly-so-intense-when-you-stop-smoking-weed-876
⁶ frontiers in Psychiatry: The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol’s Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6390812/