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With the widespread legalization of cannabis or marijuana across the world, the number of people using and abusing it has skyrocketed. While using it once in a while may not be too worrying, those who become regular users are at a very high risk of various side effects, one of it being withdrawal. Long-term marijuana use can easily trigger dependence and addiction in people, which may expose itself in the form of extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when these people stop their use or miss a dose. These withdrawal symptoms are particularly tied to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana; hence, many call it THC withdrawal.
The symptoms of a THC withdrawal may vary from shifts in moods and trouble sleeping to a high risk of suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can quickly take a turn for the worse; hence, it is imperative to go through the process under medical supervision to ensure safety and quickly learn how to achieve a happier, drug-free life.
What Happens When You Quit Weed? THC Withdrawal Symptoms
The withdrawal experience of quitting weed or marijuana can greatly vary from one person to another. Some of these symptoms are more common while others rarely hit people, depending on various factors like a user’s overall health and their frequency of use. Mentioned below are some common symptoms of THC withdrawal most likely to occur in people.
Most people withdrawing from THC report experiencing extreme weed cravings especially during early days. Up to two-third of individuals report this symptom according to clinical research with the symptom lasting persistently throughout the withdrawal phase. While many of these users deny having addiction to marijuana, these strong cravings confirm their underlying dependence.
Many people feel highly irritable while going through marijuana withdrawal in addition to experiencing anxiety and mood swings. Other people report experiencing nervousness, aggression, restlessness, and poor concentration. The irritability felt as a part of THC withdrawal symptoms may range from mild and easily-manageable annoyance to strong feelings of aggression and anger. While most people overcome this symptom within a week, others may continue facing it for longer and must seek professional help.
Anxiety is one of the most common signs of THC intoxication but also hits people going through a withdrawal phase. However, with support and help from professional team members and loved ones, individuals can manage their anxious thoughts without much trouble. If you continue experiencing anxiety after discontinuing THC use, consider talking to a healthcare professional for help as it may be a sign of a co-existing anxiety disorder independent of your THC use.
Depression is another hallmark of THC withdrawal process causing people to have all sorts of depressive thoughts. This symptom can make people become more aware of the negative consequences of their drug use they have been facing throughout their lives. While some people may take these emotions positively, others may go into low mood, making it difficult to get through the withdrawal process.
Sleep-related issues remain a common symptom of a THC withdrawal. These symptoms may include experiencing insomnia, a condition where a person finds it difficult to fall or stay asleep, in addition to night sweats and disturbing dreams. Many also report experiencing “use dreams” where they see themselves smoking marijuana. These vivid dreams typically start within a week of quitting THC use and may continue for a month before resolving.
Not everyone who tries to quit THC experiences headaches, but those who do may find them extremely intense. The intensity of THC withdrawal headaches is specifically high during the first few days of withdrawal and peak by day six. Following this, most people experience a slow resolution within the next two weeks, however, some may continue having them for a few months.
Other Physical Symptoms
In some people, abruptly stopping the steady THC supply may trigger a host of physical symptoms. While these physical symptoms may vary depending on several personal factors, most of them include the following:
Changes in appetite
Tiredness or extreme lethargy
Vomiting or retching
Flu-like symptoms, such as sweating, headaches, tremors, chills, fever, and shakiness
Weight gain or loss
Many are afraid that abruptly stopping marijuana and THC use can lead to certain physical symptoms that involve the heart. However, further research has negated this myth, confirming that stopping heavy cannabis use does not affect heart health or blood pressure.
How Long Does THC Withdrawal Last? Weed Withdrawal Timeline
The THC withdrawal timeline generally varies from one person to another; however, following is a rough sketch of what to expect during the process.
First Three Days
Most people begin experiencing the typical THC withdrawal symptoms within the first three days following the last dose. These side effects become the strongest around day three and may include vomiting along with stomach pain and excessive perspiration. An individual may become restless and experience an intense need to use THC again. Due to these strong cravings, many people may relapse.
Four to Ten Days
By day four, most physical symptoms associated with withdrawal begin to taper off; however, the psychological effects may intensify. Depression is a very common symptom of this phase and may dominate a user as their body constantly tries to adjust to functioning without having any THC.
Ten to Twenty Days
During this timeline, a user starts experiencing a resolution of their withdrawal symptoms. By the end of the second week, most feel strong and stable once again, however, they still require constant support to get to the end.
In general, the human body gets rid of THC completely within 30 days following the last dose. However, this does not mean that the withdrawal symptoms will continue to persist for full four weeks. Many get over the process within three weeks or even less.
THC Withdrawal Management: Busting Unhelpful Myths
While it is completely possible to get over THC withdrawal through professional help and self-support tips, there are many unhelpful myths that may not influence the process in any way. These myths are mentioned below:
Drinking large amounts of water before a drug test will cover all traces of THC by excreting it rapidly through the body: Drinking lots of water cannot do any good to the body in terms of THC withdrawal. The process takes time and will not speed up excretion to pass a drug test within days.
Cranberry juice can flush out THC from the system more: Cranberry acts as a diuretic which only excretes water from the body without affecting the THC concentration.
Consuming large quantities of vinegar will speed up THC cleanse: Not only does vineger affect THC excretion and withdrawal process in any way but can also be very risky for the body when consumed in excess.
Taking Niacin is a good alternative to seeking professional detox help: While many people believe niacin to be a miracle solution for THC withdrawal, it does not affect the process in any way and can never replace professional treatment. Moreover, consuming it in excess can also result in liver failure.
Marijuana Withdrawal Treatment: Seeking Professional Help
Quitting THC and overcoming the associated withdrawal and addiction can be a tiring process if done without any help. Having professional guidance and medical assistance can make the experience smoother and less painful with a higher chance of success. While a THC withdrawal and addiction treatment plan can differ for different persons based on their personal factors, most of them revolve around the following components:
To efficiently manage a THC withdrawal process with minimal discomfort, most professional rehabs begin treatment with a dedicated detox program. This program is particularly beneficial for people who:
Suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders
Have additional physical health problems
misuse multiple substances, including opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines in addition to THC
are at a higher risk of a relapse
have tried quitting THC before but failed
A detox program includes constant supervision from experts and provision of OTC medications to control certain withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and sleeplessness. The program typically lasts for seven to ten days but may extend in a few cases.
Inpatient Rehabilitation Center
Inpatient rehabs are the most ideal place for THC withdrawal and rehabilitation for people with severe addictions that require 24/7 supervision. The programs run for a longer time, usually three to six months, and include several therapies and counseling sessions to permanently address the root causes of a person’s THC addiction. Inpatient rehabs are also an appropriate level of treatment for people with multiple addictions. Each patient remains in dedicated accommodations throughout the treatment duration and get three meals a day in addition to time for recreational activities. Many rehabs also include holistic therapies, such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and reiki, to make treatment more successful.
Intensive Outpatient Programs
Outpatient rehabilitation programs include multiple sessions and meetings several times a day with a therapist, mental health specialist, or substance use disorder expert. However, it does not require a person to stay on site under 24/7 supervision.
Support Groups & Therapy
As a person continues to identify and manage the underlying causes of THC addiction, engaging in different psychotherapies can be greatly beneficial. These therapies use evidence-based approaches to help people fight off their addiction triggers and also connects them with other individuals in similar situations to form positive social connections. Psychotherapy can be of different types, such as the following:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This practuce is a type of psychotherapy which helps THC users become more aware of their negative patterns and behaviors that may directly or indirectly be contributing to their addiction. Additionally, it also helps them overcome these behaviors or replace them with healthier ones.
Contingency management (CM): Contingency management helps people regularly monitor their drug use and overcome it through providing them with tangible positive rewards.
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): This therapeutic intervention intends to produce rapid, internally motivated change in an individual by utilizing the internal resources for healing.
Self-Tips to Manage THC Withdrawal
A THC withdrawal experience can be different for different people in terms of severity and nature of symptoms, depending on factors like length of use and dosage. While most symptoms are uncomfortable, they are usually not dangerous as those due to an opioid or alcohol withdrawal. Incorporating some everyday tips can make the process easier for everyone, such as slowly reducing the daily THC dose instead of suddenly cutting it off. Additionally, remember the following methods to make the symptoms more manageable:
Eat a balanced diet containing plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid consuming sugar and junk food as they can make a person feel worse.
Adopt a good sleep hygiene routine and try to get plenty of sleep to allow the body to rest.
Drink plenty of water to maintain adequate level of hydration. Stay away from caffeinated and sugary beverages as they may make the symptoms worse.
Try to get some light exercise daily to stay active and regulate mood.
Talk to loved ones and seek their support.
Can I exercise while detoxing from THC?
Experts strongly recommend participating in gentle exercises, such as light walks and yoga, to strengthen the recovery process. These activities can energize the body while boosting the influx of endorphins to regulate mood. It is not wise to engage in heavy exercise until a professional deems it safe.
Do I need to participate in therapy while going through THC withdrawal?
It is possible to detox from THC without receiving psychotherapy, however, experts recommend advise managing both together. Without therapy, a detox program is useless as it does not help an individual address the root causes of addiction and raises the risk of a relapse.
Is THC withdrawal dangerous?
The process of withdrawing from THC can bring certain uncomfortable symptoms for a user. While most of these symptoms are manageable, some may progress to become risky and life-threatening, hence, experts advise undergoing the process under professional care to minimize this risk.