Тhe use of marijuana increases one’s dopamine levels and makes most people feel euphoric, relaxed, friendlier, more creative, and so on, depending on the individual and the strain, which is why cannabis is so popular all over the world. However, some people can experience some not-so-pleasant side effects and health problems as a result of weed consumption.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), smoking cannabis can cause marijuana use disorder, as well as other health issues such as cognitive impairment, psychological disorders, anxiety, and other problems.
This illicit drug has been with us for ages, and people have consumed it medically, recreationally, or in spiritual rituals. But what happens when you experience health problems as a result of cannabis use and want to stop smoking marijuana? Read on to find out.
Why Do People Use Cannabis?
The timeline of cannabis consumption dates back to ancient civilizations that used this powerful plant for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual purposes. In recent years, however, cannabis growers have bred more potent strains than the ones ancient civilizations had available in order to improve the cannabis experience by giving the users strains that make them energized and creative, and also ones that make them calm and relaxed.
The cannabis market contains a wide array of cannabis strains with different cannabinoid content which suit even the pickiest cannabis users. You can find strains with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produce mind-numbing and psychoactive effects, and also high cannabidiol (CBD) strains which are perfect for people who use marijuana medicinally and want to avoid the well-known “high.”
In spite of how the cannabis plant is used, long-term cannabis consumption can lead to cannabis dependency (the body getting used to large amounts of cannabis), cannabis use disorder (marijuana addiction), and other unwanted side effects. Substance use is especially prevalent among young adults which seriously affects their long-term brain development. All of this is a reason enough to inspire some users to start thinking about going on a detox. (Alexandra M E Zuckermann, 2018)
To Stop Smoking Marijuana, Think About Why You Want to Do It
If you’d like to stop smoking weed, the first thing you need to figure out is why you’re quitting. The reason for doing this is simple – but you need a strong reason that will get you through your withdrawal symptoms and on your road to recovery. For more information about what can happen to a cannabis smoker after quitting weed, read our article on the subject.
It’s also good to think about why you started consuming weed in the first place, so you’ll know which situations will require the type of stimulation that weed provided you with, and think about how you can replace the habit of smoking weed with another, healthier habit.
Quitting weed isn’t as hard as quitting opioids or other drugs, even cigarettes, so don’t be afraid of failure throughout the process. There are a lot of useful methods for overcoming substance abuse, and almost all of them can be used to detox from weed.
How Can You Quit Smoking Weed?
The first thing you need to decide after you’ve found your reason, is to figure out the proper detoxing approach – whether that’s quitting cold turkey or weaning off at a slower pace. We’ll cover both methods below.
Quitting Cold Turkey
This approach isn’t for the faint of heart, as users who quit abruptly experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. If you do decide to try this approach, you should:
- Get rid of your cannabis paraphernalia;
- Avoid spending time with people who use drugs;
- Fill your days with new sports and hobbies with your friends and loved ones;
- Get proper advice from a healthcare professional or a support group.
Weaning Off Gradually
If you lower the THC doses gradually, you’ll probably avoid some of the most intense side effects caused by cannabis withdrawal symptoms (CWS). It’s also a good idea to plan spending time with people who don’t smoke, so you can take your mind off using weed. When slowly reducing your weed intake, it’s a good idea to have a deadline and a quit date in order to know at what pace to lower the doses.
Remember that the withdrawal symptoms are the worst in the first 10 days, and as you go along with your detox, they start to decrease. The first week after you’ve started discontinuing cannabis use, expect to feel irritable, anxious, as well as experience some sleeping problems.
Think About Getting Professional Help
If you believe that you won’t be able to quit on your own, another option is to enroll in an addiction treatment program. The clinic that you choose will not only help you stay on the right track, but will also provide you with psychological support along the way. You’ll get a customized treatment plan that is adapted to your specific needs. You can choose inpatient or outpatient treatment, depending on what you feel more comfortable with.
Cannabis Detox and Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome (CWS)
Cannabis affects your body and your brain through the cannabinoid receptors which are a part of the endocannabinoid system. After weed is consumed, the cannabinoids bind to and affect these receptors, which results in the psychoactive, sedative, and/or anti-inflammatory effects people experience from consuming weed.
Long-term cannabinoid exposure can cause dysregulations in the brain’s neural circuits which is why people experience cannabis withdrawal symptoms after they stop smoking weed. A study published in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation gives a good overview of how the symptoms of withdrawal start after the user quits weed for a few days, and stop after one month at the most.
What Are the Common Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms?
Some common side effects that a lot of marijuana users experience on their way to quit weed include physical symptoms like:
- Stomach pain;
- Night sweats and insomnia;
- Loss of appetite or increased appetite.
Apart from these symptoms, some users experience psychological marijuana withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Irritability and mood swings;
Fortunately, these cannabis withdrawal symptoms tend to pass after a few weeks at most, so you should be back to normal in no time.
Treating Cannabis Withdrawal
People who are experiencing cannabis withdrawal symptoms may benefit from using antidepressants as a way to counteract insomnia, however, you shouldn’t take them prior to consulting with a doctor as some antidepressants worsen the symptoms of CWS.
A study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependency on the use of Sativex as a way to reduce the CWS symptoms proved that Sativex may reduce the CWS symptoms during the abstinence period. If you’re thinking about quitting weed, you can talk to your doctor about what your options are, so you can choose the best tapering method for you.
Other Tips for Managing and Preventing Marijuana Withdrawal
Discontinuing heavy cannabis use can be a problem for a lot of long-term cannabis users. That’s why it’s best to have a support system which will help you get back on track if you do make a mistake and light up.
It’s also important to:
- Keep yourself well-hydrated throughout the detox process;
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet (consume a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats);
- Start a workout routine according to your fitness level.
Whichever method you decide to use, either quitting cold turkey or doing it gradually, the most important thing is to get rid of your cannabis paraphernalia and spend more time doing fun activities with loved ones to take your mind off smoking weed.
Zuckermann, A., Battista, K., de Groh, M., Jiang, Y., & Leatherdale, S. T. (2019). Pre Legalisation patterns and trends of cannabis use among Canadian youth: results from the COMPASS prospective cohort study. BMJ open, 9(3), e026515. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026515