There are many reasons why someone would want to quit consuming marijuana. Sometimes it’s because they want to take a tolerance break, other times it’s because they just want to take a break from marijuana use or just quit altogether. Whatever the reason, you must be curious to know what kinds of changes happen in your body after you quit smoking weed.
Therefore, in this article, we’ll talk about the addictiveness of weed and what you can expect when you stop smoking weed.
Is Cannabis Addictive?
Cannabis is known to interact with the endocannabinoid receptors in the human body, especially those found in the brain. The psychoactive cannabinoid THC, the one that causes euphoric feelings, modifies the function of the receptors which results in the well-known “high.”
One of the hottest debates around cannabis is whether it’s addictive or not. Truth is, most marijuana users do not become addicted to marijuana because it doesn’t have the potential to cause chemical dependence like opioids, stimulants, nicotine, etc.
That being said, while not particularly known as an addictive substance, cannabis can cause dependence in some users, most often heavy users. They are usually the ones who experience the withdrawal symptoms the most intensely.
The Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) calls this dependence “marijuana use disorder” which can progress into marijuana addiction in cases when the individual can’t stop using weed, even though it disrupts their daily life.
What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Smoking Weed?
How your body will respond to quitting weed will vary depending on how frequently you consume weed. Even though weed isn’t necessarily addictive, chronic weed smokers who have been consuming weed long-term may experience withdrawal symptoms, sometimes called cannabis withdrawal syndrome.
A 2017 research paper indicates that the withdrawal symptoms are “mainly mood and behavioral symptoms of light to moderate intensity.”
On the other hand, if you’re a moderate or an infrequent marijuana user, the chances of experiencing any cannabis withdrawal symptoms are slim. You may experience some mild irritability at worst.
The symptoms of withdrawal caused by weed aren’t as severe as the withdrawal symptoms of other substances, like opioids, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, which often require addiction treatment. For example, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can even be life-threatening and bring on serious complications. The reason for this is that cannabis doesn’t cause chemical dependence.
Instead, when you consume weed regularly, THC causes a desensitization of the CB1 receptors in the brain. When you go into withdrawal, the desensitization is being reversed. That’s why taking a tolerance break works every time.
What Are the Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms?
The cannabis withdrawal symptoms will be of different intensity for everyone and will typically last from two to four weeks. They may be felt the strongest during the first week, especially the first couple of days, and they will gradually lessen as your body detoxes.
- Sleep problems – one of the more common withdrawal symptoms are sleep problems. Insomnia is common, especially for pot users who have used weed as a sleeping aid, but having vivid dreams is even more common;
- Irritability and mood swings – cannabis increases dopamine levels, so of course, it will confuse your brain when you abruptly stop using it. While your body readjusts, you may experience frequent mood swings and irritability, especially during the first couple of weeks;
- Low appetite – not a very common physical symptom, but you can experience a decreased appetite – a complete opposite of the munchies;
- Trouble focusing – feeling like you can’t focus is another common symptom of withdrawal, or in other words “brain fog.” It’s typically most strongly felt during the first few days after quitting, after which you should start feeling more like yourself.
Can You Quit Smoking Weed Cold Turkey?
If you feel like you can do it, then yes, you can quit smoking weed cold turkey. Like we already said, the marijuana withdrawal symptoms are neither life-threatening nor as intense as the withdrawal symptoms of other substances, so you shouldn’t have a problem ceasing to smoke weed.
On the other hand, gradually scaling it down could be good too, if you feel like that approach would work better for you. If you were a chronic user, slowly reducing your cannabis consumption over time may also make the withdrawal symptoms easier to handle as it won’t cause such a big shock to your system. However, this is definitely not a rule as everyone responds differently.
As you can gather, there is no right or wrong way to quit smoking weed because it doesn’t cause a heavy dependence in the first place. Just do whatever works for you to get the results you want.
How to Ease the Side Effects When You Stop Smoking Marijuana
Quitting marijuana may be a bumpy ride for some users, but however much unpleasant, the process will eventually end. There are some simple steps you can take to help your body adjust to the change while it’s detoxing, and most of them involve making daily adjustments.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and drug use for at least two weeks, or until you start feeling better. Otherwise, you’re just confusing your body by sending mixed signals;
- Drink up to 2-3 liters of water per day. Hydration is always important, but even more so when you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Your body needs enough water daily to perform its basic functions, so it only makes sense that you don’t make it difficult for yourself during this time;
- Try to stay active. If you’ve been exercising regularly, don’t suddenly take a break just because you’re not in a good mood. You don’t have to overexert yourself, a light jog would be enough. If you aren’t normally physically active, consider taking 20-30 minute walks. The idea is to keep your body moving, which will also improve your mood and sleep;
- Eat nutritious meals and avoid processed food, too much sugar, fried foods, etc. If you don’t have much of an appetite, try eating light meals and a lot of fruits and veggies, they will refresh you;
- If you’re having sleep problems often, you can try taking Melatonin, which is a natural sleep hormone, now used as a sleeping aid. Melatonin is a safe substance so you don’t need to worry about it messing with your brain. Getting enough sleep is crucial anyways and it will help with your mental health during the first few weeks;
- Finally, if you really feel like you need help, don’t be shy about getting help from a medical professional who can refer you to a support group to get additional help. Support from friends and family members is also very welcome so you don’t feel like you’re going through the process alone.
The Bottom Line
Marijuana isn’t typically an addictive substance but it can cause a certain type of dependence in chronic users that can result in withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. However, cannabis doesn’t cause severe withdrawal symptoms like other substances, which makes it easy to quit cold turkey if the user wants.
The withdrawal symptoms will be of varying intensity and will last up to four weeks, with the first week being the most intense. Sleep problems and mood swings are by far the most common symptoms.