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Is Marijuana Addiction And Withdrawal Real

Is Marijuana Addiction And Withdrawal Real?

Our society has enjoyed a complicated and often turbulent relationship with marijuana over the last number of years. From the propaganda associated with the ‘War on Drugs’ to the most recent moves towards legalization across a number of major countries (including the United States and Canada, to varying degrees), we’ve been changing our attitudes to the compound almost too quickly to keep up with.

Despite its reputation as a relatively soft drug (unlike opioids or alcohol) — and despite the number of medical benefits marijuana can provide to patients suffering from a variety of different illnesses — the fact is that we still don’t know very much about it. As time has passed and more studies have been carried out, though, there’s one thing we’ve come to know for sure: consuming marijuana is not a totally risk-free proposition. It’s possible to become addicted to marijuana, and heavy users almost always experience at least some withdrawal effects upon stopping.

Close up of a hand holding a marijuana joint

A Brief History of Withdrawal

Part of what has prevented marijuana addiction from being taken seriously in recent years is the fact that until relatively recently, we’ve considered withdrawal effects to be principally physical in nature. While this distinction makes sense when it comes to chemicals like morphine or benzodiazepines, it also excludes a number of other drugs from being treated with the care and caution they deserve. Marijuana is probably the single most illustrative example of the fact that there’s more to withdrawal than purely physical symptoms.

A recent study found that heavy recreational users of marijuana (i.e., daily use for a period of several weeks) are likely to experience a number of unpleasant side effects when they stop using. These include mood problems (such as increased feelings of anxiety, depression, irritability, and anger) as well as serious sleep-related issues. Insomnia can come about as a result of abruptly discontinuing daily marijuana use, as can distressingly vivid dreams and nightmares. Appetites often decrease as well (although not always), and it’s not uncommon for some physical symptoms to occur, like headaches, tremors, and periods of chills.

How Long Do Marijuana Withdrawal Effects Last?

The precise chronology of how long the effects last varies from case to case, with heavier users needing to struggle with the various aches and pains for significantly longer than those who have been using less marijuana. As a general timeline, the symptoms will appear very soon after the user stops using marijuana, and will usually grow in intensity over the following week or fortnight. Once they’ve reached the highest levels of discomfort, they’ll slowly begin to go away again, although some lingering effects, such as apathy and feelings of nervousness, can be noticed by patients for several months after discontinuing use.

A less direct impact of trying to kick a marijuana addiction problem comes around in the form of intense, often extremely unpleasant, emotional issues. Because the high of the drug can work to insulate the user from their problems — essentially working as a kind of escapism — when the drug use stops, the problems need to be dealt with sober, which can be incredibly difficult to cope with on top of all of the other marijuana addiction withdrawal symptoms.

Close up of joints and loose marijuana on a table

Why Marijuana Can Be So Hard To Quit

Not everyone who uses the drug will become addicted to marijuana. In line with the most recent thinking on addiction as a medical issue, people with addictive personalities (or people who are dealing with adverse social, professional, or personal circumstances) are most at risk of becoming dependent on the substance. There are two main reasons that generally get in the way of people trying to help themselves escape from marijuana addiction, and they’re both related to the fact that until very recently, marijuana addiction hasn’t been taken seriously enough.

The first is that a lot of people simply don’t know it’s possible to get addicted to marijuana; and even if they do, it can be very difficult to seek help for the problem. The difficulty of getting treatment is due, in large part, to the fact that there aren’t a lot of marijuana-specific treatment options available at the moment, even though they’re badly needed. The best chance for the addict is to attend a standard substance dependance course, but this can be a hard step to take given that the user may feel embarrassed and ashamed about their addiction. Moreover, most substance abuse treatments are aimed at drugs like heroin, cocaine, and alcohol — addiction to these chemicals is very different in nature to marijuana addiction.

The second reason it can be hard to quit using marijuana is that the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can be remedied more or less immediately by using the drug again. Because addiction is isolating in nature, it can be very hard to not use, especially if the person’s social life has suffered because of the addiction and they don’t have a sufficiently robust support system to help them through the process.

What Can You Do?

If you’re having a hard time with marijuana addiction, or you know somebody who is, the most important thing to understand is that the process of quitting can, in some extreme cases, be almost impossible on your own. The most important thing you can do to help yourself is to widen the scope of the support structures present in your life. This could mean talking to a professional psychiatrist or psychologist with experience in treating addiction, or it could be as simple as mentioning to your friend that you think you’ve been using too much lately and you’d like to hear their perspective on your situation.

Quitting habitual use of just about any drug is a tough process, but it’s important to know that these states are highly treatable most of the time and that it is possible to live a life free from addiction. If you’d like to find out more about how you can work to free yourself from addiction, feel free to get in touch with us here at Freedom From Addiction.


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