Drugs & Health Blog

Marijuana Withdrawal Is Real

The NIDA Blog Team

On this blog, we often get comments from people claiming that marijuana isn’t addictive. A lot of people seem to think marijuana is different from other drugs. Unfortunately, it’s not the case: Just like with other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), you can get addicted to marijuana—especially if you use it during your teen years.

Dependence vs. Addiction

Drug "dependence" means needing a drug to feel physically okay. If a person is dependent on a drug, having enough of a supply is always important to them. However, being dependent doesn’t necessarily mean they’re addicted. For example, many people can be dependent on a medication prescribed by their doctor without being addicted to it.

The difference is that people who are addicted start to think about the drug all the time and make it a larger priority than other things in their life. They often make bad decisions that work against their health and their overall well-being. In the case of a medication, they may start to abuse it (use it differently than how the doctor prescribed): taking more of it, or crushing it and injecting it. Or in the case of a drug like marijuana, they'll be unable to stop using it even though it's causing problems with school, a job, or relationships. People with an addiction are often unable to see—or admit—that this is happening.

That Bad Feeling …

… is called withdrawal. A person with drug dependence will experience withdrawal if they completely stop using the drug all at once. Withdrawal is what leads a lot of people who are addicted to a drug to relapse—meaning, they've tried to quit, but they start taking the drug again.

A new study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine shows that teens who use marijuana heavily can experience withdrawal when they stop using it. In a study of teens receiving drug abuse treatment at an outpatient clinic, nearly half of them (40 percent) experienced symptoms of withdrawal when they stopped using marijuana.

Not Just a Crummy Day

From portrayals in movies and on TV of people addicted to heroin, people have an image of drug withdrawal as sweating, shaking, and being curled up in bed with unbearable pain. Marijuana withdrawal is a lot more subtle, but every bit as real.

The main mental symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Being irritable
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Feeling depressed
  • Being restless
  • Having trouble sleeping at night and feeling tired during the day
  • Having low appetite or losing weight

Some people having marijuana withdrawal might not realize it. Some of the symptoms just contribute to being in a lousy mood, and it’s often easy to blame that feeling on other people annoying you or just having a bad day. You can also have physical symptoms like:

  • Stomach pain
  • Sweatiness
  • Shakiness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

More Use = More Problems

The longer a person uses marijuana, the more likely they are to have withdrawal symptoms when they aren’t using it. In the Journal of Addiction Medicine study, teens who had marijuana withdrawal symptoms were more likely than other marijuana users to have problems like difficulties at school or at work or trouble with relationships or money. They were also more likely to have other signs of marijuana dependence and mood disorders like depression.

And teen users who suffer marijuana withdrawal are more likely to experience marijuana addiction than adults. One in six teens who try marijuana will get addicted to it, and that goes up to as many as one-half of teens who use it every day. 

If you’re worried you may have a problem with marijuana or any other drug, this page may help answer your questions and let you know what to do to get help.

Tell us in the comments: Do you know any regular marijuana users who stop using marijuana and experience the withdrawal symptoms described in this post?

To learn more about marijuana, check out the blog posts “Secondhand Marijuana Smoke?” and “What’s Wrong With ‘Medical Marijuana’?”

Categories: 
Marijuana
Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.

Comments

Hi there, if you find you need some support while quitting, you can get information about drug abuse treatment programs at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. If you aren't sure what to do or just want to talk to someone, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Both of these resources are free, confidential, and available 24/7.

Wow you told my very story! I'm 51 now and also thought of as a good person by many. The problem is I started losing more and more self respect......I'm on day 8 and feeling some very real withdrawal symptoms ...Sweating .....Anger......But with each day I'm also feeling much more energy and I can look at the guy in the mirror and know he is doing the right thing for him as well as his family....
Thank you for your bravery. It seems important to allow yourself the experience of clarity and self-acceptance. Being authentic to the outside is a very scary thing for most of us who suddenly fave having lived a facade. No time like the present to start being who you are, not the negative label you are constraining yourself to continue. Be strong.
I'm on my first week of total abstinence (quit cold turkey). The good news is that no matter how long you've smoked, your brain will repair itself. In extreme cases, like smoking everyday for 25 years, that repair period can last as long as a year and a half (not the symptoms but the repair period). So go one day at a time, but know that your brain can rebalance itself if given the chance. We'll all there when we're 100% ready with no excuses. Good luck all.
I'm also on my first week of total abstinence and honestly I'm starting to feel a lot better knowing that these symptoms happen to a lot of people who were heavy smokers but thoughts keep on coming back but I just keep repeating myself "it's just the abstinence you got this" and it calms me down and I've been hyping myself up by listening to songs and mentally saying oh now I can do this and that with these people without having to worry about it. Thank you guys for helping me out, never returning to cannibas will be tight
I feel the same..its like living in a nightmare.
i would highly recommend psychotherapy along with you detox - i think it will help you understand and manage "negative emotion" and will immensely reduce the effects of withdrawal
Maybe you should see a psychologist. I did and it helped me a lot. They will not judge you, they will teach you techniques to cope and ways to think about your life so as to push it in a direction that grows you. Also, if these feelings are signs of depression or other mental disease, then they will be of great help to you. Stay strong.
Hi aj this is really freaky I just told my missus upon reading your comment it's like you just went into my head and voiced the madness really keen to hear how your holding up now best wishes BK
I had bad experiences quitting pot every time I did. Anxiety, anger, depression, paranoia etc. Been clean over a yr. now. Pot can be addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms; I was a chronic smoker for 30 yrs. I wish doctors would get some education in regards to this drug and what can happen when you quit; my doctor thinks I am bipolar because of the withdrawal symptoms I experienced.

Uncomfortable withdrawal from marijuana could mean you are addicted to marijuana. It is true that a lot of people think you can’t get addicted, but your experience implies otherwise. Statistics show that nearly 10% of young people who start using marijuana do develop a marijuana use disorder and even addiction. It may or may not be related to being bipolar, but you should be evaluated and treated for addiction as well as any mental health issue.

Yeah, I would totally be motivated by saving money. I am reading all of these posts and many resonate with my experience. For me today, I would be sympathetic to the medical marijuana cause and not just using it for recreational purposes. If we are getting high just to get high, I liken it to me eating a bowl of popcorn or a tub of popcorn to comfort a food junkie like me. But if I am using it for real, genuine medical reasons than I would understand it better. Especially if it is used in lieu of opiates or other pain killers. I did smoke for many years. It did alter my state. When I did decide to eliminate it from my life I do not recall any heavy withdrawal symptoms. I did it cold turkey, but I was so determined and so dedicated to working out and quitting that I did. I did, however, have to change some of my friends that were not supportive and understanding. That sucked the worst. For many years I was anti drug (including pot). Since, I've altered my opinion. I am supportive of pot use for legit medical reasons and not just to recreate daily.
Thanks for the encouragement! I started smoking when I was 14. I am 46 now and I have smoked everyday ( over a quarter a week) for 34 years. I did nothing in life without smoking first! I have known I needed to quit for many years but was to addicted to quit ! I loved weed because it made me numb the the world! I decided with Gods help I was going to quit. I threw away everything that had to do with marijuana 2 days ago and decided I was done! The last 2 days have been horrible ! Sweats, depression, fever, diarrhea , sleeplessness, dizzy, nausea, lack of motivation. I am going to stick it out because I am tired of it having control of my life. Reading these post have given me hope that while it may be a tough road for awhile , I am never going back! I had no idea of the control marijuana had on my life! Looking forward to better days!
Thanks for sharing that. I've been smoking since I was 14 as well and am now 43--a hell of a long time and very few days without ganga in that 30 year period. Eight months ago I stopped for 130 days in order to get a new life insurance policy because I got divorced and have 2 kids under 6 years old. I knew it would be tough, but I had to have the insurance for my kids. My coping strategy was to work out 4-6 days/week religiously. Now I'm addicted to that and not a bad addiction to have. Weights mostly and some squash, biking and other stuff as well. Initially, especially on tough days, I would have a scotch. On difficult nights,in the beginning, I had more than one scotch. Later I cut that down as I don't crave booze, fortunately. I also quit smoking cigarettes at the same time, another 30 year addiction. I've stopped smoking cigs in the past while continuing with ganga, but not both simultaneously. I had some wild and paranoid dreams at first. I was also uncharacteristically irritable and down right mean at times, completely impatient for a little while. Eventually though, I started to wake up at 5 am completely rested, clear headed--a strange wonderful feeling I had not felt since I was very young. Having a nice girlfriend at the time also helped a lot as she was separated and we were both enthusiastic lovers if you know I mean and that helped tremendously, as well. Anyway, I felt I was heading in a wonderful direction. There was no way I could conceive of smoking cigarettes again and I still haven't and won't--those are the most damaging nasty things I can imagine, cigarette smoking is hell. But, as soon as I passed my insurance I celebrated with a very large joint and didn't look back-I've smoked about 120 days in a row without fail. In fact, with marijuana pharmacies popping up everywhere and being able to choose edibles and custom strains of weed that are delivered to my door by courier within 24 hours it seems in some ways unjust and the worst possible time to quit--after all these years and some of the harrowing efforts I've put in to get weed and now it is a weed smokers paradise here in Western Canada. But that's just another illusion and I've realized it's time to stop. I always told myself I'd party 'till the party's over.... I'm a single dad, I run a business, I have other goals I want to achieve and I find that upon closer inspection, a surprising amount of my week gets washed away in a cloud of weed and in the recovery. Ya, it's not just the time spent rolling, smoking, and being buzzed. It's the extra couple hours in the morning it takes for me to get up to speed and then the increasing low energy levels. I swear that by Wednesday my weed hangover gets progressively worse, like a build up of toxicity along with the fatigue that parenting and running a business brings, to the point where some Thursdays and Fridays are almost a write off and it creates an "out of control" feeling. By Thursday night I find I am rolling a joint, kids in bed, and I already feel toxic and actually don't even feel like getting high but do it anyway (that's chronic)--so much so I've gone without brushing my teeth--a key indicator for me that I've gone a bit out of control. Anyway, I'm gonna flush my stash right now, but not with a sense of dread or regret but more a feeling of how great it's gonna be to wake up clear headed, well rested and full of energy again--I'm really craving that, plus I have a new girlfriend and I've got replacement drugs, healthy ones... I'm not quitting completely as I may take a puff from time to time, but I am writing out a set of rules and will post them where I can easily find them and see them. One of those will to not keep any in the house. With my friends, there is never a shortage of product or opportunity, but never any kind of pressure. Initially, though I'm refraining for 2 months. Then summer vacation I'll have some (10 days), then leave it there. Thanks for listening, just this exercise of writing has been therapy. Best of luck to any strugglahs out there. Peace
I enjoyed reading your story, sounds very familiar, I have four days in right now. This is not difficult for me, Just different. Not knowing what to do with myself. After reading your story I decided to go back and start exercising thanks a lot. I've always exercise, but since I stopped smoking I have no energy, after your encouraging story I know what I need to do thanks a lot and peace to you
yup totally agree... day one is today hahahah! But the hard part is just trying to figure out what to do with myself with all of the "sober time" I have now hahaha if that makes any sense. Working out has been my go to so far.. but still trying to manage the time and figure out what else can fill my days. and keep me busy is the hard part.
The best way is cold turkey! Drop it like a hot potato and don't pick it up! The money you save and the natural joy of life is so worth it. Stay focused on new life.
I've been smoking pot for 30 years, every day, all day. I love weed. I have a high stress sales job and it helps me calm down, focus and accomplish my mindless career. Recently, I've decided I need a change in my life. Starting with my spirit, career change and now quitting weed. Again, I LOVE weed and this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I cant drink because it makes me want to smoke and I enjoy my beer. I stopped 6 days ago and I am suffering from intense depression, lack of appetite and I'm moody as hell. Although I recognize this and make a conscious effort not to be irritable. This sucks, but I know it's the right thing to do to accomplish long term internal happiness. I'm pray to God and my deceased love ones multiple times a day for strength and support. Does anyone know of natural supplements to increase my appetite?
I have smoked on and off for 23 years. The last stint was 7 years of chronic smoking. 4 to 10 times per day, everyday. I quit 11 July 2016. I still love my sweet MaryJane but will never smoke again. I run a successful business and have a beautiful family and I am really looking forward to big successes now that I am clearing my mind. I have read up alot about quitting and recovering from substance abuse. Read about Post Acute Withdrawel Symptoms. They last up to two years post withdrawel. I do feel great and energised beyond words most days, but have difficult days as well. It also helped me read about grief, as loosing my best friend, MaryJane, as it felt to me, meant I was also grieving for something I lost that was really special to me. That also helped alot. Good luck everyone with quitting. I believe it is the best thing for me. Looking forward to being 100% myself again.
ive been on again off again for the last ten years. I'm now "off again" and day one. You won't increase your appetite but you need to force yourself to eat. Something I noticed is you need to take smaller bites of food and chew the food completely before swallowing. If you don't and swallow a large amount of food you likely will have a gag reflex. Try bananas (small bites chew, swallow, eat slowly), nuts (a few at a time and chew them up completely), yogurt, deli meat (again small bites and chew).
yes there is a natural suppliment to increase your appetite. it's called weed.
Most relatable post, i havent eat in about a week, every time i take a bite out of something i cant swallow it cause i will be sick. Just drink plent of water as that will help your energy, this is a huge step coming on to hear and letting out your negatives. When the anxious feeling comes i tend to come back on this blog and read throigh peoples stories. All the best brother you can do this!
Thanks for sharing. Please stay clean...for the sake of your children.
Your comment has given me hope that I can quit too. I have smoked every single day for over three years, I use weed for everything in life, I am terrified to quit but I know I have to. I hope you are still doing well and I hope I will be doing well in a few weeks too
Lmao these comments are so ridiculous.
Keep is to yourself, downer.
After reading all the above comments Id thought I'd post my way of quitting weed after so many times of trying this method worked for me First of all I've smoked bud since I was 13 and heavily!!sometimes half ounce a week I'm now 26 my world depended on smoking I sunk as low as selling my own belongings so class my self as a hardened weed smoker ,and know how hard it is to quit and know the side effects that entail!but it can be done I hear some of you saying cold turkey woks but for me and many others that is neon impossible as I'd just resort back to smoking a fat spliff :d this is how I quit over a few months period 1- gradually reduce the amount you smoke for example id cut my rolling papers in quarter length ways then to half reducing the amount of weed I'd put in 2- cut a bit of paper off length ways reducing the amount off weed in my spliff After a month I was smoking around an 8th compared to my half a week I carried on doing the above for another month reducing it down to smoking a ten in 3_4 days 3- avoid those around you who smoke it .you hear of so many others saying the same thing it really does help You don't have to completely lock your friends off but it does help . 4- you have to want to do it!!the benefits of stop smoking weed are in the posts above By doing the above I found the withdrawals a lot less stronger as opposed to going cold turkey I still had bad sweats headaches ect but no where near as bad as going cold turkey Hope this helps ladies n gents
This is my second day. I've smoke for several years, three to four a day. The nausea, stomach problems, shaking, hot flashes is horrible. I feel like I'm going crazy or will just pass out. I've been drinking ginger tea, took an epsom salt bath to draw out toxins. I also smoked before during and after work. I can't live my life like this any longer. I cannot be a social smoker. Pray for me
The 12 steps getting a sponsor and going to meetings at cocaine narcotics and alcoholic anonymous was the only way I can quit
Thank you for your story. Its really nice to know Im not the only one going through this. I been smoking on and off for 15 years, im now 26. And due to a dirty divorce i have to quit so i can win the custody case for my two year old. I am on day two now and im dying inside. Im not craving it, but im so sweaty and naucious and just blah... i cant sleep or eat and im so shaky. this is so hard but i know its so worth it. I can't believe how much pot actually ran my life. before i drive, shower, eat, sleep, bone, everything i had to be high...
Seriously this just gave me hope. I smoke about a 1/8 a day to myself. My entire house smokes so its the same thing for me smoke in the morning, smoke after work, and smoke before bed. I excel in school on the Dean's List every semester, but next semester I am going to study abroad and I know I won't have as much access to weed so I am trying to quit. The thought offing in a foreign country for 6 months with no weed is terrifying, but this just gave me hope. I just pray it doesn't effect my grades.
I have been smoking since I was 19 and I am on day 5 this is one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. Thank you for giving me some hope that these symptoms might go away. It really puts things into perspective what I have done to myself and my body by feeling this way.
Your comment really reminded me of my current situation ! I'm really feeling so sick . I'm 27 years old and have been smoking pot since I was 15.. I wanna stop for a lot of the same reasons that you stated. I spend so much money and feel I'm wasting away. But man I'm so hungry and sick to the stomach. I can't even eat toast! I'm only on my 3rd or 4th day! I feel like I'm dying
Hey how's it going? I'm on day three and could use a little encouragement... Hope your doing well and sticking to it.
Do you guys think it's healthy if I stop smoking on weekdays and leave it to the recreational joint for the weekends only?

Smoking any amount of marijuana has health risks. You can learn more here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana

I think that if you are suffering withdrawals it may feel like you are going thru them Monday morning -Friday evening every week - I'm on day two only (!) and I know from previous stopping that I am about to get the whole lot of withdrawals, esp nausea and insomnia-I've worked up to this stopping and I personally couldn't go through it every week, as I know I would.
Ya, I learned a lot about this when a good friend of mine went through a really rough time after some addiction issues from weed and alcohol. Both are depressants, so they reduce the amount of dopamine and epinephrine produced by your brain. Due to the lowered levels after long term use, your re-uptake receptors in the brain basically say, well, there's no work for me again today, so F#$% it, I'm gonna stop working altogether. Then, later if and when you stop, your dopa and epinephrine levels start rising again, but now your re-uptake guys have totally stopped caring about their jobs. So you feel like you've OD'd on stimulants, like drinking 4 pots of coffee... your mind races, you sweat, your guts are all clenched up, it really sucks. The kicker is, dopa and epinephrine are the components of brain chemistry that create your moods, so... when they're out of whack, so are you. They will start working again in time, how long depends on how long/how intense your use was, so there is hope (but it can be a helluva ride). The pro pot ppl don't want to acknowledge this dark side to the issue.
I have been smoking since I was 16. I am 22 now. I started heavily relying on weed during my college years and the time I was on vacation at home for 10months. I would say i havent skipped a day in a year and a half. However I had to stop because I was starting work in a place I knew I could not get any weed. It has been extremely difficult sleeping and eating. Depression has been coming and going. Would really appreciate some tips on overcoming cold turkey because I am miserable and worried about myself. The lack of sleep is leading to back pain and I cannot live like this. Help!
Chamomile tea
Thanks for this!!!! I quit yesterday and I am looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. This post really encourages me that I can do it.
I'm on day 12 it's making me crazy. I'll try the wine to help me sleep. I take melatonin to sleep now but the headaches are horrible. How long do the symptoms last?? Wish me luck
Please for the past 6months I've been having chills, emotional stress, anxiety, been feeling light headed, and worried after I quit smoking weed, how do I overcome this it's really weighing me down. I need advice please.

We're sorry to hear about your struggles and appreciate you reaching out to us. As a federal scientific research agency, we are unable to provide medical advice, so please contact a doctor if you have concerns. You can get information about drug abuse treatment programs at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. If you aren't sure what to do or just want to talk to someone, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Glad to see this, because I too have been a 10 year literally non-stop smoker. All day everyday, from wake n bake to passed out. Im about 48 hours in and I swear my body thinks its dying. Havent eaten a bite and when i do i immediately throw up. The physical pain and headache completely blow, the sweats/chills can take a fricken hike any time now, but honestly, the anxiety and depression make all that look like nothing. I dont think I have ever cried so much about basically nothing in me whole life.
Congratulations, be proud of yourself and stay strong. I have a 17 y/o and I fully intend to let her read your story. We are just starting and she's struggling and it breaks my heart. Maybe your story can help where I can't. Wish I could give you a hug. Take care your doing well. Melina
I have smoked for 30 years and aim to quit now. Your message has helped to inspire me to complete my detox. Thanks for your message, I will think of it as I am questing to change my life.
I quit after heavy use of 40 years for 3 months now. I became more anxious not able to focus or remember things. I now have such severe panic attacks and irritable bowel symptoms I am off work on short term disability. Even after trying psychotherapy and acupuncture I now need adhd medication. Possibly more. Pot eventually made me physically ill with narrow arteries pneumonia asthma and allergies.
Thank you, it's encouraging to hear someone with such a similar relationship smoking and withdrawal wise. I'm going into my 5th day clean tonight but I can't sleep. I will push on through stay strong
Excellent! Thanks for sharing and giving hope. Wondering if anyone has been helped with withdrawals using herbs, or other healthy and effective remedies?

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