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

THIS I hate it when people say this
I went off marijuana just for 2days then I suddenly had all this symptoms like chills ,lose of appetite ,I felt like death literally...I think I got too used to it...how can I detox ...please give me ideas

Hi Sheila, 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/.

Yes I believe from personal use a high percentage is psychological but also depends in persons way of mind and thinking
Ive smoke pot for 25 years and i bc e fine a week without so far because I'm looking for a better job. I'm here to tell you that physical withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are in favt real! My anxiety it's thru the roof and i physically hurt from head to toe. No appetite. I can't sleep. An my stomach is in a constant knot
I honestly do believe you can suffer withdrawal, however it manifests itself. That is a long time to have been on it. Its no wonder you feel the way you do. Everyone is different. You are doing really well. See how you go on your own giving up, if not seek some help? I admire what you are trying to do. I hope you get through this easily. Take it easy.
I am a medical marijuana paitent and I am only nineteen and it is possible to have withdrawal symptoms I have only smoked weed for two years and I am on vacation right for a month and I used to have to take pain medication before I switch to medical weed and l having similar symptoms to that of an opiate.
I know what you mean, im 21 and have been a heavy daily user and going cold turkey can be pretty brutal. Im sure it various from person to person but for me I have total insomnia, total loss of appetite, despression, anxiety, pain feels worse, etc. Quitting makes all of the reasons of why I started way worse, which sucks. When I was younger I was on pain medication as well (however did not work nearly as well as weed). Try melatonin for sleep and maybe homeopathic remedies for pain. Also exercise is essential when withdrawing...sweat those toxins out!!
Toxins? That's funny. It's a unaltered plant! It has as many "toxins" in it as the vegetables you eat, often times even less because the hippies that grow it don't want to pollute it with pesticides such as the ones you eat from the grocery store.
hey magen I'm a pot smoker of 18 years on and off I love it but I hate to say you are wrong on this one the plant is unaltered until you set it on fire causing s chemical change to happen the smoke it self is filled with toxins the plant no but the smoke is definitely filled with toxins that aren't good for you but any con add in ting adult should know what there getting into before they burn and have that choice to make for themselves if the buzz is worth hacking balls of mucus up years down the road
The plants are NOT organic--they are grown with tons of pesticides and herbicides. For the ten hippies that grow it there are 500,000 drug cartels sponsoring large farms in south america that grow it as a cash crop and they spray it with various chemicals. It is also now a genetically altered plant that has a much higher amount of THC than ever before.
To your point... Poison ivy is an unaltered plant, sumac, mushrooms, so on and so forth. There are hundreds of plants containing toxins. And I regress, marijuana withdrawals are 100% legitimate. Some experience them, some don't. Rarely are withdrawals comparable to practically any other drug. 10 year smoker here, I quit on the 1st and can't make it through a night without sweating through at least a couple shirts. I also have a constant nagging headache, and I NEVER have headaches. Admittedly, my withdrawal symptoms are minor but definitely uncomfortable. Good luck to anyone kicking the stuff!
Weed is full of pesticides! I've never known anyone in detox from vegetables!? Maybe do some science research because yes it most certainly has toxins in it! It sounds like you are fooling yourself to justify using.
It's not unaltered plant dummy, propel use synthetic fertilizer to grow it, so it is altered.
It is not an unaltered plant! And anyone who has grown the strong indicas and sativas of this generation knows that. You don't just get seeds and let it grow into what you smoke. That would be unaltered. You are finding ways to justify the fact that it isn't good for you and has real side effects. I bet you couldn't even tell me what neurotransmitters the THC actually affects. If you were aware then you would understand why withdrawal, while subtle, is very real! Go do some research sober.
Exactly fools just type n don't have a clue
Bit of a joke you don't find high levels of t h c in vegetables I was a heavy smoker for 20 years went cold turkey really hard to do had shakes anxiety worse of all were sweats and headache really bad I gave up for 8 months then thought I could be clever just have a litt when I fancied it big mistake cos then it soon became every day again then stopped had to go cold turkey again so don't wanna touch it ever again good luck to all you stick with it you'll come out the other side feeling good about yourself
You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. MANY Growers pollute the product that they grow with chemicals and pesticides to make their crops more profitable. Medical dispensaries are your best bet for clean products.Please try to be informed before you write.
Hi Joanna. I've been smoking weed off and on for 22 years but heavily in the last 6 months as I have 2 bulging discs in my lower back and wanted pain relief because tablets were causing other problems. I have decided to quite due to paranoia every time I'd smoke. I haven't had any for two days now and my anxiety is through the roof also. I'm so tired but wired and I'm hoping that I return to 'normal' very soon because I'm verging on panic attacks. I also ceased taking 5-10mg of Lexapro back in June and have been ok until about a week ago. Marijuana is not a benign drug and should not be advertised as such. I know too many people that have been susceptible to it's negative effects.
Hello my name is Justin and I'm 16 years old I was smoking cannabis for 3-4 years everyday without fail im not going to lie I injoyed it an thought it was great but since I stopped about 1 month ago I ain't had non but I also keep getting panic attack an heart palpitations just wondering and get headaches just wondering when the weed is totally out of my system will they go away so then I can go back to my usual self. Thanks.

Hi Justin, marijuana affects people differently, so we can't say for sure how it will affect you. Please contact a doctor if you have concerns.

All I have to say is I have been a smoker for 25 years and have been diagnosed with cannabanoid hyeremesis..it's real folks not worth it anymore...good luck
I've been smoking weed for for about 2 years and for about the last year quite heavily. I'm also 19 years old and I quit cold turkey last Sunday but Tuesday/Wednesday night got pretty bad hot/cold sweats, low fever, loss of appetite, a cough, insomnia, and a small headache. I'm not sure if I'm experiencing withdrawals or not bc i feel like it could possibly be the flu? But I never get headaches and I usually eat extremely healthy and workout 6 days a week and my lymph nodes under my neck aren't swollen (meaning my body isn't producing antibodies which fight off sickness) . But after resting a day and drinking some toxin cleanse smoothie a day or two later I'm already feeling like I'm 80% health! One thing that could possibly have contributed to worse withdrawal symptoms is that on the Saturday before I went to see jcole and smoked like 6 keef infused joints and like 2 blunts with people then pretty much quit smoking after lol
Its crazy cause I been smoking weed for 9 years straight heavy I been sober 10 whole days just now when I started getting heart palpitations I thought I was having a heart attack I honestly feel like we are never a hundred percent going to be back to our normal self
yes you will never be the same still best is to take acupuncture in case of quitting....take a good acupuncturist one with experience himself
I'm 59 years young , a female and I've been smoking since I was 16 and I was smoking every day of those 43 years and I mean everyday . I just stop about a week ago and boy let me tell you , It sucks going threw what I'm going threw . I'M GOING BACK TO SMOKING ! I want to kill myself , I hate People ! I HATE everyone around me . That is not me . I'm a loving caring person , I will take my shirt off my back to help people . I grew up in a house full of love ? Now for me , I HATE PEOPLE ! don't want to be round anyone , if feel sick every day , I get the sweats , chills , stomach pain ? This is not for me , stopping smoking ... going right back 2 it ???? GOOD LUCK FOR THE PEOPLE THAT WANT 2 STOP .

I'm sorry to hear you're going through a difficult time, Liz. If you ever want to talk to someone, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Hi Liz, I'm 50 a woman. I smoked it since 21. I too am trying to stop. I know exactly how you feeling. Im thinking stay on .
When you say anxiety can you please explain what the feeling is... Meaning does the left chest area and arm get tight? please help me i have been a smoker for over 10 years everyday. and i just quit all at once along with cigarettes. any info would help.. thanks

Hi kelz, marijuana affects people differently, so we can't say for sure how it will affect you. Please contact a doctor if you have concerns.

For me the anxiety is constant bad thoughts. I am in a terrible mood constantly and am always "worried" for no reason. Minuscule things that normally wouldnt bother me piss me off or i stress to get small tasks done and often feel overwhelmed aftwerwards. I think this comes from the habit of using...normally before or after these tasks i would "reward" myself with weed to help get through my day. Everyone is different but thats how i feel since i have stopped about 2 days ago and i have smoked everyday for atleast ten years. Hope that helps.
That's exactly how I feel ! I have smoked it for 25 years last 15 years every day ! I love it and don't drink at all! I would love to stop but I love it soon much !
Isn't that side effects of a heart attack?
You have to slowly weed yourself off . Depending on how often you smoke. Either way start with half of what you normally smoke. Then try that for one month. Then cut that in half . Until your quantity is low enough to quit cold turkey or side effects low enough to tolerate. If anxiety is the reason you can't let go then exercise will help alot with this.
Dear GOD those are symptoms of a heart attack....
Smoking for about 10 years.. All day everyday.. Off it now two weeks and Life is a whole lot better.. My mind so much more clear and organised but jeepers NIGHT SWEATS so bad.. Not very pleasant.. However I'm sure this will pass.. Onwards and Upwards xx
The exact same thing is currently happening to me, it's scary as hell. When does it end, I was daily user for about 2-3 months
Amen! Ive been three days clean. Insomnia, anxiety, deptession especially. Also cool and sweating at the same time. Feel jumpy and nervous. Nothing worth going back to yhe weed tho. I don't remember feeling these a bit over a year ago when I stopped that time. Yay for xanax and soma to help me tjrough
I'm on day 2 of sobriety, which doesn't seem like much but it is very different when I have weed available to me in a matter of minutes. I've gone longer without weed, but those were in cases when I couldn't smoke- being with family, out of town, etc. I am determined to leave this stuff for good. I have been smoking pretty much every day for 12 years, with few days breaks here and there. Even now, I know I could quickly buy a bag, but I'm trying to remain strong. I don't want to lose any more years to this stuff. Honestly, the withdrawals are minimal (I don't eat or sleep as much, and I sweat a ton at night), but the desire and/or opportunity to smoke is what drives me to smoke. It isn't so much to relieve withdrawal symptoms (they're present but not as strong as others have described), as much as getting my fix because I love getting high. It is a strong psychological addiction. Psychical addiction is there (though it is only day 2 so it will get worse), but I believe it is all my head- being focused on weed all the time when I am sober. I think understanding this is helping me. Reading others' comments on this thread is helping me too. The problem for me is, if I take a hit tonight, I'll end up smoking more and then it will become a binge that may last for days/weeks/months until I actually make an effort to stop again.
That's exactly why I thought it wasn't withdrawals from the weed because when I stopped a while back because I was placed on probation I didn't feel this way but it was about a year ago and I smoke everyday whenever I get the chance then now when I tried to stop it was insane I couldn't concentrate on anything my anxiety was on fully go and I coudnt sleep past 5 am anymore shaky sweaty irritated it was a so so so horrible nightmare type feeling I had thoughts of suciide too it was crazy mane
Yeah. Xanexs that's what we all need. Worse than pot. Jesus heals people .. come on. God made pot not pills. Get addicted to Christ. Do things n moderation. Quit being stupid.
It is so true. I've only been smoking weed for 7 years but I realize when I come off of it I lose my appetite, I become very irritable and the worst part that I've experienced is not being able to sleep. It really sucks. I'm not in pain or anything but I experience irritability and not being able to sleep the most. It's been almost 2 months since I've smoked and idk to do. It's kind of funny to me because I never thought u could be addicted. But I do hope that you can he help on dealing with yours
hey i feel the same way! i just stopped 2 days ago! for a better job opportunity
Hey congrats man, hope you are sticking with it
I've been off pot 11 days now. The sweats severe headaches r gone. But my pain is awful. I had a hip replacement over 1 and a half year ago. Before I guit smoking, my hip started hurting . Now I have severe pain in hip, lower back n legs. Everyday it just gets worse. U ever heard of this? Or should I go to emergency room?

Hi lisalou, I don't know what is causing your back pain, but please talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

I've only been smoking for 2 yrs off for 2 days and I feel so out of it and grumpy and irritable I can't think straight I'm stressed I just want it but I'm telling myself no and I have no one to talk to about it
I def respect your comment. You can def say something if you've been smoking that long. I have been smoking for about 13-14 years...steady! Maybe I've had a few days up to week off of it here or there but I've never actually quit. I've been really testing myself for the past year and I'm now realizing...you can definitely get addicted to marijuana. I've had sleepiness nights and tired during the day, anxiety, depressive moods, and irritability. Its real and maybe not very until its really in the system but everyone is different. Only you can be the best judge of what your body is going through. Get help if you think u need it.
Been a smoker for over 30 years and recently gave up to set a good example for my kids.have had a constant headache, restless nights sleep,stomach in knots and am very tired at work bit of a struggle actually , hopefully it will pass soon .dont know anyone that has been a smoker for that long and has given up so i don't know how long this will last any advice gratefully received.
Generally, most people say it passes in 3-4 weeks but I have seen a few people who were heavy smokers that didn't feel better until 6 weeks. After it was out of their system and they were done with withdrawal, all of them commented that they couldn't believe how different things were for the better. Relationships, school, work, they described life as being "easier". It is interesting because I think a lot of people begin smoking to manage stress and somehow, over time, it ends up making things worse. Good job setting an example for your kids, it is so much more harsh on their developing brains and when they see an adult in their life using it becomes normal and OK for them to use too.

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