Is marijuana withdrawal real? Yes! Just like with other drugs of addiction, marijuana users experience withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include irritability, anger, depressed mood, headaches, restlessness, lack of appetite, and cravings for marijuana. These withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for a habitual user of marijuana to stop. Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal first appear in serious habitual users within the first 8 hours and are the most noticeable during the first 10 days. However, withdrawal symptoms may last as long as 45 days. The withdrawal from marijuana is identifiable by behavioral and emotional distress.
Research by a group of scientists studying the effects of heavy marijuana use suggests that withdrawal from the use of marijuana is similar to what is experienced by people when they quit smoking cigarettes. Abstinence from each of these drugs appears to cause several common symptoms such as irritability, anger, and trouble sleeping. This information is based on self reporting in a recent study of 12 heavy users of both marijuana and cigarettes.
There are now several clinical trials showing that mice and dogs show evidence of marijuana withdrawal. (For THC-addicted dogs, it is the abnormal number of wet-dog shakes that give them away.) Today, scientists have a much better picture of the jobs performed by anandamide, the body’s own form of THC. This knowledge helps explain a wide range of THC withdrawal symptoms.
Among the endogenous tasks performed by anandamide are pain control, memory blocking, appetite enhancement, the suckling reflex, lowering of blood pressure during shock, and the regulation of certain immune responses. These functions shed light on common hallmarks of marijuana withdrawal, such as anxiety, chills, sweats, flu-like physical symptoms, and decreased appetite. At Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, where a great deal of National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research takes place, researchers have found that abrupt marijuana withdrawal leads to symptoms similar to depression and nicotine withdrawal.
Need more proof that marijuana withdrawal is “real”? Teen treatment for marijuana dependence is on the rise, but, researchers have discovered, there's a catch – marijuana withdrawal symptoms, much like those experienced by people quitting cigarettes, cocaine or other drugs, may make abstinence more difficult to achieve.
A new study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that teens that use marijuana frequently also may face the same withdrawal symptoms that have been found to challenge adult marijuana users trying to quit. Ryan Vandrey, a graduate student in psychology, and Alan Budney, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Vermont, studied 72 adolescent marijuana users seeking outpatient treatment for substance abuse.
Participants in the study were heavy marijuana users ages 14 to 19, who were primarily male Caucasians, and who completed study questionnaires. Nearly two-thirds of the participants reported experiencing four or more symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, including anxiety, aggression, and irritability. More than one-third of participants reported four or more symptoms that occurred at a moderate or greater severity level.
"In the adolescents who provided information, we observed a lot of variability regarding the presence and severity of marijuana withdrawal symptoms, which is consistent with what we have seen in several studies of adults who use marijuana frequently," said Vandrey. "Overall, our research indicates that the majority of people who abruptly stop daily or near daily marijuana use experience some withdrawal symptoms. Though there is anecdotal evidence that withdrawal makes it more difficult to quit using marijuana and that people use marijuana to suppress withdrawal effects, we still need to more carefully investigate how withdrawal impacts the quitting process." Budney's future research aims to address this and other questions related to the clinical importance of marijuana withdrawal and more generally to develop and test more effective methods for helping those who seek to stop using marijuana.