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Marijuana Withdrawal: What is it And How to Deal With it Effectively

August 29, 2020 0 Comments

Medical cannabis is the medicine of the future. Everyone seems to be talking about it and how helpful it has been for them or someone they know. For some medical patients, a cannabis treatment has the ability to turn their life a 180 degree. And since the legalization of cannabis in New York, medical cannabis has proved to be a trustworthy medicine for Cancer, PTSD, Epilepsy and even opioid addiction. Considering such diverse achievements, it makes sense why more patients are ready to apply for a medical marijuana card in New York.

But amid all the talk of the benefits of medical cannabis, patients often forget that cannabis has side effects. One of them is called marijuana withdrawal. 

Once you stop using cannabis, you may experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. But does it happen with medical cannabis too? And what are the symptoms? We’ll discuss everything here. 

Withdrawal with Medical Cannabis

Cannabis withdrawal is most commonly associated with recreational cannabis consumers. Since these people consume cannabis for the sole reason of getting high or intoxicated, they don’t really have a dose or time for a session. As a result, their indulgence is usually high. And with continuous and more frequent sessions, the tolerance increases and the withdrawal gets worse. 

But is the case similar with medical cannabis? The answer is not a simple yes or no. 

Medical cannabis is used as a means to find symptomatic relief from a medical condition or symptom. So the purpose is purely medical with no reason to indulge in potent strains (unless recommended). A patient who holds a cannabis recommendation follows a treatment planned out by a professional just like any other medication. Since the effects that a patient requires can be achieved with a small amount of cannabis, medical patients don’t indulge in higher doses and frequent sessions. It helps in maintaining the tolerance as well as the level of withdrawal. But, if a medical patient has been consuming cannabis for a long time or does not stick to the dose recommended by the medical professional, withdrawal can become worse. 

So a short answer to the question is that marijuana withdrawal can happen even among medical patients. But the severity of the symptoms may not be the same as recreational cannabis. And if the patient drifts from the instructions of the doctor, the risk increases.

Why Does Cannabis Cause Withdrawal?

To better understand the reason behind cannabis withdrawal, let’s first learn about the way cannabis works in the body.

Process of Cannabis Absorption in The Body

Cannabis is made up of several chemicals. One of them is a cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It is the psychoactive component that creates the intoxicating feeling among cannabis consumers. Now, THC is also the chemical component that reacts with the body to deliver the different therapeutic benefits that you know cannabis delivers. How does it do that? Through a very important system in your body called the endocannabinoid system. 

The endocannabinoid system consists of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are spread all across the body, especially the brain. THC fits into these receptors like a key fits into a lock. So the receptors are activated and the result varies from pain relief and increase in appetite to reduction in inflammation, better sleep and a euphoric high. These effects are what a patient expects and needs from a cannabis session. However, the state that you are in is not a normal state for your body. It’s not used to being intoxicated or in a state with activated CBD receptors which it can definitely not achieve on its own.

So your body tries to endure it by internalizing or desensitizing the receptors. In other words, making the receptors less available for reacting with THC. 

Cannabis withdrawal

Since your body cannot achieve the state without you ingesting THC, your body becomes dependent on it. So everything seems to be going fine until you take a tolerance break or decide to quit cannabis altogether. Because of your body’s dependence on THC, a sudden abstinence causes withdrawal. The symptoms can be mild or severe based on the tolerance of the person and their indulgence with cannabis. The higher the number, the severe will be the withdrawal symptoms. 

What Are The Symptoms of Cannabis Withdrawal?

If you’ve been using cannabis medically or recreationally for a long time, it is more than likely that you will experience withdrawal. Don’t worry, it’s not fatal but can become intolerable in some cases. Following are some of the common cannabis withdrawal symptoms.

  • Irritability
  • Negative mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disturbed sleep cycle, nightmares or insomnia
  • Headache
  • Lack of focus
  • Chills
  • Cold sweats
  • Depression
  • Lack of focus
  • Paranoia
  • Craving for cannabis

One thing to remember is that cannabis withdrawal does not have physical symptoms only. Your brain perceives regular cannabis use as a habit. So in addition to physical dependence, cannabis creates psychological dependence as well. An increased psychological dependence can cause substance use disorder that needs medical attention. 

How to Deal With Cannabis Withdrawal?

The duration of cannabis withdrawal depends on the duration of your cannabis use. The higher the indulgence, the longer and severe the withdrawal will be. So using cannabis once or twice does not lead to withdrawal. 

The symptoms usually begin 24 hours after the last session and the intensity increases and reaches its peak within two to three days. So if you are having difficulty dealing with withdrawal, here are a few tips that can help you out.

Try Quitting Slowly

If you have been using cannabis for a long time, the best way to quit the herb is by slowly reducing your intake. Sudden abstinence can trigger physical and psychological symptoms. But if you reduce your dose everyday and also control the number of sessions with every passing day, you can slowly wean away completely. It will be easier as the tolerance will also decrease with reduced indulgence. As a result, the withdrawal won’t be severe.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

During the time of complete abstinence, it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. All the withdrawal symptoms can be maintained and tolerated to a certain extent just by engaging in a healthy routine. 

Start doing some form of physical activity. Dancing, weight training, meditation or swimming, anything will work. Begin a healthy diet too. Include all the essential nutrients and make sure that you are having a balanced meal. Keep yourself healthy and indulge in self care. Take up new habits and stay connected to loved ones. 

Along with taking up new habits, start eliminating the wrong ones. Reduce your alcohol intake, avoid processed food and avoid smoking tobacco too. 

Consult a Professional

In case you are suffering severe withdrawal symptoms that may be intolerable, connect to a professional as soon as possible. There are also many short term and long term centers that help deal with cannabis dependence. Get in touch with a detoxification center, rehabilitation centre, support groups, therapy or intensive outpatient programs. Choose whatever suits you best and deal with cannabis withdrawal effectively. 

If you are a medical cannabis consumer, make sure to stick to your dose and go by the instruction of your doctor. Because a slight change can cause addiction and lead to severe withdrawal upon quitting. And if you are experiencing withdrawals already, make sure to get healthy and connect to a professional.