As the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, marijuana use is much more prevalent than you may think. In 2015, more than 11 million people between the ages of 18 and 25 had used marijuana in that past year. In 2017, a more up-to-date survey from Yahoo News and Marist Poll concludes that 52% of Americans 18 and older have tried marijuana, with 44% of those who tried it currently using.

Marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain and other conditions, there is no doubt about it. While many marijuana advocates argue that marijuana has no negative effects and can only benefit the user, research has shown that there are a number of negative effects of regular use as well as a negative impact on people who attempt to quit using marijuana all of a sudden.

This is called marijuana withdrawal and should not be taken lightly, as everyone experiences different withdrawal symptoms. For example, someone who had been using marijuana regularly for the past five years would have more intense withdrawal symptoms than someone who had maybe used marijuana a few times in a year.

What Is Marijuana?

Cannabis, or marijuana, is a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant. It gets most of its psychoactive traits from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is commonly used and abused for its mental and physical effects.

Common ways to partake in the use of marijuana consists of smoking, vaporizing, in foods called “edibles”, or as an extract. When smoked, a user may feel psychoactive effects within minutes as opposed to the 30-60 minutes it takes when consumed as an “edible”.” The effects of marijuana can last anywhere between two and six hours.

Common short-term effects of marijuana use are:

  • Decreased short-term memory
  • Dry mouth (known to users as “cottonmouth”)
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Red eyes
  • Anxiety/Paranoia
  • Drowsiness

Some of the long-term effects of marijuana use include:

  • Addiction/dependency
  • Decreased learning capability
  • Developmental problems (when someone’s mother uses during pregnancy)
  • Increased risk of psychosis (debated)

Despite these negative side effects, many marijuana users will keep on using due to the fact that it provides a feeling of euphoria, similar to many other drugs.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug on the federal level, being classified in the same family as heroin, ecstasy, LSD, and bath salts. To be classified as a Schedule I drug, a substance must:

  • Have a high abuse potential
  • Not be currently accepted in medical treatment use in the United States
  • Have a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision

Although marijuana is legal in some states for personal, recreational, and/or medical use, it is still considered a Schedule I drug due to its extremely high abuse rate.

General Withdrawal Symptoms

Chronic marijuana use becomes a problem over time and, despite popular opinion, can easily become addicting and lead to dependence. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition not only recognizes cannabis use disorder, but also cannabis withdrawal syndrome.

Of all people in the US that currently use marijuana, a staggering 30% of them fill the description for cannabis use disorder or marijuana dependence. If you struggle with marijuana addiction or withdrawal, do not feel alone. Many people, as evidenced by research and surveys, are going through the same thing you are.

While you attempt to treat your marijuana addiction, you will more than likely experience cannabis withdrawal symptoms, many of which resemble flu-like symptoms. Upset stomach, sweating, chills, and nausea are all common marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, not much can be done to help alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms except seeking professional treatment.

A marijuana plant wrapped in a $100 bill

In a professional detox program, doctors and nurses will work around the clock to ensure your comfort while you endure marijuana withdrawal symptoms. The recent recognition of marijuana withdrawal was a huge step in helping people treat their addiction, and to diagnose someone with marijuana withdrawal syndrome, they must meet the following criteria:

  • The victim must have smoked marijuana every day for at least a few months before quitting
  • Three of the listed symptoms must be apparent:
    • Anxiety
    • Restlessness
    • Aggression
    • Insomnia
    • Changes in eating habits
    • Depression

Although not included in the official list of criteria, additional common marijuana withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue or Discomfort from the “flu-like symptoms”
  • Lack of concentration
  • Rebounds such as loss of appetite, followed by increase appetite.

Marijuana Detox

Although possible to safely detox from marijuana without professional help, this usually results in relapse and severe withdrawal symptoms.Detox is the first step in treatment, and consequently has the arguably highest impact on the outcome of treatment. This is why we highly encourage seeking professional medical detoxification.

Doctors not only monitor you 24/7 during detox but will usually remove toxins and residue leftover from past drug abuse (in this case THC).

Marijuana Withdrawal And Detox

Similar to many other drug withdrawal symptoms, the first signs of marijuana withdrawal begin one to three days after cessation of marijuana. Though the symptoms usually last between one and two weeks, insomnia and other sleep disorders can last for up to a month and longer.

Because the marijuana withdrawal symptoms can be so uncomfortable, we highly suggest starting your path to recovery with medical detox, and then continuing treatment in a residential program or an outpatient program. Because it is psychologically addicting as opposed to physically addicting, intensive outpatient or inpatient programs are generally not necessary.

In order to best treat marijuana withdrawal, addiction, and dependency, we suggest a combination of the following:


As stated before, there are currently no FDA-approved medications used to treat marijuana withdrawal syndrome. There are currently tests and studies that involve possibly using THC extract to slowly taper down someone who is dependent. Additionally, antidepressants are common when treating the negative mental effects of marijuana withdrawal, and some sleep aid medications are used to treat insomnia caused by marijuana withdrawal.


Used to understand the mentality and psychology behind addiction, psychotherapy is the most efficient way to help treat psychological addictions rather than physical addictions. Treatments such as group therapy, client-to-therapist, and cognitive-behavioral therapy are all types of psychotherapy.

Contingency Management

Contingency management consists of using rewards as encouragement to stay sober while in recovery. The two main varieties of contingency management are voucher-based reinforcement and prize incentives contingency management.

Although possible to safely detox from marijuana without professional help, this usually results in relapse and severe withdrawal symptoms.Detox is the first step in treatment, and consequently has the arguably highest impact on the outcome of treatment. This is why we highly encourage seeking professional medical detoxification.

Cold Turkey

When handled with professional care, marijuana detox can be a relatively easy and simple process. However, many people go cold turkey in an attempt to quit a drug, and it almost always leads to relapse and withdrawal. In case you are not aware, the term “cold turkey” refers to the immediate cessation of a drug in an attempt at self-detox.

Addiction is not a simple “detox-and-go” process, but rather a lifelong addiction that, if left untreated, can negatively impact you and people around you. Any shortcuts made in the treatment process can prove to be detrimental to marijuana addiction treatment, so you should almost always avoid quitting any substance cold turkey. Quitting marijuana cold turkey is especially dangerous for the fact that there are no FDA-approved medications that you can take to help curb marijuana withdrawal symptoms.

Your body needs time to detox in a comfortable and expert environment after chronic drug abuse. It is imperative that you treat your body in the correct ways, as it takes much time for it to adjust from being constantly under fire from drugs to complete sobriety.

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