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How Long Does Withdrawal From Marijuana Last?

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Cannabis (marijuana) is the most commonly used illicit drug. For many years, marijuana has been considered a soft drug, exempt from the usual concerns about addiction. However, recent research has shown that cannabis withdrawal can and does occur when heavy pot smokers discontinue its use.

As a result, the diagnostic criteria for cannabis withdrawal is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5).  

Overview

If you have been smoking pot heavily for at least a few months—whether as a regular pattern, in binges, or if you have become addicted—you may experience cannabis withdrawal if you abruptly stop using.

A Duke University study of 496 adult marijuana smokers who tried to quit found that 95.5% of them experienced at least one withdrawal symptom while 43.1% experienced more than one symptom. The number of symptoms the participants experienced was significantly linked to how often and how much the subjects smoked prior to trying to quit.

Those who were daily smokers experienced the most symptoms, but even those who reported using marijuana less than once a week experienced some withdrawal symptoms of moderate intensity.

Signs & Symptoms

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening—their main danger is causing someone who really wants or needs to quit cannabis to relapse.

You might feel extra edgy and irritable, have trouble sleeping and eating, and may even get a stomachache or headache. Some people compare it to the feeling you get when you try to quit caffeine.

Although marijuana withdrawal typically lasts one to two weeks, some marijuana users experience several weeks or months of withdrawal symptoms, known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

One person’s experience of cannabis withdrawal might be quite different from another’s, and the severity depends on a whole host of factors, including frequency of use as well as overall health. However, there are certain common withdrawal symptoms that usually occur within 24 to 72 hours of stopping heavy use.

Cravings

Although many regular smokers of marijuana do not believe they are addicted to the drug, many former marijuana users report drug cravings in the early days of abstinence. The experience of cravings will vary from person to person, but tend to include a persistent desire to use the substance.

This is a hallmark of addiction, whether it’s heroin, alcohol, gambling, or sex addiction. In one study, 75.7% of participants trying to quit reported an intense craving for marijuana.

Irritability

Irritability can range from mild and relatively easy to control annoyance to excessive anger and even aggression. This is a normal reaction to withdrawing from marijuana.

If the irritability lasts for more than a week, it is a good idea to seek support from a doctor, drug counselor, or psychologist, as the symptom may be part of another issue that your cannabis use was masking.

More than half of those who try to quit marijuana report mood swings, irritability, or anxiety. Others report aggression, nervousness, restlessness, and a loss of concentration.

Anxiety

Anxiety can be a symptom of both cannabis intoxication and cannabis withdrawal.   The distinctive paranoid feelings that occur when high on marijuana are well known among users,.

It can be worrying when anxiety continues or worsens even after you quit. As with the irritability, it can be helpful to remember that your fears are probably a natural part of drug withdrawal.

If you continue to feel anxious after a week of discontinuing cannabis, see a doctor. Cannabis use can sometimes cause substance-induced anxiety disorders, and there may have been an existing anxiety problem before you started using cannabis.  

If you experience extended paranoia, especially if you also experience hallucinations or delusions, it is very important to be properly assessed by a mental health professional, ideally with expertise in substance issues   such as an American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM)-certified physician or a psychiatrist.

Depression

Depression, characterized by a persistently sad mood accompanied by several other symptoms like decreased interest in daily activities and difficulty concentrating, is another possibility of cannabis withdrawal.

Occasional depressed feelings are natural. It is not unusual for people coming off cannabis to also become more aware of some of the negative consequences of their drug use as well as emotional states the marijuana has been masking.

For example, some people who cease marijuana after using for several years can feel they have wasted a considerable part of their life. These feelings are normal and can often be used to bring about positive changes you want to make in your life.

If the feelings of depression don’t lift after a week or two, are impacting your functioning, or if making changes in your life seems overwhelming, seek help from your doctor or a drug counselor. As with other mood changes, depression can be substance-induced or pre-existing to your cannabis use, and it is treatable.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression and addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Sleep Problems

An estimated 46.9% of former pot smokers report sleep disruption problems, including insomnia (trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep), unusually vivid or disturbing dreams, and night sweats during cannabis withdrawal.

Others who have quit smoking report having “using dreams” in which they dream they smoke marijuana. Frequent, vivid dreams typically begin about a week after quitting and can last for about a month before tapering off. Although some former users have reported having these types of dreams years after they stopped smoking pot.

Insomnia symptoms after you stop using weed can last a few days or a couple of weeks. Some people find that they can experience occasional sleeplessness for a few months after quitting.

Headaches

Not everyone who stops smoking marijuana experiences headaches, but for those who do, the headaches can be very intense, especially during the first few days after quitting.

Headaches, like most other symptoms of withdrawing from marijuana use, will usually begin one to three days after quitting and will peak two to six days after stopping. Symptoms usually fade after two weeks, but some former smokers report continued symptoms for several weeks or even months later.

Other Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal tend to be less intense, peak sooner, and fade more quickly than the psychological symptoms associated with quitting. The frequency and amount of marijuana used prior to stopping affect the severity and length of the withdrawals, which may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, sweating, shakiness and tremors, fever and chills

Coping & Relief

Making a few healthy lifestyle changes and employing some coping strategies can help you get through this period of withdrawal:

  • Stay physically active to help ease bodily tension.
  • Let friends and family members know when you need support or space.
  • Avoid situations that you find anxiety-provoking, such as loud, crowded parties.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation.
  • Establish sleep rituals and avoid caffeine too close to bedtime.

Warnings

There are no worrisome dangers in quitting marijuana cold-turkey or detoxing on your own. That said, consulting a medical professional can help you better manage the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal and prevent relapse.

Just as people with alcohol use disorder who are trying to quit drinking may pick up a drink to relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, marijuana users may be tempted to light up a joint to relieve the discomfort they experience when they try to stop smoking pot.

One study found that 70.4% of users trying to quit smoking marijuana relapsed to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.

Long-Term Treatment

In many cases, the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal will dissipate with time and can be treated without medical attention. However, if your symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, you should see your doctor or mental health professional.

Make sure you tell your doctor that marijuana withdrawal is playing a role in how you are feeling. If you just say you are depressed or anxious, you may be prescribed medication, like benzodiazepines, that can present its own set of dependence issues.

Fortunately, many non-addictive pharmacologic options exist for anxiety, as well as non-drug treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).  

Resources

If you have decided to quit smoking weed after regular use, chances are you will experience some kind of withdrawal symptoms. Depending on how much and how often you have been smoking, these symptoms could become intense enough to drive you to relapse to find relief.

But you don’t have to do it on your own. Seek help from your healthcare provider to deal with the physical symptoms of withdrawal or seek help from a support group like Marijuana Anonymous to handle the psychological symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal can be unpleasant and may temporarily interfere with performance at work, school, and daily life. While withdrawing from marijuana use can present challenges, remember that what you are going through will pass. Be patient. Making life changes is always challenging, but with the right support, they can be transformative.

Withdrawal from marijuana isn’t always easy, so here is everything you need to know about withdrawal symptoms, the timeline, and how to get help.

30 Days Without Weed

Much like alcohol before it, marijuana is becoming more accepted, more legal, and more accessible. And, while some medical institutions prescribe marijuana for pain relief or to encourage appetite (especially after undergoing radiation treatment), people who suffer from Marijuana Use Disorder should be cautious about such prescriptions should they arise. Much like opioid addicts who often need to refuse pain medication due to addiction, so too should frequent marijuana users be wary. This is not to say that marijuana is as dangerous as cocaine, alcohol, or even tobacco, but addiction is a disorder. When you’ve reached a point where your end goal to each day is to get high; when you’ve discontinued activities and social events if they prevent you from getting high or only to get high; when you find it difficult to get through the day without getting high, these are problems that need to be addressed.

One of the benefits of marijuana becoming more legal and wide-spread is the prevalence of research and studies on the drug. There has been a lot of misinformation about cannabis and addiction in the past, however now we’re starting to see the real issues that repeated (and heavy) marijuana use can cause, such as memory loss, disrupted sleep, inability to learn, lowered attention span, increased risk of lung cancer (in the case of smokers) and heightened anxiety. Many people with frequent and long-term marijuana use become dependent on the drug and may need help to recover.

With that in mind, here’s what to expect with your first 30 days without weed.

Day 1: Cravings, Cravings, Cravings

For those addicted to marijuana, withdrawal symptoms can start as early as 24 hours since your last use. Most people report feeling intense cravings their first day without weed. They feel cloudy & lethargic, but the worst element is the cravings.

For some, the cravings are a result of being dependent on the drug; for others, it provided a comfort or escape from what they were feeling. In either case, formerly frequent users will notice how ingrained the drug was in their routine, which can make their day seem all the more alien without it.

Day 2: Anxiety & Poor Sleep

By day two, most people are struggling with sleep and some are facing anxiety.

Most people with Marijuana Use Disorder reportedly use some form of cannabis before sleep — wrongly thinking it helps. The reality is, marijuana can help relax the body before bed — helping you to fall asleep — but it inhibits deep, restful REM sleep. Those dependent on marijuana have difficulty falling to sleep on their own, but once sleep occurs, it will be much more restful (with a happy helping of vivid dreams).

Day 3: Peak Withdrawal Symptoms

Day 3 is the peak withdrawal symptoms with many frequent and heavy users experiencing severe sleep deprivation due to insomnia and increased irritability. The mental and physical distress of not having marijuana in their system can cause angry outbursts and heightened frustration.

While day 3 can be challenging, from this point, most side effects get better even if not all at once.

Day 4-5: Sweet Dreams

Although anxiety tends to increase during this time for many in recovery, sleep usually comes naturally and easily. What’s more, many report vivid dreams which, according to some, is due to a “dream debt” that’s been built up over a long period of time.

That said, although uncommon, some people with severe symptoms experience vivid nightmares. In many cases however, this can have more to do with emotional distress that has gone unchecked since the heavy pot use began.

Day 6-7: Anxiety Improves; Appetite Issues

By day 6, most marijuana users in recovery report their anxiety improving although it’s important to note that this can vary for people who have suffered from anxiety prior to using marijuana versus those that started having anxiety issues during or after.

At this point however, one element that can worsen for some people is appetite. Many report feeling less hungry and being disinterested in food. One thing that can help during this time is exercise.

Days 8-9: Feeling Feelings Again

During the second week of marijuana abstinence, most people are experiencing a net positive in their day-to-day feelings. For those that used marijuana as an escape or to block their feelings, they start to feel whole. Many have caught up on sleep and seen their anxiety improve and as a result, feel better now than they have in a long time.

There are some, who experience heightened anxiety at this point (even if they were feeling better a day prior), however after this period, anxiety appears to universally improve.

Days 10-11: Memory Improves, Vocabulary Increases

By day 10, many people experience a sharper mind. They’re able to problem-solve faster, converse faster, and experience better recall. In addition, numerous studies have found that heavy-marijuana users in recovery start to have a much more expansive vocabulary becoming more articulate.

Days 12-14: Mental Wellness

By two weeks without marijuana, many report feeling more mentally healthy. Many feel more patient, more deliberate, and more self-respect. Feelings like anxiety, paranoia, and guilt tend to have decreased significantly, if not disappeared altogether.

Week 3: Physical Health

In the third week without marijuana, many people notice a significant change in their physical health as well. They have more energy, better sleep, and see a noticeable improvement in their skin. For those who mostly smoked marijuana, they noticed an improvement in their vision as well.

In addition, many users in recovery by this time are eating better overall. No more late night snacks or empty carbs from sugar-rich foods. Most start to have regular meals at consistent time periods.

Week 4: Better Relationships

By this point, many marijuana users in recovery notice that with their improved memory and attention span comes improves relationships. Instead of being in their own head or enjoying the euphoria of an artificial high, many in recovery feel closer to their friends, loved ones, and family.

Additionally, many report being more driven to pursue other areas of self improvement, be it creatively or personally.

Day 30 & Onward: Breathe that Fresh Air

Within a month, most people felt better rested, more creative, more in touch with themselves (with old memories resurfaceing) and others — able to connect with others on a much deeper level.

One of the most fascinating elements of sobriety is finding out how much time and money is dedicated to the drug. Once you’ve endured withdrawal, you enjoy your time more, feel more self-confidence, and experience better health overall.

Marijuana addiction is real and withdrawal can be severe, but you can get through it.

How to build new habits

I Am Sober is an app that helps you get some control back in your life.

I Am Sober is a free app that helps you get some control back in your life.

Marijuana withdrawal is severe in the first 3 days of sobriety. While poor sleep and anxiety can increase over the next week, by 2 weeks most feel renewed. ]]>