Can quitting weed cause anxiety? (5 withdrawal symptoms)

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This blog post will answer the question, “can quitting weed cause anxiety?”. We will also be going through research done on weed/ marijuana smoking, addiction to weed, and an in-depth understanding of the withdrawal symptoms that occur when you quit weed smoking. We will also look at tips to quit smoking.

Can quitting weed cause anxiety?

Yes, quitting weed causes anxiety. Weed, also commonly known as marijuana, is an illicit psychoactive drug that comes from the plant, cannabis. It has been used for centuries for recreational purposes and also for medicinal purposes in some parts of the world.

Many people view weed as a soft drug and some countries and states have legalised the drug. Despite this, numerous research has shown that discontinuation of the use of weed causes withdrawal symptoms in heavy users.

Before we move to withdrawal symptoms of quitting weed, let us look at the research done on weed smoking.

Research on marijuana smoking

Research done recently and in the past years indicate that marijuana is a commonly used drug, especially in young people. It is the third most addictive drug after tobacco and alcohol. Its popularity is slowly increasing with the availability of vaping devices that have gained a lot of popularity among teens and middle and high school students.

Research has also shown that the number of young people who believe smoking weed is harmful to their health slowly decreases. This can be attributed to the legalization of weed for recreational use in several states and countries.

Is marijuana addictive?

Yes, continuous use and abuse of marijuana cause addiction. Over a period, weed causes the development of a mental illness called Marijuana Use Disorder as stated in the DSM manuals. Continuous use of weed is often associated with dependence, so failure to use the drug induces some side effects.

Addiction happens when the user cannot quit the use of the drug even when it is having adverse effects on their health and interferes with their normal daily routines. 

Common signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse and misuse

The symptoms and signs of marijuana abuse can be divided into physical, emotional, social, and psychological symptoms. They include:

Physical symptoms

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • sleepiness/ relaxed state
  • Impaired coordination
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of attention to hygiene
  • Impaired balance

Psychological symptoms

  • Impaired judgment
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Dramatic mood swings

Social symptoms

  • Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of motivation that can make you quit work or school
  • Financial problems
  • Associating with new peers, especially those you use with
  • Inability to keep up with work and perform

Mental effects

  • Temporary hallucinations
  • Temporary paranoia
  • Worsening of symptoms of patients with mental illnesses, i.e., schizophrenia

Harmful effects of weed on the brain

When you smoke marijuana, THC (a chemical substance responsible for the effects of weed), passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood then spreads to the body and the brain. In the brain, THC affects brain receptors that control development and functioning. Weed has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. They include:

Short-term effects

  • Euphoria
  • Mood changes
  • Hallucinations and delusions when taken in high content
  • Altered sense of time
  • Altered senses
  • Impaired body movements
  • Impaired memory

Long-term effects

  • Affects brain development when you start using it at an early age
  • Poor memory
  • Inattention
  • Affects learning
  • Lower dopamine production
  • Anxiety and depression

5 withdrawal symptoms of quitting weed

The major withdrawal symptoms of quitting weed include:

Anxiety

Anxiety can be a symptom of weed intoxication or withdrawal from weed. Anxiety symptoms happen as a feeling of paranoia. Weed has some anxiolytic effects on our brains.

The brain then gets accustomed to this, so when you quit smoking and the brain goes back to normal, you get a heightened sensitivity to anxiety. Dopamine and serotonin levels also drop drastically as their production was stimulated by marijuana.

This effect can last from days to even months. You have to wait for your brain to go back to producing the neurotransmitters normally as it takes time for your brain to adjust.

Depression

Depression and anxiety are closely related and they mostly happen concurrently. This is because marijuana affects the production of dopamine and serotonin which is responsible for our moods. Constant stimulation of the neurotransmitters by using marijuana makes the brain get accustomed to it. 

After a long time of continuous use, the brain is unable to produce the neurotransmitters naturally without marijuana. This explains dependency where you are unable to discontinue the abuse of weed since your brain is already accustomed to it. When you stop smoking, dopamine and serotonin levels drop, thus causing depression.

Headaches

This does not happen to everyone, but for those who experience them, the migraines are intense and can go for days consistently. The headaches usually start around three days of quitting and continue to day six after quitting.

However, some smokers have reported experiencing headaches even after weeks or months of quitting. 

Sleep disruptions

Many people report having insomnia for a few days after they quit marijuana use. Some, however, report that the symptoms last for months.

Sometimes, disruption of sleep is caused by recurrent vivid dreams or nightmares. Researchers believe that drugs, marijuana included, cause chemical imbalances in the brain which cause nightmares. Withdrawing from drugs has also been linked to developing nightmares.

Sometimes, those withdrawing from marijuana get “using dreams”. These are dreams about you smoking marijuana. A small percentage of those in recovery get these dreams but they decrease over time.

Decreased appetite

Marijuana increases appetite. It simply uses the process of conditioning where marijuana induces hunger. The body gets used to this cycle.

When you stop using weed, your appetite changes or food starts to taste differently. Some people’s appetites decrease due to nausea and stomach pains.

Irritability and anger

The most common feelings associated with quitting are anger, irritability and frustration. You might become less tolerant of people, get into arguments more and give up on tasks easily. These symptoms start one week after quitting and may last for two to four weeks.

How long do withdrawal symptoms last?

For the symptoms to be considered withdrawal symptoms, you must exhibit a minimum of three symptoms and one of them must be of a physical nature. The symptoms start within the first week of quitting and peak on day ten of quitting. The symptoms then start decreasing from day 10 to 20. 

The symptoms however and the length of withdrawal are determined by the frequency and amount of weed used. Some people continue to experience lethargy, mood swings and depression for months or even years.  

5 tips to quit smoking marijuana

Avoid “People, Places and Things” that make you want to smoke weed

These are simply called PPTs. List down people who make you feel like smoking. It could be your friends, or partners, or you could have developed a close friendship with “smoking friends”‌. Write ‌their names.

List down places that trigger the cravings of wanting to smoke and avoid them. It could be where your dealer lives, where you used to hang out when smoking or at entertainment joints.

Get rid of paraphernalia that triggers the cravings to smoke i.e., ashtrays, your favorite lighter, or pair of socks with a weed drawing. Avoiding PPTs will help you in managing your triggers and avoiding a relapse.

Start exercising

Exercises help in reducing drug cravings. It also helps in the restoration of a healthy brain by triggering the production of neurotransmitters. Exercise also acts as a positive coping mechanism as it distracts you from thinking about smoking.

Set goals

You cannot quit successfully if you don’t have a valid reason/goal that you will accomplish when you successfully quit your marijuana use. Set a goal(s) that cannot be achieved when you are smoking marijuana and use it as motivation to help you remain weed-free.

Create an excellent support system

A healthy support system is necessary for anyone in recovery. Let your close friends and family walk with you on your journey of recovery, which ‌is not a walk in the park.

Incorporate mental health professionals, i.e. Psychologists, psychiatrists, or therapists to help give you the emotional and practical coping skills and in helping relieve the withdrawal symptoms.

Plan sober events

For you to quit smoking effectively, ‌substitute the time you used to smoke with activities that are more healthy. Isolating yourself will not do a great job in recovery. Go to events that will not trigger cravings, pick up a hobby, and try new things that will keep you busy at all times.

Conclusion

This blog addressed the question “can quitting weed cause anxiety?”. We dived deeper into understanding what marijuana is, its addiction, the signs and symptoms of marijuana use disorder and the effects it has on our brain.

The article has given you detailed withdrawal symptoms that are commonly experienced when you quit marijuana and five tips that will help you quit marijuana. Please feel free to comment on the content or ask questions in the comment section below. 

Frequently asked questions: Stop smoking weed anxiety

What happens to your brain when you stop taking weed?

The brain receptors will return to normal. Concentration, attention span and memory will improve. However, this does not happen immediately when you quit.

The brain takes time to readjust and get back to normal functioning. During this time, your body will experience withdrawal symptoms like migraines, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.

How long does withdrawal from marijuana last?

Heavy weed users can develop withdrawal symptoms from day one of quitting. The symptoms will peak from day two or three. The symptoms last for two to three weeks with a few people reporting having withdrawal symptoms months after they discontinue their use.

How long does weed stay in your system?

People who use marijuana less than two times a week can test positive for marijuana for one to three days. Those who use it several times a week can test positive after 7-21 days since they last used it. A heavy user can test positive one month or longer after they stopped using.

Can smoking weed cause anxiety?

Yes, you can develop anxiety after quitting marijuana. This is the most common withdrawal symptom, as marijuana acts as an anxiolytic, which the brain develops a tolerance for. When it is withdrawn, you get a heightened sense of anxiety.

Citations

NIDA. 2021, April 13. Is marijuana addictive?. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive on 2022, April 28 

C. Marisa. 2022, March 3. Marijuana withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/weed-marijuana 

H., Elizabeth, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD. 2021, November 5. How long does withdrawal from marijuana last? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-to-expect-from-cannabis-withdrawal-22304 

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