Marijuana Withdrawal: Is it for Real?

Supporters of marijuana often tout the idea that it’s difficult or impossible to become addicted to the drug, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. According to these beliefs, physical addiction to marijuana isn’t technically possible and so therefore neither is the physiological process of withdrawal. However, the fact of the matter is that addiction to and withdrawal from marijuana occurs in precisely the same way as other more dangerous drugs like cocaine, meth or heroin. The only real difference is that the results of pot addiction aren’t as dramatic as that of other drugs, but nevertheless the withdrawal process can be as difficult as with any substance.

When a person who is addicted to drugs suddenly stops using, they go through a process known as withdrawal or Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. While AWS is different for every person, the characteristics are usually somewhat similar. This includes:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory troubles
  • Night Sweats
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Extreme drug cravings
  • Convulsions/Seizures
  • Itching/crawling sensation in skin
  • Mood swings/mania

Contrary to popular belief, some of these symptoms will be experienced by people who are addicted to marijuana. This is because marijuana stimulates the production of dopamine in the central nervous system. With consistent use, the brain begins to build neurological pathways to facilitate the “high” the user feels when dopamine is released into the blood stream. Eventually, the central nervous system can only operate normally when the drug is in the system; when it is absent or decreases in saturation level, withdrawal occurs as the body seeks to correct itself.

In simple terms, neurons in the brain that were effectively asleep as a result of continued marijuana use will suddenly become hyperactive when the substance is withheld from the body. This means that legitimate withdrawal occurs with marijuana and nearly any other mind-altering substance that a person can become addicted to.

In fact, there are even specific types of treatment for marijuana withdrawal. One of these – according to Thomas H. Maugh of the LA Times – comes in the form of a drug called Gabapentin;

“For heavy users, trying to quit can produce a host of withdrawal symptoms, including drug craving, sleep disturbances, anxiety, irritability and dysphoria — all of which can prompt the user to go back to smoking pot. A 2008 study by Dr. George Koob of Scripps found that gabapentin could quiet such withdrawal activity in alcohol-addicted rats. That led Dr. Barbara J. Mason of Scripps to initiate a clinical trial of the drug for marijuana abuse.” (1)

According to Maugh’s article, the study produces credible results that gabapentin can significantly decrease not only the level of discomfort associated with quitting pot, but also the desire to use the drug again.

While this new type of treatment for marijuana addiction and withdrawal shows promise, the best way for most people to get clean and stay clean is by attending an inpatient rehab program. Even if your primary drug of choice is pot, there are still serious, lasting consequences from continued use. Detox and inpatient treatment only lasts about a month, but addiction can continue to ruin your life for years to come. Do something about it by calling the number at the top of your screen now. Marijuana isn’t the benign substance many perceive it to be, and rehab isn’t as hard as you might think. Find out for yourself with an immediate, confidential consultation. We’re standing by when you’re ready.

(1) Maugh, Thomas H. Gabapentin may ease symptoms of marijuana withdrawal LA Times Booster Shots

About The Contributor

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More

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