How Marijuana Use Affects The BrainUsing marijuana frequently brings with it certain risks. Marijuana has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health issues. These problems are becoming inflamed as marijuana becomes more and more potent. Some super-strong strains contain up to 30% THC. This is the active component of marijuana that gets you high. The THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid similar in structure to the cannabinoids that occur naturally in your body. This allows THC to bind to your brain’s cannabinoid receptors, disrupting the normal functioning of this system. Resultantly, enhanced levels of dopamine are released, leading to the pleasurable high that users experience. This cannabinoid affects the areas in your brain controlling thinking, memory, concentration, and mood. For many users, the effects triggered by cannabis are desirable, including any or all of the following:
- Distorted sensory perception
- Altered sense of time
- Diminished coordination
- Cognitive impairment
- Impaired reaction time
- Increased anxiety
- Acute psychotic features (delusions, hallucinations)
- Financial problems
- Relationship problems
- Anxiety disorders
- Less success academically or at work
- Reduced life satisfaction
- Breathing problems
- Heightened risk of schizophrenia
- Increased use of other substances like alcohol and cocaine
Marijuana Withdrawal SymptomsWithdrawal symptoms from marijuana are not life-threatening, so you have nothing to worry about however you decide to stop smoking. The primary danger of withdrawal symptoms is the chance of relapse preventing someone who truly wants to stop using marijuana from doing so. Typically, marijuana withdrawal symptoms last for no more than a week or two. In some cases of PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), symptoms linger for weeks or even months. Everyone’s experience of cannabis withdrawal is different. Many variables come into play from your size and health to your tolerance and the length of time you’ve been smoking weed. Here are the most common roadblocks you can expect to encounter in the first 24 to 72 hours after you stop smoking weed:
- Cravings for marijuana
- Sleep problems
- Other physical symptoms
Cravings for marijuanaEven though most regular marijuana users don’t believe they are addicted to the drug, the vast bulk of former users report feeling strong cravings for the drug in the early stages of abstinence. Often, it seems like life isn’t worth living without marijuana, but these feelings soon pass. The frequency and intensity of cravings vary from person to person, but they feature as a withdrawal symptom for most habitual marijuana users.
AnxietyAnxiety can occur as a result of both marijuana intoxication and marijuana withdrawal. Marijuana is well-known for triggering low-level paranoia in users to the extent that even popping to the store can seem problematic. Sometimes, anxiety can worsen when someone stops smoking marijuana. This is a natural part of withdrawal from the drug, but it doesn’t make it any easier if you’ve found yourself shifting from super-relaxed to edgy and anxious after stopping smoking weed. If the anxiety persists after a week of discontinuing use, you should speak with your doctor. Occasionally, using marijuana can trigger an anxiety disorder. Alternatively, you may have had an undiagnosed anxiety problem before you started smoking marijuana.
DepressionDepression often accompanies cannabis withdrawal. Regular and heavy marijuana smokers find that the drug masks emotions to some extent. Even if this is not something you’re aware of while you’re smoking, when you stop using marijuana, you’ll need to tackle these emotions head-on. As you detox and your mind starts clearing, you may become acutely aware of how much time and money you’ve wasted on marijuana. As you begin frankly examining what using this drug has cost you, you may become deeply depressed as a result. Instead of succumbing to these feelings, you should accept them as a normal and healthy part of recovery. Use those wasted opportunities as inspiration to help you bring about the positive changes you want to put into practice. When feelings of depression linger for more than a couple of weeks, or if they start impacting your daily activities, you should seek help from your healthcare provider. Depression is treatable, but it seldom gets better left alone.
IrritabilityYou are quite likely to find yourself feeling irritable when you first stop using marijuana. This is normal when you make any substantial change in life, especially when it involves a psychoactive substance. From outbursts of annoyance to excessive anger, and even aggression, this irritability is a normal withdrawal symptom. Warn anyone you live with that you’re likely to experience mood swings and do what you can to avoid conflict. It’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to quit marijuana.
Sleep problemsMany marijuana smokers come to rely on weed as a nightcap. Almost half of those who stop using marijuana report experiencing insomnia, disrupted sleep, vivid dreams, and night sweats during withdrawal from cannabis. The good news is, once the marijuana has left your system and you start living without THC in your body, you’ll start sleeping more soundly than ever before. Restlessness and even occasional sleeplessness may persist for a few months, but once you’re out the other side, you’ll be sleeping like a baby every night without needing to suck down a bong hit to do so.
HeadachesOccasionally, headaches can occur for a few days after quitting marijuana. While these headaches can be intense, they’ll typically subside by the end of the first week of detox.
Other Physical Withdrawal SymptomsOther physical symptoms can present, but they are usually less intense. They also peak sooner and fade more rapidly than the above laundry list of psychological side effects. These can include:
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Stomach pain
- Flu-like symptoms
ParanoiaIf you find yourself experiencing extended paranoia, particularly if this is accompanied by delusions or hallucinations, it’s vital to seek an assessment from a mental health professional. OK, you can see now what marijuana does to your mind and body, and you should also have a sound overview of the various withdrawal symptoms that accompany quitting. How, then, can you put the weed away for good?
3 Approaches to Quitting WeedThere is no single best way to quit weed. What works wonderfully for your friend might be useless for you. Sometimes, the trial and error approach to quitting will show you what doesn’t work, leaving you to focus on a method that will. We’ll present you with three strategies to stop smoking weed so you can see how you feel you would cope:
- How to Quit Smoking Weed Cold Turkey
- How to Quit Smoking Weed Gradually
- How to Quit Smoking Weed if All Else Has Failed
1) How to Quit Smoking Weed Cold TurkeyWhat can you do if you need to quit smoking weed right now? Maybe you have an upcoming drug test at work, or perhaps you have issues with your relationship, job, or schoolwork. You might even be facing legal issues as a result of marijuana. Alternatively, you may feel that the all-or-nothing approach that led you to become dependent on marijuana would work when trying to discontinue use. While the phrase “cold turkey” has negative connotations and associations with addiction to hard drugs, all it means is to abruptly stop using a substance. Now, this strategy is likely to generate rapid results, but it’s also liable to trigger withdrawal symptoms. Given the inevitability of these side effects, you need a strategy in place to cope with cravings and to mitigate those withdrawal symptoms. You might feel mentally prepared and ready to put down your joint and never look back. Is your body also ready for the changes it’s about to undergo, though? Even though THC can stay in your system for up to a month – this is what makes marijuana so problematic with workplace drug tests – this won’t be enough to stave off cravings if you’ve developed a tolerance for THC.
Prepare for cravingsIn order to better prepare yourself for a weed-free life, ask yourself what role marijuana is filling in your life. From here, establish some alternatives to plug that void. If, for example, you use marijuana as a sleep aid, you could try the following instead:
- Relaxing before bed with a warm bath and some gentle stretching or yoga
- Creating a soothing sleeping environment with blackout shades
- Eat less before sleeping to minimize issues with digestion
- Stay away from the blue light emitted by electronic devices before bedtime
- Keep the temperature of your bedroom between 60 and 67F. Make sure, too, that it’s well-ventilated
- Listen to some relaxing music
- Experiment with listening to white noise or binaural beats at bedtime
- Exercise for 30 minutes before 5pm daily so you’ll feel more tired