Symptoms of cannabis withdrawal “are much less severe than those associated with withdrawal from chronic opioid or depressant use,” researchers with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) wrote in a 2015 study, “but aversive enough to encourage continued cannabis use and interfere with cessation attempts in some individuals.”
The answer may have been cannabis withdrawal syndrome, or CWS.
What causes cannabis withdrawal syndrome (CWS)?
It’s a physiological process. The brain is adapting to the absence of cannabinoids.
After four weeks, cannabinoid receptors in the brain return to normal function and withdrawal ends.
If you’re stopping cannabis use after regular intake, face licking and wet-dog shakes are not likely to figure among the symptoms you will experience. The severity of CWS among humans “is dependent on the amount of cannabis used pre-cessation, gender, and heritable and several environmental factors,” the German researchers noted. Women, they wrote, tended to report stronger symptoms of CWS, and their experience included more physical discomfort, nausea, and stomach pain.
In my experience, I’ve always seen it as more a mental addiction than a physical one. Are there any supplements that can help with chemical balance in the brain to get off?
Cannabis users can face inflated costs, unreliable quality, intermittent supply, constant fear of prosecution, societal shaming/stigma, loss of job opportunities, imprisonment, fines, trauma and PTSD, and ALL of these stem from our history of prohibition.
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Getting support for withdrawal symptoms
Proponents of cannabis generally dismiss the idea that there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. One routinely hears statements such as, “I smoked weed every day for 30 years and then just walked away from it without any problems. It’s not addictive.” Some cannabis researchers, on the other hand, describe serious withdrawal symptoms that can include aggression, anger, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, depression, restlessness, headaches, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Given this long list of withdrawal symptoms, it’s a wonder that anyone tries to reduce or stop using cannabis. Why is there such a disconnect between researchers’ findings and the lived reality of cannabis users?
Perhaps a simpler, more colloquial definition of cannabis addiction would be more helpful in assessing your use of cannabis: persistent use despite negative consequences. If your cannabis use is harming your health, disrupting your relationships, or interfering with your job performance, it is likely time to quit or cut down drastically, and consult your doctor. As part of this process, you may need to get support or treatment if you experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which may make it significantly harder to stop using.
Once I started looking at my own cannabis use as therapeutic, got my medical card, and was able to afford it, a huge portion of my “negative consequences associated with cannabis use” vanished. Now I walk past the cops with my bag as I leave the dispensary, I know the strain I’m getting, and I’m not scraping resin because I’m not paying near what I used to.
Some people get into serious trouble with cannabis, and use it addictively to avoid reality. Others depend on it to an unhealthy degree. Again, the number of people who become addicted or dependent is somewhere between the 0% that cannabis advocates believe and the 100% that cannabis opponents cite. We don’t know the actual number, because the definitions and studies have been plagued with a lack of real-world relevance that many studies about cannabis suffer from, and because the nature of both cannabis use and cannabis itself have been changing rapidly.