Whether or not marijuana is chemically addictive is still up for debate. However, the psychological addiction that many people experience is well documented and often exemplified through withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis withdrawal is the result of overused cannabinoid receptors that struggle to return to their “normal state”.
Marijuana use can become a habit for any consumer. Whether you are a medicinal or recreational consumer, many people develop routines that involve marijuana use eventually leading to psychological addiction. Dr. David Gorelick, professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has conducted a number of studies on cannabis withdrawal, says:
Psychological or behavioral addiction is defined as loss of control over use.
As with any addiction, there are associated negative effects resulting from efforts to remove the behavior/addiction from your routine. These effects are known as withdrawal. In the case of cannabis use, the withdrawal symptoms are a result of the interaction of the active ingredients (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.) on cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
Cannabinoid receptors control the body both physically and psychologically, helping the body maintain homeostasis, or a steady state.
Frequent use of cannabis, defined as more than once a week, can change the state of the cannabinoid receptors. When a frequent consumer removes cannabis from their routine, the receptors must return to their normal state, which causes a chemical change both physically and mentally. This is withdrawal.
According to a 2011 study co-authored by Dr. Allsop, an associate professor at the University of Sydney who has studied cannabis withdrawal in great depth,
Symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include nightmares/strange dreams, angry outbursts and trouble sleeping.
Individuals who are trying to quit marijuana use may experience more than just psychological expressions of withdrawal; Physical symptoms are also possible.
A minority of individuals who experience cannabis withdrawal — about 10% — experience physical symptoms, such as muscle aches, muscle twitches, and GI upset, such as nausea or vomiting. – Dr. Gorelick
Marijuana withdrawal only last about a week for frequent users, so don’t be too discouraged by these studies. Fortunately, studies have shown that only 42% of frequent users experience the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, but 72% of this demographic reverts to marijuana use in attempts to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug which activates the same brain reward regions as do other abused drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, etc. – Dr. Gorelick
Dr. Gorelick’s statement may be true, but the fact is, alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine are proven to be highly addictive and lethal – marijuana is not. Unlike cocaine or tobacco, marijuana does not contain chemicals that can “hook” you after one use. Think about it – the studies mentioned above only reference withdrawal symptoms for frequent users.
Dr. Allsop believes that you can avoid marijuana withdrawal symptoms by following his advice:
If using THC-based medicine, use sparingly, only as needed, minimize the dose, and have significant breaks during treatment if possible.
If you are concerned about withdrawals, use marijuana sparingly. If you aren’t, then full speed ahead. Either way, be aware of the how and why associated with marijuana “addiction” and subsequent withdrawal.
Have you experienced marijuana withdrawal? Do you have any advice about how to avoid it? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.