We are constantly cautioned by the government about the addictive capacity of marijuana, but in the real world, these cautions seem a little confusing. While it’s now talked about often, the realities of weed withdrawal may not be relevant to the fears surrounding it, much like with cannabis in general. Is weed withdrawal a thing? And is it really a thing worth concerning ourselves about?
Is weed withdrawal really a thing? And is it a thing to worry about? Look at the world around, and judge for yourself if this is something you should be concerned with. Thousands of years of weed use does tell us something, so if you’re not having a problem, you’ll probably be just fine (according to history)! These days, its not even just about standard weed anymore. With the inclusion of the cannabinoids market, and compounds like delta-8 THC, THCV, and HHC (among others), there are tons of options to try out. Make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and more! Also save big on HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
What is withdrawal?
According to VeryWellMind, withdrawal is: “the combination of physical and mental effects that a person experiences after they stop using or reduce their intake of a substance such as alcohol and prescription or recreational drugs.” Some withdrawals can lead to minor irritations like restlessness, or lack of appetite. More extreme withdrawals like with alcohol, can lead to delirium tremens – aka ‘the shakes’ or ‘DTs‘, which can be a deadly condition.
Continues VeryWellMind: “If you have been using a substance with a high potential for dependency and you stop suddenly or abruptly or you cut down your use drastically, you can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and duration of these withdrawal symptoms can vary widely, depending on the type of drug and your biological make-up.”
The site lists the following symptoms as general symptoms of drug withdrawal: “Changes in appetite, changes in mood, congestion, fatigue, irritability, muscle pain, nausea, restlessness, runny nose, shakiness, sleeping difficulties, sweating, tremors, vomiting.” It goes on to list what are considered more severe symptoms: “hallucinations, seizures, delirium may also occur in some instances”. And the site goes on to explain: “The type of drug you were taking, the amount of time you were taking it, and the dosage you were taking can all have an effect on the type and severity of the symptoms you experience.”
We’re all familiar with the idea that when a friend quits smoking, they get a little irritable, and possibly a little mean, temporarily. And when you stopped drinking coffee for a week, you had that headache that wouldn’t go away. Those who go back and forth with these substances, know the drill. Just like we’ve all seen movies (or real-life instances) of someone going through heroine withdrawal, crying at whoever is keeping them ‘captive’, and begging with squirrely eyes for just one more hit.
We even know people will go as far as prostituting themselves, and selling everything they own, to stave off the sickness of withdrawal. And we know that in the worst cases of opioid and alcohol addictions, that withdrawal can lead to death (suicide included).
What is weed withdrawal, and is it a thing?
Okay, before getting into what the medical sites say, let’s take a second to remember that cannabis is not new, and has been used for thousands of years. Let’s also remember there’s a contentious battle going on over the plant’s legalization, with legal markets fighting black markets, and pharma markets trying to get their foothold. Then let’s remember, that not only has cannabis been used for so long, but it’s been written about extensively during that time for its medical benefits and detractions. These things are important to remember, because the medical world of today has the reputation of being bought and sold by the pharma world, making it possible to get skewed information.
For example, while cannabis has been used for millennia with no mention of addiction or withdrawal, you can now find sites cautioning about weed withdrawal, saying a person who stops smoking weed may experience the following: “Feelings of anger, irritability, and/or aggressiveness, sensations of extreme nervousness or anxiety, disturbances with sleep that can include insomnia or very disturbing dreams and even nightmares, a decrease in appetite that may or may not be associated with a significant loss of weight, feelings of restlessness and general malaise, the onset of feelings of depression, physical symptoms that causes significant distress, such as abdominal pain, fever, chills, sweating, headache, and/or tremors or shakiness.”
The main issue I have with this listing, is that I’ve been an active part of the weed-smoking community for half my life, and never have I heard of one complaint of this nature, nor experienced such things for myself, nor noticed it in the people around. Nearly every person I know uses cannabis like me, so if this was an issue of note, I expect I would have noted it by now. At least once. I always note when a cigarette smoker is quitting, or a caffeine user taking a break, and I’ve heard of plenty of withdrawal symptoms related to cigarettes, alcohol, opioids, and benzos. I’ve been able to note people withdrawing from these substances.
While I can’t sit here and say that it’s impossible to experience any of the above-listed symptoms for weed withdrawal, I’d venture that in the real world, the existence of such a response is so low, that it doesn’t actually scientifically register as a problem worth considering. I see no issues in real life, yet an increasing warning on the internet to be wary of this thing that, far as I can logically tell, doesn’t exist.
The lacking research on weed withdrawal
While the idea of weed withdrawal is so minor that it can’t even be agreed on that it actually exists, this is not the case for other classes of drugs which most definitely cause a reaction. Even the studies into cannabis withdrawal, are largely lacking, making the outcomes almost funny. Like this one from 2020: Prevalence of Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms Among People With Regular or Dependent Use of Cannabinoids A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Did study investigators design a study and then carry it out? No, absolutely not. This is how they got their info,
“A search of literature from database inception to June 19, 2019, was performed using MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, Web of Science, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, ProQuest, Allied and Complementary Medicine, and Psychiatry online, supplemented by manual searches of reference lists of included articles.” And then its explained that any articles were picked if they “(1) were published in English, (2) reported on individuals with regular use of cannabinoids or cannabis use disorder as a primary study group, (3) reported on the prevalence of CWS or CWS symptoms using a validated instrument, (4) reported the prevalence of CWS, and (5) used an observational study design (eg, cohort or cross-sectional).”
Then, after pulling from tons of different irrelevant places, where each piece of literature had its own guidelines not in line with this investigation, and while speaking to no study participants, the researchers decided that this was enough to establish that the “prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome was found to be 47%.”
In reality, if this were to actually mean anything, a study would have to be designed and directly carried out on this topic. Researchers would have to control for all necessary information, and deal directly with the study participants being used. And then the data collected would be tabulated to find relevant connections. This didn’t happen. Instead, investigators eschewed years of research for a brief (can do it in hours) tabulation of already collected – often irrelevant – information, to find anything that could be written on, even if the connection had to be created in the end.
Another lacking example
Medical ‘research’ today is lacking in many ways. From meta-analysis studies making grand statements, but without any direct research being done, to wildly deficient studies that try to cover their massive holes, by making asinine statements. Like this one: Cannabis withdrawal symptoms in non-treatment-seeking adult cannabis smokers.
This study focused on people who had at least once in life attempted to stop smoking weed. None of the quitting was done in a controlled environment, as in, not for the purposes of the study. At least in this case, the actual information collected was a bit more pertinent, with a 176-item Marijuana Quit Questionnaire being used for information collection. The questionnaire covered “information on sociodemographic characteristics, cannabis use history, and their “most difficult” cannabis quit attempt.”
As the objective of the study was to “Assess the phenomenon of cannabis withdrawal and its relationship to relapse in non-treatment-seeking adults”, it becomes clear that the researchers are taking any cannabis reuse after a quitting attempt, to mean an actual relapse. What’s the problem with this terminology? We use the term ‘relapse’ when people are quitting something for which there is a major health benefit to stopping, or health detraction for continuing. As cannabis is not considered dangerous, and can actually improve health, the idea of a ‘relapse’ is quite incorrect.
In fact, if any of those participants got even one medical benefit out of it, whether prescribed or not, the idea that restarting use after stopping could constitute a ‘relapse’, is ridiculous at best, and dangerous at worst. Using the word ‘relapse’ does make sense in some contexts, no doubt, but it’s a dicey word to use when talking about a compound with medical benefits that people are known to self-medicate with all the time. Plus, we have no idea why people quit. Could simply be social pressure, or not liking getting the munchies while liking other therapeutic benefits. In the context of a non-dangerous, often-useful compound, this becomes wildly important.
The other thing it ignores, is that people could have at one point attempted to stop, and then changed their minds, for no bad reason. This isn’t heroin addiction after all. There are tons of valid reasons to begin use. Like the example just given, as social pressure, or not liking one aspect, being the reason for quitting, and then validly changing one’s mind. Or perhaps a person quit because it was an expense they couldn’t afford at the time, or because they had their information wrong, but learned more along the way. With something like cannabis, where there isn’t a detriment to health from use, or necessarily a positive benefit for stopping, the idea that a person started again after stopping, does not need to be seen as negative, and the word ‘relapse’ becomes entirely inappropriate. Add in that they could be getting a medical benefit, and this study is off-the-wall ridiculous.
I think there’s a strong reality that if you let your body acclimate to nearly anything, it might have a reaction to stopping it. Although let’s be honest, it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be something we’ll consciously notice. Sure, there probably are some people that have a stronger reaction to weed withdrawal, but for the most part, when looking at the world around, this is not really a thing.
Beyond it not really being a thing, at the times when it does come up, it’s really not a thing to worry about on a large scale. In a world of drinkers and hard drug users, the idea that anyone is worried about cannabis withdrawal, says quite a bit about how information is provided to us, and the ability to get people to throw their concern in the entirely wrong directions.
Of course, if you really want a head#*@& in life, remember that cannabis is looked at for help with getting people through the withdrawal symptoms of other more dangerous drugs, and that the main drug class used for this purpose, is benzodiazepines, which themselves are incredibly addictive with awful withdrawal symptoms. Maybe cannabis isn’t the problem here.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.