Cannabis isn’t as closely associated with withdrawal symptoms as a multitude of other illicit substances are. However, depending on the type of cannabis product you consume, it may or may not leave you feeling a sense of dependency. The difference is simple. If the product you are using was bought with a California medical marijuana card, chances are that it is more potent as compared to its recreational counterpart. More potent could mean higher CBD or THC content or higher percentages of other minor cannabinoids.
If it’s a full spectrum cannabis product, (with THC) it’s a possibility that you might form some level of dependency on the product. Consuming any illegal or barely legal (like cannabis) products, it is always preferable to be aware about its repercussions and be mindful of your consumption.
In this article, let’s focus on what kind of dependency cannabis creates, its symptoms and what we can do to reduce its effects.
Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome
Giving up on routine is difficult, and the first few days are especially troublesome. However, as time goes by, you are able to settle into the new one. That’s how cannabis withdrawal works too.
Just to clear the air, cannabis withdrawal isn’t as severe as withdrawal of other illicit and schedule 1 drugs. The symptoms tend to last a month, at max, and users do not feel the urge to relapse after the second week. However, that does not mean the symptoms aren’t serious and should be taken lightly.
How often you consume cannabis and how potent your doses are is one telling factor of how difficult your withdrawal will be.
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
Cannabis withdrawal symptoms, like withdrawal of any other drug, have some similar effects. These include
- Stomach ache
However, unlike withdrawal of other illicit substances, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are not that severe. Once a consumer completely ceases consumption, the withdrawal symptoms start showing effect within 2 days and go as long as a week to a month before the human brain returns to its normal functioning.
What Causes Cannabis Withdrawal?
Cannabis is made up of a bunch of cannabinoids and every single one of them has its own individual effects. While there are too many to actually count, we usually look for two major cannabinoids in cannabis, namely, THC and CBD.
CBD or cannabinol, is not associated with substance abuse or dependency-like effects. While the cannabinoid has great relaxing and pain-relieving benefits, it does not affect the release of dopamine in the brain. Since dopamine is the ‘feel good’ chemical in the brain, it’s sudden release can lead to unregulated euphoric experiences. While CBD is incapable of initiating such a response, there is another crucial cannabinoid that can lead to the sudden burst of dopamine, namely, THC.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive cannabinoid that leads to a high like effect. In other words, it is this component that is responsible for creating a sort of dependency in consumers.
This does not mean that consuming a high THC strain a handful of times will lead to dependency. It is only after regular consumption of high THC doses over an extended period that can lead to these symptoms.
The desensitization of the brain simply means that you’ll require more potent doses to feel the effects. In other words, the potency and frequency of your doses will increase as you go on building your tolerance.
And what happens when you decide to stop consuming cannabis?
How Long Does Cannabis Withdrawal Last?
Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere between two to four weeks. Within 2 days of ceasing consumption, consumers may begin feeling the effects. This isn’t always the case as THC stays in the body for longer periods and the effects of withdrawal might take longer to come to the surface.
Usually, cannabis withdrawal can take up to 4 weeks to subside.
- Week 1- Symptoms like slight anxiety and irritability start showing.
- Week 2- Symptoms become more aggressive.
- Week 3- By this time, symptoms tend to start declining.
- Week 4- The brain should return to its normal functioning by now.
Some patients might require additional support to manage their withdrawal symptoms while others might not. In this case, certain medications are prescribed to cannabis consumers to help. Some of the commonly prescribed ones are Ambien (zolpidem), BuSpar (buspirone) and Neurontin (gabapentin). Ambien and Neurontin have shown promise in dealing with sleep issues in withdrawal patients while BuSpar helps in reducing anxiety and irritability.
FAAH inhibitors and allosteric modulators are also classes of drugs usually prescribed to tackle symptoms.
In other cases, consumers who want to discontinue consumption can seek professional help. There are short-term programs that can help withdrawal patients get through their symptoms without relapsing. Detoxification centers, inpatient rehabilitation centers, intensive outpatient programs, support groups, and therapies are good sources of support needed by patients.
As a California medical marijuana cardholder, you might still need cannabis products to manage your illness. In such a case, complete withdrawal for longer periods might not be a viable option. Instead, you can opt for tolerance breaks every now and then, that’ll help you detoxify as well as reduce your tolerance level. In other words, you’ll require lower doses of cannabis after your break.
Another way and the most common one that self-medicating consumers opt for is to change their method of consuming cannabis. Shifting from whole flowers to CBD oils and from full-spectrum oils to CBD isolates, you can reduce your THC intake gradually and not all at once. You can continue using CBD topicals and transdermal patches occasionally without consuming any cannabis products. This way, you can ease out of your habits without facing any of the withdrawal symptoms.
Can You Get Addicted to CBD?
No, you can’t.
We’ve already discussed this, CBD is not a psychoactive ingredient and neither does it lead to any major dependency. But it is smart to remember that anything you consume on a daily basis for an extended period will have some habit-forming effects.