Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawals are mild, but can cause relapse

Lonely Woman in Bedroom

Josef Lindau / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Cannabis (marijuana) withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild when compared to the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting alcohol or other drugs. But they can also be uncomfortable enough to cause someone who is trying to stop using marijuana to relapse in an effort to relieve the challenging symptoms and discomfort.

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening; their main danger is causing a person who really wants or needs to quit to return to using the drug to ease these symptoms.

What Is Marijuana Withdrawal?

Research suggests that marijuana withdrawal symptoms may occur due to this drug's effects on the body's cannabinoid receptors. With regular marijuana use, cannabinoid 1 receptors are desensitized and downregulated. Once the drug is stopped, they start to repair and it is during this time of repair that withdrawal is typically experienced.

After quitting marijuana for one to two days, or significantly reducing its consumption, you may notice symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms tend to peak within two to six days, while people with higher levels of use can potentially experience marijuana withdrawal for several weeks.

Just as people who are trying to quit drinking may pick up a drink to relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, people who are trying to stop using marijuana may light up a joint to relieve the discomfort they experience due to cannabis withdrawal.

This can be a serious problem for people who need to quit marijuana to keep their job or who have been court-ordered into treatment. It also makes it harder for people choosing to quit, whatever their reasons.

Marijuana Withdrawal Prevalence

One study estimates that 40% of people who use cannabis recreationally experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting this drug. Other research indicates that this rate may be much higher for people diagnosed with cannabis dependence, putting it closer to 90% for this population.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now lists cannabis withdrawal syndrome as a criterion for diagnosing cannabis use disorder or dependence.

Whether or not you experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms can depend on a variety of factors. Among them are how often you use marijuana and if you also use other substances, such as tobacco or other drugs, as this can increase your likelihood of withdrawal.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

The following are some of the most common symptoms associated with marijuana withdrawal.

Cravings

One of the symptoms most reported by people trying to quit marijuana—or most any substance, including cocaine, heroin, and opioids—is a craving or intense urge for more. And the severity of these cravings can help predict subsequent drug use.

Withdrawal cravings can range from "I would really enjoy using right now" to "I feel like I need marijuana so badly that I can't think of anything else." Learning how to manage these cravings is an important part of preventing marijuana use relapse.

Mood Swings

Another common symptom reported by those trying to quit marijuana is mood swings. In a 2019 study of 1,527 people who regularly use this drug, 76.3% experienced nervousness or anxiety when stopping its use, 71.9% felt feelings of hostility, and 58.9% had a depressed mood.

Irritability and anger are common symptoms for anyone who is giving up a drug of choice, especially if they feel forced by their circumstances to quit. Psychological withdrawal symptoms may also be more prevalent in females versus males.

Sleep Disruption

In a 2022 study involving 905 people, almost half (47%) reported sleep difficulties when stopping marijuana use. Previous studies have suggested that this number might be even higher, just above 68%.

After you stop using cannabis, insomnia can last a few days or a couple of weeks. Some people may find that they experience occasional sleeplessness for several months after quitting.

But insomnia is not the only sleep disruption associated with marijuana withdrawal. Some people who have stopped using marijuana report having nightmares or very vivid dreams that also disrupt their sleep.

Sometimes they have "using dreams," which are dreams that you are using marijuana. This occurs in roughly one-third of people in recovery and generally decreases over time.

Decreased Appetite

One of the top physical marijuana withdrawal symptoms reported in one piece of research was decreased appetite. This may occur, at least in part, because marijuana typically increases appetite. Take it away, and the desire to eat would naturally go down.

This marijuana withdrawal symptom often appears soon after quitting and it usually goes away just as quickly, enabling your appetite to return to normal within a fairly short period of time.

Headaches

Not everyone who stops using marijuana experiences headaches, but for those who do, the pain can be very intense—especially during the first few days after quitting. In some cases, stopping marijuana use can lead to migraines.

One explanation for this is that cannabinoids have been shown to increase kynurenic acid (KYNA) levels in the body by reducing enzyme inhibition. Once these cannabinoids are taken away, the level of KYNA decreases, leading to more frequent migraine attacks.

Other Symptoms

Although less common, other marijuana withdrawal symptoms reported by researchers include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Reduced appetite
  • Shakiness
  • Stomach pain

Physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal tend to be less intense, peak sooner, and fade more quickly than the psychological symptoms associated with quitting. The frequency and amount of marijuana used prior to stopping can affect the severity and length of the withdrawals.

The reason you use marijuana may determine how many symptoms you experience. For example, in a study of people who use this drug to help ease their pain, more than half reported having multiple withdrawal symptoms.

Coping With Marijuana Withdrawal

If you or a loved one are trying to quit marijuana and experiencing withdrawal symptoms, there are a few things you can do to help ease the discomfort:

  • Get physically active. Engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic activity can help improve sleep-related issues when going through marijuana withdrawal. Go for a bicycle ride, take a hike, or take a class at a gym. Get your heart rate up during the day so you can sleep better at night.
  • Rely on your social network. When you feel withdrawal symptoms building up, reach out to a family member, friend, or someone else that you trust who can provide social support. Talk to them about how you feel and use their strength to help you get through the discomfort.
  • Consider a nicotine patch. Research has found that using a nicotine patch appears to help reduce withdrawal symptoms in people who have used cannabis at least five times per week for a year or longer, even if they didn't also use tobacco products. These patches do have potential side effects, so talk to a healthcare provider to learn whether this is the right choice for you.

When to Consult a Healthcare Professional

If you are trying to stop or reduce your marijuana use and are finding it difficult to abstain long-term, you don't have to go through this alone. A healthcare provider can provide options for reducing the symptoms of withdrawal. Some medications have been found helpful for this purpose, for instance, and with few adverse side effects.

A mental health professional can also help with the psychological effects of marijuana withdrawal. Motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are known to help treat cannabis use disorder. At a minimum, a therapist can teach you some tools to help you better cope with withdrawal and the symptoms you are experiencing.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Was this page helpful?
18 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bonnet U, Preuss U. The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: Current insights. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2017;8:9-37. doi:10.2147/SAR.S109576

  2. Connor J, Stjepanovic D, Budney A, Le Foll B, Hall W. Clinical management of cannabis withdrawal. Addiction. 2021. doi:10.1111/add.15743

  3. Coughlin L, Ilgen M, Jannausch M, Walton M, Bohnert K. Progression of cannabis withdrawal symptoms in people using medical cannabis for chronic pain. Addiction. 2021;116(8):2067-2075. doi:10.1111/add.15370

  4. Bahji A, Stephenson C, Tyo R, Hawken E, Seitz D. Prevalence of cannabis withdrawal symptoms among people with regular or dependent use of cannabinoids: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(4):e202370. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.2370

  5. Shmulewitz D, Stohl M, Greenstein E, et al. Validity of the DSM-5 craving criterion for alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and non-prescription use of prescription painkillers (opioids). Psycholog Med. 2021:1-15. doi:10.1017/S0033291721003652

  6. Livne O, Shmulewitz D, Lev-Ran S, Hasin DS. DSM-5 cannabis withdrawal syndrome: Demographic and clinical correlates in U.S. adults. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019;195:170-177. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.09.005

  7. Struble C, Ellis J, Carncross M, Lister J, Lundahl L. Demographic, cannabis use, and depressive correlates of cannabis use consequences in regular cannabis users. Am J Addict. 2019;28(4):295-302. doi:10.1111/ajad.12889

  8. Mills L, Lintzeris N, O'Malley M. Arnold J, McGregor I. Prevalence and correlates of cannabis use disorder among Australians using cannabis products to treat a medical condition. Drug Alcoh Rev. 2022. doi:10.1111/dar.13444

  9. Putois B, Leslie W, Asfeld C, Sierro C, Higgins S, Ruby P. Methodological recommendations to control for factors influencing dream and nightmare recall in clinical and experimental studies of dreaming. Front Neurol. 2020;11:724. doi:10.3389/fneur.2020.00724

  10. Kelly JF, Greene MC. The reality of drinking and drug using dreams: A study of the prevalence, predictors, and decay with time in recovery in a national sample of U.S. adults. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2019;96:12-17. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2018.10.005

  11. Cousijn J, van Duijvenvoorde ACK. Cognitive and mental health predictors of withdrawal severity during an active attempt to cut down cannabis use. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:301. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00301

  12. Hesse M, Thylstrup B. Time-course of the DSM-5 cannabis withdrawal symptoms in poly-substance abusers. BMC Psychiat. 2013;13:258. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-258

  13. Adorjan K, Chrobok A, Koller G, Karch S, Pogarell O. Epileptic spikes in EEG and migraine attacks in the course of cannabis withdrawal: A case report. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2020;51(1):45-50. doi:10.1177/1550059419886704

  14. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Marijuana withdrawal is real.

  15. McCartney D, Isik A, Rooney K, et al. The effect of daily aerobic cycling exercise on sleep quality during inpatient cannabis withdrawal: A randomised controlled trial. J Sleep Res. 2020;30(3):e1311. doi:10.1111/jsr.13211

  16. Gilbert D, Rabinovich N, McDaniel J. Nicotine patch for cannabis withdrawal symptom relief: a randomized controlled trial. Psychopharmacol. 2020;237:1507-19. doi:10.1007/s00213-020-05476-1

  17. Werneck M, Kortas G, de Andrade A, Castaldelli-Maia J. A systematic review of the efficacy of cannabinoid agonist replacement therapy for cannabis withdrawal symptoms. Cannabinoid Neurol Psychiat. 2018;32:1113-1129. doi:10.1007/s40263-018-0577-6

  18. Sabioni P, Le Foll B. Psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for the treatment of cannabis use disorder. F1000Res. 2018;7:173. doi:10.12688/f1000research.11191.1