THC Withdrawal: Understanding Cannabis Withdrawal

Understanding Cannabis &THC Withdrawal

Young female smoking cannabis joint at home with friends

Understanding Cannabis &THC Withdrawal

Table of Contents

As more states shift their stance towards cannabis, allowing both medicinal and recreational use, there’s a growing need to understand the potential side effects of its discontinuation, especially for regular users. Here’s a guide to recognizing cannabis withdrawal symptoms, what causes them, and how to handle them.


The increasing acceptance and legalization of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes have broadened its user base. While many view cannabis as a benign substance, especially when compared to harder drugs, it is essential to understand the physiological responses that can occur when a regular user stops consumption.

Understanding Cannabis Withdrawal

Withdrawal refers to a set of symptoms that may occur after discontinuing or reducing the intake of a substance that the body has grown dependent on. It’s the body’s way of signaling its adjustment to the absence of the substance.

Manifestations of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are more likely to appear in individuals who use cannabis frequently and in larger amounts. The occasional user who indulges only a few times might not face the same challenges when discontinuing use. However, for those who have incorporated cannabis into their daily routines, the body has likely established a certain level of dependence.


The spectrum of withdrawal symptoms is wide, ranging from mood disturbances to physical discomfort. Although these symptoms might not be as potent as those experienced with substances like alcohol or opioids, they can be distressing and significantly impact daily life.

Duration and Onset

It’s worth noting that withdrawal symptoms don’t typically begin immediately after the last cannabis use. Given that cannabinoids, like THC, can take between 1 to 2 weeks to fully exit the system, there might be a delay of several days before any symptoms manifest. Once they start, they can last for varying durations, but many people report significant improvement within about 72 hours.

Comparing Cannabis to Other Substances

Although cannabis withdrawal might be milder than withdrawal from substances like alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines, it is crucial not to downplay the challenges users might face. Every individual’s experience is unique, and the psychological and emotional toll can be just as significant, even if the physical symptoms are less severe.

As cannabis becomes more integrated into societal norms, understanding the complexities of its effects, including withdrawal, is paramount. Recognizing the signs, being aware of the factors influencing withdrawal, and understanding its course can equip individuals to make informed decisions about their cannabis use and ensure they’re prepared for any challenges they might encounter upon cessation.

Frequency of Cannabis Withdrawal

As the global perspective on cannabis undergoes transformation, with many jurisdictions legalizing its use for medicinal and recreational purposes, it’s essential to delve deeper into the implications of regular cannabis use. A particularly pertinent aspect of this is understanding how often users experience withdrawal upon cessation.

THC Withdrawal - thc withdrawal

Prevalence Among Users

It might come as a surprise to many that cannabis withdrawal is not a rare phenomenon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that approximately 3 in 10 cannabis users may develop a substance use disorder. This means that they are at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon reducing or stopping consumption.

THC Withdrawal - thc withdrawal

A Glance at Recent Studies

Several studies have been conducted to understand the prevalence of cannabis withdrawal better. For instance, a 2020 study involving over 23,000 participants found that nearly 47% of them displayed symptoms consistent with cannabis withdrawal syndrome. Such figures indicate that withdrawal is not an isolated occurrence but rather a considerable concern for many regular users.

THC Withdrawal - thc withdrawal

Age and Gender Variations

Research also sheds light on intriguing patterns when it comes to age and gender. A 2021 study revealed that around one-third of female cannabis users between the ages of 50 and 64 and one-fifth of those over 65 reported near-daily usage. Among male users, over one-third across all age groups claimed to use it almost every day, with this number spiking to more than 40% for those over the age of 65.

THC Withdrawal - thc withdrawal

Delineating Regular Use

What does “regular use” mean? While this can vary by individual, it often refers to those who consume cannabis daily or near daily. It’s this regular exposure that can heighten the body’s dependence on the substance, making cessation more challenging and increasing the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms.

THC Withdrawal - thc withdrawal

Implications for Public Health

The increasing prevalence of cannabis withdrawal, combined with its rising global acceptance, poses challenges for public health professionals. With more individuals using cannabis regularly, it is vital for healthcare providers, counselors, and policymakers to be aware of the potential for withdrawal. This awareness ensures that users receive the necessary guidance, support, and resources to navigate any challenges they might face upon reducing or stopping their cannabis consumption.

The frequency of cannabis withdrawal underscores the need for increased awareness and research. While many embrace the benefits of cannabis, understanding its potential for dependence and withdrawal is essential for informed decision-making and supporting those who choose to reduce or cease their usage.

Recognizing the Symptoms of THC Withdrawal

Cannabis withdrawal, like withdrawal from other substances, has a set of associated symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms is paramount not only for users but also for their friends, family, and healthcare providers to offer timely support and interventions. Let’s dive deeper into understanding these manifestations.

Physical Symptoms

Psychological and Emotional Symptoms

Factors Influencing Severity and Duration

The intensity and duration of these symptoms can vary significantly based on several factors:

The Delayed Onset of Symptoms

One crucial aspect to understand is that withdrawal symptoms might not appear immediately upon cessation. THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, can take between 1 to 2 weeks to be fully eliminated from the body. This means symptoms might only become evident several days after the last use.

Recognizing the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal is the first step toward addressing and managing them effectively. It’s essential for users to be aware of these potential manifestations so they can be prepared and seek support as needed. Furthermore, understanding these symptoms can also foster empathy and support from loved ones and the broader community, ensuring those undergoing withdrawal feel understood and aided during this challenging period.

Why Does Withdrawal Happen?

The phenomenon of withdrawal, especially as it relates to cannabis use, is multifaceted and deeply rooted in our understanding of neuroscience and the body’s adaptability. Here’s a closer examination of why withdrawal symptoms arise and the processes within our body that contribute to these manifestations.

Understanding THC and its Effects

Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Upon consumption, THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our body, which plays a role in regulating various physiological processes, including mood, appetite, and memory.


Euphoric Effects: The “high” that users experience from consuming cannabis results from THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors in the brain. This interaction leads to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.

The Brain's Adaptation to Regular Cannabis Use

Building Tolerance: As one continues to consume cannabis, the brain gradually adapts to the consistent influx of THC by reducing the natural production of endocannabinoids and downregulating CB1 receptors. As a result, over time, users may need to consume more cannabis to achieve the same euphoric effects, leading to an increased tolerance.

Dependency Cycle: The more one uses cannabis, the more the brain becomes conditioned to its presence. The body then anticipates the regular influx of THC and adjusts its baseline of neurotransmitter production and receptor sensitivity accordingly. When THC is abruptly absent from the system, this adjusted baseline causes a noticeable imbalance, leading to withdrawal symptoms.

Physical and Psychological Impacts

Physical Adjustments: The body’s physiological processes, accustomed to THC’s presence, might go into a sort of “shock” when the substance is suddenly removed. This shock can lead to various physical symptoms, from sleep disturbances to changes in appetite.

Psychological Dependence: Beyond the physical, there’s a psychological dimension to withdrawal. Users may have leaned on cannabis as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or other emotional challenges. When this crutch is suddenly removed, underlying emotions or issues can resurface, often amplified.

While the withdrawal symptoms of cannabis are real and can be distressing, it’s essential to place them in context. Opioids, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis withdrawal, in comparison, tends to be milder, though this does not diminish the genuine discomfort and challenges faced by those going through it.


The occurrence of cannabis withdrawal symptoms is rooted in the body’s adaptive responses to regular THC exposure. While our bodies are incredibly resilient and adaptive, these very qualities can sometimes lead to challenges, such as withdrawal symptoms, when we break established patterns of behavior or substance use. Understanding the “why” behind withdrawal can empower individuals to approach their cannabis consumption more mindfully and seek timely interventions when thinking about reducing or quitting their use.

CBD and Withdrawal

CBD, another component of cannabis, doesn’t induce the “high” associated with THC. However, long-term use may still lead to withdrawal symptoms, especially if used for specific conditions like insomnia. Consulting with a healthcare professional before starting or stopping CBD use is always advised.

Seeking Professional Help

While many individuals can reduce or stop cannabis use on their own, others benefit significantly from seeking professional assistance. Recognizing when to turn to experts can make the journey to a cannabis-free life more manageable and tailored to individual needs. Here’s a deeper look into the value of professional help and the various options available.

The Importance of Personalized Guidance

Available Professional Resources and Their Benefits

Considerations When Seeking Help

Embarking on the journey to reduce or quit cannabis use can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be navigated alone. Leveraging the expertise and support of professionals can provide invaluable guidance, tailored strategies, and emotional backing. Whether you’re at the beginning of your journey or have faced relapses, there’s a range of professional resources available to guide you towards a balanced and healthy relationship with cannabis.

Help is Available

While the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal may not be as severe as those of harder substances, such as cocaine or heroin, the experience is very real for many individuals. Regular consumption of cannabis can lead to dependence, making it challenging to cease usage without encountering symptoms like mood swings, sleep disturbances, and irritability.


It’s essential to understand that these symptoms, although rarely dangerous, can still be quite distressing. Guidance and accountability from professional sources can be invaluable during such times. As you navigate the complexities of withdrawal, know that seeking assistance can make the process more manageable.


For those considering professional intervention, Wellness Retreat Recovery offers medically supervised detox and comprehensive residential treatment services in Northern California. Their dedicated team of experts provides personalized care and support, ensuring individuals have the best possible environment to overcome challenges related to cannabis use and start on a path toward lasting recovery. Contact us today.

FAQs About THC Withdrawal

Yes, cannabis withdrawal is real. While the symptoms might not be as severe as with substances like heroin or cocaine, regular cannabis users can experience various physical and psychological symptoms when they stop or reduce their consumption.

Cannabinoids like THC can take 1-2 weeks to exit your system completely. However, withdrawal symptoms can start appearing a few days after discontinuation.

Common symptoms include diminished appetite, mood changes, irritability, sleep difficulties, headaches, cravings for cannabis, sweating, chills, feelings of depression, and stomach problems.

While cannabis withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and distressing, they are rarely dangerous. However, it’s essential to monitor any severe or prolonged symptoms and consult a professional if concerned.

While occasional users are less likely to experience significant withdrawal symptoms, it’s not impossible. The likelihood and severity of withdrawal often correlate with the frequency and quantity of cannabis use.

Limited evidence suggests possible withdrawal symptoms from CBD, especially if used to manage conditions like insomnia or depression. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting or stopping CBD.

Seeking professional help, engaging in behavioral therapy, attending support groups, and employing self-help strategies like staying hydrated, eating healthily, and exercising can help manage and alleviate symptoms.

While the FDA hasn’t approved any specific medications to treat cannabis withdrawal, some drugs might help cope with symptoms, such as Dronabinol (mimics THC), certain anxiety, and sleep medications. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication.

Yes, according to the CDC, about 3 in 10 cannabis users develop a substance use disorder.

Various resources are available, including detoxification centers, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs, support groups, and one-on-one therapy sessions with licensed professionals. Always consult with a medical professional or counselor for personalized guidance.


1. Svrakic, D. M. (2012, April 1). Legalization, Decriminalization & Medicinal Use of Cannabis: A scientific and public health perspective. PubMed Central (PMC).


2. Connor, J. P., Stjepanović, D., Budney, A. J., Foll, B. L., & Hall, W. (2022). Clinical management of cannabis withdrawal. Addiction, 117(7), 2075–2095.


3. Vandergriendt, C. (2023, July 21). How long does cannabis stay in your system? Healthline.


4. Marijuana Use Disorder/Cannabis Use Disorder. (n.d.).


5. Subbaraman, M. S., & Kerr, W. C. (2021). Cannabis use frequency, route of administration, and co-use with alcohol among older adults in Washington state. Journal of Cannabis Research, 3(1).


6. Grinspoon, P., MD. (2020, May 26). If cannabis becomes a problem: How to manage withdrawal. Harvard Health.


7. What to know about weed withdrawal. (2019, January 28).


8. Lu, H., & Mackie, K. (2016). An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. Biological Psychiatry, 79(7), 516–525.


9. Mackie, K. (2008). Cannabinoid Receptors: Where They are and What They do. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 20(s1), 10–14.


10. Taylor, L. A., Crockett, J. C., Tayo, B., Checketts, D., & Sommerville, K. W. (2020). Abrupt withdrawal of cannabidiol (CBD): A randomized trial. Epilepsy & Behavior, 104, 106938.