Marijuana Withdrawal Syndrome: Symptoms and Causes

The consumption of any medicine is harmful to the person regardless of the type or frequency of consumption. However, when these habits stop, quite unpleasant symptoms can also appear.

In the case of cannabis, the consequences of marijuana withdrawal syndrome they don’t have to be as bad as those caused by heroin or cocaine. However, they tend to be quite disabling. Below, we explain this syndrome, its symptoms, causes and treatment.

    What is marijuana withdrawal syndrome?

    We understand marijuana withdrawal syndrome the reaction that starts in the body when a drug addict suddenly stops taking it.

    This reaction can be more or less intense depending on the person’s level of dependence and will manifest itself in physical and psychological withdrawal syndromes.

    Withdrawal syndrome it should not appear in all those people who stop using marijuana. However, the longer this substance has been smoked, the more likely it is that symptoms of this syndrome will appear.

    The severity of symptoms is usually not as great as in other substances such as alcohol or cocaine. Likewise, the intensity of these will vary from person to person. For example, a person with a very mild cannabis addiction may not have symptoms or they may be so mild that they can manage them on their own.

    On another side, all users who have developed a severe cannabis use disorder or an addiction to it, they will undoubtedly require professional treatment.

      How does marijuana work?

      Marijuana is a substance made from the hemp or the cannabis plant. This is considered to be one of the most widely used drugs in the world, Noting an increase in the number of consumers year after year.

      The most common way to use marijuana is to smoke on its own or with tobacco. However, in recent years there has been a tendency to drink or ingest as an ingredient in some culinary preparations such as confectionery.

      Due to its effects, cannabis is considered to be a psychoactive substance. In other words, it changes the brain functions of the person who consumes it. Although a single plant contains over 400 different chemicals, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main active chemical component causing changes in the body.

      When a person smokes marijuana, this component found in the smoke inhaled is absorbed by the lungs, which transfer it to the bloodstream. Once in the blood, THC reaches the brain where it acts on cannabinoid receptors.

      THC gives way to a series of chemical reactions in the brain that cause the person to experience a feeling of absolute happiness and relaxation very characteristic of this drug.

      This pleasant sensation is due to the fact that most areas of the brain are involved in the experience of pleasure, sense and time perception, thoughts, concentration, memory and movement. these are the ones that harbor the most cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain.

      One of the main disadvantages of THC is that it it is deposited in fat cellsThe body therefore needs much more time to eliminate them compared to other narcotics.

        What are the symptoms of this syndrome?

        Symptoms associated with marijuana withdrawal syndrome are very varied and its appearance varies depending on the level of consumption of the person. These symptoms can be divided into psychological symptoms or physical symptoms.

        psychological symptoms

        • irritability.
        • Sudden reactions of aggression.
        • Feeling anxious.
        • Feeling of sadness or depression.
        • Sleep disorders (insomnia, nightmares, etc.).
        • Fatigue or extreme fatigue.
        • Decreased appetite.

        physical symptoms

        • Headache.

        • excessive sweating.
        • A stomach ache.
        • Nausea and vomiting.
        • Muscle spasms.
        • Fever.

        Of all these symptoms, insomnia and depression are the most characteristic marijuana withdrawal syndrome, as well as nightmares and irritability. In terms of physical symptoms, headaches are generally common and can last for weeks.

        Through excessive sweating, the body tries to naturally eliminate the toxins that this substance infects in the body.

        How is it diagnosed?

        There are a number of pre-established guidelines for diagnosing marijuana withdrawal syndrome. These guidelines consist of a physical examination and the formulation of a series of symptom questions. Likewise, medical staff may order a blood or urine test.

        Regarding the diagnostic criteria established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the person must meet a number of criteria or requirements to be diagnosed with this syndrome. These requirements are as follows.

        criterion A

        There must have been an abrupt cessation of marijuana use. In addition, this consumption must be chronic for several months..

        criterion B

        The person should have at least 3 of the following symptoms within a week of stopping use:

        • Anger or aggression.
        • Symptoms of anxiety.
        • Sleep problems.
        • Lack of appetite and weight loss.
        • Depressed mood.
        • Restlessness.

        In addition, all of these symptoms must be accompanied by at least one of these physical symptoms:

        • abdominal pain.
        • Muscle twitching or tremors.
        • Hyperhidrosis.
        • Fever.
        • Headache.

        criterion C

        The symptoms mentioned above should generate clinically significant discomfort in the patient, In addition to interfering with the normal functioning of this.

        Criterion D

        Marijuana Withdrawal Syndrome will be diagnosed when all of the above criteria are met they cannot be better explained by another disorder, condition or disease, Including abstinence from other substances.


        Because the symptoms of this syndrome are mild in most cases, most patients try to control this symptomatology on their own. However, and especially in the most severe cases, treatment by professionals will promote rapid remission of symptoms and increase the chances of success.

        These withdrawal symptoms can be treated with medicines such as paracetamol, aspirin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Always prescribed by a doctor, who will examine each case in a practical way. It is also important that the person drink plenty of water and try to rest.

        Psychological support will help the patient to stay motivated and prevent relapse into marijuana or other drugs.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Curran, HV, Freeman, TP, Mokrysz, C., Lewis, DA, Morgan, CJA, Loren H. Parsons (2016). Aren’t you walking on the grass? Cannabis, cognition and addiction. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 17 (5), pages 293-306.

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