The unpleasant symptoms experienced during marijuana withdrawal can prevent individuals who are addicted or dependent on the drug from staying off it. However, the withdrawal process is still vital even though it can result in symptoms that impact the user’s daily functioning and lead to relapse. Individuals who have gone for treatment for marijuana use disorder have probably used the drug every day for years and tried to stop at least six times.
Research indicates that managing a heavy user’s co-occuring mental problems with regular treatments such as medication and therapy can reduce cannabis use. Marijuana detoxification can be conducted on an outpatient or inpatient basis depending on the individual’s circumstances. A benefit of inpatient treatment is the presence of qualified medical staff at the facility to help monitor patients and assist in managing the withdrawal symptoms. Most people who go through detoxification unmonitored tend to go back to using again and relapse just to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
Although cannabis withdrawal is not life-threatening, it is not required that recovering users go through an inpatient program. Whether someone goes through detox at home or in a rehab facility, the timelines may differ for withdrawal and detox. Some people will take days to get through withdrawal while others may take weeks to overcome the symptoms, which can persist for some time after detox.
The most serious withdrawal symptoms will occur 2 to 3 days after detoxification and then improve soon after. Psychological symptoms like depression and marijuana cravings will occur at this point. Hence, why recovering users can benefit from going through the treatment while under medical supervision. Over the next few days to weeks during detox the user can continue to heal without using any other substances.
Even though there are typically medications to ease the process for individuals who are detoxing from hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, there are no specific tapering medications that aid with marijuana withdrawal. However, medical professionals can still administer some medications to recovering marijuana users to manage certain symptoms. There is still research being conducted on possible medications for use during marijuana withdrawal such as THC replacements, mood stabilizers, anti-seizure drugs, sleep aids, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medication.
Since cannabis withdrawal typically includes problems with sleep for recovering users, there are some medications currently being studied to help with the same. They include:
- Neurontin (Gabapentin): An anti-seizure or anti-epileptic medication that can help with sleep and anxiety
- BuSpar (Buspirone): An anti-anxiety drug
- Ambien (Zolpidem): A sleeping aid medication
Two additional psychiatric drugs can reduce some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, Remeron (mirtazapine), which is an antidepressant, and Seroquel (quetiapine), an antipsychotic. N-acetylcysteine is a nutritional supplement that is also being studied for marijuana withdrawal.
These medications have proven to be effective in relieving the anxiety and insomnia caused by marijuana withdrawal. Gabapentin can be beneficial in boosting the recovering user’s capacity to think clearly throughout withdrawal. However, studies are still being done on these drugs to determine their use in marijuana withdrawal treatment. Other drugs that can be prescribed to manage marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:
- Painkillers such as paracetamol
- Metoclopramide for nausea
- Diazepam prescribed for 7 to 10 days
Antipsychotic drugs such as risperidone or olanzapine can help manage psychotic withdrawal symptoms for a maximum of 2 weeks. However, if the symptoms continue past this point or become more severe, then psychiatric assistance will be necessary. Sleep problems may go on for weeks after withdrawal but you can manage them without taking any drugs. A medical professional can use an insomnia management kit to help patients assess, diagnose, and manage any sleeping problems caused by marijuana withdrawal.
Alternative Methods of Easing Marijuana Withdrawal
Alternatively, other ways to alleviate the symptoms experienced during cannabis withdrawal include:
- Getting support from loved ones to keep you accountable and motivated during the process
- Staying active every day by getting in some exercise
- Getting enough sleep caffeinated so the body can get enough rest
- Take lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and avoid caffeinated drinks as they can worsen some withdrawal symptoms
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fruits
- Avoid junk food and sugar as they can make you feel worse
Since there are no approved medications for the specific management of marijuana addiction or dependence, behavioral therapies are typically used to address these conditions. The most successful therapies used include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment uses education and counseling to assist recovering marijuana users to identify their harmful behaviors and counterbalance them with alternative choices.
- Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a behavioral treatment that enables individuals in recovery to establish personal goals they’ll be encouraged to accomplish. Skilled counselors will then help these people develop plans to help them achieve their goals.
- Contingency management is a method that utilizes tangible prizes such as prizes or reward vouchers to promote healthy behavior such as abstinence from substances.
Anyone who is experiencing marijuana use disorder or withdrawal should speak to a medical professional about it. They will conduct a thorough assessment and ask about your medical history as well as your marijuana use and any related effects you’re experiencing. They can also refer you to an addiction specialist or a psychiatrist with training in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse.
Even though the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal might not be serious enough for medical attention, behavioral strategies or medication can help with some symptoms. These approaches can also reduce the risk of relapse and make it easier to stop using marijuana. Relevant specialists may also recommend resources such as support groups and detox centers that you can use during the detox and withdrawal period.