Heavy marijuana users who give up smoking marijuana often face similar withdrawal effects as those addicted to other drugs. Because they have built up a tolerance to marijuana, their dependence on it may result in some unpleasant symptoms when abstaining from the drug. The body goes through a detoxification process because it is used to receiving marijuana on a regular basis. The symptoms may not be as strong as with other drugs. Marijuana users may have to overcome temptations to return to the drug during the withdrawal period.
Irritability and Insomnia
A study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that people quitting marijuana experienced irritability, anger and insomnia, according to the research reported in the January 2008 issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The 12 subjects smoked marijuana and cigarettes regularly. Quitting marijuana alone and tobacco alone had similar intensity in withdrawal symptoms. Quitters of marijuana had more difficulty sleeping than tobacco quitters, however feelings of anger and anxiety were more pronounced when quitting tobacco. A review of human and animal studies found that marijuana withdrawal had similar effects to other substance withdrawal syndromes, it was reported in the November 2004 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry. There were emotional and behavioral effects and symptoms of physical discomfort.
Many marijuana users experience the opposite effects of smoking when they quit, according to the University of Wisconsin Health Services in Madison. Instead of hunger, a strong effect of marijuana smoking, they experience a loss of appetite during withdrawals. They have excessive salivation when quitting instead of dry mouth from marijuana use. They may have a decreased pulse rate and sometimes tremors. People who used marijuana as a control for their anger may become more aggressive and experience mood swings or irritability when quitting.
Although there are immediate effects of quitting marijuana, there may be no long-term effects. A 2001 study showed no signs of cognitive changes following 28 days of abstinence from marijuana, according to the Harvard University Gazette. However, there were signs of impairment during the initial withdrawal period. The study focused on 63 heavy marijuana users, 45 former heavy users and 72 who had used marijuana no more than 50 times. The subjects were given intelligence, attention, learning and memory tests throughout the 28 days. During the first seven days, the heavy marijuana users had lower scores than the others on memory tests. But by the 28th day there was no significant difference among the groups.