Although it had long been believed that are no physical or psychological effects when ceasing cannabis use, healthcare professionals and addiction specialists are now finding that there are indeed symptoms chronic abusers experience during the cannabis withdrawal process. Because the drug and its active ingredient, delta-9 tetrahydro-cannabinol or THC, is stored in the fat cells of the body, it takes considerably longer to “clear” the system than other drugs or alcohol, and therefore many parts of the body remain under the influence of cannabis for as long as several months.
By far the most common withdrawal symptom from cannabis addiction is persistent insomnia, which can last for only a few days or as long as a few months and range from nights of no sleep at all to a period of occasional sleeplessness. Vivid and disturbing dreams and nightmares can also accompany these sleep problems as the drug tends to suppress the dreaming mechanisms of the brain. Another withdrawal symptom—rarer than insomnia but still to be expected—are bouts of depression ranging from mild to moderate, a result of the fact that the euphoric “high” cannabis users experience is suddenly no longer present and emotional states within the body are returning to normal.
Also, a reality for many cannabis users ceasing their abuse of the drug is a period of anger that can take the form of simple irritability to sudden outbursts of aggression. In fact, the presence of anger in the detoxing addict is just one part of the emotional ups and downs that can be expected during this period. Additionally, anxiety; a sense of fear; a loss of one’s sense of humor; a significant decrease or increase in sexual drive and desire; and a lack of ability to concentrate are common during the first month of cannabis cessation. Typically, within three months nearly all these symptoms will fade as the body and mind return to a state of normalcy free of the influence of THC.
Physically, the most common symptom of cannabis withdrawal is a persistent headache, which can last for a few weeks or up to a couple of months. Also, many users report night sweats, a part of the body’s natural process of ridding itself of toxins, and unusual hand sweating, unpleasant body odors and a persistent coughing up of mucus. Eating disorders may also occur during the cannabis detoxification period, especially a profound loss of appetite, digestion problems or cramping after meals and nausea (sometimes accompanied by vomiting). Tremors, shaking and dizziness may also be present during this time, and hormone changes, chronic fatigue, and minor eye problems have been reported by recovering addicts.