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The timeline for marijuana withdrawal varies from person to person. In general, withdrawal symptoms may present within approximately 24-72 hours of the last use and peak around the 3-day mark.3 Symptoms typically last about 1-2 weeks.
Many symptoms, such as headaches, will diminish significantly within 2 weeks.2 Others, such as sleep problems, may persist for months after use ends.6
Those with preexisting conditions that detoxing could aggravate, such as depression or severe anxiety, may be most at-risk and may see their symptoms worsen with withdrawal.4 These people may benefit from getting some form of professional help as they detox from marijuana or weed.
The timeline for detection will vary depending on what is being tested for the presence of marijuana. When testing saliva, marijuana can be detected for up to 34-48 hours after last use.10 In urine tests, the most common drug test used, the timeline for detection depends on the frequency of use. Infrequent users, or those that use less than 2 times per week, can test positive for 1-3 days after last use. Moderate users, those that use several times per week, can test positive for 7-21 days after last use. Heavy users can test positive for a month or more after last use.11 Marijuana use can be detected in hair for up to 90 days.9 And lastly, marijuana may show up in a blood test for up to 36 hours.10
Medical detox involves professional medical support throughout the withdrawal process to ensure the individual’s safety and comfort. Substance detox may take place in either an inpatient or outpatient setting.7
Inpatient or residential detox is often recommended for people at risk of serious or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. While withdrawal management for marijuana may not always necessitate medical detox interventions, if people have been abusing marijuana in combination with other substances (like alcohol, opioids, or cocaine) or if they suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders, they may benefit from the extra support from more intensive services.7
During inpatient detox, the person lives at the center for the duration of treatment to support recovery, keep the patient comfortable, and have access to medical care should any complications arise.7
Outpatient detoxes, on the other hand, may involve the person presenting for scheduled appointments to receive supervision and guidance from a treatment team.7 These options are more appropriate for people detoxing from drugs associated with less severe withdrawal syndromes who have no co-occurring disorders.
If you or someone you love is unsure which type of detox is appropriate, a doctor or addiction specialist can help you map out your treatment plan.
Detoxes often use medicines along with therapy to aid the process, but there are no current medications designed to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal from cannabis; however, medical professionals may prescribe other medications to relieve specific withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety.2
Not all people require medication to cope with withdrawal symptoms, but some level support is a huge benefit for anyone going through withdrawal. Professional help, be it inpatient or outpatient, can help you stay on track, provide encouragement, and help you transition into a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
One of the cornerstone features of physical dependence is the emergence of withdrawal symptoms when use ends or is drastically reduced. As significant marijuana dependence may develop with consistent use, people can, in fact, experience withdrawal symptoms while detoxing from it.
Marijuana withdrawal is more likely to occur after a period of use that is both heavy and prolonged (e.g., several months of near-daily to daily use).2
Common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:3,4
Though, in general, the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may not be as severe as those associated with other substances such as opioids, alcohol, and sedatives, some health risks may arise. Withdrawal from synthetic cannabinoids (Spice/K2) may and include relatively more severe symptoms such as rapid heart rate and seizures.5
There is a prevailing societal perception that marijuana is not addictive, but addiction to weed may be a reality for some people as they struggle to manage their use even when they find themselves suffering from negative consequences, such as declining health, job loss, etc., as a result.
Rather than using the term “addiction,” many experts refer to unmanageable marijuana use as a cannabis use disorder. Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed 4 million Americans met criteria for a cannabis use disorder (CUD) in 2015 with 15 million people using the substance in the last year.1 People who begin using in their youth (teenage years or earlier) are 4 to 7 times more likely than adults to develop a cannabis use disorder.1 Signs include:3
Someone regularly using marijuana does not necessarily have a cannabis use disorder. Watch for signs that their marijuana use is hurting them (e.g., causing legal problems, professional issues, and relationship conflict.) If they continue to have problems caused by their drug use but don’t cut back or quit, they may have a problem that requires treatment.3
For someone suffering from an addiction to any substance, detox is only the first step in a longer journey of getting sober. Marijuana detox should be followed by therapy in an inpatient or outpatient program, as well as participation in some form of recovery group. At Desert Hope, we offer all levels of care from detox to sober living. If you’re ready to find treatment for a loved one or yourself, we can help.
As laws on marijuana use become increasingly relaxed, so do society’s attitudes on use of the drug. In 2017 alone, 15 million Americans used marijuana, including nearly 36% of all high school seniors.1
Many people assume that the drug has little to no addictive potential and may be unaware of the distinct risk of withdrawal when use stops. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 30% of people who use marijuana show signs of addiction, and the drug is indeed associated with the potential for physical dependence.1