dealing with anxiety after quitting weed

Dealing With Anxiety After Quitting Weed (Withdrawal Symptoms)

by Kevin

Anxiety is a hallmark withdrawal symptom that emerges after quitting marijuana, often accompanied by other mood disorders, such as depression and general irritability.  The reality of actual withdrawal symptoms commencing when discontinuing week shines a light on the fact that marijuana is indeed an addictive substance, both psychologically and physically, contrary to the opinion of many.  Individuals who have a long history of daily marijuana consumption will most likely have to endure some highly uncomfortable effects after quitting, including anxiety.

In fact, anticipating the withdrawal symptoms is a significant barrier to getting treatment for a marijuana addiction.  No one relishes the idea of suffering, no matter how noble the cause.  But it is important to understand that a medically supervised detox can help immensely when it comes to powering through the detox and withdrawal phase of recovery.  In a medical detox addiction professionals will monitor the withdrawal symptoms and provide medical interventions to reduce the discomfort and help the individual successfully complete the detox phase.


Anxiety After Quitting Marijuana Use

Marijuana produces anxiolytic effects, meaning that the drug inhibits anxiety.  This is why people who use weed feel relaxed and mellow while under its influence.  After regular heavy use of the drug the brain makes adaptations to its long-term exposure to it, becoming dependent on the drug to produce natural calming functions, via human brain cannabinoid, it once provided without the drug.  After quitting week, the brain has to adjust to no longer having the drug to do its job. When anxiety symptoms emerge as part of withdrawal, the brain is unable to respond.

According to the DSM-5, cannabis withdrawal syndrome is present if the individual exhibits three or more of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  1. Nervousness/anxiety
  2. Irritability
  3. Insomnia
  4. Decreased appetite or weight loss
  5. Any of the physical symptoms: shakiness/tremors, sweating, chills, headache, abdominal pain, or fever
  6. Depressed mood

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms rests on how long the individual used marijuana and at what frequency, the severity of marijuana dependence, and whether there is a coexisting mental health disorder.  In most cases, the post-detox anxiety will resolve in about 4 weeks.


Treating the Anxiety Withdrawal Symptom

Being faced with feelings of anxiety following detox from marijuana can be difficult to endure.  With a heightened sense of agitation, irritability, edginess, and even paranoia, it is hard to imagine the discomfort of anxiety to ever end.  But end it usually does, and in the meantime there are some actions to take to help in the meantime.

If you are struggling with anxiety following detox, try these tips:

  • Exercise.  Physical activity helps process the added tension caused by anxiety, and helps you distract yourself from the unease of this withdrawal symptom.  Just 20-30 minutes of exercise can also produce endorphins, the feel-good chemical that can improve your mood.  Physical activity can lead to improvements in sleep quality as well.
  • Yoga.  Yoga can induce feelings of relaxation through the slow, purposeful movements and poses, the stretching, and even the soothing music that accompanies the class.  Deep breathing exercises can also promote relaxation and improve anxiety symptoms.
  • Distraction.  Finding projects or setting some new goals that can take your mind off your emotional discomfort.  Focus on something that requires your full attention and concentration, which can be as simple as reading a book, trying standup paddleboarding, or putting up some new shelves.
  • Supplements.  Herbal tea, such as chamomile tea or green tea are known for their calming effects.  Herbal supplements, such as L-theanine, kava, passionflower, and omega-3 all have sedative or relaxing effects. 
  • Guided Imagery.  Using guided imagery, to focus attention on a calming mental image or activity, can actually reprogram your brain to be less anxious.  You can access guided imagery meditation videos on YouTube or find popular podcast apps that can help you achieve a relaxed state of mind.
  • Support Groups.  Misery loves company, they say, so find solace and support within the rooms of a 12 step support groups where you can share your withdrawal issues with others.  Peer support is extremely effective in early recovery, helping to build confidence in recovery and in making new sober friends.


What Does Addiction Treatment for Marijuana Look Like?

After the medical detox is complete, which is about 5-7 days in most cases, then the real work of recovery begins.  The lingering anxiety will often accompany this treatment phase, so use the above tips to help you manage it.  Marijuana addiction treatment features individual therapy sessions where a licensed psychotherapist uses certain types of therapeutic techniques to induce positive behavioral changes.  Marijuana is especially addictive on a psychological level, which is why it is so important to receive appropriate therapy.

Using cognitive behavioral therapy is the most popular avenue for overcoming thought and behavioral response patterns that led to the addiction.  The therapist helps the client identify the disordered thought patterns that led to drug seeking, and then helps them replace those with new thought-behavior patterns that they actively practice each time they feel prompted to use marijuana.

Group therapy is another intrinsic treatment element in marijuana addiction treatment.  A therapist guides the group by introducing topics that instigate conversation and sharing.  These peer-based groups are effective in promoting social support and accountability.

In a like manner, most rehabs include 12-step or a similar type recovery community experience which also fosters social support.


What to Expect After Treatment

When it comes to addiction recovery, paying attention to aftercare is just as important as the actual treatment.  This is because, while immersed in an addiction treatment program life is highly scheduled and predictable.  Once the program is completed, reentry back to one’s old life can be rife with potholes, quickly resulting in relapse.  For this reason, it is important to plan aftercare as part of the overall treatment program.  Aftercare can include:

  • Sober living housing
  • Ongoing participation in 12-step groups or non 12-step groups
  • Weekly counseling sessions
  • Practicing relaxation techniques

With the goal of achieving a lifelong recovery, careful planning of this vulnerable post-treatment phase is imperative.


About the Author

John T. Kahal is the founder and C.E.O. of Solutions 4 Recovery, a comprehensive addiction and dual diagnosis treatment centers California. Solutions 4 Recovery offers highly customized treatment plans to help individuals overcome barriers to treatment. Solutions 4 Recovery is one of the few pet friendly rehab California. After his own successful experience with the recovery process and journey, Kahal decided to create a unique program that was individualized for each client’s specific needs.  Kahal’s passion to share his own positive experience with others, while being a living example of the freedom found in recovery, is what motivates him to guide clients toward their own stable, long-term recovery. Visit Solutions 4 Recovery for more information.

Share this article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *