symptoms of weed withdrawal and time line

What are the Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal (with Timeline)

by Kevin

Deciding to quit smoking weed is a positive decision, but although you instantly become technically ‘clean’ it generally takes a while to get all traces of the drug out of your body, a process which starts, for many people, with a period of withdrawal.


A rough guide to timing

In most cases once you stub out that final joint it will take anywhere from 1-3 days for withdrawal symptoms to start kicking in, and in general they last for around two weeks. This is an important fact to know as otherwise it would be quite easy to imagine you somehow escaped any problems when the first day or two without weed seem relatively normal, only to be hit with symptoms you didn’t expect. That is the point when the temptation to resume smoking to avoid the withdrawal symptoms is a real danger.


Side Effects can be different for your body

Not everybody who quits weed will feel the serious negative side effects of not using it anymore, especially if they were light, very casual smokers, or quit after having cut down gradually beforehand. Experts can’t agree on an exact figure but on average stats suggest at least 50% of habitual users will become addicted, and therefore experience a physical, (and quite possibly an emotional) reaction when they stop using it.


Side Effects when Quitting Cold Turkey

The effects of quitting can differ dramatically, so the information presented here is a general guide to how someone who quit cold turkey may typically feel during the marijuana withdrawal process. Be aware that when you stop smoking weed dramatically, in a cold turkey fashion, the THC will leech from your fatty tissue and make you feel like “something is missing”. Side effects can essentially amplify when you choose to detox using this route. Read more about the specific withdrawal symptoms below.



What happens when you quit smoking weed? – Timeline

Withdrawal Symptoms after 1-3 days

Typically the initial withdrawal symptoms appear in the form of:

  • increased anxiety or depression
  • feeling irritable for no reason
  • difficulties concentrating or focusing on things
  • feeling restless and unable to settle
  • changes to sleep patterns – which can include trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep or having good quality sleep
  • tremors/shakes
  • increased salivation

Of course that doesn’t mean quitting will automatically trigger all of these symptoms in every person, or that they will all last the entire withdrawal process, but as each person reacts uniquely it’s hard to predict anything further. Marijuana withdrawal will definitely be randomly harder on some people than on others.


Withdrawal Symptoms after 3-5 days

As the second stage of withdrawal kicks in you may still experience symptoms from the initial phase, but the main issues at this point are likely to be any or all of the following:

  • stomach pains
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • alternating between sweating and feeling very cold
  • weight loss
  • headaches
  • cravings for marijuana.

Some people experience higher than usual levels of aggression and feelings of anger in general, and sleeping will most likely still be a problem.


Withdrawal Symptoms after 4-14 days

Despite having faced a variety of possible discomforts in the first few days the third stage of marijuana withdrawal is not any more positive, with typical symptoms being:

  • continued cravings for a joint
  • mood swings
  • poor appetite
  • low concentration
  • a short temper
  • aggressive outbursts
  • feeling blue
  • not sleeping well

At this point it can easily start to feel like an endless process but the end is definitely in sight, and things should start to ease off during this time.


Withdrawal Symptoms after 2-3 weeks

The most common lingering withdrawal symptoms are:

  • a cough
  • insomnia (which can easily last for up to two months)
  • feeling low
  • some level of anxiety

In most cases by a month has passed a feeling of normality will have returned, however some people develop something known as PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome), which can last for weeks or even months longer.

What causes PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)?

PAWS is directly connected to chemical imbalances in the brain. Long term use of weed affects the brain’s natural chemistry, creating a situation where the presence of the drug is needed to make everything work properly. When that is not available everything misfunctions, and for some it takes longer than average for this to become re-balanced.

Is there an average timelime for experiencing symptoms of PAWS?

The first signs someone may have PAWS usually become apparent around 1-2 weeks after the most difficult part of the withdrawal process has passed, so say around 3-4 weeks after last smoking marijuana. They tend to build up slowly, with the most intense and unpleasant point being anywhere between 3-6 months after your quit date, and the symptoms can continue in some form for up to two years.[This can be shorter if the person involved is reasonably healthy, wasn’t a heavy user and so on.]
It should be noted here that each episode of PAWS lasts around 2-3 weeks, rather than being a constant part of post weed life, and they often happen around every 30 days or so.


Typical PAWS symptoms

  • reduced brain power, and poor memory recall.
  • foggy thinking
  • poor concentration
  • rigid thinking patterns
  • being unable to feel happiness, joy or pleasure
  • insomnia
  • bad dreams
  • anxiety, unable to deal with even mild levels of stress
  • mood swings

Those who experience PAWS are at much more risk of resuming their weed habit, largely to escape the discomfort, so it is definitely worth checking out any possible support services to help someone through this difficult experience.

Extensive research shows us that marijuana withdrawal symptoms and the kind of time when you can expect to experience some, or all, of the unpleasant side effects are pretty standard across the board, and that although most people will fall foul of some of them, an unfortunate few will have to wait for a couple of years to truly say they are free of drugs, rather than simply drug free.

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