Benefits of Quitting Marijuana and What to Expect
Although many states have now legalized marijuana for medical use and, in some instances, for recreational use that does not mean smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana is without risk. Marijuana can cause serious consequences for chronic users.
While there is debate about whether marijuana is addictive in the same way as drugs or alcohol, regular users can develop a marijuana use disorder. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns marijuana use disorder is, “often associated with other substance use disorders, behavioral problems, and disability.
The NIH states that marijuana use may lead to “harmful consequences for the individual and society.” Harmful consequences can include problems with health, personal relationships, job, school, legal or financial issues, and adverse effects caused by risky behavior.
Negative Effects of Marijuana Use
Researchers have linked marijuana use to a higher risk of serious health conditions, including memory issues, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia.
Risk factors vary according to the age marijuana use began, how often it is used, the potency of the marijuana (level of THC), and whether drugs or alcohol are also consumed.
Today’s marijuana is considerably more potent than it once was. The THC content has increased from about 4 percent in the 1990s to over 15 percent in 2018, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Multiple studies have linked the use of high potency marijuana to a higher risk of psychosis.
Chronic marijuana users of any age may experience cognitive deficits related to attention span, memory, decision making, and learning. For those who began using marijuana as adults and then quit, cognitive deficits may be reversible.
Marijuana is especially dangerous to the adolescent developing brain and can cause permanent cognitive deficits. Studies have found individuals who started using marijuana as teens and continued using heavily lost an average of 8 IQ points by the age of 38. Even if they stop using marijuana as an adult, cognitive deficits may be permanent, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Other Negative Effects of Marijuana Use
- Higher risk for motor vehicle and other accidents, drowning, and risky sexual behavior
- Greater risk of anxiety disorder, depression, and substance use disorder, including illegal drug use, misuse of prescription drugs, and alcohol abuse
- Use during pregnancy may cause cognitive deficits or other harm to the developing fetus
As the brain adapts to the regular influx of marijuana, it begins to demand increasingly greater doses to achieve the desired effect. As consumption of marijuana increases, the chances for adverse effects increases, including the development of a substance use disorder.
Benefits of Quitting Marijuana
Quitting marijuana delivers substantial benefits. Some positive changes happen right away, while some may take a few weeks or months. Physical and mental benefits include
- Increased energy and motivation
- An improved ability to focus
- Better memory
- Improved breathing
- Healthier respiratory and cardiovascular system
- A more positive, balanced mood.
Other benefits include improvement in relationships, school or work performance, financial situation, and overall health. Sleep disorders may take some time to resolve. A large percentage of former marijuana users report sleep disturbance issues may last a few weeks or months after quitting.
Timeline for Quitting Marijuana
People who have used marijuana regularly for some time can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit. Symptoms may cause mild to severe discomfort, but are not usually dangerous. However, people who routinely combine the use of marijuana, drugs, and alcohol may experience severe withdrawal symptoms and should undergo medical supervision as they detoxify.
Withdrawal symptoms may include anger, anxiety, mood swings, aggression, irritability, restlessness, shakiness, sleep problems, decreased appetite, nausea, stomach pain, and more.
1 to 3 days After Quitting
Withdrawal symptoms begin, which frequently include edginess and irritability.
Lungs begin to heal, and healing continues for several years. Depending on how long a person smoked, some impaired lung function may be permanent.
2 days to 1 Week After Quitting
Physical discomfort and mood swings begin to peak, although depression is a common symptom at about one week after quitting.
Brain receptors, which regulate neurological processes like pleasure, motivation, learning, memory, fine motor control, and more, start to return to normal function.
2 Weeks After Quitting
Most withdrawal symptoms subside, although sleep disturbances may last longer. Sleep issues may include vivid dreams.
4 Weeks to Months After Quitting
Brain receptors return to normal function. Memory, mental acuity, and attention span improve.
Sometimes users report experiencing withdrawal symptoms, especially insomnia, up to a year after quitting.
It is common to experience cravings after quitting, especially when around people, locations, or situations that triggered past marijuana use. It is important to develop a social network with other people who do not use marijuana, drugs, or alcohol.
How to Treat Marijuana Addiction
While it is possible to quit marijuana use without help, the chances for long-term recovery are greater with support group participation and counseling services. It is important for people with co-occurring mental or substance use disorders to work with a behavioral health expert.
Treatment program options include inpatient or residential programs, outpatient programs, individual and group counseling, and 12-step or other support group programs.
At Midwest Recovery Centers, we use a unique, proven therapeutic model in the treatment of marijuana addiction and other addictive behaviors. Addressing each client’s individual needs, we provide counseling and education to help them break their dependence on marijuana and other addictive substances.
Our staff members are highly educated in both addiction recovery and naturopathic remedies. Therapists have advanced training in addiction treatment, and recovery support staff are always available to guide each client through the recovery process. Many of the support staff have walked the addiction recovery path and are uniquely qualified to inspire those on the journey.
Because many recovering addicts struggle with more than one disorder, Midwest Recovery Centers recognizes the need to treat co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Studies have found an integrated approach that simultaneously treats mental health and substance abuse issues deliver the most successful outcomes.
Contact Midwest Recovery Centers today to start your recovery journey.
Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.