Over the past several weeks, your brain has made a lot of adaptations around the absence of marijuana. We’ve touched on the concept of brain fog and some of the other mood symptoms that might persist longer than others. You may have wondered if you would ever feel normal again.
We’ve consistently told you that your withdrawal symptoms will eventually disappear, and here’s the science to back it up. With chronic exposure to a drug, the receptors it signals through become downregulated, in a process known as desensitization. This occurs for the endogenous cannabinoid receptor, CB1, as well as dopamine receptors in the reward center of the brain. In a rat model of cannabis dependence, dopamine receptors were in fact downregulated in response to chronic cannabis use, but the effect completely reversed by 4-6 weeks after cessation1. Similarly, in humans, CB1 receptor downregulation also normalized to levels seen in healthy controls after 4 weeks of abstinence2.
On a functional level, similar effects are seen. Heavy cannabis users can experience worsened cognitive performance while still actively using, and this is widely documented in the literature. However, after abstinence is achieved, there is a return to baseline of global cognitive performance as well as immediate and delayed recalll3-6. All this is to say that even though it may not feel like it, there is substantial evidence to suggest that you will eventually feel back to normal. It just takes time.