Weed withdrawal is the body’s reaction to a sudden decrease in its baseline levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. When you smoke a lot or very frequently, your body eventually becomes used to having marijuana on board around the clock.
You may have noticed that the same quantity of marijuana doesn’t have quite the same effect or high as it previously did, which pushed you to use more. Therefore, when you stop smoking, you are likely to experience some symptoms of withdrawal, as your body will be unaccustomed to the absence of the drug’s effects in your system.
From a simplistic biologic explanation, this means that the cell receptors and pathways that are normally always tuned to ‘high’ are suddenly turned to ‘low’. A good example of this leaving a loud concert and noticing that everything sounds muffled. While at first, you might be worried that you’ve suddenly gone deaf, your hearing eventually returns, and the ambient noises of daily life return to their normal volume.
Marijuana withdrawal is a similar process, in which constant marijuana causes your body to eventually stop responding to the same levels that it used to. A sudden drop in that level leads to unpleasant symptoms from signaling pathways that suddenly devoid of a stimulus.
The precise symptoms of marijuana withdrawal-anxiety, restlessness, irritability, shaking, sleep disturbance, and more—have to do with the complex receptor interactions and pathways marijuana acts through.
Similarly, the timing of these symptoms, and how long they last, can be traced to the pharmacology of marijuana’s duration of effect in the body, and how long it takes for the brain to recover.
Leah Zuroff, M.D., M.S.
Dr. Zuroff completed medical school at the Perelman School of Medicine, where she concurrently received a Master of Science in Translational Research.
Weedless.org is a free, web-based resource and community created by a team of healthcare professionals and researchers. We distill the facts about marijuana use and its effects into practical guidance for interested persons or for those who are thinking about or struggling to quit weed. Finding reliable, easy to understand information about marijuana should never be a struggle—that is why our core mission is to provide the most up to date information about marijuana use, abuse, addiction, and withdrawal. While we seek to empower individuals to have control over their use, we are not “anti-weed” and we support efforts to legalize adult marijuana use and study.