November 3, 2023

What Happens When You Quit Smoking Marijuana?

Facts, studies, and real stories that shed light on what happens when you quit smoking marijuana.

what happens when you quit marijuana gaining your life back after quitting marijuana

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on April 30, 2024

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What happens when you quit smoking marijuana or cannabis?

Now more than ever, people in the US are consuming marijuana, and many are also unfortunately realizing it’s addictive.  

Here, we go over facts, studies, and real stories that shed light on what happens when you quit smoking marijuana.

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana Use and Its Hold

When someone smokes marijuana, they’re often seeking the relaxation and euphoria the drug is known for. But beneath the surface, marijuana has the potential to take hold in more substantial ways, leading to addiction.

Addiction occurs when you feel compelled to seek out and use marijuana despite negative consequences in your personal life, your health, or your responsibilities.


The Thin Line Between Casual Use and Addiction

For many, what starts as casual or recreational use can slip into addiction. Casual use is infrequent consumption without dependence or significant impact on daily functioning.

However, the ease of slipping into more frequent use is real because the body can develop a tolerance, requiring more of the substance to achieve the same effects.

This increased use can escalate, sometimes quickly, to dependence and addiction, blurring the line between a habit and a compulsion.

The risks associated with casual use are not to be underestimated, as the journey from there to addiction can be much shorter than many realize.

What the Experts Say About Quitting Cannabis

Dr. Daniel Gregory Amen, a renowned psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist, who oversees the Amen Clinics, details in this video how cannabis users can stop using. He also describes what he has seen in brain scans conducted in his office of patients who use marijuana.

What Happens When You Quit Smoking Marijuana? 

Navigating the Initial Withdrawal Phase

When you make the decision to stop smoking marijuana, your body enters a period of adjustment known as the withdrawal phase.

This is your body’s way of recalibrating itself to function without the substance it has grown accustomed to.

During this time, you’re likely to experience a range of symptoms that signal your body and brain are learning to regulate without marijuana’s influence.


Common Withdrawal Symptoms

The most frequently reported symptoms during this phase include irritability, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

These symptoms are your body’s immediate response to the absence of marijuana. You might feel more on edge, quicker to frustration, or experiencing mood swings1.

Anxiety can also surface or increase, making you feel restless or on edge. Sleep patterns often become disrupted, too, with difficulties in falling and staying asleep, which can lead to fatigue during the day.

While these symptoms can be challenging, they are familiar and typically diminish over time as your body adjusts to a new normal.

Initial Withdrawal Symptom Description
Mood swings Sudden and extreme changes in mood; feelings of irritability, anger, or depression.
Anxiety Increased feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and sometimes panic attacks.
Insomnia Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; restlessness at night.
Cravings Strong desire to use marijuana again in order to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
Headaches Frequent headaches may occur, which can vary in intensity.
Appetite changes Decreased appetite and potential weight loss; sometimes accompanied by gastrointestinal disturbances.
Restlessness Feelings of agitation and an inability to stay still or relax.

Physiological Changes After Quitting Marijuana

The Detoxification Timeline

Once you quit smoking cannabis, your body begins the process of detoxification, aiming to clear the remnants of the substance from your system.

This timeline can vary from person to person, but generally, the body starts to shed traces of THC, the main active compound in marijuana, within just a few days.

Full detoxification can take several weeks to months, depending on factors like the frequency of use and individual metabolism.

Restoring Balance to Brain Chemistry

A critical aspect of the body’s healing is the restoration of normal dopamine signaling and cannabinoid receptors.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in reward and pleasure.

Regular marijuana use can disrupt this system, but quitting allows your brain to return to its natural dopamine production and signaling patterns gradually.

Similarly, the cannabinoid receptors that have been dulled by continuous marijuana intake begin to recover, which helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep.

Embracing the Long-Term Health Benefits

The long-term health benefits of quitting marijuana are substantial. You may notice improved memory and cognition, as marijuana can affect cognitive functions.

Lung health often improves, reducing the risk of respiratory issues associated with smoking.

You’ll also likely experience increased energy levels and a more stable mood. These changes contribute to an overall enhancement in quality of life, physical health, and mental clarity.

what happens when you quit marijuana gaining your life back after quitting marijuana

Psychological Impacts: The Path to Mental Clarity

Short-Term Psychological Effects

In the aftermath of quitting marijuana, the brain can really struggle initially with the absence of THC, leading to short-term psychological effects.

These can include heightened anxiety, unusual irritability, and sometimes vivid dreams or even nightmares as the brain readjusts.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to also experience a sense of loss or a temporary depression as they adjust to life without the substance they may have used for comfort or escape.

The Brain’s Journey to Rebalance

Despite these initial challenges, the brain is highly adaptable. Over time, it begins to rebalance its chemical and signaling systems, which can lead to improved mental health.

This rebalancing act can help alleviate symptoms of pre-existing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, that may have been masked or exacerbated by marijuana use.

As the brain finds its new equilibrium, many report clearer thinking, better concentration, and increased mental presence.

Emotional Regulation and Response to Stress

Quitting marijuana has a profound effect on emotional regulation and stress response. With continued abstinence, the mind’s ability to process and manage emotions becomes more refined.

The emotional numbness that can accompany regular marijuana use starts to lift, allowing for a fuller range of emotions and a more nuanced response to stress.

Without reliance on marijuana to moderate feelings or stress, you may find new strength in facing life’s challenges with improved resilience and a clearer head.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Social Implications

Revamping Daily Routines and Habits

As you embark on a marijuana-free life, you’ll likely notice that your daily routines and habits need a reset.

The time previously spent obtaining, using, and recovering from marijuana now opens up, providing you with a newfound swath of time to fill.

This can be both liberating and daunting. You might explore new hobbies or rekindle past interests that fell by the wayside.

Your sleep schedule may change as your body relearns to rest without the influence of THC, possibly leading to more consistent and restorative sleep patterns.

Meal times might shift as well as your appetite stabilizes and you become more in tune with your body’s natural hunger signals.

Navigating Social Situations and Peer Pressure

Social dynamics often shift when you stop smoking marijuana, mainly if your previous social activities revolved around its use.

You may find yourself in situations where marijuana is present, and facing peer pressure can be challenging.

It’s important to establish boundaries and be prepared with how you’ll handle these scenarios.

Developing a sense of confidence in your decision to quit is crucial. It may mean seeking out new social groups that support your marijuana-free lifestyle or being open with friends about your choices to garner their support.


Positive Ripple Effects on Personal Life and Relationships

Quitting marijuana can have transformative effects on your personal life and relationships.

It’s not uncommon to experience a boost in productivity and motivation, which can enhance your performance at work or school.

Relationships can deepen as you become more present and engaged with others. Communication may improve as you navigate emotions more effectively and with greater clarity.

These positive changes can foster stronger connections with family and friends, and you might find that your social circle expands to include a more diverse range of individuals.

Strategies for Successful Cessation

Setting the Stage: Intentions and Expectations

A successful journey away from marijuana begins with setting clear intentions and realistic expectations.

Understand why you’re quitting and what you hope to gain from it, whether it’s better health, improved mental clarity, or stronger relationships.

Be prepared for the challenges ahead, acknowledging that withdrawal can be uncomfortable and that change takes time.

Setting specific, achievable goals can provide a roadmap for your journey and help maintain focus on the reasons for your decision.

Developing Coping Strategies

Managing withdrawal symptoms is a key part of the cessation process.

It’s helpful to have a toolkit of coping strategies ready for when challenges arise.

This can include mindfulness practices like meditation to help manage stress and anxiety, exercise to boost mood and reduce cravings, and journaling to process emotions and track progress.

Staying hydrated, eating well, and ensuring you get enough rest are also fundamental self-care practices that can mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

Embracing Support Systems

Seeking support can greatly increase your chances of successfully quitting.

Professional help from counselors or therapists who specialize in substance cessation can provide guidance tailored to your situation.

Quit-smoking programs and support groups offer a community of individuals who understand what you’re going through and can provide encouragement and accountability.

Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but an empowering step towards independence from marijuana.

walking the fine line marijuana addiction and dependence what happens when you quit marijuana

Potential Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Addressing Common Setbacks

Quitting marijuana is not a linear journey; it’s often met with setbacks. One common challenge is encountering triggers that may incite a strong urge to use again. This could be stress, certain social circles, or environments where marijuana is present. Overcoming these triggers involves recognizing them and having a plan in place, such as using distraction techniques, reaching out to a support person, or practicing deep breathing exercises to navigate the moment. Another setback can come from within, as your own doubt or diminishing resolve tests your commitment. It’s helpful to remind yourself of the reasons you decided to quit and to look at how far you’ve come. Keeping a journal of your progress, including how you’ve successfully managed difficult situations, can serve as a motivational boost during tough times.

Staying Motivated and Handling Relapse

Motivation can wane, especially when progress seems slow or when faced with the misconception that one slip means failure. It’s essential to acknowledge that relapse can be part of the process and doesn’t erase the strides you’ve made. If a relapse occurs, it’s important to understand why it happened and to learn from it rather than using it as an excuse to continue using. Reaffirming your commitment and adjusting your strategies can help you get back on track.

Real Stories of People Quitting Marijuana

@joy2thaworld_ Day 6,7 & 8 quitting weed after 20 years. (Day 5 in previous video with Day 4) #quittingweed #quittingsmoking🍃 #myquittingjourney ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
@ellinarabba Quitting weed after using chronically for 10 years was the best decision ive ever made #quitting #quittingsmoking #quittingweed #weebtok #sober #soberlife #fyp #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Ellina 🌺

Embracing a Marijuana-Free Life

The Transformative Effects on Personal Growth

Choosing to quit marijuana can be a catalyst for profound personal growth. As you overcome the dependence on a substance, you may discover strengths and qualities about yourself that you didn’t realize you had. The discipline, self-awareness, and resilience developed during this journey often translate into other areas of life, opening doors to new opportunities and experiences. If you or someone you love need professional support in quitting marijuana, contact us at Cornerstone Healing Center. We are an Arizona marijuana rehab that has helped hundreds of men and women overcome addiction. Sources [1] The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: current insights

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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