Should You Quit Weed Cold Turkey? What Are the Effects?
Weed—also known as marijuana—is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In a typical month, 22.2 million people use the drug at least once.
Since many states have declared the drug legal for adult recreational use, many people assume that the drug cannot cause harm. Unfortunately, some people discover how addictive weed can be when they attempt to quit “cold turkey.”
What is Cold Turkey?
Research suggests that the term “cold turkey” has been associated with the cessation of drugs because a turkey’s skin, with its bumps for feathers, is similar in appearance to the goosebumps people may experience when they stop using heroin. In time, the term has expanded to refer to the abrupt cessation of almost anything, not just heroin.
For some people, cold-turkey cessation is the most effective way to achieve and sustain sobriety. But cold turkey can cause dangerous symptoms from certain substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Fortunately, marijuana withdrawal symptoms are not physically dangerous like some other drugs.
Side Effects of Quitting Weed Cold-Turkey
People who quit weed cold turkey may experience withdrawal. Common weed withdrawal symptoms include:
- Strong cravings for marijuana.
These are very real symptoms, and when they appear suddenly, they can be overwhelming. It is very difficult to move away from a drug people are accustomed to taking each day. Some people may relapse simply to avoid these symptoms.
Weed and Depression
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms like depression and anxiety are often linked to underlying mental health problems in people who smoke or consume weed. “Self-medicating” with drugs like marijuana is common and, sadly, drug use can exacerbate these psychological conditions.
Someone who has long been accustomed to using weed to mitigate their depression or anxiety might not have the tools to cope with these feelings while sober. The rebound of anxiety or depression after quitting weed can potentially lead to relapse.
Effects and Risks of Smoking Weed
That isn’t to say continued marijuana use is healthy, as chronic pot use can harm the brain and body. For example, NIDA reports that people who smoke weed can face some of the same health risks as people who smoke tobacco.
Risks of smoking weed include:
- Chronic cough
- Lung infections
- Frequent lung illnesses
- Increased phlegm production
In addition, marijuana can increase heart rate, NIDA says. An elevated heart rate can persist for up to 3 hours after smoking weed, and it can increase the risk of a heart attack in people with certain heart conditions.
Chronic marijuana use also impacts the brain. Many brain cells are equipped with cannabis receptors, which bind to the active ingredient in marijuana. NIDA reports that many of these receptors are located in the portion of the brain that deals with memory formation and the processing of information. Continued exposure to marijuana can affect this portion of the brain, although the severity of these changes and their permanence is currently still being researched.
What is clear, however, is that chronic marijuana use can cause addiction. Research quoted by Stanford University suggests that about 10% of people who use cannabis become dependent on the substance.
Addiction is characterized by the continued use of a substance despite serious negative consequences.
It’s never too late to reach out for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with the devastating effects of addiction and are unsure of where to turn, call us today at . Oxford Treatment Center, American Addiction Centers’ Mississippi drug rehab, is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.
Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline
The speed with which marijuana withdrawal symptoms take hold varies between people. People with a long history of use, and who use a significant amount of marijuana each day, experience symptoms quicker than people with relatively new addictions spurred by smaller amounts of the drug.
In general, according to Psych Central, weed withdrawal symptoms develop within 24–72 hours after someone decides to quit weed cold turkey. Those symptoms grow in severity during the first 7 days, at which point they peak in intensity. At this point, the person feels the impact of the loss most keenly and is likely at the highest risk of relapse.
Those sensations begin to fade bit by bit over the next several days. After about 2 weeks, most symptoms will disappear. However, insomnia may persist for more than 30 days.
Research from the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation suggests that adults are more likely to develop withdrawal symptoms than adolescents.
People who experience symptoms of withdrawal when they quit marijuana cold turkey may be dealing with an addiction, as this is one of 11 criteria that can indicate marijuana use disorder.
It’s also important to mention that many people with marijuana addictions may be using other substances concurrently. Polysubstance addiction can further complicate the withdrawal process.
Weed Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment programs are tailored to meet people where they are with the services they need. Treatment typically involves a combination of behavioral therapy, peer support, psychoeducation, and treatment for co-occurring disorders if they are present.
Oxford Treatment Center offers several types of addiction treatment, including:
- Medical detox.
- Residential treatment.
- Partial hospitalization.
- Intensive outpatient treatment.
- Telehealth treatment.
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