Cannabis Withdrawal: How to Break With Addiction?

Cannabis, extracted from hemp, is a psychotropic† In other words, it mainly acts on the state of the central nervous system by altering certain biochemical and physiological processes there. It is consumed in the form of resin (the “hash”) or dried leaves and flowers (marijuana) and contains many chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Among them THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), responsible for the feeling of euphoria: the higher the concentration, the greater the psychoactive effects of cannabis and the greater the risk of addiction.

Frequent and prolonged use of cannabis can lead to a slight psychological or physiological dependence: a habituation phenomenon occurs insidiously and fuels the addiction. †We may have a use that we consider recreational if we are already addicted or dependent” warns Stéphanie Caillé-Garnier, neurobiologist and behavioral expert specializing in the issue of addiction. In fact, cannabis addiction has been proven:

  • when you feel the need to increase the frequency of your drinks,
  • when you can no longer do without the product on a daily basis,
  • and when the consequences of its use (school dropout, risky behavior, behavioral problems, etc.) are not enough to curb it.

“Addiction is a gradual process: you can become more or less addicted to cannabis,” explains Stéphanie Ladel, social counselor and addict. when you lose control of your consumption : we consume when it was not planned, when we measure the harmful financial, professional and personal consequences, etc. Reasonably we would like to stop smoking joints, but there is nothing we can do about it.”

Cannabis Addiction: Several Symptoms May Warn:

  • the amounts and frequency of use are increasing;
  • the user tries in vain to limit or even stop using cannabis;
  • he spends much of his time getting supplies and then consuming cannabis;
  • he has an uncontrollable urge to use cannabis;
  • because of his consumption he no longer fulfills certain obligations in the school, the family or the professional context;
  • he continues to use cannabis despite developing relationship and communication problems related to the effects of cannabis;
  • he puts aside his extra-professional or extracurricular activities;
  • he uses cannabis in dangerous situations, for example while driving;
  • etc

As mentioned above, cannabis is a very psychotropic plant. The first effects come on quickly: disinhibition, hallucinations, memory problems, drowsiness, paranoia… In the long term, it can alter brain capacity, cause chronic physical and psychological fatigue and cause sudden and unexpected mood swings. In the most severe cases, it plunges even the common user into a severe depressive state.

Cannabis Withdrawal: Can We Handle It Alone?

Get rid of cannabis takes time, patience and persistence. It is possible to get by on your own: it depends on the person, the type of cannabis consumed, the THC concentration and consumption habits. The will to quit is an essential motivator, but it is also necessary to prepare in advance. Quitting cannabis is sometimes harder than it looks, especially since cannabis addiction is often associated with tobacco addiction on a physiological level. “This makes quitting difficult, because the pleasure is reactivated with each cigarette,” explains Stéphanie Caillé-Garnier.

In summary, the first step is to become aware of your addiction, want to get rid of it, then ask for help – if necessary – and make a resolution to get rid of the addiction permanently. This may include meeting with a professional to inventory their consumption and define an appropriate protocol (outpatient withdrawal† In the most severe cases, the entourage or professional may consider hospitalization of the patient for treatment to protect them and help them drop out.

“Consuming cannabis is not legal and is intimate and embarrassing, complicating the situation for smokers,” emphasizes Stéphanie Ladel. But if you feel overwhelmedthere should be no fear: seek help from relatives or professionals (GP, psychologist, social worker, etc.) is sometimes the only solution. Either way, drug use is never an isolated problem, so it’s important to explore the underlying mechanisms of use.

Quitting cannabis: what are the symptoms of withdrawal?

Withdrawal is the cause of more or less unpleasant symptoms, which are generally of short duration and moderate intensity. They occur around the first day of weaning, reach their peak intensity between the second and sixth day, then decrease and finally disappear by the end of the second week. Stéphanie Caillé-Garnier recalls the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal:

  • anxiety and restlessness,
  • irritability and aggressiveness,
  • fatigue, general weakness, muscle tension,
  • sleep disorders (insomnia, nightmares, etc.),
  • decreased appetite and weight loss.

Again, its intensity is highly variable and depends mainly on the amount and duration of cannabis use, the severity of the addiction, the context of the (voluntary or involuntary) withdrawal, any support from the entourage and/or medical -psychological support.

What solutions against the withdrawal syndrome?

There is no specific treatment to alleviate cannabis withdrawal. Anxiolytics can reduce certain side effects, such as anxiety, but they must be monitored to avoid addiction. Psychotherapeutic support can be helpful in understanding the origin of one’s addiction and coping with the deficiency, but also in refusing the incentives to smoke, etc.

Notice nicotine replacements can be of great help in coping with mood swings. “Nicotine is much more addictive than THC, heroin, alcohol or cocaine,” the addict recalls. Quitting smoking for a while, using specific patches, gums and tablets, can facilitate withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.

Cannabis: what advice to get rid of an addiction?

Quitting cannabis can bring up previously hidden problems and discourage some people. To stay on track, here are some tips:

  • done the point on your consumption. The higher it is, the more it puts you at risk, either directly (impacts on body, mind, and cognitive abilities) or indirectly (social, school, or professional impacts, etc.).
  • settle the reasons for your use:† Why do you use: to counteract inhibitions? To relax yourself? relieve pain? from a spirit of transgression? follow a fad? What other strategies can you use to feel better?
  • to evaluate the benefits of weaning. Now try to visualize all the benefits of detoxification: better physical condition, better mental alertness, better sleep, less conflicted social relationships, saving, etc.
  • set a pace, set a date, and stick to it. How do you want to quit cannabis: gradually or all at once? It’s up to you to decide, but once it’s done, keep your word. Set achievable goals in terms of timing and quantities. And don’t blame yourself if things don’t work out right away: rethink your approach and try to figure out what went wrong.
  • identify and avoid high-risk situations. Learn to recognize risky situations, i.e. the times (places, circumstances, people) when you used to use cannabis. In this way you will know how to anticipate the periods, places and conditions that are now a risk of temptation.
  • set up new routines. For example, if you smoke cannabis out of boredom, why not take up sports, singing, painting, sophrology, meditation, knitting, etc.?
  • surround yourself with strong supports. Do not keep in touch with people who do not respect your choices, encourage you to use cannabis again and continue to smoke in front of you. Kindness and support are the key to long-term success.
  • don’t replace your addiction with another one! Alcohol, gambling, shopping or even certain drugs… Avoid any other form of addiction.

Let’s face it, abstinence is not easy and builds up little by little. Every day without use is a new victory that should make you proud and rely on to persevere.

For more information and advice, please contact:

  • Drugs Info Service on 0800 23 13 13
  • Listen to cannabis on 0980 980 940
  • Young health thread on 0800 235 236

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