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Marijuana withdrawal is tough — but the good news is that cannabis withdrawal symptoms subside within two weeks if you can just make it through that period of intense cravings without relapsing. How do you do it?

Most people would probably accurately guess that marijuana is the most widely used drug on a worldwide scale. Despite that, weed has a bit of a special reputation — many people, including users, see marijuana as a harmless and non-addictive drug. 

They'd be wrong. Smoking pot can certainly lead to addiction and dependence [1], and marijuana withdrawal symptoms aren't a myth by any means [2]. 

While the prospect of facing a weed detox period can be daunting, it shouldn't be a reason to decide to just keep being addicted to marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms like irritability and headaches during weed detox, anxiety, nausea, sweating, chills, moodiness, and insomnia tend to be at their worst between two and six days of quitting cannabis, and they typically subside within a fortnight. It has to get worse before it can get better, in other words. [3]

Do you want to quit weed successfully? Above all else, you will want to know how to handle weed cravings. 

Cannabis Withdrawal: The Effects Of Marijuana Leaving Your Body

Cannabinoid receptors — which are present all over the body — play roles in rather a few different daily processes, like appetite, mood, and pain sensation [4]. These cannabinoid receptors are activated naturally, but can also be triggered by marijuana use. It's no surprise that they need time to return to their normal state of being after you quit long-term cannabis use, really! Research even points to the idea that some people are genetically predisposed to marijuana addiction, and that these individuals will experience stronger cravings and other marijuana withdrawal symptoms when they quit weed. [5]

How Do You Cope With Marijuana Cravings After Quitting Weed?

You could simply commit to not using cannabis and live through the nasty marijuana withdrawal symptoms that hit some of the people who decide to discontinue weed use. As they say, the only way to quit is by quitting. The downside to this "cold turkey, tough cookies" method is that 70 percent of those who experience significant marijuana withdrawal symptoms attempt to relieve them by returning to their addiction [6].

A different game plan seems to be wise, then — especially for people who have already tried to quit weed unsuccessfully before. 

Identifying What Triggers Your Marijuana Cravings

Are you only quitting cannabis, or did you have a habit of mixing cannabis with tobacco to smoke joints and will you also be going through nicotine withdrawal at the same time? Regardless, you have trained your body to actively expect marijuana (and perhaps nicotine) in certain situations — like being stressed, meeting friends, or coming home from a long day's work. 

You have roughly three options for dealing with cannabis cravings during your withdrawal period:

  • Accepting your marijuana cravings without giving in, and without doing anything special to counter the cravings. 
  • Seeking distraction from your cravings. 
  • Avoiding things that trigger your cravings. 

No matter what option you choose, you will benefit from identifying the triggers for your marijuana cravings. Sit down and make a list of all the situations in which you usually feel like smoking pot. Then make a game plan. Some people find it helpful to fidget with objects like pens or lollipops while they are experiencing cravings, while others prefer to avoid seeing the friends with whom they used to smoke marijuana for a while. Others simply choose to ride the craving out — which requires willpower. 

Know that your marijuana craving is unlikely to last longer than 30 minutes and that your cravings will become weaker every time you successfully overcome a craving. [7]

Exercise To Reduce Your Cannabis Cravings During Weed Detox

Can you exercise your way through marijuana withdrawal? Research suggests that moderate aerobic exercise indeed has a very positive impact on new marijuana quitters, reducing the frequency of cravings in people who did not seek medical help for their marijuana addiction. [8] Managing anxiety and depression during weed detox also becomes easier if you engage in regular exercise [9]. 

Now is the time to get started with a regular workout regime, then — but also ask yourself if "emergency exercises" could be an effective way to get you through particularly strong cravings. Perhaps a set of sit-ups, push-ups, or squats will send those marijuana cravings packing?

Can Therapy Help You Through Cannabis Withdrawal?

Accessing talk therapy to help you through your marijuana withdrawal symptoms might be scary — not just because cannabis use might be illegal in your jurisdiction, but also because the thought of spilling your deepest thoughts and feelings to a therapist is simply intimidating. Nonetheless, research shows that short-term cognitive behavioral therapy can help you prevent relapse [10]. If you think of a therapist as a tool, someone who can teach you effective ways to deal with your marijuana cravings and your new cannabis-free lifestyle, someone who works for you rather than the other way around, therapy suddenly becomes a whole lot less scary. 

I Have Tried To Quit Cannabis Unsuccessfully Before — What Now?

If you have tried to quit weed before, but your marijuana cravings were so strong that giving into them seemed inevitable, you are in a tougher position. In this case, you will not want to go through marijuana withdrawal alone. Though research into pharmacological interventions to help you through your cannabis withdrawal is limited, there is some evidence that certain medications can help. 

Medications that might help you deal with marijuana cravings include:

  • Oral THC (the main active component in cannabis)
  • Naltrexone may work to prevent you from experiencing the pleasurable effects of marijuana, thereby making cannabis use less appealing. 
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
  • Mood stabilizers such as Buspirone and Lithium [11]

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