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Anxiety and depression are surprisingly common marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Why do people become anxious and depressed after quitting cannabis, and what natural and medical treatments are available to help you through your weed withdrawal?

Thought cannabis wasn't addictive? You're not alone — but if you've previously tried to quit or talked to people who've already stopped using marijuana, you know how hard it can be. 

Over half of those who seek medical help with quitting weed report significant marijuana withdrawal symptoms, and while that doesn't mean that most of those who quit by themselves do as well, it does mean that it is good to be prepared for weed detox before you quit using marijuana. Common marijuana withdrawal symptoms include mood changes like anger and nervousness, behavioral difficulties like insomnia and restlessness, physical ailments like nausea and sweating, and psychological issues like depression and anxiety. [1]

How can you manage anxiety and depression during your weed detox, and make life a little less difficult?

What Causes Anxiety And Depression During Marijuana Withdrawal?

Weed has the reputation of being a largely harmless and non-addictive drug — with some users not even considering marijuana a real drug. Research shows, however, that cannabis withdrawal is a very real phenomenon with clinically significant implications. This is partially due to the fact that the potency of the marijuana on the market today is much stronger than the potency of the weed of decades past. The anxiety and depression many newly quit cannabis users experience is, therefore, partially due simply to the physical withdrawal process. [2]

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms tend to be at their worst between two and six days after quitting, and most last no longer than four days to two weeks [3]. 

The fact that many cannabis users combine weed with tobacco when they smoke joints means that a significant portion of people going through marijuana withdrawal will be going through nicotine withdrawal at the same time. Nicotine withdrawal is associated with many of the same symptoms you'll encounter during weed detox, which means that you may well be dealing with a "double whammy" — making an already though process that much worse. [4]

Finally, there is evidence that a significant portion of heavy cannabis users either consciously turned to cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of pre-existing depression or anxiety disorders (social phobia and marijuana addiction are an especially frequent combination), or stumbled upon marijuana and then began using it as a means to self-medicate. Marijuana users in this group may find that their pre-existing depression or anxiety disorders rear their heads again once they go through cannabis detox. [5, 6]

How Can You Manage Anxiety And Depression During Weed Detox?

How can you fight anxiety and depression during marijuana withdrawal? You have roughly three different options at your disposal. The first is trying to stick it out until your withdrawal symptoms improve, in the knowledge that most people feel better two weeks after they have stopped weed — that is, to do nothing in particular. The second is to turn to self-help methods that will help you get through your cannabis detox without medical help, and the third option is to seek professional assistance for your marijuana withdrawal symptoms. The latter two broad ways to manage anxiety and depression during weed detox again come with their own sub-categories. 

Let's take a look. 

Self Help For Anxiety And Depression During Marijuana Withdrawal

Research shows that moderate aerobic exercise is a surprisingly effective way to deal with the marijuana cravings many people experience while they are going through weed detox [7]. Exercise has also been demonstrated to lead to decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, and — perhaps relevant to former cannabis users — sensation seeking [8].

Whether you start jogging, join a gym, or sign up for a team sport, exercise has the added benefit of filling up your time with activities other than smoking pot. Exercise should, in short, be on every weed quitter's to-do list!

Try these 2 breathing exercises for better sleep during weed detox: Diaphragmatic deep breathing​ and Pranayama breathing or yogic breathing — another science-backed way to decrease both anxiety and depression [9]. It costs you nothing to sit in a cross-legged position, inhale deeply through your mouth, hold your breath while contracting your throat slightly as if you were about to whisper, and then gently breathe out. Inhaling through one nostril while keeping the other closed, and then exhaling through the other while pressing the first shut with a finger, is likewise easy to do.

Herbal remedies for weed withdrawal are also at your disposal — St John's Worth is an effective natural treatment for mild depression, while kava kava can help you overcome anxiety [10], for instance. Valerian root is another natural treatment that appears ideal for marijuana detox, as it reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as the insomnia many people who have just quit weed suffer from [11]. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid used for the treatment of both substance abuse and anxiety that is available both as a pharmacological treatment and as a supplement in health foods stores [12].

Whichever of these natural remedies for weed detox may appeal to you, it is best to consult your primary care provider before use; some interact with other medications you may be taking. 

Who Should Seek Professional Help During Marijuana Withdrawal, And What Options Are Available?

Anyone who has tried to quit weed unsuccessfully a number of times, who suspects they had pre-existing depression or an anxiety disorder before they started smoking marijuana, or who finds their marijuana withdrawal symptoms all but unbearable, should strongly consider professional help. 

Should you decide to go this route, you will likely be offered a form of cognitive behavioral therapy specifically targeted to people with substance abuse issues [13], as well as medications for which there is evidence that they target both anxiety and depression, and marijuana addiction — like Buspirone [14]. 

If you suspect that you already had an underlying anxiety disorder or were suffering from depression before you started using weed, and smoking pot was your way of self-medicating this disorder, know that you are not alone by any means [15]. In this case, the best way to fight the anxiety and depression you are experiencing during your marijuana withdrawal process is to be completely open about this fact.

Rather than experiencing cannabis withdrawal symptoms, you may be seeing a recurrence of the symptoms of your depression or anxiety disorder. Receiving adequate treatment — often a combination of pharmacology and talk therapy — is the ultimate way to be rid of your anxiety or depression. 

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