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General overview

Marijuana is a flowering plant or herb which contain the psychoactive drug tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It has been used as a recreational drug for its psychoactive effects of euphoria and relaxation.

It is also being used as a medicine to help manage nausea caused by chemotherapeutic drugs as well as help manage chronic and severe pain caused by conditions such as cancer.


Short term side-effects of marijuana can occur within 30-60 minutes and can last up until a few hours. These side-effects may include the following:

  • Altered senses such as seeing brighter than usual colours.
  • Mood changes
  • Altered some of time.
  • Memory impairment.
  • Thinking and problem-solving issues.
  • Impairment in body movements.

Chronic, or long-term, use of marijuana can lead to brain development issues, especially if use of the drug is started at a young age. The neurological changes that occur can be long-lasting and even permanent. Other long-term side-effects may include the following:

  • Temporary paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • In patients with schizophrenia, marijuana use can trigger a psychotic episode or worsen already present symptoms.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Irritation of the airways and the lungs.

Withdrawal symptoms

Even though marijuana has been shown to be the least problematic of all the available drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, it has known to cause dependence in long-term users and thus has the ability to cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped.

The withdrawal symptoms can be divided into physical and psychological issues and these can last from a few days up to a few months.

The reason why withdrawing from marijuana is a long-term problem is because THC gets stored in the fat cells of the body. Unlike water soluble substances, such as alcohol or nicotine which get secreted via the kidneys which filter blood, THC needs to be secreted out of fat tissue which can take up to a few months, especially if the person involved was using the drug over the long term or was a heavy user. 

Psychological withdrawal symptoms, from most to least common, include the following: 

  • Insomnia - this can last from a few night of getting no sleep up to a few months occasionally getting up at night.
  • Depressive mood.
  • Vivid dreams and/or nightmares.
  • Dreams of wanting to use marijuana.
  • Aggressive behaviour which can range from slight irritation to sudden outbursts.
  • Fluctuating emotions.
  • Anxiety.
  • Loss of sense of humour.
  • Decreased, or increased, sex drive.
  • Lack of concentration.

Physical withdrawal symptoms, also from most to least common, may include the following:

  • Headaches - this is the most common withdrawal symptom and the first few days are the most intense. 
  • Night sweats and sweating in general. Hands sweats seem to be a common occurrence as well.
  • Coughing up of phlegm.
  • Appetite loss with possible weight loss as a result.
  • Nausea.
  • Abdominal cramps. 
  • Dizziness.

Management of withdrawal symptoms

If the mentioned symptoms are causing distress or are affecting one's quality of life, then it's suggested to discuss these issues with a health professional.

There are suggestions one can follow to help reduce the discomfort caused by these withdrawal symptoms and they are as follows:

  • Warm baths or showers can help to reduce stressful emotions and clean the body from excessive sweating.
  • Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration and helps speed up removal of THC from the fat tissue.
  • Consuming potassium rich foods such as bananas and melons can help prevent depletion of the electrolyte from sweating.
  • Relaxation techniques such as massage therapy, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and prayer can also help reduce stress levels.

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