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Marijuana addiction is not as common as addiction to many other substances, but it does occur and can be a significant problem. The addiction potential for cannabis is less than that of heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, and apparently not as great as tobacco or caffeine. About 9 per cent of regular cannabis users become addicted and addiction may occur in as many as 20 per cent of heavy marijuana users . It is difficult for many users of marijuana to stop because cannabis use is associated in many cases with anxiety or mood disorders, and possibly also because of the effects of heavy marijuana use on cognitive function and motivation. As with other addictive substances, marijuana use is characterized by the development of tolerance, meaning that more has to be used over time to achieve the same effect, and by the occurrence of withdrawal when use is stopped abruptly. Marijuana withdrawal usually involves mood changes like anxiety or depression, gastrointestinal symptoms including gas and nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms usually begin within a week of stopping use and last for 2 weeks, rarely more, and is often unpleasant but not as unpleasant as narcotic withdrawal nor as dangerous as withdrawal from alcohol and sedative or anxiety medications.

Even though first-time and occasional users, and probably most long-term smokers, will not become addicted, there are strong arguments for quitting marijuana. Persistent anxiety, feelings of paranoia, withdrawal and loss of interest in social interactions and depression are common mental consequences, and long-term physical effects include increased heart rate (by 20-100 per cent) and heart attack risk, as well as significant risk of lung disease from the numerous toxins in marijuana smoke, and the slowing of mental function and loss of motivation and memory that are well documented with chronic use. Finally, as in any addiction marijuana comes to dominate life at the expense of interests and relationships, and maintenance of the marijuana lifestyle consumes most financial resources.

There is no good way to stop smoking marijuana except to stop smoking marijuana. The drugs used to treat opioid withdrawal like Suboxone are not effective for cannabis addiction, the cannabis-like prescription drugs such as Marinol cannot be used for this purpose and synthetic marijuana substitutes are usually not effective and often not safe. Twelve-step programs are the mainstay of quitting any problematic substance, and Narcotics Anonymous offers help to people who have problems with marijuana as well as with opioids; the more numerous Alcoholics Anonymous meetings also welcome people with other addictions, and advise them to simply substitute marijuana or whatever substance for alcohol in hearing, reading and discussing the principles of recovery.

There are many natural things that can be done for withdrawal from any drug. A long period of drug use often results in a highly toxic state, and cleansing and detoxification are helpful. Fasting is not advisable when beginning any recovery process. In addition, rapid swings in blood sugar are part of any addiction problem and can bring on or aggravate withdrawal symptoms, and fasting will make this worse. Vegetable juices, fruit juices with as little sugar as possible, teas made from calming herbs and as much fresh and clean water as you can manage are key to detoxifying, and this may take weeks.

Most people with addictions gradually withdraw from activities and cease to exercise. Exercise raises brain levels of endorphins and provides some of what drugs are used for. Skin brushing has been recommended as well: the skin has been called the third lung and is important for eliminating toxins. Brushing the skin with a soft brush for 2 or 3 minutes before bathing increases skin circulation and the flow of lymph fluid, which carries off toxins.

Eating several small meals a day will prevent blood sugar swings, and refined sugar should be avoided for this reason. Calcium is calming and reduces tremors and anxiety, while protein lessens cravings and facilitates the replenishment of brain transmitter chemicals that have been depleted during use. Lemon or lime juice in water and cranberry juice will enhance liver and kidney removal of toxins, and sports drinks rich in electrolytes are helpful if there is vomiting or diarrhea during withdrawal that can deplete these.

Herbs have long been used to help with withdrawal and recovery. Ashwagandha helps to relieve depression, dandelion root aids in clearing drug residues, fennel seed stabilizes blood sugar, ginseng improves strength and relieves exhaustion, kava kava and lavender lessen anxiety as does oat seed or oatstraw, Reishi mushroom and skullcap are helpful for tremor, valerian aids with sleep and yellow dock root enhances kidney and liver function.

Homeopathic remedies are safe, inexpensive and widely available over the counter. Four pellets of 30c or 30x potency under the tongue twice a day are often recommended, but not combined with food or drink. Aconite is helpful for restlessness, Arsenicum for diarrhea and vomiting but also for despair and agitation, Ignatia helps with chills and thirst or with pain, Nux vomica is particularly useful and helps tremor and sensitivity to light and sound as well as lessening nausea and vomiting.

Many nutritional supplements have been recommended, chiefly B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Chromium and magnesium stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings, while the amino acids taurine and L-glutamine reduce tremor as well as cravings. Flax seed oil or DHA (docosahexanoic acid) are sources of essential fatty acids that help with depression. The neurotransmitters GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) and 5-HTP, a precursor of the mood chemical serotonin, also have antidepressant effects.

Cannabis is harmful over time even if not as dangerous as smoking tobacco. It is habit-forming even if not as addictive as cocaine. Marijuana withdrawal does happen when you stop its use, even if it is not as unpleasant as opioid withdrawal or as life-threatening as alcohol withdrawal. Marijuana smoking can be stopped, and the recovery aids described above will help.

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