Can you really get withdrawal symptoms from cannabis?

Cannabis advocates are always quick to explain to others that cannabis isn’t addictive, at least in comparison to hard drugs which cause real physical addictions. However, some regular marijuana users freely admit that having a break from pot can cause some withdrawal symptoms. However, the answer to cannabis withdrawal may – ironically – lie in cannabis itself, with non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD).

Cannabis withdrawal: fact or fiction?

Let’s get one thing straight: withdrawal symptoms from cannabis are nowhere near as severe as those you get from alcohol, opiates and even nicotine. However, heavy cannabis smokers often end up feeling off-balance if they take a break for a few days. Some experience difficulty sleeping if they don’t have the means to enjoy a marijuana fix, and a break from the herb can also cause a short-term decline in appetite.

Other well-known cannabis withdrawal symptoms include cannabis cravings, mood swings and increased irritability, heightened anxiety, headaches, migraines, restlessness, nausea and a reduced sex drive.

Interestingly, all of these withdrawal symptoms can be traced back to the endocannabinoid system (ECS). When the ECS is deprived of cannabinoids that it has come to rely on, it becomes imbalanced. Furthermore, many of the symptoms that come from withdrawal, such as migraines and anxiety, are the very ailments that many people take cannabis to treat. Therefore, the symptoms can seem amplified when you initially cut back your pot intake.

How CBD makes cannabis breaks easier

Many have reported good experiences when using CBD to treat symptoms of addiction, including from marijuana. Cannabis users often supplement their weed breaks with CBD, to reduce cravings and treat other ailments. CBD is non-intoxicating so won’t make you high, euphoric or hallucinatory. CBD extracted from hemp plants are legal in all 50 states plus D.C., just as long as they don’t have more than 0.3 percent THC.

If you’re laying off the weed to pass a drug test, you can feel comfortable taking CBD. Most drug tests are only testing for THC, and there’s no issue with CBD since it’s non-psychoactive anyway. However, if you do consume high doses regularly, perhaps stick to a CBD-isolate product.

In 2015, a review into CBD’s efficaciousness at treating addiction found that the cannabinoid was helpful for cigarette, cocaine and opioid addiction, and could also benefit people dependent on cannabis. The review analyzed 14 studies, including a 2012 study specifically focused on cannabis withdrawal. One 19-year-old female participant, who was administered a 10-day CBD medication plan, found that her common withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety disappeared.

It is thought that THC desensitizes the CB1 receptors, and that this causes cannabis withdrawal symptoms. CB1 receptors are found all over the body but are most prominent in the brain and gastrointestinal tract. Knowing this, it makes sense that anxiety, insomnia, headaches and nausea are some of the most common marijuana withdrawal symptoms.

Why it’s good to take a THC break once in a while

Since CB1 receptors become desensitized to THC over time, it’s good to take a break from cannabis now and again to reduce tolerance. For recreational users, this means you can get much higher. For medicinal users, your supply will last much longer. Of course, tolerance will build up once you’ve started again, but at least you’ll be saving some weed.

Cannabis use disorder

There aren’t many cases of cannabis use disorder, and some say that it’s a myth. However, a study in 2007 revealed that one in 11 people who experiment with marijuana will get a marijuana use disorder, according to the DSM IV’s definition of ‘disorder’. Dependence rates among cocaine and heroin, two hard drugs, sits at 15 and 24 percent respectively.

Some research has been carried out lately looking at how CBD can reduce cravings to addictive drugs. The findings on cutting cigarette and opioid intake are positive, and cannabis users are also making the most of cannabidiol.

Final thoughts

Back in the 1960s and 70s, cannabis was commonly referred to as the “gateway drug” – the starter to get on too much harder drugs. Nowadays, science is showing that if anything, marijuana is an exit drug. The curation of CBD-dominant cannabis – strains such as Charlotte’s Web, ACDC and Sour Tsunami – has expanded what’s possible with the herb. Some of these strains have CBD to THC ratios of 20:1, a complete reversal on the ratio of recreational pot.

So, the next time you either must or choose to take a break from cannabis, grab yourself some CBD products to make the layoff more tolerable.

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