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Cannabis Detox Symptoms and Withdrawal Remedies

April 10, 2017

Cannabis Detoxing Symptoms and Withdrawal Remedies

Sad girl lying in bed

For whatever reason–be it a drug test, tolerance break, nutrition, or something else–you’ve decided to detox from cannabis. Although detoxing is sometimes synonymous with withdrawal, a THC detox won’t leave you shaking, sweating, or tweaking out. That said, depending on the frequency and quantity of your consumption, it’s still possible to experience unpleasant symptoms.

Possible negative side effects of detoxing include:

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia

These side effects are temporary and may not affect everyone. Those with trouble sleeping, for example, may find that their sleep quality was increased when consuming cannabis, and difficulty may return with a THC detox.


Cannabis and sleep: 9 things to know about your herbal nightcap

Individuals who use cannabis regularly should consider that their body has become accustomed to an outside source of cannabinoids, so it can take several days of adjustment for the body to return to its own naturally produced endocannabinoid levels. Since excess THC is stored in fat cells, it may take a few months to work through the reserves. However, most people do not experience withdrawal symptoms lasting more than a few days, unless cannabis was being used medicinally for conditions such as depression, anxiety, low appetite, or insomnia.

So are there any positive side effects?

If you’re one to enjoy dreaming, you will be happy to hear that most people experience an increase in vivid and lucid dreams while abstaining from cannabis. Why is this? Cannabis decreases time spent in REM sleep in favor of deeper, more restful sleep known as “deep sleep.” Deep sleep is when the immune system is strengthened and the body repaired. However, REM sleep is when the brain is most active and dreaming is more intense. The increased REM sleep following cannabis abstinence should lend to more interesting, complex dreams, which will likely be considered a positive side effect for those who enjoy dreaming.


Cannabis and dreams: Halting long-term use can lead to one strange side effect

Medical Cannabis Alternatives

Sliced Fresh Ginger

If you use cannabis medicinally, there may be some natural alternatives that can act as a stand-in during the detox process.

Insomnia: Valerian Root, Chamomile, Magnesium Oil

There are a few options for those who struggle to slip into restful sleep. You may consider some or even all of these as a possible alternative while cannabis is not an option.

For example, valerian root has been used for thousands of years as a sedative, and some may find it to be an effective, temporary aid to fall asleep faster and increase quality of sleep. It may be enjoyed in capsule or tea form. Some side effects and pharmaceutical interactions are possible, so consult your doctor before use.

Another option for a restful night is chamomile. An herb that has been utilized as a sedative since ancient times, chamomile flower makes for a delightful sleep-inducing tea. Alternatively, chamomile is also often smoked to achieve the same results, making it a particularly alluring choice for those who are used to smoking or vaping cannabis before bed.


How Does Cannabis Vaping Technology Work?

Last but not least is magnesium oil, which relaxes muscles and calms nerves. Magnesium also happens to be a common deficiency among United States citizens, and low magnesium levels can increase stress and nervousness, which hinders sleep. As such, adding magnesium to a daily regiment can help improve quality of sleep. Topical magnesium oils are a good choice, as magnesium is well absorbed through the skin. Apply the oil as directed before bed. As always, consult a physician before use.

Inflammation: Turmeric

Cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and many patients use it to soothe inflammation in various parts of the body. With cannabis out of the picture, consider adding turmeric to your regimen. Turmeric is a well-known, effective anti-inflammatory for conditions both in and outside the body. For those who aren’t sure how to incorporate it into a diet, turmeric is available in pill form and can be added to a daily vitamin spread. Consult with a physician before increasing turmeric consumption to avoid complications.


Can Cannabis Help With Inflammation for Athletes?

Low Appetite: Ginger Root

For those who rely on cannabis to nurture a healthy appetite, it will be wise to aid digestion during a time of detox. Ginger oil improves digestion and decreases intestinal gas. A cup of ginger tea in the morning, sweetened perhaps with a little honey, will be an effective way to kick start digestion and prep your stomach for food. Alternatively, some sources suggest certain herbs may stimulate and increase appetite.


The Science of Munchies: Why Does Cannabis Stimulate Your Appetite?

Depression: St. John’s Wort, Ashwagandha

For mild depression, St. John’s Wort may provide relief by supporting elevated mood and a calm mind. The herb can be taken via capsule or tea. Some side effects and contraindications are possible, so consult a doctor before use.

Similarly, Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective in improving mood and mental health.


Cannabis and Depression

Anxiety: Ashwagandha Root, Kava Root

Originating from India, Ashwagandha, or “Winter Cherry,” is an Ayurvedic herb often used as an effective aid against anxiety and other mental health conditions such as depression. It is available in powder or tablet form. Consult a doctor before use.

An alternative and perhaps more controversial option for treating anxiety is kava root. Native to South Pacific islands, this unique plant has a complicated history. While most tend to agree that kava is effective at sedating, calming, and soothing anxiety, some evidence suggests possible negative side effects on liver health. Speculation remains open, so caution is advised. Kava can be taken via capsule or tea.


How cannabidiol (CBD) works for treating anxiety

The detoxification process may not be the most enjoyable experience, but it can be very rewarding in the end. For more information on how long THC sticks around in the body and how to detox properly, check out Parts 1 and 2 of this series.

Rae Lland's Bio Image

Rae Lland

Rae Lland is a freelance writer, journalist, and former editor for Weedist and The Leaf Online. With a focus on culture, music, health, and wellness, in addition to her work for Leafly, she has also been featured in numerous online cannabis publications as well as print editions of Cannabis Now Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @rae.lland

View Rae Lland's articles

3 part series

  • Kyle Bender

    Isn’t your entire business model supported by cannabis use

    • Krista Smith

      It’s not about getting people to stop. Detoxes are necessary for some people to get the benefits they’re looking for. The helpful effects are be weakened by heavy use. The trouble is dealing with the symptoms for a while in order to reduce your tolerance, or whatever reason. I believe most people using this advice intend to start again after their cleansing period.

      • That’s weird that’s not the impression I get from this post, although I could be way off the mark here but, to me it sounded like this person has decided to quit either indefinitely or, even maybe has no particular agenda or “plan” other than to follow the cues of their own body, weather that means never picking up again or, taking a long break or a short break or whatever, I could be wrong of course but, that’s my perception of the post.

  • Jackie Likes

    Hi, I would just like to share my experience. I was a casual cannabis user in my 20’s and quit. I started using casually again about 6 years ago. Then I hurt my back. I live in Washington State and medical marijuana was legal. I started using RSO nightly and then grew my own. I did that for 4 years. I also used it for anxiety. I had so much of it that I made edibles and had those nightly when I could no longer get RSO. About 2 1/2 years ago I started having stomach problems. It would keep me up at night. That and the anxiety because of that became so severe I had 8 ER visits in 6 weeks. I ended up in the hospital with every test you can imagine. They could find nothing wrong with me. I was very open about my cannabis use. The terrible anxiety subsided, and I continued to use heavily. Still with the stomach problem. This New Years weekend I came down with a virus and did not use any for about a week. Wow the dreams I had! I had forgotten how much I loved dreams! I still have my back problems that I am dealing with. My body is going through some weird stuff. That only exercise seems to help. I am only getting 4-5 hours of sleep. I was doing ok with that, felt good during the day. A couple of nights ago I ran across 2 CBD/THC caps that were left over from our medical dispensary days and took them when I got up at 2 am with my body hurting. Mistake. My brain went into the end of the world mode. I was a mess. I have been very depressed over what is happening to my body. I have an amazing chiropractor, and we discussed it and he gets it. I believe I am still detoxing. I mean I was a really heavy user. So I am hoping in a couple more weeks I will be feeling better. I have always been a very healthy person so this has really thrown me for a loop. Everybodys bodies are different. So just pay attention to what it is telling you. Peace

  • David McFadden

    day 3 for me, hurtin

  • Brenda Picazo

    Detoxing to achieve maximum results is key. Be cautious in which method you decide, your body is unique. In my experience green tea, exercise, and preparing gourmet meals works wonders and the “side effects” will be pretty numb to the point your life without is the same as your life with. A healthy relationship with your loved one(s) is crucial; What exactly am I saying?…who can remember the saying, oh, yes…. “with friends like those who needs enemies?” Remember a gun has a trigger, wink wink. Live life and remember you are the only one who matters, I care about your health. Mind, body, and soul. I care. If I can, YOU can!