Withdrawal from cannabis: What to expect

Cannabis withdrawal constitutes several symptoms that individuals may struggle with when they decide to discontinue their use of the substance. Despite the popular idea that cannabis is a mild substance when compared with more powerful drugs, the journey through withdrawal can be a very challenging process. This is due to the ways in which cannabis interacts with the body and the mind, leaving a lasting impact that becomes stronger during the stopping of use.

Cannabis, often characterised as a mild psychoactive substance, contains compounds known as cannabinoids that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The psychoactive cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is primarily responsible for the euphoric effects associated with cannabis use. The interaction of THC with the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain creates a complex interplay of neurotransmitters, influencing mood, cognition, and the perception of pain.

The perceived mildness of cannabis is misleading when considering withdrawal, as its effects extend beyond the temporary intoxication experienced during one-time use. The body, having adapted to cannabinoids, undergoes a period of recalibration when the substance is no longer introduced. This recalibration is the crux of the withdrawal process, giving rise to a myriad of symptoms that vary in intensity and duration among individuals.

Crucial determinants of withdrawal include the duration of the drugs’ use. Individuals who have engaged in habitual use will experience a higher number of withdrawal symptoms. The body’s dependence on the influx of cannabinoids becomes a more significant disruption when the substance is removed from the equation.

Individual differences play an important role in shaping withdrawal. Genetics, overall health, and metabolism contribute to the diversity of responses among users. Some individuals can navigate withdrawal with ease, experiencing mild symptoms that dissipate fast, while others may encounter a more intense withdrawal journey.

The presence of mental health issues further complicates cannabis withdrawal. Individuals fighting anxiety, depression, or other disorders may find their symptoms worsened during withdrawal. The link between cannabinoids and the brain’s neurotransmitter systems highlights the increased likelihood of withdrawal to impact mental health in serious ways.

Understanding withdrawal requires an appreciation of the various factors influencing its manifestation. By acknowledging the difference in the severity of withdrawals, healthcare professionals can better assist individuals in navigating this phase and contribute to a more complete understanding of cannabis use.

Physical symptoms constitute a big aspect of cannabis withdrawal, including sensations that explain the body’s adjustment to the absence of cannabinoids. These manifestations vary among individuals:


These headaches are varied, spanning from discomfort to more painful migraines. The origins of these headaches come from the abrupt halting of cannabinoids, disrupting the balance that the endocannabinoid system maintains. The changes and neurotransmitter fluctuations during this process cause varying degrees of intensity, impacting the well-being of individuals undergoing withdrawal.

Nausea and vomiting:

As the body endeavours to recalibrate itself without cannabinoids, the digestive system undergoes serious adjustments. Nausea can be a consequence of these adaptations, sometimes along with vomiting. This response highlights the influence that cannabinoids have on the gastrointestinal system and the body’s efforts to restore normalcy. While the severity of these symptoms can differ, they contribute to the challenges individuals face during withdrawal.

Disruptions in sleep patterns:

Insomnia, characterised by difficulty falling asleep, becomes a primary challenge for individuals. Vivid dreams may also disrupt sleep during withdrawal. The absence of these drugs disrupts the balance in neural circuits responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Sleep disturbances become key components of withdrawal, influencing the physical and mental parts of individuals undergoing this process.

Understanding physical symptoms of withdrawal also means recognising these manifestations. Headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sleep disturbances highlight the body’s response to the absence of cannabinoids. The duration of these symptoms varies a lot, accentuating the need for intervention strategies.

The psychological dimension of cannabis withdrawal introduces more symptoms that impact an individual’s mental well-being just as much.

These are often inter-linked and affect the neural pathways governing mood, emotion, and appetite.

Anxiety and Depression:

Cannabis withdrawal comes along with increased levels of anxiety and depression. The cessation of cannabis interrupts the neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly those linked to mood regulation. Individuals going through withdrawal may find themselves experiencing intensified feelings of unease and worry. At the same time, depression may be present, leading to feelings of sadness, lethargy, and a general disinterest in once-pleasurable activities.

Irritability can be a common side effect of withdrawal, as individuals battle the challenges of restructuring their emotional responses without the influence of cannabinoids. Restlessness and mood swings further characterise this phase, contributing to a heightened emotional sensitivity.


A psychological symptom of cannabis withdrawal comes in the form of a change in appetite. This creates a dichotomy where individuals experience an increase or decrease in food intake. Some individuals undergoing withdrawal find themselves drawn to increased food consumption, succumbing to heightened cravings, commonly known as the “munchies.” Conversely, others may witness a diminished interest in food, grappling with a lack of appetite that can contribute to changes in energy levels and overall well-being.

The withdrawal phase highlights how the absence of cannabis can induce changes in the experience of eating, leading to changes in diets that can impact an individual’s psychology.

Understanding these symptoms during withdrawal is an important part of care. Mental health support, counselling, and psychoeducation play crucial roles in equipping individuals with the coping mechanisms necessary to navigate the challenges of withdrawal.

Difficulty concentrating:

One cognitive symptom during cannabis withdrawal is the experience of difficulty concentrating or a “foggy” feeling. Users report mental haziness that complicates tasks requiring focused attention. This is rooted in the link between cannabinoids and neurotransmitter systems crucial for cognitive functions. The abrupt discontinuation of cannabis disrupts the brain, leading to difficulties in maintaining attention, processing information, and engaging in tasks. The cognitive fog experienced during withdrawal reflects the changes occurring within the brain.

Memory impairment:

Short-term memory impairment is another cognitive symptom associated with cannabis withdrawal. The link between cannabinoids and memory processes, particularly in the hippocampus, is integral during this period. People going through withdrawal will find themselves with difficulties in retaining recently acquired information. This cognitive challenge poses hurdles in functioning, as memory is fundamental to tasks ranging from learning new information to executing routine activities.



These cognitive effects are integral parts of the broader withdrawal experience. The challenges in concentration contribute to the multifaceted nature of cannabis withdrawal, requiring a careful approach to intervention. Strategies aimed at enhancing functioning, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness practices, and targeted cognitive exercises, can be instrumental in mitigating the cognitive challenges faced by individuals undergoing cannabis withdrawal. Recognising the cognitive aspects of withdrawal as a central component of the recovery journey highlights the need for comprehensive and individualised approaches that address the diverse cognitive symptoms individuals may encounter during this phase.

Cannabis detox

Cannabis detox, a key phase in the sobriety journey, is the process by which the body eliminates cannabis. Not every user may need formal detox, but this step is crucial for longer-term users, as it marks the beginning of the transition to a drug-free state. Understanding cannabis detox involves appreciating the need for medical supervision.

Timeline of Cannabis Detox

The acute phase of cannabis withdrawal typically peaks within the first week of abstinence. During this stage, individuals grapple with physical, psychological, and cognitive symptoms as their bodies recalibrate to the absence of cannabinoids. Though challenging, these acute symptoms indicate the body’s resilience.

Sub-acute symptoms follow the acute phase, persisting for several weeks. While the intensity may lessen, individuals may still contend with residual challenges as their systems continue the process of detox. During this stage, the gradual restoration of balance in the body and brain takes place, paving the way for a more stable state.

For some individuals, the journey extends beyond the first weeks, giving rise to longer withdrawal symptoms that can endure for months. This prolonged phase speaks to the variability in withdrawal and highlights the importance of ongoing support and understanding during recovery.

Medical Supervision

In cases where individuals face severe withdrawal symptoms or possess underlying health issues, the necessity for medical supervision becomes paramount. Medical professionals play a pivotal role in providing tailored support, ensuring the well-being of those undergoing cannabis detox. Their expertise allows for identifying and managing specific symptoms, contributing to a more comfortable and controlled withdrawal experience.

Medical supervision involves proactive intervention when required. In severe cases, medical professionals prescribe medications to alleviate specific symptoms, addressing issues such as insomnia, nausea, anxiety, or depression. This personalised approach acknowledges the individualised nature of withdrawal.

The role of medical supervision extends beyond the acute phase. Regular check-ins, adjustments to treatment plans, and ongoing assessments ensure that individuals receive the support needed at every stage, promoting a comprehensive and effective recovery process.

Ultimately, cannabis detox is a necessary step during recovery. Understanding the timeline of detoxification and the need for medical supervision emphasises the importance of a personalised approach. By navigating cannabis detox with compassion, individuals can embark on a path toward sustained recovery.


Cannabis Addiction

Understanding withdrawal is incomplete without addressing addiction. Cannabis addiction, like any substance use disorder, involves a compulsive pattern of use despite negative consequences. It can impact various aspects of an individual’s life, including relationships, work, and overall well-being.

Many individuals who use cannabis regularly may develop psychological dependence. The substance becomes a coping mechanism, making it challenging to navigate daily life without it.

Cannabis addiction often involves the development of specific behavioural patterns, such as prioritising drug use over responsibilities or engaging in risky behaviours to obtain the substance.

Breaking free from cannabis addiction often requires professional intervention. Treatment options, including counselling, therapy, and support groups, can provide individuals with the tools and strategies needed to overcome addiction. Going through cannabis withdrawal means not only adopting determination but also professional guidance to ensure a sustainable recovery.

What UKAT offers:

Individualised treatment

Every individual’s path to recovery is unique. Hence, UKAT prioritises the development of individualised treatment plans. By tailoring interventions to the specific circumstances of each person, UKAT aims to address the root causes of cannabis dependence, providing a personalised roadmap for recovery. This approach ensures that individuals receive targeted support, enhancing the efficacy and relevance of the treatment.

Medical detoxification

For those requiring detox, UKAT provides a secure and closely monitored environment where individuals can undergo detox under the care of experienced medical professionals. Medical detox is a crucial phase, particularly for heavy and long-term cannabis users, as it ensures a safe and controlled withdrawal process. The expertise of medical professionals at UKAT facilitates the management of withdrawal symptoms, contributing to a more comfortable and secure detoxification experience.

Therapeutic support

Recognizing the psychological aspects of addiction, UKAT integrates therapy sessions into its approach. These interventions serve as a platform for individuals to address the psychological factors contributing to substance abuse. By delving into the complexities of addiction, UKAT gives individuals the tools needed to cope with withdrawal.


UKAT acknowledges that the journey to recovery extends well beyond withdrawal. Aftercare programs are a key part of UKAT’s commitment to sustained support. These programmes provide ongoing assistance and guidance, helping individuals navigate the challenges of daily life without relying on cannabis. By offering continued support, UKAT reinforces the foundations of recovery, facilitating a smoother transition into a fulfilling life.

Withdrawal from cannabis is a harsh process that demands a very supportive approach. UKAT, provides a range of services to address the physical, psychological, and cognitive aspects of withdrawal and recovery. Through individualised treatment plans, medical detoxification, therapeutic support, and aftercare programmes, UKAT paves the way for individuals to break free from the cycle of addiction, contact us and embark on a healthier and more fulfilling life without dependence on cannabis.