April is a month when avid marijuana consumers, distributors, and marketers ramp up their efforts to reach audiences as they hype up the unofficial pot smoker’s holiday – 4/20. It’s possible that more first-time users will try the drug this year than in year’s past because of relaxing attitudes and increasing societal tolerance towards marijuana.

Marijuana is often romanticized by proponents who push for lesser criminal penalties, more access, and full legalization for medical and recreational use. These advocates often share what we know as common myths, and push for a re-scheduling of the Schedule I illicit drug under the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act. With all this in mind, users who decide to quit consuming marijuana might be surprised by what they experience as they attempt to stop using a drug that is often referred to as “harmless.”

These are some of the most common marijuana withdrawal side-effects users experience when they quit using the drug:

  1. Relapse – Research published in the Journal of Addiction and Medicine shows that young marijuana users can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. Withdrawal can be accompanied by irritability, anxiety, and feelings of depression, which in many instances results in the continued use of the drug. 
  1. Psychological – According to Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a professor at the University of Florida and past president of the American Society for Addiction Medicine, the feelings that come revolve around the consequences that caused them to quit, like dysfunctional relationships, performance at school or work. 
  1. Physiological – Some studies suggest that marijuana use may contribute to insomnia. Once sleep patterns are disrupted, the former user may continue to experience this disruption over a period of weeks, months, or even years.

People who quit using marijuana may experience one or all of these side effects. The outcomes can be uncomfortable enough to cause the individual to use marijuana again in an effort to self-medicate and numb their bodies and emotions to the discomfort.

At some point, most marijuana users will be confronted with the consequences of their decisions. The fact is that marijuana is not safe, it has documented long-term effects, and it can be detrimental in both social and professional scenarios.

Regardless of how uncomfortable it may be to stop using marijuana or any other drug, the upside of not consuming mind-altering substances far outweighs the benefits of habitual, chronic consumption. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties with addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a robust list of drug addiction treatment resources.

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