What Happens When a Teen is Addicted to Marijuana and Tries to Stop?

If you’re officially addicted to marijuana, you’re going to have trouble quitting — no matter who you are. Despite what some marijuana advocates claim, withdrawal can cause intense physical and psychological effects that make stopping the use of marijuana very difficult.

Symptoms may include, in alphabetical order:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting

Collectively, these symptoms comprise what mental health professionals call “cannabis withdrawal syndrome,” or CWS. They consider CWS “a diagnostic indicator of cannabis use disorder,” which includes both people addicted to cannabis and those dependent on it. One Harvard Medical School meta-analysis put its prevalence at 47% for quitters.

Sometimes these withdrawal symptoms can prove so uncomfortable or painful that the only way to feel better is to go back to using. This is why some teens think marijuana “helps” them, when they are just using their drug of addiction, which relieves their symptoms. Just like if you’re addicted to nicotine and try to go “cold turkey,” you’ll feel bad, but if you use again, you’ll magically be “better.” This is an obvious sign of addiction.

However, you can manage CWS symptoms, though not very well, according to Harvard. You can try psychiatric treatment, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, or your doctor can treat your CWS with medications, including gabapentin (for anxiety), zolpidem (to help you sleep), and dronabinol (synthetic THC to cut back). At this point, researchers haven’t yet determined whether natural CBD helps soothe CWS. But all these medications have side effects, so none of them seem to be a good solution.

Good options seem to be exercise, therapy, support groups such as marijuana anonymous, hobbies, and generally staying busy and distracted. If you are unable to quit on your own, consider a residential treatment center to help you detox and develop new habits. If you’re suffering from CWS, don’t give up! It’s tough no matter what. You may have to grin and bear it for a month while the THC clears your system, but you can defeat CWS if you stay sober after that.

Read the March 28, 2023 Johnny’s Ambassadors Newsletter

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