Is marijuana addiction real? If so, what can one expect in terms of withdrawal symptoms?

Causes of Marijuana Withdrawal

There has long been a debate over whether marijuana is actually addictive. Research shows that marijuana is, in fact, addictive. The drug is addictive enough that cessation of marijuana use causes withdrawal symptoms in a large portion of regular users.

Studies have found that people who use marijuana heavily have reduced dopamine release in their brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for motivation, feelings of reward, memory, and attention.

There is also a possibility that regular marijuana may also disrupt serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with positive feelings, appetite, and sleep. These disruptions in dopamine and serotonin are thought to be the cause of marijuana withdrawal.


One study of nearly 500 heavy marijuana smokers found that cessation produced withdrawal symptoms in 42.4% of people. The most common withdrawal symptoms noted in the study were anxiety, boredom, cravings, irritability, and sleep disturbances.

Other possible symptoms include depression; impaired concentration, memory, or sexual function; lack of motivation or appetite; mood swings; and physical tension.

Unfortunately, it is common for marijuana addicts to resume use of the drug to relieve withdrawal symptoms, perpetuating the addiction. Here is a short, informative video talking about withdrawal symptoms and some ways to reduce them.


Treatment for a marijuana dependence is not as intensive as treatment for other, more medically threatening types of addictions. Inpatient treatment is rarely needed; outpatient counseling and therapy is the preferred mode of treatment.

Counseling and therapy can help patients cope with the life problems that may trigger them to abuse marijuana, as well as help them learn effective ways to change their behavior in the long term. However, occasionally medications may also be needed.

Fortunately, the neurotransmitter disruption caused by marijuana addiction is not permanent. If a patient can endure the withdrawal period without relapsing, his or her brain chemistry will return to normal.

Arguably, the most important thing is to find effective, healthy ways of coping with withdrawal symptoms that do not involve marijuana. For example, regular exercise will help regulate the dopamine and serotonin systems.

Support Groups

Another very helpful component of a marijuana addiction treatment plan is attending a support group. A popular type of support group is the 12-step model. Receiving community support can be a powerful way to facilitate recovery, create accountability, reduce feelings of loneliness, and feel understood.

Marijuana addiction is a real and harmful phenomenon. Finding constructive ways to cope with withdrawal symptoms is necessary for recovery. What have been your experiences with marijuana detoxification? Share your stories and tips in the comments.