The side effects of marijuana use is a challenging topic, although it should not be. There simply is not very much scientific research on cannabis relative to the other pharmaceutical drugs doctor’s prescribe. If you ask people if marijuana use is addicting, some people will tell you that is and some will tell you that it isn’t.
The enigma surrounding marijuana stems from two problems. The first problem is that many people have been using marijuana for a long time, whether from the black market or legally, and feel that their personal experiences with the plant gives them all the information that they need and any scientific research is just unnecessary. These individuals are the ones that tend to talk about how harmless marijuana is next to alcohol and other illicit drugs or pharmaceuticals. The second problem is that the federal government has cannabis listed as a schedule 1 drug, which means that the nation’s stance is that marijuana is a highly addictive, dangerous drug with no medical value. The top federal scheduling is also restrictive which means that if scientists were to acquire marijuana to do research on it, they would then be breaking the law, which is what has prevented very much research from being done in the first place. This begs the question, how does the federal government know then that marijuana is highly addictive, dangerous and contains no medical value?
Psychiatrists are willing to share their professional opinions through an updated handbook called, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and the latest version is abbreviated DMS-5.
For its part, the DSM-IV, the standard psychiatric diagnosis manual, was undecided whether the marijuana habit could be kicked cleanly or whether there would be consequences. In the run-up to the next revision, there was a flurry of studies on marijuana withdrawal, including ones that looked at the general population of users, adolescents, and even “non-treatment-seeking adult cannabis smokers.” By the time the DMS-5 was released in 2013, the jury was in and there was a new entry: Cannabis withdrawal syndrome.
Evoking images of innocent teen-aged lives ruined by the allure of “jazz cigarettes” and dangerous “race music,” the idea of marijuana withdrawal has often been dismissed as a legacy anti-drug hysteria, from Reefer Madness to Just Say No. Nevertheless, clinicians have documented some 40 symptoms associated with quitting marijuana use—which range from the troubling (aggression and other mood disorders) to the trivial (excessive yawning) to the downright scatological (runny nose and diarrhea). The DSM-5 recognizes just seven symptoms: irritability, weight loss, insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms (including fever, chills, stomach- and headache). You’ll be happy to know that diarrhea did not make the cut.
Compared with the torment of opioid withdrawal and the potentially deadly alcoholic DTs, cannabis withdrawal is relatively mild. Only about half of heavy users who go cold turkey will even experience withdrawal symptoms of any kind. If you’re one of the unlucky fifty percent, expect your symptoms to peak anywhere between a week to 10 days. They might even linger for a month.
“Mild” withdrawal symptoms does not mean “pleasant,” however, and marijuana detox can be a trial, for both the former user and those around them.