Missing marijuana

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Missing marijuana

Hashish Smokers by Gaetano Previati, 1877. Private collection. Photo by Getty Images

When I stopped smoking weed, my appetite shrivelled and my head throbbed – but it was the dreams that really shook me

Malcolm Harris is a writer and editor at The New Inquiry. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

2400 2,400 words
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It would be an understatement to say that America has an ambivalent relationship with marijuana. The United States is in the world’s top five per-capita consumer of the drug, yet it treats possession more harshly than most of its international peers. The federal government maintains that marijuana has no accepted medical use, but many of the states that comprise the union have entire regulatory apparatuses built around licensed doctors prescribing weed. And despite all the law-enforcement attention, widespread marijuana use has never registered as a public health crisis. There isn’t any evidence that smoking world-class amounts of weed is hurting Americans. But what about not smoking?

Marijuana withdrawal is a joke, and not a bad one at that. Even though it’s a Schedule I illegal narcotic, scientists can’t agree if marijuana is physically habit-forming. Compared with opiate or cocaine addiction, halting chronic weed use is a piece of cake (if one you might not finish because your appetite is tanking a bit). Marijuana’s hold on you is not harrowing or tragic. As the actor Bob Saget put it in the classic stoner film Half Baked (1998): ‘I used to suck dick for coke... Now that’s an addiction, man. You ever suck some dick for marijuana?’ Addiction science is huge, and it would take a big hole to bury all the lab mice that have overdosed on heroin and prescription drugs. But there isn’t much research on the harms of marijuana withdrawal.

I’ve been what any medical study would classify as a heavy marijuana user for around five years, since I discovered that I was much more invested in my Victorian literature reading when I was high. I went from dragging myself through George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda while repeating: ‘I do not care who gets married’, to turning pages like I was binge-watching on Netflix and thinking: ‘I wonder if they’re going to get married!’ When I wrote an A+ paper stoned, spinning a five-sentence David Foster Wallace story into four pages of analysis between bong hits, I felt like I had passed a test. It didn’t help my work per se, but it didn’t seem to hurt either, and it definitely made the whole thing more pleasurable. Profound insight didn’t descend on me in a puff of smoke, but I did find a new store of patience, a virtue I had always struggled with. I stopped writing sober.

Since then, I’ve been more or less what you could call ‘always stoned’. Through gracious friends, a low turnover rate in drug-dealer cell-phone numbers, and the Transportation Security Administration’s willingness to stick to its delegated priorities (which do not, by the way, include searching for drugs), I was able to go four and a half high-performing years without having to abstain for any longer than a couple days. That was, until last summer when I visited my parents who, though sympathetic enough, couldn’t allow weed in the house for professional reasons. If marijuana withdrawal does exist, I have been through it.

If you use any psychoactive substance every day, you’re bound to miss its effects once you suddenly go without. If your chronic marijuana use makes you hungry, not being able to smoke is going to affect your appetite, but these effects can be hard to see under a microscope. Some studies into user withdrawal symptoms have found decreased hunger, while others use the circuitous language of the scientific method to explain why they didn’t find it when they know they’re supposed to. For instance, a 2003 study by Margaret Hanley and colleagues at the department of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York into the use of the depression and seizure medication divalproex for the attenuation of marijuana withdrawal symptoms, including loss of appetite, concluded that: ‘in the absence of robust withdrawal symptoms, it is not possible to conclude definitively that divalproex does not attenuate symptoms of marijuana withdrawal’. They were searching for the answer to a problem they couldn’t prove existed in the first place, and therefore they couldn’t be sure whether they had found it or not.

When I stopped using over the summer, I did lose my appetite. But was it because I was smoking more appetite-suppressing cigarettes to compensate? Without the controls of a lab setting, I’ll never know for sure. Weed use is full of confounding variables such as this; it’s squirmy and tough to pin down. I did see the return of headaches I suddenly remembered having throughout high school, and irritability to match. My patience vanished, and I was back to the snippy ill-tempered version of myself. Did that make irritability a withdrawal symptom?

There is a significant body of research around marijuana and aggression, but almost all of it addresses the acute effects. In a variety of experiments, participants were required to smoke weed and then undergo quantifiable forms of distress, like tit-for-tat shocking matches or shouting contests. The results are unsurprising: smoking weed makes you chill out (a video of these tests would be extraordinarily popular on YouTube). It wasn’t until 1999 that anyone studied aggression and marijuana withdrawal.

Published in the journal Psychopharmacology, the study ‘Changes in Aggressive Behavior During Withdrawal from Long-Term Marijuana Use’ (1999) by Elena Kouri and colleagues at the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts justifies itself by implying in the introduction that people going through marijuana withdrawal might be committing a lot of crimes. The experiment deprived stoners for a month and put them through a test called the Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm, which is a simulation in which participants press one button to earn points and another to steal them. The study found that, during the first seven days of withdrawal, subjects had far more stealing responses than the control group, but by the end of the month they had settled down, and their responses matched the control group’s, whose own scores had slightly but steadily increased.

Even if the experimental procedure is a bit inane, this more or less matched my experience. A run-in with unreliable Wi-Fi left me poking the refresh button and snapping at everyone around; if there had been a ‘steal Wi-Fi’ button I could have jammed instead, I would have pushed it straight through the keyboard. But though the results are interesting, it’s easy to see why there aren’t more experiments in the same vein. The study suggested two possible treatments for the aggression problem: the antidepressant nefazodone (which Bristol-Myers Squibb took off the market in 2003 after 20 deaths due to liver failure) and orally administered tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (the main active ingredient in marijuana). A drug with serious side-effects hardly seems justified by the temporary increase in aggressive response the study demonstrated, and solving marijuana dependence with THC pills is like fighting a coffee dependence with caffeine pills. But research needs a reason. Marijuana withdrawal, if it exists, is something to endure, not to solve. And there’s no money in that.

Ex-girlfriends, political struggles, work: all of them blended to a thick black smoothie poured down my mind’s throat

I was expecting the irritability and lack of appetite, but I was not prepared for the dreams. It wasn’t until I was withdrawing that I realised I hadn’t remembered a dream in years. The realisation came in the unfortunate form of intense nightmares. I would wake up more exhausted than when I went to sleep, my mind swimming in pictures and plots. Ex-girlfriends, political struggles, work: all of them blended to a thick black smoothie poured down my mind’s throat. I didn’t repeat the dreams aloud, didn’t write them down; I did my best not to narrativise them at all, to resist crafting plots that might preoccupy my waking hours. Unprepared for the onslaught, I couldn’t tell whether I was simply out of practice or if I really was having extraordinarily strong dreams. Whatever the cause, it took a half-hour every morning just to get my head on again.

I didn’t gain any clarity or inspiration from these dreams. Some people might find swallowing a swamp of subconscious vomit restful, but I am not one of those people. They could have been caused by travel’s effects on my sleep schedule or the mystical powers of a strange pillow, but the dreams seemed physical, too intense to be that psycho on the psychosomatic scale. Withdrawal was real, at least as real as dreams can be.

It’s hard to find firm answers in the body of data on marijuana withdrawal and sleep. For the study ‘Abstinence Symptoms Following Smoked Marijuana in Humans’ (1999), Margaret Hanley and colleagues at the department of psychiatry at Columbia University administered the St Mary’s Hospital Sleep Questionnaire to 12 volunteers going through marijuana withdrawal but found simply ‘no significant changes in response as a function of drug condition’. The divalproex study hooked up participants to sleep monitors to avoid the problems with self-reporting, but still found nothing. Yet studies on rats and rabbits injected with THC showed suppressed REM sleep (the light, early morning sleep), and in some studies human participants self-reported sleep disturbances in withdrawal. The link between marijuana and sleep is strong enough that when the researchers can’t find anything, they seem surprised.

I, on the other hand, definitely found something in my sample size of one. So, like people have done for centuries when they can’t get the right answers from mainstream medicine, I went alternative. To some of my elders, the whole internet might seem like crystal healing, but Google Scholar is as reputable as a textbook. Forums, on the other hand, contain the worst of internet stereotypes: uncited ‘facts’, long personal anecdotes, silly user names, and petty arguments. It’s an amateur medium, but last time I checked there was no such thing as a professional weed smoker. A large body of drug knowledge is concentrated in hyper-personal trip reports: diaries from people’s trips to the edge of consciousness and back. I’d go as far as to say that the best drugs information on the internet is in forums. But you’d better check everything you get on Snopes before you repeat it to your friends.

Even if the best in medical hardware couldn’t prove I was having crazy dreams, the online marijuana community let me know I was not alone. On Marijuana.com, a question about REM from IBoogie00 prompted a seven-page review of the scientific literature interspersed with detailed first-person accounts that matched my own experiences. At the Grasscity.com forum, my exact question had already been asked and answered. The user GolgiApparatus wondered:
ok so ive been smoking weed for 5 years and about 4 and a half years ago I noticed that i stopped dreaming when I slept. especially when I puffed right before bed.so im taking the first break ive ever had in 5 years its been 3 days so far and these past 2 nights ive literally had 2-3 of the most intense, vivid, and absolutely emotional dreams. its been mentally intense to say the least.so yeah thats my statement. what do u all think

Scrolling the responses, which mostly ranged from the non-scientific to the pseudo-scientific, satisfied my desire for information more than all the inconclusive and contradictory studies. The working explanation on the forums is that chronic marijuana use suppresses REM sleep where vivid dreams occur, and some users going through withdrawal experience a rebound period in which their brain overcompensates, and the sudden overload of REM sleep manifests in intense dreams. REM rebound is most common after extended periods of sleep deprivation, and it’s also an accepted symptom of alcohol and sleeping-pill withdrawal. But the forum users were trying to explain their lives, not establish normal baselines or test anything under controlled circumstances.

The experience made me ask myself what I was really looking for. We usually assume the problem with doing your own medical research is that you might end up believing the wrong information, but deciding between kinds of truth is more complex than filtering out falsehood. I didn’t want a cure for my withdrawal, and I certainly wouldn’t have taken a pill for it even if the science supported a prescription. Nor did I feel my aggravation deserved sociological study as a criminogenic factor. What I wanted was confirmation that I wasn’t making it up, that I was experiencing a recognised phenomenon.

We don’t name psychological experiences just to cure them; we do it because we need language to think about things

If I could find a reason and a name for what was happening to me, then I could lend some order to my disordered mind. As long as I didn’t know, the disorder seemed limitless and uncorralled, as though it might mutate and overrun its bounds at any time. We don’t name psychological experiences just to cure them; we do it because we need language to think about things, to reflect on what’s happening to us, and bind sensations into concepts. Medical research looks for something different. It looks for things it can prove.

The people who post on forums support each other — to the best of their varied abilities — with information and their own experiences. Instead of relating back to an imagined sober control, these stoners treat abstinence like its own trip. At the Weed Street Journal — which bills itself as ‘the authority in cannabis news and culture’ — an unsigned editorial in May 2011 on ‘weird dreams after you quit smoking marijuana’ suggested this very outlook. After glossing the medical literature, the author’s suggestion was a lot more practical than the conclusion in any peer-reviewed study I saw:
My recommendation for those who stop smoking is to mentally prepare yourself for these dreams and look at them in a positive light. Obviously, some dreams can be terrifying, but more times than not I had some pretty crazy dreams that I really enjoyed. It can actually be a fun part of your quitting process, and I would even go as far as to say you should write down your dreams so you can read the absurdity later.

When I had to take a month off weed, medical research was the wrong place for me to look for answers. Asking people who can inject a bunny full of THC with a straight face to explain my trippy dreams was never a good idea. Sometimes, pothead questions need pothead answers.

Read more essays on addiction, consciousness & altered states and pharmaceuticals


  • Sal Volatile

    " Even though it’s a Schedule I illegal narcotic,..." Perhaps you should rephrase that sentence to read "Even though it is classified as a Schedule I illegal narcotic," as no one in their right mind would put marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD, etc.

    • Samaway

      Sure, but at the same time, the author's statement reads an effective embodiment of the absurdity of classification-as-truth — at least your comment says as much. (Just my 2 cents.)

      • Sal Volatile

        Some people don't see the absurdity therein and thus misunderstanding and misinformation abound, further hampering the noble cause of decriminalizing and regulating the sacred herb.

        • ScienceGuy

          Like the misinformation and misunderstanding that led you put put heroin and LSD in the same basket.

          • Sal Volatile

            You do realize that the US government is the one who classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as LCD and heroin? Maybe next time you will read and understand before you open your pie hole and expose your stunning ignorance.

          • Sam

            No, you misunderstand ScienceGuy. He's saying that you have been misled into thinking that LSD is in any way comparable in harm to heroin. You said something like ‘There's no way cannabis should be classified along with LSD and heroin’. But LSD has been named one of the top 3 least harmful recreational drugs according to several panels of experts. It is considered less harmful than cannabis. LSD overdoses are extremely rare, virtually no one becomes addicted to LSD, it is not linked with anti-social behaviour, and only loosely linked with long-term health effects. Its primary harm is that you are unable to drive or operate machinery safely.

            No one in their right mind would put cannabis OR LSD in the same category as heroin.

          • Sal Volatile

            I understood him perfectly. I was not "I" who put LSD and heroin in the same basket so the assumption that I "have been misled into thinking that LSD is in any way comparable in harm to heroin" is just that, an assumption that really doesn't logically follow.

            Now, who are these "experts" who say all these things about LSD? I'd like to see a legitimate source on that one. Just as a personal anecdote, I would like to say that I have never once seen anyone get hurt or cause anyone to get hurt because of marijuana. I have seen quite a few people seriously injured because of alcohol. I knew several people who died from heroin overdoses. And I knew one girl who freaked out on LSD, ran out onto the expressway that was next to her apartment, and got hit head on by a semi.

          • Sam

            Sure, here is one such study:


            Here is a more detailed version of that chart:


            Here is another consensus of a different panel of experts, where LSD is admittedly higher than cannabis, but by only a tiny amount


            Here is another one by another expert panel that places LSD lower in harm than cannabis:


          • Sam

            'no one in their right mind would put marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD,'

            Implies that you do think that LSD is on a harm level comparable to heroin.

          • Sal Volatile

            No, it doesn't. I was comparing marijuana to those and other Schedule I drugs, which, in my opinion, is less dangerous than the others, based on firsthand observations and experience. I made no other claim as to the dangers or harmfulness of the others with respect to each other.

            The articles you cited prove nothing. One study ranks LSD above marijuana, another is just the opposite. It is not as cut and dry as some "experts" making proclamations. Drugs affect people differently, which seems to me to be a big problem when trying to rank them. Whatever. My original point that marijuana should not be classified as a Schedule I drug still stands and is still valid.

    • loverofconsciousness

      I would definitely put it in the same category as LSD. It's far less habit forming than cannabis, and poses very few risks.

  • Righto Righterson

    Dreams are a reflexive banality. Ascribing them importance or over-analyzing them is indicative of one treading the shallow end of the pool, with swimmies on.

    • Barry Lyons

      There's something to be said for that.

  • Jim Tim

    I smoked marijuana everyday for 6 years and ended up in a situation where I couldn't smoke for a few months. The first 3 days I had night sweats, no bad or vivid dreams. Appetite was low for the first day or two. That's it, no pain or irritability. Also appetite only becomes a problem when you choose to smoke before every meal, if you don't do this you'll maintain a healthy appetite. Nights sweats I'll assume happened because I used to smoke to get a good nights sleep for the last 6 years.

  • Fiftyseven

    Interesting analysis...

  • Dr WP Basketts

    Absolute bollocks !! This complete fiction. The only withdrawal you will ever get from MaryJane is round about 2 and half days to 3 days after your last joint you will become rather bad tempered for the day, and perhaps the following day. I have studied 1,000s of smokers over the years and it is guaranteed 99.99% it will happen to each and every one who smokes MaryJane - even the most laid back individuals you can imagine will have a sharp word to say on the third day. Of course if you don't smoke anything else, like tobacco and you have smoked MaryJane for an extended period you will also suffer from excess phlegm etc. End of story.
    This article is almost as stupid as the old chestnut that said you'd become a heroin addict within months of starting to smoke MaryJane. Oh and a "roach", is so named because it resembles a cockroach !!
    This article is best suited for wiping one's (h)'arris.

    • Dr. Robins

      Indeed Dr. Basketts…indeed

    • Sal Volatile

      You do realize that it affects everyone differently and that this missive should be treated for the personal anecdote that it is.

    • cslos77

      Bollocks on you sir! Having smoked weed steadily for 15+ years I find that any kind of abstinence for me results in a drastic spike in REM activity during nights 2-5 in addition to the temporary spike in bad temper you mention.

      One of the reasons I became a pot head is because of this very definite dream dampening effect it has on me. I suffered from extremely intense dreams pretty much every night of my life until my early 20s when I started regularly smoking weed. I also had intense anxiety issues most of my youth which always peaked in the morning after a heavy night of dreaming. Though the anxiety has died down now, the quickest way to bring my intense dream life is to quit for a few days.

      Not sure where your certainty (or hostility) toward this premise comes from, but if you really are a doctor you should start paying more attention to your patients: I guarantee you many of them would be familiar with this phenomenon.

    • Danny granger

      I'd address what you said properly, but it's obvious you are too incredibly stupid to understand what I would say, so I'll just reiterate that; you're incredibly stupid

    • JRich

      You are incorrect. This is not fiction.My personal experiences and those of my brother closely correlate with those of the author of this article. The symptoms we have experienced following marijuana cessation include irritability, reduced appetite, night sweats and vivid dreams. I'm not sure how you could treat so many patients and not come across these obviously widespread experiences. Experience trumps second hand information in this case.

  • c a

    I've personally experienced this, multiple times. I missed having dreams during those times, but I had better, deeper sleep then I did without it. I like my dreams in my awake state better anyways. :) I chalked it up to that- using the creative chemical processes during the day that are used during sleep, and as such being depleted of it when sleeping. Also, your mention about reading and writing while stoned- I've never cared more about working than when I was smoking, I almost need it to care about the work I do (which is creative). Time to move to a new state...

  • Doug Doakes

    Do you guys work?

  • Mark Krop.

    Being a heavy user and knowing many others myself, I can attest to this. But what distresses me is that stoners who want to know more about the physiology around marijuana have to resort to getting "stoner answers"...

    is this because of the spin and disinformation of the mainstream media?

    Is it because there is genuine confusion and difficulty among scientists studying marijuana use?

    Is it something else, such as groups with a conflict of interest funding scientific studies biased towards findings that are anti-marijuana?

    My "pothead's guess" is that based on similar politically controversial and scientifically complex/difficult problems (climate change), it's mostly the first with a bit of the third sprinkled in but who the hell am I to judge the extent of the difficulty of studying the physiology about marijuana...

    • Onemoretimeagain

      Taking it off schedule one would probably help.

      • Trula Marie

        That's for sure!! But a daily user does not need to wait for scientific information, as useful as that would be. It is a personal assessment which can still be made. One way to make the assessment is to quit for a while, like six months or more, and see what shows up--in terms of difficulties or advantages.

  • dam_amd

    I just had a great idea! Don't do drugs. There, problem solved. Dummies!

    • Sal Volatile

      Here is an idea: mind your own damn business. Problem solved.

    • Me

      Dummies? Really? According to Dictionary.com drugs are defined as "any article, other than food, intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals."

      So please stop taking all medications, ingesting caffeine, using sleep aids, smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. THEY'RE ALL EVIL DRUGS!

    • Mothballsmell

      Do you eat sugar? or drink coffee, or alcohol. They are all more addicting and way worse then herb Dummie!

    • Mothballsmell

      By the way. That is a stupid idea.

  • Dannytude

    I have been a heavy user for 18 years (2-3.5 grams a day on average more on weekends) and withdrawl is the reason I have remained a heavy user. I suffer from complete loss of appetite to the point of sickness when I force something down, haven't dreamed for almost the whole 18 years and suffer from vivid, emotionally draining dreams when I do try and stop also my head explodes into a complete frenzy of loops and negative thought processes which in turn leads to sleep loss as I cannot switch my head off. I get severe mood swings and irrationality which make me very unpleasant to be around and can be almost instantaneous if I have run out or know its due to happen that day... I hate the thing I have loved and used as calmer for these 18 years and am not in any situation to grow my own and experiment with alternative means of consumption so smoking is killing my health and the cost is killing my bank!

    • Sal Volatile

      I don't know if anyone has told you this, but smoking about an ounce a week by yourself is pretty excessive.

      • Mothballsmell

        Not really dude thats only about 3 joints a day

        • Sal Volatile

          As I said, an ounce a week by yourself is pretty excessive.

    • loverofconsciousness

      I have experienced the same things as you. If you want to stop, just stop. Deal with 3 days of pain, it's not permanent. Your appetite will return. Then meditate to help calm your mind.

      • Mike

        3 days? If you were using daily try 3 or 4 months! It takes roughly a week for the real symptoms to even start.

    • Royalsampler

      For me, the negative withdrawal symptoms peak at about 48 hours after stopping and are completely absent after about 3-4 days. I've also found that exercising during that period helps to improve my mood and helps me sleep more soundly. Best of luck to you Dannytude - you can definitely get through it if you apply yourself.

    • Trula Marie

      Sounds like everything I have heard from many others--identical.
      I am not against MJ use, but there exists a percent of users who find themselves truly addicted (in that they cannot comfortably pull out from daily use and become "occasional users".)
      And most all in this group need the support/advice of others who are similar in order to stop using for any significant length of time, whether that be years or a lifetime.
      Many of those who find themselves with a need for daily use (ie. addicted) are not waiting for science to verify all the aspects of psychological addiction to marijuana. They simply come to feel that a personal decision is called for, and there are specific reasons they come to see this.
      Of course some feel such a decision is not called for--if they are comfortable with knowing that to "make life work" (?) they need, want, or feel they "must have" daily use of mj.
      Unfortunately, with sustained, prolonged use, dopamine levels go down below normal in the brain (rather than up--the usual result of mj use), so there is a dead-end that gets reached by many daily users.
      When dopamine levels begin running below normal, that is not at all pleasant for most!

    • Adam Centurione

      im not sure if I should pity you or not.
      when I want to get rid of something, I need to replace it with something else. this is a process. 'nature abhors vacuums.'

  • hjalmar poelzig

    The only "withdrawal symptoms" I got from quitting pot after 15 years of smoking it every day was a return of my short term memory. However I did also experience depression, sadness and despair for a long time, over 6 months-- which may or may not have been a part of it.

  • Dannytude

    That Sal is the nature of addiction, tolerances go up so the need rises with it. I do not like it at all its just a place I have found myself in....

  • Rand

    You are amazing. This was a great article. Hope you check the comments.

  • InStride247

    I'm genuinely interested to see where studies go and propaganda turns as the prohibition of marijuana comes to an end in the U.S.

  • snoebay88

    My wife is a full time pot smoker (legal). If she goes more than a day without a joint she gets cranky and very irritable to the point I get out of the room. But it only lasts a couple of days and then she calms down. So I guess pot withdrawal is for real.

  • Bob

    My experience (after three months of daily use of high-grade weed, taken orally) was extreme anxiety, near-to-delusional paranoia and a terrifying experience of something close to insanity. Six months of abstinence later, I tried it again: while there was some of the 'cerebral' high that the author describes, anxiety was dominant.

    That is a single (and exceptional) experience, but I now understand what my doctor meant when she said that she thought - from observing patients - cocaine to be less pernicious. Weed shouldn't be trivialised, particularly in the case of those disposed to mental illness, for whom its dangerous effects have been well documented.

    • cslos77

      Any mind altering substance is dangerous for someone with a mental illness. Sanity in our drug policies would go a long way toward keeping "pre-disposed" persons from using them.

      • dave10

        Bob and cslos77 -- Intense anxiety and panic attacks are frequent side effects of cannabis in those who are predisposed to such disorders. Also, eating weed or hash results in a three-times-higher rate of THC metabolite entering the bloodstream than smoking. And, to complete this scenario, the THC metabolite produced after the liver has done its work is more psychoactive than the more direct, undigested THC delivery via smoke. Put it all together and you've got the recipe for some hairy anxiety episodes. Which is to say, you're both right. From the latest research I've looked at, I think some 30-40 percent of cannabis users give it up around age 30, which seems to be when the undesired effects replace the once-serene high of adolescence and early adulthood.

    • renagade

      Thanks for clarifying that you took it orally. Ive found that smoke joints anally has resulted in singed ass hairs and violently irritates my haemmeroids.

      • David D.

        Wow Renagade, it's funny you should mention that because I began using high-grade weed (only a single marijuana at a time however) through melting the plant matter, sapping it and injecting it into my eyes with a sterile medical needle.

        A downshot to the aforementioned method was that I noticed that the redness in my eyes was substantially harder to miss seeing as how I was bleeding profusely but the euphoria associated with explaining my actions to medical staff was immensely enjoyable and the high wasn't so bad after I cauterized the wound with my reliable BIC lighter.

      • Gerald Wallace

        Amazing eye opener for me too! I've been rubbing cannabis on my armpits for 6 and a half years thinking the effect must be too subtle for me to notice, but now there's nothing that can stop me

      • Mothballsmell

        HAHAHAHA! Me Too

  • tetriminos

    i would argue untrue. when i would stop after smoking frequently, i'd sleep badly and be far more irritable and impatient. i did not smoke tobacco but it was not dissimilar to the cliche pitfalls of nicotine withdrawal.
    i have had many positive experiences with cannabis, and other negatives, in the past, as i do not smoke nowadays, but there is some level of withdrawal symptoms
    i knew a guy who spent a load of his quiet and shy girlfriends money on cannabis

  • jackvandijk

    to many words, drug use has rendered the writer unable to be concise

    • weedbygone

      he seems to at least have his grammar under control, though.

    • sn1006

      ^ this is an A+ 30 Rock joke in the making.

  • Suwanavi

    This is good to know. Especially the myth-busting regarding clinical withdrawal symptoms.

  • Vierotchka

    Frequent lengthy intensive use of cannabis (over five decades) followed by no cannabis for a long time never produced any kind of withdrawal symptoms whatsoever in me.

  • Cody G.


    • RacquelJ

      Are you high?

  • Jebus

    Yupp, you'll dream (or perhaps just remember them) again, you'll sweat like a pig in your sleep for a week, you can smell THC in your sweat, you are less patient and can be a bit difficult to deal with, you will find that the day has actually 2 hours and you can do heaps more, similarly, the day will feel very boring as it doesn't seem to end, you will encounter your environment in a different light, because of not being in an excited state and knowing it, you mimic an excited state by focusing more on the things around you, and if you manage to stay away from MJ for a few months it's very easy to go without. What I loved to do was to hang out with my MJ smoking friend in my abstinence time and make fun of them. Much easier to stop whilst being among (ab)users than on your own.

    The only problem will be that you treat it a bit like masturbation. It is kind of fun and therefore you'll get back to it at some stage of your life. Unless you have immense self-control and a fear of not being able to control your MJ consumption.

    I recall what my uncle told me once. There are two liars in the world. Those who say they don't masturbate and those who say they stopped.

    BTW, cocaine is not physiologically addictive as the author compares it with heroin, you can stop using cocaine any time and your body will not crave it (contrary to heroin). Your psychological dependency is of course another question. If you've felt like superman, it's difficult to go back to be just man.

    And is it just me, or do you have to behave a like a moron to smoke every day for 5 years? Sorry but you do think a lot when you are a regular (ab)user of MJ and hardly anyone will think doing the same thing every day the way to go.

    This is from another abuser, who has boxed whilst under the influence, who has completed a degree from 0 to PhD, giving lectures and conference talks whilst under the influence, and otherwise being able to perfectly blend in.

    However, this is only possible when you abuse it. For, if you have only one smoke a week, everyone around you will notice that you are high, but if you smoke regularly it can be very difficult to spot it as an outsider.

    What I like most about the article is when the author states that MJ changed a lot in the way he worked but he can't state whether it was positive or not.

    That's the thing, you can only know if you do the same work whilst under and whilst not under the influence. Only possible to compare in a philosophical and/or quantum mechanical sense.

    Any person who truly enjoys MJ will stop regularly throughout a year, because feels so much better getting back into it. By stop regularly, I mean a day or two a month., sometimes a week.

    If you are reading this and have issues with chronic MJ abuse, do the following thing.

    a) don't smoke until the sun in down or until you have completed some meaningful work! Have it like an evening beer.

    b) don't smoke on work days, only weekends

    • MyNameIsNoBody

      U should reconsider writing about MJ,u got some experience.

  • Kevin brunt

    I've smoked almost everyday for the past six years. However, when I vacation or travel for business I go without for up to three weeks. From my personal experience, the most I can say that happens is I may be somewhat irritable the first few days. Otherwise, sleep and appetite are steady. I think it's different strokes for different folks. I have friends who say weed makes them paranoid - I find this strange since it just chills me out. Some people drink beer after hard day of work but I'd rather smoke.

    • Adam Centurione


  • JJ

    Interesting article, would have liked to hear some more of the 'stoner commentary' on your symptoms and their explanations, as the medical research and, as a result your article. doesn't really go anywhere.

    I can certainly relate to the A+ in school (for a profound analysis of King Lear's hubris) while under the influence along with the vivid dreams following withdrawal, which were commonplace among me and my peers. The understanding with this (true or not) was that a chemical is released in the brain during consumption which mimics the dream-like effect during waking (ie. being stoned). As a result, there is limited amount of this chemical left during sleep, hence less vivid dreams (could also be connected to pineal gland?)

    Surely if there was a direct effect on REM of long-term usage, the body's ability to repair itself (which happens during deep REM) would also be affected and there would be an associated impact on immunity?

    The irritability I put down to nicotine withdrawal. One of the more long-term withdrawal symptoms (a year down the line) is certainly lack of patience, which can be strangely insidious in the way it affects your life and decision-making if not identified.

  • Guest

    I have experienced the intense dreams of weed abstinence.

  • Eric Reber

    I have experienced the intense dreams of weed withdrawal. However, I have long understood it to be a dream suppressant. The intensity can be disturbing. But then I also feel I benefited from observing the what sorts of things my subconscious has been churning out.

  • Leo

    Very nice article. I've been a heavy user as well, and when I quited, I experience everything you say (lost of appetite, irritability) but crazy dreams. I also realized about the lack of dreams. It is nice to have an explanation! I'm going to interview my other friends and see what has happened to them.

  • RacquelJ

    This is such a poorly written rambling article that it seems the guy wrote it while stoned. There is no compelling narrative -- study statistics are thrown about willy-nilly and we never even learn why the guy quit smoking. Was he chained in his parents' basement?

    • Ann

      My understanding from reading this was he quit for a month last summer because he was staying at his parent's house and they did not want him to smoke there.
      "I visited my parents who, though sympathetic enough, couldn’t allow weed in the house for professional reasons."

  • Renee

    This is a nice little bit of cherry-picking. The author completely neglects to mention recent research linking heavy marijuana use to memory deficits. Here's a link to one of the many studies about that particular aspect. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216080454.htm

  • feloniousgrammar

    When I did smoke (in the future I probably will again) I did one to two hits of good bud that was good for about four hours. It was great for cutting down on the number of absence seizures I have from a head injury when I was eight. It makes it a joy to do routine work and actually makes me feel more three-dimensional and integrated with the physical world. At one job, a lot of my coworkers thought I was stoned (ADHD like symptoms) when I wasn't, so I went to work stoned and they thought I was straight.

    Three hits and I'll be waxing the appliances. Weed and housework are made for each other in my book. When I smoked, I had to stop by late afternoon so I didn't get so busy with something that interested me that I didn't want to go to bed. My point is that different people have different highs from the same strains, and different strains have different effects on the same people. Also, aside from the different effects of different methods of use, there is a great deal of difference between having two hits on a one-hitter and smoking a blunt in a car with the windows rolled up.

    There is no monolithic effect of pot or the effects of discontinuation. It doesn't even make sense to discuss it as if there were. After a particularly long spell of smoking weed, I could be a little irritable, but that's because the tasks I enjoyed so much while high were boring and laborious while straight.

    • MyNameIsNoBody

      You are telling bullshit,stfu.

  • harrison bergeron

    i also had vivid dream when abstaining. i always attribute it to your brains OWN chemicals having the chance to flush back into the synapses that were previously being overworked by the plants canibinoids. ... i dont know if the writer mentioned that... as it was too long for me to read. :P

  • Goldendog1234

    Our son went through intense withdrawal from pot.,when I consulted a a neurologist and drug addiction specialist about this (one who,does,not have a judgmental stance about using pot, in terms of it being right or wrong) he noted this: for unknown reasons, some users, a relatively small percentage, do have strong withdrawal side effects. Their brain scans during withdrawal look different than those with minor withdrawal. He read only the studies focusing in heavy users, as that was his particular,interest.

  • tomdel

    55 years old. Smoked regularly for 18 years, from 1-5 joints a day, sometimes more, spread throughout the day. For all but the first three of those years, the only times I ever went without were the rare "dry" spells when none of my dealers was holding...maybe a few days per year. During those times the attempt to secure a supply occupied nearly my entire day, except for time spent at work. Other than mild anxiety as I drove around or phoned to one dealer after another every day in a frantic search for weed, I noticed no withdrawal symptoms.
    Then I got a job overseas. I moved to an Asian country with very strict drug laws, with no connections and no prospect of finding any. However, this new experience did not produce the anxiety I had usually experienced when forced to go without. Instead, because of the sure knowledge that I would simply have to go cold turkey, I wasn't obsessed with trying to score. The first few days or weeks were marked by fleeting cravings, but these were mild. Going without my morning coffee is much, much worse. I did not notice increased irritability, nor did my dreams become more vivid.
    I went 10 months without until I was able to visit the states, whereupon I immediately resumed smoking, although it took much less weed to get stoned. After a few weeks I returned to Asia. I followed that routine for ten years. When my job brought me back to the U.S. a few years ago, I resumed regular smoking, but now I find I can let it go voluntarily for days at a time. My experience was that going without become easier the older I got. In my teens and early twenties, the anxiety produced by running out was torturous, but it never lasted more than a week as I was always able to secure a supply. As I aged, dry spells became much less stressful. It is much less anxiety producing than the rare days when I can't get my coffee. I am not by nature an irritable person, so perhaps I just always controlled that better than most. Just one man's experience, for what it's worth. No effect on my dreams, one way or the other.

  • Jewels

    My dreams also shook me. I've had a dream dairy for about a year and I noticed when I began to use marijuana the dream activity decreased to once a month and only when I was on my menstrual cycle. Now that I don't smoke anymore it has gone up to a dream at least twice a week.

  • Trula Marie

    People who say there are no withdrawal symptoms have not talked to the many who have experienced them--MANY experienced several very common, difficult withdrawal symptoms including myself.
    As for addiction--anything pleasurable that stimulates repeated and daily use equals addiction. And daily mj use affects one's life without a doubt.
    But as to whether addiction is a bad thing, I have no opinion in the case of mj.
    Though obviously with alcohol and heroin, the physical toll is very high in those addictions--which are far more physically gripping and progressive--in the amount needed and the toll taken.
    Not just an emotional (and slightly physical) addiction like mj.
    Not only myself, but many know this firsthand, and speak of ALL this I've mentioned.

  • Adam Centurione

    heh, good article. nice final paragraph. injecting anything with THC is probably a bad idea.
    I have smoke weed for many years. I smoked intensely for a few years, then quit, then started again, then quit, then started again...and again quit.
    most recently this past summer I smoked a bit, then wouldn't for a few weeks. then would, then wouldn't... I kept a dream journal. I found that the periods in which I smoked, were left void of dreams. I would stop smoking, and have a series of long, detailed dreams. nothing emotionally profound I think. the most emotionally profound dream ive ever had, was to my memory, 'short and sweet'. (though in truth it was quite heartbreaking). I have also hade more vivid dreams, when I was a child. (after being bit by a dog I had a recurring dream of being chased by dog in my back yard, always ending with me getting torn up. eventually I remembered it was a dream, started for my house before the dogs arrived, and made it to safety before getting attacked [fear of dogs vanquished ?]) I had a lucid dream three weeks after eating psilocybin mushrooms.

  • Villain

    I have smoked weed for more than half of my life. For the last 5 or so years, I have stayed high. By this I mean I would start the day by smoking, and would get high 5-10 times a day or more. Then I would get high before I went to sleep. I am currently on day 6 without it, and I can personally confirm these withdrawal symptoms. The first few days my appetite was nonexistent. I was extremely hungry, but had no desire to eat. Thankfully my appetite is starting to return, but I still wouldn't say it is "normal". Sweating profusely in my sleep seems to happen occasionally. I had an extremely vivid dream/nightmare yesterday. I'm not really sure on the depression part, but holy shit am I bored... It is not as bad as the first few days, which is giving me hope for the coming weeks of being sober.

  • Peter

    Great article. My experience tends to be very similar. I absolutely think people can get addicted to weed and it's very hard to stay out of it. I believe there should be exclusive pot rehabs, where people can meet and share their experiences.
    I don't loose appetite but one time I started having stomach pain when I went cold turkey for couple weeks. The pain would always come at the same time around the evening when I usually smoke. Anxiety is also a huge problem, my gf keeps telling me constantly that I become very snippy when I'm sober. Finally, dreams are also a huge issue. It's good to have them again, they are important for our memory and overall health.
    Sometimes it's hard for us to judge our own behavior. My gf doesn't smoke so she can always tell me her perspective, which is clearly much different from mine. Hope all of us can control it to some extent. I feel it's beneficial to have days when you smoke and days when you don't.