Detoxing From Marijuana
Marijuana abuse and dependence have been strongly linked to physiological and behavioral disturbances, as well as the increased likelihood of mental health problems. Allowing your body to detox from marijuana is an important first step toward reversing the negative impact that the drug has made on your life.
This page includes basic information about marijuana detox, including:
- How long marijuana detox takes.
- Marijuana withdrawal symptoms.
- Types of detox programs.
- Medications used for marijuana detox.
How Long Does It Take to Detox From Marijuana?
In general, 80% to 90% of marijuana’s active psychoactive chemical components are excreted in your urine and feces within 5 days. The remaining traces of marijuana can remain in your system for a couple of weeks.1
Marijuana Detox Symptoms
Many users experience side effects when they stop using a substance they have been using regularly for a certain period of time – the phenomenon is common for a number of drugs and is referred to as a substance withdrawal syndrome. Marijuana is no exception to this, and about 61% to 96% of marijuana users report experiencing some side effect when they decide to quit. 1
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms can undermine recovery efforts and increase the likelihood of early relapse. For these reasons, many seek the supervision of a qualified professional as part of a formal drug detox program.
The precise side effect profile, or set of marijuana withdrawal symptoms, will vary among different individuals but may include: 1, 3
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep.
- Decreased appetite.
- Diarrhea or constipation, or other gastrointestinal problems.
- Depressed mood.
- Anxiety or panic attacks.
Several different types of detox programs exist. They can range from centers that focus specifically on detox to ones that offer the full range of treatment spanning from detox to therapy to aftercare. To find the best fit for you or your loved one, it helps to consider a few key points:
- How long have you been using?
- How heavily have you been using?
- What will your insurance cover?
- Where is the facility located?
- How qualified are the staff?
- Have you tried to quit before and relapsed?
- Do you have any other medical or mental health issues that need to be treated?
If you or your loved one has been using marijuana heavily for a long time, has tried to quit and relapsed, or is struggling with a co-occurring mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, consider seeking help from an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program. A standalone detox center will most likely not be able to provide the level of care you need.
Detox facilities provide short-term treatment that will help you through the acute withdrawal symptoms that occur the first week to 2 weeks after you quit marijuana.
Interventions may include group therapy, individual therapy, recreational therapy as well as the use of supportive medication, if required. Every detox center is different, so it is important to speak to someone who can refer you to the right facility based on your needs.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
You are able to return home when daily treatment ends.
Even after successful completion of a detox program, it can very difficult to remain abstinent from marijuana on your own. Often, triggers in your immediate environment could cause you to relapse if you do not have the proper support.
Partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) programs can help you smoothly navigate this transitional phase that’s so critical to long-term sobriety. You can expect group therapy to be the primary focus of any PHP or IOP program. But some offer weekly family sessions and individual sessions as needed.
PHP will likely consist of a full day (or near-full day) of group therapy and other addiction counseling, with access to certain hospital services (including medication). IOP will tend more toward a half-day group therapy program where your outside provider manages medications. You are able to return home when the daily treatment period ends.
Inpatient Treatment Facilities
If you or your loved one has spoken to a professional who has told you that your marijuana use is severe or, if you have relapsed several times in the past, it may be time to consider a longer-term detox and treatment facility.
The most common treatment facility – and the one most likely to be covered by your insurance – is a 28-day treatment facility. These facilities are residential treatment facilities that typically offer:
- Individual therapy.
- Family therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Healthy and balanced diet.
- Stress management or other relaxation methods.
- Step-down levels of care such as outpatient programs (not every facility may offer but they will arrange for you to continue with aftercare services elsewhere).
Treatments for Marijuana Addiction
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has identified 3 treatment modalities that have been empirically proven to effectively treat substance use disorders. Finding an inpatient or outpatient program that incorporates these will enhance your likelihood of sustained recovery. The treatments include: 2
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This form of therapy addresses thoughts and behaviors that are maladaptive and lead to substance abuse. CBT seeks to replace these thoughts with healthier and more adaptive ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that will promote abstinence through self-awareness and self-control.
- Motivational interviewing: This form of therapy is a brief therapy, usually consisting of 5 sessions, that seeks to enhance motivation for change by tapping into your own internal resources.
- Contingency management: This form of therapy consists of frequent monitoring of an identified behavior and a reward system to either eliminate or increase the identified behavior. For example, you may receive gift cards or movie tickets for remaining abstinent for a week.
Detoxing With the Help of a Physician or Healthcare Provider
If you or your loved one think you can get through the marijuana withdrawal process without undergoing 24-hour supervised treatment, then you can make an appointment with a medical provider, such as a physician who specializes in addiction, who can help guide you through marijuana detox.
Contacting your insurance company for a list of providers who specialize in substance abuse is a good place to start if this is the route that you want to take.
Medications for Marijuana Detox
Numerous studies have been conducted on medications that can aid both in detox and in sustained recovery from marijuana dependence. At this time, few medications have proven effective in treating both withdrawal symptoms and dependence on marijuana.
- Buspirone, an anti-anxiety medication, has also shown promising results in treating marijuana dependence.
- In addition to buspirone, the sleep aid zolpidem (Ambien) and an anti-epileptic medication called gabapentin have helped improved sleep during marijuana withdrawal in studies and clinical trials.1
It is important to find a physician who is knowledgeable about the most recent research in this area because some medications have been shown to increase craving and dependence. 2, 3
What Happens After Detox?
Having a positive support system in the weeks and months following treatment is an important piece in sustaining recovery. For a while, avoid people or places that were triggers for use. Things such as finding a therapist, joining a support group and exploring new hobbies will all help with your recovery.
The staff at your program should be able to help you put together an aftercare plan with options for follow-up support after you discharge.
Find a Detox or Recovery Program
If you or someone you love is addicted to marijuana, professionals are available to help. Admitting that there may be a problem is the first and most courageous step in the process.
Call our helpline anytime at 1-888-319-2606Who Answers?, and one of our treatment support specialists can help you find a marijuana detox center or addiction recovery program near you. They can also confirm your insurance coverage over the phone.
If you don’t have insurance, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-888-319-2606Who Answers? (HELP) to get referrals to programs in your area that cater to those with no insurance.
. Sharma, P., Murthy, P., & Bharath, M. M. S. (2012). Chemistry, Metabolism, and Toxicology of Cannabis: Clinical Implications. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 7(4), 149-156.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders.
. Weinstein, A. M., & Gorelick, D. A. (2011). Pharmacological Treatment of Cannabis Dependence. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 17(14), 1351-1358.
. Mindell, E. (1992). Earl mindell’s herb bible. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster/Fireside.