intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Giving Up Marijuana Feels As Bad As Giving Up Cigarettes

with 34 comments

Research by a group of scientists studying the effects of heavy marijuana use suggests that withdrawal from the use of marijuana is similar to what is experienced by people when they quit smoking cigarettes: bad feeling, but no real withdrawal. Abstinence from each of these drugs appears to cause several common symptoms, such as irritability, anger and trouble sleeping – based on self reporting in a recent study of 12 (!) heavy users of both marijuana and cigarettes. The authors recognize that the small sample size is a limitation in this study, but the results are consistent with other studies indicating that marijuana withdrawal effects are clinically important. And, they are not surprising, given that any forced change of habits does lead to similar complaints.

“These results indicate that some marijuana users experience withdrawal effects when they try to quit, and that these effects should be considered by clinicians treating people with problems related to heavy marijuana use,” says lead investigator in the study, Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Admissions in substance abuse treatment facilities in which marijuana was the primary problem substance have more than doubled since the early 1990s and now rank similar to cocaine and heroin with respect to total number of yearly treatment episodes in the United States, says Vandrey.

He points out that a lack of data, until recently, has led to cannabis withdrawal symptoms not being characterized or included in medical reference literature such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, (DSM-IV) or the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD-10).

Since the drafting of the DSM-IV in 1994, an increasing number of studies have surfaced suggesting that cannabis has significant withdrawal symptoms. What makes Vandrey’s recent study unique is that it is the first study that compares marijuana withdrawal symptoms to withdrawal symptoms that are clinically recognized by the medical community – specifically the tobacco withdrawal syndrome.

“Since tobacco withdrawal symptoms are well documented and included in the DSM-IV and the IDC-10, we can infer from the results of this comparison that marijuana withdrawal is also clinically significant and should be included in these reference materials and considered as a target for improving treatment outcomes,” says Vandrey.

Vandrey added that this is the first “controlled” comparison of the two withdrawal syndromes in that data was obtained using rigorous scientific methods – abstinence from drugs was confirmed objectively, procedures were identical during each abstinence period, and abstinence periods occurred in a random order. That tobacco and marijuana withdrawal symptoms were reported by the same participants, thus eliminating the likelihood that results reflect physiological differences between subjects, is also a strength of the study.

Interestingly, the study also revealed that half of the participants found it easier to abstain from both substances than it was to stop marijuana or tobacco individually, whereas the remaining half had the opposite response.

“Given the general consensus among clinicians that it is harder to quit more than one substance at the same time, these results suggest the need for more research on treatment planning for people who concurrently use more than one drug on a regular basis,” says Vandrey.

Vandrey’s study, which appears in the January issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, followed six men and six women at the University of Vermont in Burlington and Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., for a total of six weeks. All were over 18 (median age 28.2 years), used marijuana at least 25 days a month and smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day. None of the subjects intended to quit using either substance, did not use any other illicit drugs in the prior month, were not on any psychotropic medication, did not have a psychiatric disorder, and if female, were not pregnant.

For the first week, participants maintained their normal use of cigarettes and marijuana. For the remaining five weeks, they were randomly chosen to refrain from using either cigarettes, marijuana or both substances for five-day periods separated by nine-day periods of normal use. In order to confirm abstinence, patients were given daily quantitative urine toxicology tests of tobacco and marijuana metabolites.

Withdrawal symptoms were self reported on a daily basis Monday through Friday using a withdrawal symptom checklist that listed scores for aggression, anger, appetite change, depressed mood, irritability, anxiety/nervousness, restlessness, sleep difficulty, strange dreams and other, less common withdrawal symptoms. Patients also provided an overall score for discomfort they experienced during each abstinence period.

Results showed that overall withdrawal severity associated with marijuana alone and tobacco alone was of similar frequency and intensity. Sleep disturbance seemed to be more pronounced during marijuana abstinence, while some of the general mood effects (anxiety, anger) seemed to be greater during tobacco abstinence. In addition, six of the participants reported that quitting both marijuana and tobacco at the same time was more difficult than quitting either drug alone, whereas the remaining six found that it was easier to quit marijuana or cigarettes individually than it was to abstain from the two substances simultaneously.

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Jan 1;92(1-3):48-54. Epub 2007 Jul 23.

A within-subject comparison of withdrawal symptoms during abstinence from cannabis, tobacco, and both substances.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.

A cannabis withdrawal syndrome has been characterized, but its clinical significance remains uncertain. One method of assessing the significance of cannabis withdrawal is to compare it directly to an established withdrawal syndrome. The present study was a within-subject comparison of cannabis, tobacco, and combined cannabis and tobacco withdrawal among users of both substances. Participants (N=12) completed three 5-day periods of abstinence in a randomized order, separated by 9-day periods of usual substance use. Overall withdrawal severity associated with cannabis alone and tobacco alone was of a similar magnitude. Withdrawal during simultaneous cessation of both substances was more severe than for each substance alone, but these differences were of short duration and substantial individual differences were noted. These results are consistent with other evidence suggesting cannabis withdrawal is clinically important and warrants detailed description in the DSM-V and ICD-11. Additional research is needed to replicate these findings and to further investigate the effects of abstaining from multiple drugs simultaneously

Written by huehueteotl

January 25, 2008 at 4:13 pm

34 Responses

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  1. I have to say, when I decided to stop smoking cigarettes, it was fairly easy.. I continued smoking marajuana. When I decided to stop smoking marajuana, I started smoking cigarettes. Eventually, I lapsed and smoked both again. I could only quit both at the same time.. it was difficult to have one with out the other….very difficult!
    I was moody and irriatable. I lost sleep and felt even worse the next day.. it was a long hard battle. I had to keep myself very busy but complications that came up seemed 10 times worse and my reactions to little nit-picky things were 10 times easier to happen. I think.. if I had kept busy, without ‘bad news’ or money woes.. I could have kicked the habits much easier.

    Julie Robbins-Muff

    March 13, 2008 at 2:24 pm

  2. you are all stupid smoking weed is fine find something better to do then be dicks and make ppl think that weed is bad… you suck


    April 30, 2008 at 9:37 pm

  3. man theres nothing wrong with smoking weed. its just an herb, you think weed would be bad if they called it an herb.


    May 5, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    • Its only a herb yea Zach u idiot, Heroin, Cocaine, Tobacco all derived from so called herbs ive been smoking weed 15 years before skunk was even on the scene, Skunk is so stron its the same as smokin cocaine, dont believe me then keep smokin and find out yourself you small minded idiot.


      March 31, 2010 at 11:57 pm

      • Also tobacco is known for being the gateway drug Google that n put it in up pipe n smoke it, if u wana smoke feel free its ur body ur life do what u want i aint judgeing you and i dont think your a bad person for doing so, but if u had kids and they were smoking weed you wouldnt be happy bout it would ya ?

        People who come on here are obviously having problems and need help your comments dont help them.


        April 1, 2010 at 12:00 am

      • Right on Jim.

        William Stronach

        April 25, 2012 at 11:08 pm

  4. Screw this. Legal highs are more dangerous than weed. They really have screwed me up.

    sam taylor

    May 23, 2008 at 1:43 pm

  5. u lot r
    all off ur heads proberly stoned wen u wrote this im 25 iv just cum out of hospital wiv pneumonia casued by proper heavy weed smoking for 12 years i was told if i dont give up now il b dead in 10yrs at 35. ive got lung damage that cant b put rite nothing they can do, u lot wana get a life get a brian n stop smoking that shit its only been 1day for me n already i relise after reading ur stupid stoned comments wot a mupet ive been and wot u r!!!


    May 27, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    • you twat, we have a problem, so do u, dont knock people when they are trying,


      September 18, 2009 at 9:05 pm

      • no harm intended – difficult tasks need not to be avoided, but just carried out with necessary care and hightened awareness 🙂


        September 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    • Hey good luck giving up sorry to hear bout you health problems, mauch love, Peace out


      April 1, 2010 at 12:03 am

  6. Im not a cigarette smoker but I do use it to mull up with marijuana. Usually the mix is about 4 parts tobacco to 6 parts dope. On average I’ve been smoking about half an ounce a week for about 10 years. I want to give marijuana up, should I use patches to ease the symptoms I might have from tobacco withdrawal?

    I do got cravings but Im not sure if its for tobacco or pot. As I only smoke after work and im climbing the walls by the time I get home.

    As for the guys that say they have no problems, yeah that may be so for now. Come back and speak to me in ten years when your on anti anxiety meds, you develop nervous twitches and all your confidence has vanished.

    That’s if you haven’t already developed full blown depression as my partner who has smoked for 28 years. It also makes him a little psycho at times. It cost him his marriage. His kids are old enough to notice now so he minimises the time he spends with them cos he doesn’t want them to see him like that. Come back to me after you have smoked for that length of time and tell me you have no problems, and you win.


    June 10, 2008 at 10:07 am

  7. I know it has its advantages and diadvantages but people are going to do what they like and I’m still going to smoke.

    David Gardner

    September 3, 2008 at 5:25 pm

  8. I used to think pot was good, iv smoked for 8 years and looking back worse 8 years of my life. im trying to give up now i dont eat, sleep, i fight with every1 and iv got anxiety to the point where i cant go out in public. i used to be outgoing confident now im nothing i know with time il get my life back where i want it. just letting people know that its not all good i know different people different circumstances but every1 i know that smokes i dont wanna b them anymore I wanna control my own life not a “herb”

    joel b

    September 18, 2008 at 9:16 am

  9. Hey there, I think that marijuana can be pretty serious in how hard it is to quit. I have never been a regular cigarette smoker, I struggled with quitting weed for several years before I learned some techniques to get through the withdrawal. Good luck to anyone trying to quit.

    Quit Smoking Weed

    November 3, 2008 at 9:03 am

    • what techniques did you use


      March 3, 2011 at 3:01 am

  10. Zach and Rafael, valid points but your age/experience shows. Please feel free to make any additions to your views in a few years time. Perhaps your psychiatric carers could type your thoughts for you inbetween slurps from your sippy-cups?

    Sam – couldn’t agree more, good point.

    Chelsea – could you have a word with Zach and Rafael?……. Actually, don’t waste your time.

    Everyone else – hang in there.

    BTW I don’t smoke the stuff but I’m a recovering alcoholic.

    Mr Robbins-Muff

    January 29, 2009 at 6:08 am

  11. If an herb is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you think about before you go to bed, you have a problem. I have people in my family who smoke every single day. And no one can tell me this crap doesn’t hurt you.

    Challenge to all the potheads: Try to quit for 1 week. If you don’t have any adverse reactions, then maybe you can use it recreationally. But I guarantee you, by the middle of the 1st day, you’ll be ready to rip someone’s head off you’ll be jonesing so bad.


    June 10, 2009 at 12:43 am

  12. I gave the ciggies away cold turkey about 6 months ago and continued to smoke pot. I’m currently into my third week of no pot and am having alot of trouble sleeping. I used to have a joint about 7pm, then by 10pm I’d be tired a would fall sleep easily.
    Now I am tired by 8pm because I am not sleeping well.
    I get about 2-3 hours sleep then have 4-5 hours of tossing and turning. I’ve taken sleeping pills on two occassions however if I had more I’d probably still be taking them. Even if I have a few drinks I’m still struggling to get a good nights sleep. I’m told this will go but having been a daily smoker for 15 years the no sleep thing is starting to become an issue.
    Having plenty of weird dreams because I’m partly awake. But the temptation to get stoned so I’ll have a good nights sleep is always there. IF you want to give up you can do it, but you’ve got to tell yourself you want to give up. I’ve never really wanted to give up pot. I’ve always wanted to give up ciggies and that was faily easy (3rd attempt) But first two attempts I didn’t really want to give up I was doing it to keep my family happy.
    Now I am 35 and feel it is time to give the pot away, it’s not too bad. But it’s just not being able to sleep that is bothering me!
    Peace Man!


    June 17, 2009 at 2:10 am

  13. Politicians are 10 years behind the times when it comes to hemp use. People have been fighting for a long time against marijuana and pot prohibition with some movement going on now. Still too slow for those caught up in the jail system for possessing a little weed. Our freedoms have been trampled on by folks who know nothing about how beautiful cannabis can be for someones life, if one learns how to grow cannabis. Keep up the good work.

    Eco Green

    December 1, 2009 at 2:40 am

  14. those of you trying to quit… its a slow process but it gets easier every day and there are so many benefits in the end… I smoked it for years because i was trying to escape from my problems and lets face it… being stoned is fun! it temporarily eases any stresses you have but certainly does not help you you solve your problems realistically by challenging yourself and growing as a person. having a clear mind and seeing how beautiful life is without can be a great expereince because you know you are really living… even though it is hard sometimes…thats my two cents good luck to you all. peace.


    January 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm

  15. Having smoked nearly every day from aged 19 till now (nearly 26) its hard to give up. The main thing is the lack of restful sleep. Distraction is the key. Change the lifestyle. Find things to do that you can immerse yourself in. After about 10 days I have started to sleep well in the past, but have eventually fallen back into the pattern. Hopefully this time will be different.


    May 15, 2010 at 6:12 am

  16. im 35 i been smoking weed and cigs since i was 13…ive given up ciggys before and carryed oj smoking weed…theough a pipe..3 yrs later i started smoking both ive just gone cold turkey with the ciggys..and have cut down the weed to near enough nothing..weed does effect me it makes me thnik about stuff to much..this can lead to anxiety and panic attack…its not harmless..and the hydroponic strenght weed is about a hundred times stronger than the old outdoor 35 now and i wanna stop…


    May 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm

  17. There are many good comments on this page.

    I am on day one of cold turkey from both MJ and Tobacco. I’m not a long term user, having smoked daily for 6ish months from sept 2009 to say feb 2010. I do not smoke stond alone cigarettes but smoke joints (mixing a light cigarette with the MJ).

    The first time I gave up, I just cold turkey’d it. First night, 1.5 hours sleep, second about 3, then 4.5 then 5 and slowly back up to say 7 ish over a period of 14 days.

    Days, 1 2 & 3, were easily the worse.

    Side effects, sweating/random temperature changes (cold 1 minute hot the next?). Terrible sleep the first few nights. Eyes fluttering away when I am trying to relax and sleep.

    The drivers for me trying to give up were, utter loss of short term memory (very hard to deal with this in my job..), generally being slow and stupid, compared to the speed my head normally works and solves problems etc, plus my mood during the day, say about 2pm, (never smoke in the morning, only when home from work at around 7pm), was utterl hurrendous. I was aggressive as hell, right in peoples faces and not able to react in a rational way. Basically finding myself ranting in conversations rather than being relaxed and balanced.

    I started up again, when someone was able to get me good weed from Amsterdam, so I had some, and then before you know it over the period of 3 months, quickly moved to being an evening smoker…

    Just went to AmDam for a total 2 day blow out, before going cold turkey today. Last puff being 3 puffs at 9:30 this morning…

    I promised I was going to map the side effects this time, in a bid to be able to share them with other people trying to give up, so that they do understand that it DOES get better for sure.

    At one point, I had a few bouts of weird Euphoria (I’m thinking in the 2nd week?), where as my short term memory came back, my confidence at work came back and before you know it, I actually swung away from the depression towards being extrememly confident and believing anything was possible, to a level that was even beyond my pre-smoking days.

    I can also confirm so many of the statements made on this page, E.G. it knocks your confidence in time, it causes you to think too hard about things (this is good at times as u fall into the world of thinking about good things when ur stoned normally, but wake up for a 9am presentation after some serious Amnesia Haze the night before and you will spend your entire time listening to yourself, thinking about what u have just said and how you sound rather than being confident in yourself. Especially considering your short term memory means u probably forgot the second part of their question, after answering the 1st…

    I really enjoy a smoke of a joint. I am confident that if I was to have a smoke once every six months, for say one big night and then absolutely NOT touch it for the next 6 months, the withdrawl would be close to minimal, and you could enjoy a chill with your friends. HOWEVER, that requires mega will power and not to fall back into the circles of your daily smoking mates.


    January 5, 2011 at 4:14 am

  18. Man, do any of you still get stoned like you used to ? I don’t…. But without it, I notice it and crave it.. I dont want to be awya from home cause of it.. But I have goe on hiolidyas, hard to sleep… bad… but I’d get over it somehow, well reall there’s not much choice… come back home and get ripped off 1 cone… cut right back and see the improvements in little things. I see the same anger type issue menitoned by SRW. But in my stupid head I can’t attribute it to the fkin pot. I’m having a bloody cone as I write this post. WTF

    I dont chooof when I’m not home, or at a mate’s place who smokes, but usually at home. I can g out and do stuff and not smoek, but what about every other boring normal day / night… Work keeps me occupied and I dotn smoke till I get home, but Im smoking by 5pm on weeknights and mid – late mornings on the weekends… I’ve cut down the cigarettes to the point wher eI have one eery now& then, I get enough forom mixing it with my pot I guess.. I dont wnat too many smokes, except when Im running out of pot, or when Im out having drinks or visiting people who smoke……

    I also dont eat propelry and get lazy Relationships are difficult, i dont feel I know how to handle anytign diifficult and feel like a victim. But i cant make th efkin connection the pot celar ennough to agree I need to do something,. I like my fkn deaker too, just stop seeing the cunt you reckon, we hav eno relaionship outside pot expcet a bit of work I paid hiim to do for me once or twice but he’s cool to be able to talk to for a fe minutes and stuff. that will be gone what the fck will i dow hen Im sitting her on weeknights doing nothign with my life watching repeats on foxtel bored Pot gets you a bit stned and you enjoy that as yo pass the time.. then it maeks you tired and you sleep… Last night I stopped smoking eaelrier and lied down watching tv, went to sleep on the couch the smae as ig I’d smoekd nother 5-10 cones, which I’d have easily done..

    Tht siad, I msoke jsut over 1/4 oucen week… its expensie too ma, over $100 if lucky, mor elike over $150 cuas I cant get ecent amounts.. Thats another thing, chasing eveyr few days and havoiding making pakns because of it..

    It’s a vicious cycle where help appears to be very limited. i ahe friedns who smoke socially and never buy, thy will pay for their shar, but not purchase their own for home, well rarely anyway…But not me, I ha eto smole like a train… sigh I dunno good luck to all you gus, you can do it, jst rad my postsfor the obvious signs – and DO IT FOR YOURSELVES


    August 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

  19. I think results over a five day period of quitting may be similar. I have quit both in the past and restarted both. Quitting marijuana became much easier after the first few days whereas quitting cigarettes remained difficult for a lot longer. Overall, quitting either marijuana or cigarettes is equally difficult initially but staying off marijuana is much easier in the long run.

    Jenny Hogg

    October 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm

  20. i have been a heavy smoker for years and i have recently purchased this Electronic cigarette and then found a site it is only the flavours NOTHING ILLEGAL AT ALL but when you smoke it through the Electronic cigarette it feels like your have a smoke of weed and i have stopped for 4 weeks and good thing is even that is not smoke it is only vapour so it is all good for you to give up weed and cigarettes:) So happy days for me its like i am still smoking but feel amazing for it 🙂


    jacquie saunderson

    October 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

  21. The thing is it is all in your head you are addicted to the BONG or JOINT, so as long as you are still smoking so to speak you are more comfortable to give it up it takes away all the stressing of quitting and you can smoke it anywhere as it is only VAPOUR

    It is a good head tricker trust me as the brain is a powerful thing and you can trick it the you WON:)

    jacquie saunderson

    October 22, 2011 at 9:34 am

  22. ive been smoking weed 19 yrs now n have given up for 4 days, not feeling to bad but been getting cronic farts, is this normal? lol, ive given up plenty of times before but always go back to it as i feel my life is boring n normal off it, this time i feel more confident tho as ive a girlfriend i actually love for real n feel things would be better if my heads clear, i think i will always miss weed as its been a massive part of my life for so long but i reckon if i kept a turd for 19 yrs id miss that too, i dont feel guilty for smoking so long i jus feel maybe ive lost part of who i may have been without it but im looking forward to meeting the real me n hope im still a good person coz i have noticed my mood n temper have become a little more sharp, this could be seen as a good thing tho as wen im stonned i dont seem to care about ppl being nasty to me, perhaps giving up weed makes your nuts grow n help you stick up for yourself, well thats my thoughts for now


    November 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm

  23. Pot is like chocolate .. Everything in moderation …come home after work punch 3 4 cones or have a joint, don’t wake up in the morning and pull cones for breakfast!

    Pot isn’t the problem, it’s the lack or self control and Falling into routine … So to all them people who say pot ruined my life , no it didnt it’s was ur lack of self discipline .. But sometime u got to hit rock bottom to find your way to the top .. Good luck on ur journey !


    December 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

  24. its called weed 4 a reason , because thats exactly what it is , imagin e yourself like a flower , weed slowly gets wrapped around the *flower” slowly choking the existence out of it until it finally wilts and dies .

    cliff nixon

    March 7, 2012 at 12:03 am

  25. Hi All
    This morning I was at day #7 off skunk. I have found this week surprisingly easy since I have smoked at 1st solid hash then onto skunk heavily for the last 25 yrs. I have tried before in the past to give up to no aveil as I always ended going back. This time feels different for me as I have started using self taught meditation from podcasts, sounds a little adhoc I know, but really seems to be helping. When I am feeling the pangs for a smoke I revert to the meditation and the pang goes!!! The pangs keep coming but are easyly dispensed with, I am not experiencing any of the hellish knightmares I did on previous attempts to give up, and although a little restless am managing to get a good night sleep. Problem being my cigarette intake has nearly doubled. I started feeling anomalies in my meditation which I put down to cigarette substitution, so I have this morning given up the cigarettes.
    I dont want to give up skunk, I just want to be in control, I have no other vices[anymore!] and feel that 1 or 2 joints a week [for me] is in moderation. I just want to proove to myself that I can go without!
    [Be warned the poscast above is narrated by a nuases Aussie but the content is good]

    I have included a couple of links for the podcasts that worked for me. Good luck to all of those that are trying to change their lives for the better. Anything that is abused ends up not being fun, take anything you like to make yourself feel better just keep it to that special occasion. I just hope I can continue to practice what I have preached.



    April 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  26. The way most people tackle the task of quitting smoking is by simply going cold turkey. They stop smoking and try to remain strong and determined enough to fight the craving and desire for cigarettes. Many people have succeeded in this way and I guess if you are astrong willed person this may work for you. I am not so sure this is the way for me to give up cigarettes as I suspect I would just start all over again.;

    Please do pay a visit to this useful internet page

    Alix August

    April 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

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