Photo of Woman Holding Her Head
Close Up Photo of Person Holding Joint

Weed, also known as marijuana, cannabis, grass, pot, ganja, or Mary Jane, is a widely used drug that can be addictive. Some studies1 have shown that around 9% of weed users become dependent on it; this percentage is 17% for teenagers. While it is currently federally illegal, it has been declared legal in many states of the U.S.

Weed comes from the cannabis plant, and it has been used in traditional medicine practices for many years. It is often believed that this drug is not as addictive as others. Weed can cause various side effects and withdrawal symptoms, though, when you attempt to quit using it. Popularly called the, “gateway drug,” to deadlier drugs, it has a stronger addictive effect on minors below the age of 18 years2 This group is, unfortunately, the most likely to use the drug via peer pressure and stress.

What Does It Mean to Quit Weed Cold Turkey?

The bumpy skin of a turkey is compared to the goosebumps a drug user may experience when they suddenly stop using the drug. There is ongoing research to determine if it is more effective to quit weed cold turkey rather than adopting a gradual quitting technique. Quitting cold turkey, or quitting a substance abruptly, may result in health consequences.

It is well known that quitting other substances like alcohol and heroin can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. With alcohol, continued use over many years suppresses the brain’s electrical activity. As these electrical levels return to normal after quitting drinking, the brain experiences various counter effects. These can lead to anxiety, hallucinations, and even seizures.

With heroin, sudden cessation can lead to the victim falling very sick with dehydration. This can affect the kidneys and even become fatal. These symptoms are not the effect of weak willpower as some may think. They are caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain that results from using the drug.

Once your brain gets used to a substance, it expects to get it whenever there is a trigger. The trigger can be associated with certain people, events, or certain times of the day or night. Anything can be a trigger to an individual, depending on their internal and external influences. When deciding to quit any drug or substance, it is important to identify those triggers to effectively learn to cope with them.

Effects of Quitting Weed Cold Turkey

Every individual with a dependence on weed will experience different symptoms of withdrawal unique to their circumstances. However, there are a few common physical and psychological symptoms that can be disruptive to daily life. These symptoms could last between a few weeks to several months depending on the level of dependence the person is experiencing.

The brain cells are highly affected during weed use. The resulting mental breakdown symptoms can be very difficult to deal with when they occur suddenly as a result of quitting cold turkey. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness could even lead to suicidal thoughts. This feeling comes on when the patient feels like a failure and cannot cope with the emotions of shame and resultant stress. Let us explore some common effects of quitting weed cold turkey.


Possibly the most common side effect of quitting cold turkey is the craving to somehow get access to the substance. These symptoms can differ in intensity depending on how severe and longstanding the addiction is. They can either be consistent or can be brought on suddenly and in bouts. The THC chemical in weed gets stored in the body’s fat cells and takes much longer to leave the body completely. This leads to a longer period of craving as a side effect of quitting weed.

Headaches and Flu-Like Symptoms

These symptoms are also common in the early stages of quitting cold turkey and slowly subside. In addition to headaches, other less common symptoms include body aches, profuse sweating, chills, and fever. If any of these are severe or do not go away within a few weeks of quitting, you should consult a doctor.

Insomnia and Decrease in Cognitive Functions

Memory issues, restlessness, and insomnia are other common symptoms of quitting weed cold turkey. Insomnia, or trouble sleeping, occurs especially if the drug was used as a remedy for restlessness. When you do sleep, it could be erratic and disturbed. You might also have nightmares. These also go away with time and once the body adjusts to the new schedule.

Depression and Intense Mood Swings

Emotional instability can also be a side effect from quitting weed use cold turkey. These are the side effects of the brain trying to cope without access to the highs experienced with weed use. Quitting weed cold turkey may also induce bouts of anger or irritability. These symptoms could happen erratically or consistently, but usually decrease in frequency and intensity over a period of time.

High Stress and Anxiety

High levels of anxiety can lead to a lack of focus and the inability to socialize with others.

Disinterest in Food and Loss of a Healthy Appetite

The lack of a good appetite is another common symptom that usually decreases over a span of two or three weeks after quitting cold turkey.

Side Effects of Smoking Weed and Withdrawal Timelines

The regular use of weed may give you temporary or short-term feelings of euphoria, satisfaction, and joy. However, the drawbacks are far more pronounced and disastrous. These symptoms can range from paranoia and hallucinations to a delayed reaction time, the worsening of pre-existing schizophrenia, loss of memory, loss of focus and sense of time, dry mouth, dry eyes, and impaired body functions.

Other symptoms such as bronchitis and chronic cough, lung diseases, and an increased heart rate are common. It can also cause financial issues and relationship problems. Your professional life could also greatly suffer if you are not able to concentrate on work or fail a drug test. Each addict has their own personal motivation to quit weed and also has differing withdrawal symptoms.

Those who smoke weed daily and have been using the substance over a long period of time usually experience withdrawal symptoms much faster than a person who has not been using very long. The side effects of withdrawal usually begin to appear within one to three days of quitting cold turkey. They tend to peak at the end of the first week after giving up the drug.

This is the most crucial time for getting help and support. The addict is at their most vulnerable and are at significant risk of relapse. Once over this phase, it is a relatively easier struggle. The symptoms gradually ease and greatly diminish within two weeks or so. The addict is usually left to deal with the effects of their insomnia for a little over a month.

Steps to Quitting Weed Cold Turkey

An addict can choose a gradual quitting schedule or decide to quit cold turkey depending on their unique situation and needs. There are people who prefer quitting cold turkey because they like to address their challenges head-on. It could also be that they want to do better in school, at their workplace, or in their interpersonal relationships. They may need to pass a drug test to advance academically or professionally. They do not want to delay any longer in quitting this vice.

Many are motivated by immediate results, but it is important to know that a quick resolution may lead to an equally quick relapse if not followed through appropriately. It is crucial to plan a detailed strategy for success when deciding to quit weed cold turkey. Let us view the general steps an addict can follow as effective strategies to quitting in the long-term.

Find an Alternate Remedy to the Underlying Need

The need for weed differs between users, but most addicts depend on their substance of choice to help resolve a need. It could vary from helping you fall asleep quickly to easing your work anxieties or worries. It is important to try and find an alternate solution to meeting that unique need. For instance, if one is using weed to help them sleep, they could make changes in their environment to induce calm instead. Increasing self-care by engaging in relaxing activities, like taking a warm bath or reading a book at bedtime, can help one destress. If work-related stress is getting the better of you and you are tempted to reach for the weed, resist that temptation. Instead, explore what self-care is effective for you and prioritize stress reduction to maximize ability to avoid weed use.

Avoid Temptation

Temptation is always around, especially when you are looking to quit a vice. It is best to try and avoid it when you are on the path to a sober life. Move out of your comfort zone if you have to. It could be living in a place far from negative influences or avoiding friends who are still using weed. Make new friends, delete negative contacts from your phone, avoid places you can easily get the drug from, and stay strong. Building willpower can help you be successful. Keep reminding yourself why you chose to cease weed use in the first place and you can build motivation to the cause.

Clear Out Your House of Associated Paraphernalia

Discard all your weed-related paraphernalia, including pipes, grinders, and bongs, as seeing and smelling these times may trigger a relapse. Fill the cleared-out space with items that can bring tranquility and peace. This might be candles, an essential oil diffuser, an indoor water fountain, or special artwork. You will also have more space to cultivate a hobby, which can further help keep your mind occupied.

Build Community Support

Your support network may include family, friends, or even your work colleagues. The company you choose to keep can have a significant effect on helping you reach your ultimate goal of a healthy and sober life. There is no shame in letting your circle know you are trying to quit weed use. Sharing your journey with others enables them to hold you accountable and serves as a reminder of the reason for your decision. People around you can support you by preventing temptations or bringing up anything that reminds you of your prior lifestyle. You may feel embarrassed to confide in others, which is common during new recovery. You can instead look for one reliable person who you are sure has your best interests at heart. Ask them to act as your unofficial guide, monitoring your path to recovery and cheering you on as you reach personal goals.

Find a New Hobby or Revisit Former Hobbies

Boredom is one of the main triggers for relapse. In order to fill the void caused by withdrawal from weed, you can cultivate a new hobby or passion — or indulge in a long-forgotten one. This could be as diverse as music, sports, or cooking. Besides gainfully occupying your time, they can serve as a means to encourage your healing process. They may help you get your daily dose of exercise and healthy food. Meditation, Pilates, and yoga can help improve your mental well-being and physical strength. These training programs help reduce the feelings of depression or anxiety you may face. Indulge in therapeutic hobbies like gardening or painting. Fill your days with positive energy and avoid anything that remotely reminds you of weed.

Enjoy Nutritious Food and a Balanced Diet

Loss of appetite is a common withdrawal symptom that can lead to poor nutrition and loss of the physical and mental strength needed to get you back on track. The best way to improve your diet is by taking small steps to eating full and regular meals. Eat healthy foods, but eat what you like. Stock up on produce, good proteins, and high-fiber foods. Increasing water intake will also aid in improving physical health.

Alter Your Regular Routines

Addicts tend to become conditioned to use weed within their established routine. Anything familiar to your previous lifestyle can trigger a relapse. It is a good idea to avoid your triggers wherever possible. For example, if seeing your friends who use weed is a trigger, avoid meeting them or instill boundaries where needed to protect your recovery.

Remain Steadfast, Committed, and Accept the Learning Curve

Give yourself time and remember that it is only human to err. Even if you have a weak moment, be kind to yourself and continue working toward your ultimate goal. Focus instead on the reason the relapse happened. This can help you work toward adjusting your priorities so that your commitment is even stronger than before. You can then start your journey to being sober once again.

It is ideal to have a back-up plan for when a relapse occurs. Before it happens, draw up a plan of how you will address the situation. Make a list of your triggers and prepare solutions to the issues that could crop up. For example, if someone tempts you to join them in smoking weed, politely refuse and walk away to a different activity. You can also go to your self-appointed guide for support if you are feeling weak and tempted.

Reaching Out for Help During a Relapse

A relapse can happen to anyone in recovery and you need to be prepared to deal with it. This can be achieved by working with your self-appointed guide or reaching out for professional help. Therapists can help you determine your triggers and early warning signs for relapse. Together, you can draw up a plan to address relapses. Treatments can be at your home, within a residential program at a clinic, or via outpatient counseling sessions.

Structure of Treatment Programs

Programs that are developed to help addicts cope with their weed addiction are usually very structured. Teams are dedicated to explore the individual addiction and the background of the patient. They can put together a medical detoxification plan to adapt to sobriety, but this is at the discretion of the individual. Most treatment programs offer post-detoxification assistance where addicts are helped by a team of adept substance use professionals. These professionals, like therapists and case managers, work together with the person to change their lifestyle and develop a strong resistance to temptation. They are not left alone to their own devices until they are strong enough to manage their own recovery.

There are also community support groups for addicts that facilitate social interaction between recovering addicts. These groups hold regular meetings where people dealing with similar troubles are given a common platform to share their experiences and connect with one another to provide peer support. They encourage each other to build sober lives. It also gives them a chance to socialize and possibly learn or nurture new hobbies together in a fun and interactive environment. It helps them look forward to further meetings, keeping their minds off drugs. The community they build can be their source of strength if/when a relapse occurs in any person’s life.


Weed has been declared legal in some American states, and this spurs many users to believe that it is not addictive. But this is not entirely true, and some people do develop an addiction. Once addicted to marijuana, many addicts decide to quit cold turkey. This is a sudden and abrupt stop of the drug use. It often can lead to strong withdrawal symptoms like cravings, insomnia, and depression.

There are several community support programs that try to make life easier for the weed addict by holding regular meetings and socials. Stories of strength, courage, and recovery are shared, and new friends and hobbies are realized. This creates new meaning in many addicts’ lives.

Treatment programs include outpatient counseling or virtual rehabilitation sessions. There could also be the option of inpatient treatment where addicts check in to a residential treatment center for a complete rehabilitation program to be administered. This is necessary when the person needs to disconnect from their environment and any temptation for an extended period in order to build stability for long-term recovery.

Located in Franklin, our drug and alcohol addiction rehab center lies snug in a tranquil area; it is a perfect place for addicts to begin their journey to recovery. At Windward Way Recovery, we offer help every step of the way through the treatment process. We help you in understanding the causes of addiction, identifying the signs of addiction, and coping with the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting cold turkey. We assist in finding you the right program and getting admitted to it promptly. We assess your unique situation and help you through the detoxification process if needed. We provide a community-based partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient programs, and case management services to aid in adjusting well to life after rehab. Our unique Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is a middle-of-the-road option that is not as restrictive as a full inpatient program but is more intensive than an outpatient treatment program.

We encourage you to read more about the effects of quitting cold turkey and the effective treatments we offer in case of a relapse. Call us today to begin your recovery journey!

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