Most people, though, probably don’t need the aid of Sativex. “The research evidence supports the idea that most people are able to stop on their own,” says Roffman. “Clearly, there’s some part of the population for whom withdrawal is unpleasant.” He recommends working with a physician who can help the patient through the process, which could include a short-term prescription for a sleeping aid or mood stabilizer.
In that NIDA study, scientists noted that the effects induced by simply discontinuing exposure “are not severe and can be hard to detect, probably due to the slow elimination of lipophilic compounds like THC from the brain.”
Weed withdrawal timeline.
How to treat cannabis withdrawal.
For regular, long-term cannabis consumers who want to take a tolerance break or need to abstain completely, cannabis withdrawal syndrome can be a mild but very real challenge. It’s nowhere near the severity of withdrawal induced by tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, but it may be irritating and mildly discomforting for a few days. In fact, it may most resemble the withdrawal a daily coffee drinker might feel upon going cold turkey.
Prolonged exposure to cannabinoids causes complex adaptations in the brain’s neuronal circuits and their components. Some researchers believe that regular cannabis intake can desensitize and downregulate human brain cannabinoid (CB1) receptors.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In theory, longtime regular cannabis consumers who wish to cease consumption could lessen their CWS symptoms by substituting Sativex for cannabis—and then gradually tapering their daily dosage of Sativex over the course of two to four weeks.
By altering the form of cannabinoid intake, “you’re changing the routine of the individual,” says Roffman. “If the person smokes a lot, now you’re giving them something [like Sativex] orally.” Sativex is designed to have fewer psychoactive properties, so the patient may experience it as a gradual step-down from regular cannabis consumption.