Sleeping causes nourishment
Insomniac in withdrawal
Smoking weed relaxed. Smoking weed even more makes you tired. Many users use the effects of cannabis to fall asleep, some on a daily basis. However, this also increases the risk of cannabis addiction - and sleep disorders during withdrawal.
Image: © istock.com / knape
Addiction to cannabis? Does that even exist? Some believe that you cannot become addicted to cannabis at all. It is true that most people who try cannabis do not develop problems. Often consumption is stopped after a while. However, some of the consumers stay with them permanently. In particular, if consumption is used to suppress unpleasant feelings, there is a great risk of losing control over consumption.
Loss of control is an essential criterion for addiction. Patrick, 22 years old, initially also thought that he had everything under control: “I always thought I was in control.” It was just grass, “It's not like heroin or cocaine.” But when he did Wanting to stop consumption, he realized that it wasn't that easy. “I can no longer sleep if I don't consume. I get aggressive when I'm not consuming. I get sweaty hands. These were all just such signs, when I said to myself, 'okay, you are addicted. "
What Patrick observed in himself are withdrawal symptoms, i.e. signs of physical dependence. In fact, withdrawal symptoms from cannabis addiction have not been known for that long. The authors of an expert report from 1998 come to the conclusion that cannabis can only be referred to as psychological dependence. The dependence is "not primarily to be explained by the pharmacological effects of the drug".
A purely physical drug addiction is probably very rare anyway. As a rule, psychological dependence, which is characterized by a strong desire for the drug to work, is likely to precede physical dependence. But the assumption that physical withdrawal symptoms play no role in cannabis addicts should be a thing of the past since a scientific review article from 2004 at the latest. Alan Budney and his team had evaluated the previous individual studies and came to the conclusion that a withdrawal syndrome can be clearly demonstrated in some cannabis addicts and is a severe burden for many people affected.
Particularly common withdrawal symptoms are reduced appetite, aggression, fear, nervousness, restlessness and sleep disorders. Slightly less common symptoms are chills, depressed mood, stomach pain and general malaise, tremors and sweating. From the authors' point of view, however, it has not yet been clarified to what extent withdrawal symptoms affect attempts to quit. It is known from other addiction disorders, such as alcohol or opiates, that withdrawal symptoms can be very unpleasant and that those affected often resort to drugs again to get relief.
In a recent review article, Kimberly Babson and Marcel Bonn-Miller point out that relapse rates are also high among cannabis addicts when trying to quit. It is therefore important to find ways and means that increase the success of the exit. In their research, the team of authors concentrated on sleep disorders, because cannabis influences the sleep-wake cycle and it is known that sleep disorders have an influence on getting out.
Receptors in the hypothalamus
Cannabis works because THC, the main active ingredient of the hemp plant, docks with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The fact that humans have receptors for cannabinoids in the brain was only discovered in the late 1980s. Since then, scientists have been identifying more and more body functions that are related to the cannabinoid system.
The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that has many cannabinoid receptors and influences various body functions, including body temperature, hunger and thirst, and the sleep-wake cycle. When cannabis is consumed, THC binds to the hypothalamus and in this way promotes sleep. However, THC has a biphasic effect. Small doses can definitely be perceived as stimulating. Only with higher doses does the calming effect come to the fore.
Smoking weed to sleep
Babson and Bonn-Miller argue that cannabis is often used very specifically by users to help people fall asleep. Especially those people who already suffer from psychological problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety would use the calming effect to help them fall asleep better. Surveys have shown that around half of long-term stoners use cannabis to fall asleep. In consumers who suffer from psychosis, up to 70 percent use the sleep-promoting effects of cannabis.
However, the body quickly develops a tolerance to the sleep-inducing effects of cannabis. To get the same effect, the dose must be increased. This increases the risk of developing a cannabis addiction, which creates further problems. Anyone who then tries to get out of smoking weed on their own does not necessarily have to experience withdrawal symptoms, but the probability is high that the withdrawal will not remain without consequences.
Difficulty sleeping after withdrawal
In a US study, Karen Bolla and her team let 17 cannabis users stay in the sleep laboratory for two consecutive nights. The study subjects between the ages of 18 and 30 had consumed cannabis for an average of 5 years, almost all of them daily. 14 control persons were used for comparison. The people in the cannabis group were allowed to consume cannabis in the days before the examination, but not in the sleep laboratory. So you had to go to bed sober.
According to the results, cannabis users took longer to fall asleep, woke up more frequently at night, and had shorter sleep times and fewer deep sleep periods than people in the control group. Overall, the quality of sleep in cannabis users was significantly reduced.
However, sleep problems are not only annoying, they are often perceived as very stressful and carry the risk that consumption will be taken up again in order to finally be able to fall asleep again as usual. In a study with 55 cannabis addicts who wanted to stop using it without professional support, it was found that the relapse rate was particularly high when the people reported sleeping problems. Almost half of the participants with sleep problems relapsed on the first day of withdrawal. For the participants without sleep problems it was “only” 24 percent.
Exercise against withdrawal symptoms
There is no miracle cure for withdrawal symptoms, but there are methods to deal with them better or to alleviate them. In addition to the physical adjustment, falling asleep is primarily a "matter of the head". For many cannabis users, an evening ritual has developed that is strongly linked to smoking weed and signals to the body that it is now time to sleep. Therefore it is not easy at first to calm down and fall asleep in the evening without the "bubbler" or the joint.
It is important to be active during the day, to distract yourself and to move. Physical activity in particular is a good way of not only clearing your head and staying fit. According to studies, exercise also helps in withdrawal against craving. A study has shown that jogging for 30 minutes a day not only significantly reduces addiction, but also consumption. Those involved had cut their consumption by half within a week - although they didn't even plan to stop.
However, sport is not either the Remedies. In a study with cannabis addicts who wanted to drop out on their own, the relapse rate among those who were physically active were initially lower than those of those who were not physically active, but after about a week there was no longer any difference. However, both groups had tackled the exit without professional support.
Quitting cannabis use can be associated with physical withdrawal symptoms. Those who use weed to fall asleep better are particularly at risk of developing sleep disorders during withdrawal. These can be excruciating and increase the risk of relapse. Exercise and actively dealing with withdrawal symptoms can help.
If you have problems reducing or stopping consumption, it is best to seek professional help, either at a local advice center or online. Quit the Shit is an online program that is supervised by professional advisors and can be used free of charge.
- Babson, K. A. & Bonn-Miller, M. O. (2014). Sleep Disturbances: Implications for Cannabis Use, Cannabis Cessation, and Cannabis Use Treatment. Curr Addict Rep, DOI 10.1007 / s40429-014-0016-9
- Babson, K. A., Tyler Boden, M., Harris, A. H., Stickle, T. R., Bonn-Miller, M. O. (2012). Poor sleep quality as a risk factor for lapse following a cannabis quit attempt. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44 (4), 438-443.
- Bolla, K., Lesage, S., Gamaldo, C., Neubauer, D., Funderburk, F., Cadet, J., David, M., Verdejo-Garcia & Benbrook, A. (2008). Sleep Disturbance in Heavy Marijuana Users. Sleep, 31, 901-908.
- Buchowski, M., Meade, N., Charboneau, E., Park, S., Dietrich, M., Cowan, R. & Martin, P. (2011). Aerobic Exercise Training Reduces Cannabis Craving and Use in Non-Treatment Seeking Cannabis-Dependent Adults. PLoS ONE 6 (3): e17465. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0017465.
- Budney, A. J., Hughes, J. R., Moore, B. A. & Vandrey, R. (2004). Review of the Validity and Significance of Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome. Am J Psychiatry, 161, 1967-1977.
- Cohen-Zion, M., Drummond, S., Padula, C., Winward, J. Kanady, J., Medina, K. & Tapert, S. (2009). Sleep architecture in adolescent marijuana and alcohol users during acute and extended abstinence. Addictive Behaviors 34, 976-979.
- Irons, J., Babson, K., Bergeria, C., & Bonn-Miller, M. (2014). Physical activity and cannabis cessation. The American Journal on Addictions. Online ISSN: 1521-0391.
- Kleiber, D. & Kovar, K.-A. (1998). Effects of cannabis use. Tübingen: WVG.
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