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Angry When Not High? Irritability Without Weed Explained [Marijuana Withdrawal Symptom]

Perhaps one of the biggest tropes associated with marijuana is that it makes you relax, chill out, and feel “at peace” with the world around you.

That may be true, but this effect is a trap in some ways. Over time, as you use weed in more significant amounts, you may feel angry when not smoking it – why is that?

Some people feel angry when not high because common side effects of quitting marijuana include irritability, anger, and aggression (Lee et al., 2014).[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3986824/ These side effects are attributable to the effects of marijuana withdrawal and can appear even just 24 hours (or less) after you last used cannabis.[2]https://leaveweed.org/marijuana-withdrawal-timeline/#24_-_72_Hours

On this page, we will explain:

  • Why and how people experience irritability and anger without weed;
  • When you can expect that anger to go away if you continue not to use marijuana; and
  • Steps you can get to help you stay calm and manage your irritability during this challenging time without smoking weed.

Whether you’re planning to quit smoking weed, have recently stopped smoking weed, or want a better understanding of why you get angry when you’re not high, we hope you find the article helpful.

Why You May Experience Anger And Irritability When Not High

No one can deny that weed provides many subjective, positive, effects. These include a feeling of calmness, mild euphoria, and a generally pleasurable feeling attributable to dopamine release in the brain.

However, when you are a routine user of something, your body gets used to it, and in some cases, dependence can form. Marijuana is no exception to this rule; Cannabis Use Disorder (cannabis dependence) is now included by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-5 manual for psychologists (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).[3]https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Once someone is dependent upon or addicted to, marijuana, they may experience marijuana withdrawal when they stop using it. This occurs as the cannabinoid receptors in the brain adjust to life without the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) the person was dependent on (Ramesh et al., 2011).[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3606907/

Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome is also now included in the DSM-5, and the first symptom of the syndrome as it appears in the manual, is:

“Irritability, anger, or aggression.”

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), American Psychiatric Association, 2013

These feelings can occur in the first 24 hours after stopping using weed, and while they usually peak after a few days, they can last for weeks (Budney et al., 2003).[5]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12943018/

Cannabis Withdrawal Most Common Symptoms Infographic
Other common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal. Click here to learn more.

When Will You Start Feeling Better If You Continue To Not Use Marijuana?

Symptoms associated with stopping the use of marijuana do not occur immediately (NIDA, 2021).[6]https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive Usually, it takes around a day for the body to realize it has been deprived of THC. At this time, the feelings of irritability and anger, along with other common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, including anxiety and sleep disturbances (which themselves contribute to further irritability), are likely to arise.[7]https://leaveweed.org/sleep-without-weed/

Thankfully, it does get better with time – you will not feel the same way forever. Typically, the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal peak within the first week without weed, and by the end of the first month, most physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal will be over. 

Some people continue to experience milder symptoms of psychological dependence over a longer time frame. Still, as you see your life improving without marijuana, you can expect anger and irritability to be back to base level within, at the latest, a few months.[8]https://leaveweed.org/marijuana-withdrawal-timeline/#1_Month

If you do still feel particularly irritable and find yourself lashing out at your loved ones or snapping at colleagues uncharacteristically after a few months without weed, there may be something more at play. We would suggest you seek advice from your GP or another medical professional in those circumstances.

If you need more immediate assistance, there are many free helplines available that will provide quick and confidential assistance. Please click here to find a helpline near you.[9]https://findahelpline.com/

8 Steps You Can Take To Manage Your Irritability And Feel Less Angry Without Weed

1. Let Your Loved Ones Know What’s Happening

Husband Talking to Wife on Bench

One of the worst things about being irritable is when, inadvertently or not, you take it out on your friends and family. If they don’t know what’s going on, you may find situations escalate for no reason.

You might wish to consider explaining your situation to your loved ones to give them an understanding of your circumstances and release some of the burden on you. Some people will react better than others, so use your discretion when deciding who to share this information with.

Allowing those close to you to support you can not only help you manage your feelings, but is generally helpful. While they may not appreciate your attitude in your early days without weed, realistically, most will be happy, understanding, and more tolerant, knowing that you are focusing on your wellbeing.

2. Keep Yourself Busy

Do something engaging. Have some fun. Anything that helps stave off boredom without weed is probably worth trying.[10]https://leaveweed.org/bored-without-weed/

Anecdotally, our readers have expressed that the feeling of being “on edge” goes away quite quickly if you switch your activity to something you enjoy.

Generally, it’s a good idea to try and avoid being idle and ruminant. It may be worth getting involved in a new hobby, or if you’re at home, even doing some chores around the house to expend some energy.

3. Try Meditation

Meditation is shown to be a great thing a person can do to help reduce negative feelings associated with marijuana withdrawal (Lane et al., 2007).[11]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2019.01074/full#B30

If you’d like to learn more about meditation for dealing with feelings of anger, we recommend this article by Headspace.[12]https://www.headspace.com/meditation/anger

4. Focus On Your Diet

In a way, this ties into keeping yourself busy; focusing on researching, preparing, and cooking new meals can be a great way to expend energy and distract yourself when you’re feeling on edge.

More broadly, it is common after quitting weed to experience a loss of appetite (Bonnet & Preuss, 2017).[13]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5414724/ However, if you don’t remember to keep yourself well-fed, it makes sense why you may be feeling irritable – there’s a reason why “hangry” is a word!

5. Stay Hydrated

Have a drink! Like being hungry, being thirsty can lead to an increase in negative emotions. A simple glass of water can help hydrate and relax you in a time of need. We suggest avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as these can make withdrawal symptoms worse.

6. Create A New Routine

One of the reasons people feel irritable and angry without weed is that the body and brain of long-term users know and are expecting marijuana at certain points during the day. When they don’t get their scheduled dose of THC, this can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and other negative emotions.

By mixing up your routine, you can “throw your brain of the scent” and create new expectations and experiences.

So, consider adjusting your schedule slightly, if not completely, to keep your body and mind distracted.

7. Get Some Exercise

A lot of the time, irritability and anger are attributable to stress, which is something that exercise is proven to help reduce (Childs & Wit, 2014).[14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013452/

So, if you’re feeling particularly angry, why not go out for a run? Even a short walk can release chemicals that reduce stress often associated with marijuana withdrawal.

8. Know When To Seek Professional Support

Therapist With Patient

Generally, most people get through the anger and irritability associated with marijuana withdrawal without professional intervention – and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them – but if you are struggling, know that there is support available to you.[15]https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324301#treatment Consider seeking personalized medical advice from your healthcare provider.

Whilst there are no currently approved medications for “curing” marijuana withdrawal, there are drugs and other treatment options, including counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, that are proven to help address specific symptoms (Sherman & McRae-Clark, 2016).[16]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4880536/

Above all, remember that the withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping using marijuana after long-term heavy use are temporary. Whilst you may not be feeling so great right now, if you stick with it, you should be “smooth-sailing” in a few weeks.

Additional Information About Marijuana And Anger

Can Cannabis Make You Angry?

Above, we have comprehensively dealt with questions relating to anger and irritability without weed. But surprisingly, given its typical sedative effect, a common question we encounter is whether cannabis can actually cause anger?

Research shows that marijuana use can cause anger and aggression in some people, but that this is generally rare. When marijuana does cause aggression, this is usually linked to anxiety, panic, or paranoia that using large amounts of the substance can sometimes cause (Miller et al., 2020).[17]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7084484/

Realistically, using small amounts of cannabis is unlikely to lead to anger or aggression in most people.

How Can I Help My Loved One Who Is Only Nice When They Are High?

If you think your loved one’s marijuana use is becoming, or has become, problematic, a good first step is to talk to them about it. You may wish to calmly explain how their behavior is making you feel – they may even benefit from reading this article or other quit weed tools and resources on our website.[18]https://leaveweed.org/quit-marijuana-tools-resources/

That said, it is important to remember that you cannot force anyone to stop using marijuana – their decision is ultimately their own. This is not to say you cannot encourage them to seek help if you think they need it and their outbursts of anger are causing you distress.

Despite the above – your own safety should be your top priority. Do not put yourself in harm’s way. If your loved one’s anger turns violent or aggressive, you do not and should not have to put up with it. If you need assistance, there are many free helplines available that will provide confidential support and advice. Please click here to find a helpline near you.[19]https://findahelpline.com/

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The team at LeaveWeed.org is dedicated to offering trusted information about quitting or cutting down on the use of marijuana.

All information provided on the site is evidence-based, sourced, cited, or based on personal, lived experience. All of our content is written, fact-checked, cited, and reviewed by qualified health professionals and researchers.

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