If you’ve recently quit smoking weed, meth, alcohol, or any other substance, chances are you’re feeling irritable and angrier than usual. While some people can avoid substances and seem unaffected, others with longer histories of drug abuse can find it hard to adjust to having fun, being entertained, or relaxing without the help of substances. After all, the majority of these drugs were designed to influence your mood, no matter the long-term consequences.

This article explains why you might feel angry when you’re not high, substances that can cause irritability, anger management tips to make it through sobriety, and more.

Why You’re Angry When You’re Not High

You’re probably angry when you’re not high because your brain isn’t used to making itself feel good as much. One of the most common withdrawal symptoms of most substances, including nicotine and caffeine, is irritability. Using any substance that alters or heightens your mood consistently will slowly program your body to get used to feeling good. Your first bump of cocaine or puff from a joint at around the same time each day can train your body to expect this daily dopamine boost. Once substance dependency is formed, your body can produce less dopamine on its own, relying on these “outsourced” feel-good chemicals.

Most frequent habits can program your mind and body to expect things at certain times, like drinking coffee or going to the gym daily. Switching up or changing a pattern can send your body into panic mode. But these feelings are only temporary, and once a substance has finally cleared your system, your body will resume its normal functions. Although, some substances can leave behind permanent changes, and it’ll always take some help on your part to support your physical and mental health.

Read more: Habit Vs Addiction: What’s The Difference?

You're probably angry when you're not high because your brain isn't used to making itself feel good as much.

How Long Does This Anger Last?

The time it takes to become comfortable and enjoy the present after you’ve gone through detox can last as long as a specific substance’s withdrawal process or depend on underlying issues that were masked by substance abuse. In the case of cannabis, it can take around 20 days for your body to completely purge THC from your system and resume regular functions.

Detoxing from substances with a higher potential for addiction can be harder to push through feelings of anger. Physical withdrawal symptoms like nausea, muscle pains, vomiting, and sweating can make individuals even more irritable while detoxing. These feelings can make it challenging to make it to the end of withdrawals as cravings to use and ease the pain peak. Some individuals can experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can last months and include irritability.

Substances That Can Induce Irritability

Some of the most notable substances that can induce irritability when you quit include:

  1. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychoactive compound in cannabis): THC affects dopamine levels by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, specifically the CB1 receptors. This binding leads to an increase in dopamine release in certain brain regions, which is associated with the euphoric and rewarding effects of marijuana.
  2. Methamphetamine (Meth): Methamphetamine can cause nerve cells to release more dopamine and block its reuptake, leading to a buildup of dopamine in the synapses.
  3. Alcohol: Alcohol indirectly affects dopamine levels by interacting with the brain’s nucleus accumbens, the neural interface between motivation and action.
  4. Heroin and Opioids: Heroin and other opioids bind to mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, gut, and other body parts, blocking pain messages and inducing relaxation.
  5. Caffeine: Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, which helps promote alertness and temporarily enhances dopamine release. However, it doesn’t directly increase dopamine levels to the same extent as other substances mentioned above. When caffeine intake is suddenly stopped, adenosine levels can have a stronger inhibitory effect, contributing to irritability and headaches during withdrawal.
  6. Nicotine: When nicotine binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain, it increases dopamine levels in the reward pathway, contributing to the pleasurable sensations associated with smoking.
Detoxing from substances with a higher potential for addiction can be harder to push through feelings of anger.

Anger Management Tips When You’re Sober

Sticking to sobriety and managing anger, anxiety, and irritability go hand-in-hand, as your emotions and moods can affect your physical actions. Giving in to cravings because you want to relieve discomfort can actually make you angry. The feeling of relapsing or being setback on your detox journey can impact your view of recovery. Fortunately, you can do plenty of things to manage anger while you’re sober or detoxing.

  1. Make sure to communicate: If you notice that you’re feeling more annoyed than usual around someone and you trust them, consider telling them that you’re trying to quit a substance, which can lead to irritability. This helps them understand that your mood isn’t directed at them, and they may even offer encouragement during your detox journey.
  2. Change your environment or distract yourself: If you used to heavily use a substance in certain social situations, it might be tough to be around those settings during detox. Try altering your surroundings. Take short walks, listen to music, play games, or engage in creative activities to keep your mind occupied. If you feel overwhelmed somewhere, have a moment by yourself and return when you’re ready.
  3. Be kind to yourself: Detoxing can be challenging, and not everyone succeeds on their first attempt. It’s okay to struggle and remember that nobody feels comfortable all the time. The irritability you’re experiencing will eventually subside, and being gentle and kind to yourself can make all the difference.
  4. Apologize if needed: Irritability might cause you to say or do things you don’t mean. You don’t have to blame the detox for your actions, but if you find yourself being rude or unpleasant, it can be helpful to apologize, even if others don’t know you’re going through withdrawal symptoms.

Read more: 8 Ways to Rebuild Your Life After Addiction

How To Make Withdrawals As Comfortable As Possible

Some withdrawal symptoms can be challenging to go through on your own. Sometimes, detoxing from alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines can be dangerous without medical supervision. An extended and severe alcohol use disorder can cause individuals to experience generalized whole-body seizures and delirium tremens, which can induce hallucinations, rapid heart rate, fever, and intense tremors.

Detoxing from opioids can induce respiratory depression (slow and shallow breathing). In some extreme cases, respiratory depression can cause breathing to stop completely, requiring medical intervention. Withdrawals from benzodiazepines can cause status epilepticus, triggering prolonged and recurrent seizures. In any case, it’s always recommended to detox from addictive substances under professional and medical supervision.

Some withdrawal symptoms can be challenging to go through on your own. Sometimes, detoxing from alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines can be dangerous without medical supervision.

Contact Knoxville Recovery Center

If you or someone you know is struggling with being angry while sober, contact Knoxville Recovery Center. Our addiction treatment program can help individuals overcome the psychological and mental struggles of recovery. Each person’s experience with substances and mental health is different, and our treatment staff creates customized plans that focus on each client’s goals and needs. Our treatment therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you overcome the anxiety and anger felt during detox so that you can establish life-long recovery goals.

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