Cannabis “Withdrawal” Syndrome Short-Lived, Affects Few, Study Says

Halle, Germany: Symptoms associated with so-called “cannabis withdrawal” among marijuana “dependent” subjects are relatively mild, short-lived, and “may only be expected in a subgroup of … patients,” according to the results of a prospective clinical study to be published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Investigators at four separate German universities assessed the self-reported withdrawal symptoms of 73 subjects diagnosed with “cannabis dependence.”

“The intensity of most self-reported symptoms peaked on day one and decreased subsequently,” authors reported. “Most symptoms ranged on average between low to moderate intensity. The most frequently mentioned physical symptoms of strong or very strong intensity on the first day were sleeping problems (21 percent), sweating (28 percent), hot flashes (21 percent), and decreased appetite (15 percent). … Other often highly rated psychological symptoms included restlessness (20 percent), nervousness (20 percent), and sadness (19 percent).”

Overall, less than 50 percent of the trial subjects reported physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms.

“Only a subgroup experienced a cannabis withdrawal syndrome of clinical significance despite the fact that all patients had a diagnosis of cannabis dependence according to DSM-IV criteria,” investigators concluded. “Significant associations of personality characteristics with psychological withdrawal symptoms suggest that at least some of the elevated symptoms are related to factors other than cannabis consumption.”

The trial is the first study to prospectively investigate cannabis withdrawal symptoms in an inpatient sample of cannabis dependent subjects.

A 1999 review by the US National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine reported that marijuana’s withdrawal symptoms, when identified, are typically “mild and subtle” compared to the profound physical and psychological syndromes associated with most other intoxicants, including alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Cannabis withdrawal severity and short-term course among cannabis-dependent adolescent and young adult inpatients,” will appear in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.