Frequent users of cannabis may have 'disabling' withdrawal symptoms, researchers warn.
This condition is included in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which was published in 2013.
According to the DSM-5, a formerly frequent user of the drug has cannabis withdrawal syndrome when they experience at least three of the following symptoms within a week from cessation:
- irritability or hostility
- nervousness or anxiety
- poor sleep
- loss of appetite
- feelings of depression
- shakiness or tremors
Withdrawal linked with psychiatric disorders
The researchers started from interviews with 36,309 participants who registered for the 2012–2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, a national survey that takes into consideration clinically diagnosed cannabis withdrawal syndrome.
For the study analysis, the investigators used data collected from 1,527 participants who identified as frequent cannabis users. This means that they used cannabis at least three times per week for 12 months before they took part in the interview.
In their study paper, which appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the researchers report that, according to their analysis, 12 percent of people who frequently smoke marijuana experience cannabis withdrawal syndrome.
These symptoms were associated with a number of psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders (social phobia, agoraphobia, and panic disorder), personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Of all the possible withdrawal symptoms, most frequently, the participants reported experiencing nervousness or anxiety (76 percent of the respondents), hostility (72 percent), sleep problems (68 percent), and depressed mood (59 percent of the respondents).
A potentially dangerous outcome.
"Cannabis withdrawal syndrome is a highly disabling condition." Prof. Deborah Hasin
She goes on to explain, "The syndrome's shared symptoms with depressive and anxiety disorders call for clinician awareness of cannabis withdrawal symptoms and the factors associated with it to promote more effective treatment among frequent cannabis users."
She is also particularly worried by the fact that new ways of using cannabis, such as in electronic cigarettes, may mean that users are not fully aware of just how much they are actually ingesting.