Marijuana Withdrawal May Be Comparable to Nicotine Withdrawal
> 1/31/2008 12:34:37 PM

Heavy marijuana users trying to quit their drug usage often develop symptoms of withdrawal. Only within the past decade, however, have studies begun to demonstrate the severity of marijuana withdrawal, and important medical resources, like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), which was published in 1994, do not recognize marijuana withdrawal as a clinical condition. In one recent study, however, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that the withdrawal symptoms experienced by heavy marijuana users were as severe as those experienced by smokers abstaining from cigarettes.

In the past, researchers have observed that the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal resemble the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, but this study, which was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, is the first to directly compare the two withdrawal syndromes. Over the course of six weeks, the researchers studied withdrawal symptoms in six men and six women. All subjects were considered heavy users of both marijuana and cigarettes, smoking marijuana at least 25 times per month and smoking at least 10 cigarettes per day. The subjects underwent three periods of abstinence assigned in random order: one in which they gave up marijuana, one in which they gave up cigarettes, and one in which they gave up both substances simultaneously. Daily urine toxicology tests confirmed that the subjects abstained during these periods. Each period lasted five days and was followed by a nine day period in which the subjects were allowed to continue their previous substance use.

The subjects recorded the symptoms they experienced using a withdrawal symptom checklist, which they filled out daily. This checklist contained common symptoms of both marijuana and nicotine withdrawal, including aggression, anxiety, changes in appetite, depression, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. The subjects recorded the severity of their symptoms and also indicated the overall amount of discomfort they experienced during each period of abstinence. The data revealed that the symptoms of both marijuana withdrawal and nicotine withdrawal were of a similar magnitude. In addition, the subjects recorded feeling a similar amount of discomfort during both abstinence periods. Because this study indicates that nicotine withdrawal, a clinically recognized condition included in the DSM-IV, is comparable to marijuana withdrawal, the researchers hope that more people will also view marijuana withdrawal as a clinically significant condition.

This study is limited by its small sample size, and future studies involving more subjects and longer periods of abstinence would provide a better picture of marijuana withdrawal. Marijuana is currently the most widely-used illicit drug, and for heavy users, withdrawal symptoms can hamper any attempts at quitting. As marijuana withdrawal becomes more widely-known and clinically accepted, physicians and therapists will be better prepared to help marijuana users cope with any symptoms they experience.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy