Scientists Say Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms Usual Among Teens

The advocates of marijuana legalization find the drug to be non-addictive, while those opposing it obviously do not agree. Whatever be the truth, cannabis does have the ability to induce withdrawal symptoms, feel researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). In a recent study, they found that 40 percent of cannabis-using adolescents receiving outpatient treatment for substance use disorder admitted to experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

The respondents who reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms were most likely those who had severe substance use and mood disorders, said the study, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine in September 2016.

“Our results are timely given the changing attitudes and perceptions of risk related to cannabis use in the U.S.,” said senior author of the study John Kelly, Ph.D., of the Center for Addiction Medicine in the MGH Department of Psychiatry. The study was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant.

“As more people are able to obtain and consume cannabis legally for medical and, in some states, recreational use, people are less likely to perceive it as addictive or harmful. But research shows that cannabis use can have significant consequences, and we know that among adolescents it is second only to alcohol in rates of misuse,” Kelly said.

The researchers enrolled 127 adolescents between ages 14 and 19, of which 90 were using cannabis frequently. They were being treated in an outpatient substance use disorder clinic. The respondents were then assessed in a cycle of three, six and nine months in parameters which include whether they thought they might have a problem with drug use — withdrawal symptoms, consequences of substance use in their lives, and other psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses. Based on their answers, they were then sub-classed into two groups — one that had reported cannabis withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, depression and difficulty sleeping, and others who did not.

Withdrawal symptoms indicate cannabis dependence

The researchers found that among the 90 participants who used cannabis, 76 (84 percent) met the criteria for cannabis dependence. They claimed that the presence of withdrawal symptoms was a strong indicator of cannabis dependence in the participants. They also noted that it did not significantly impact the participants’ ability to reduce their use of cannabis during the 12-month follow-up period.

“We hypothesize that participants who experience withdrawal symptoms but do not recognize having a substance use problem may not attribute those symptoms to cannabis withdrawal,” said the corresponding author of the report, Claire Greene, M.P.H., a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Those who do acknowledge a substance use problem may correctly attribute those symptoms to cannabis withdrawal, giving them, even more, motivation to change their substance use behavior,” said Greene.

The trend, as of now, which is evident in the U.S, is to minimize the risks and to not recognize the addictiveness of cannabis. However, further research is needed to ascertain the impact of changing public attitudes and to investigate the benefits of programs that reduce these misconceptions.

Seeking timely treatment for addiction

Substance abuse is a crippling disease which can imperil the lives of those misusing them. However, spurning an addict is not the solution as it is not a crime, but a disease which calls for treatment. Never give up on a person addicted to any substance until he or she becomes completely sober.

If a loved one is grappling with an addiction, contact the Texas Substance Abuse Helpline to know about one of the top substance abuse treatment centers in your vicinity. Call at our 24/7 substance abuse helpline number 866–971–2658 to avail the services of the best substance abuse treatment centers in Texas for a long-term recovery.