Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms common among adolescents treated for substance use disorder

Date:
September 2, 2014
Source:
Massachusetts General Hospital
Summary:
Although cannabis -- commonly known as marijuana -- is broadly believed to be nonaddictive, a study has found that 40 percent of cannabis-using adolescents receiving outpatient treatment for substance use disorder reported experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, which are considered a hallmark of drug dependence.

Although cannabis -- commonly known as marijuana -- is broadly believed to be nonaddictive, a study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators found that 40 percent of cannabis-using adolescents receiving outpatient treatment for substance use disorder reported experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, which are considered a hallmark of drug dependence. Study participants reporting withdrawal were more likely to meet criteria for severe substance use and for mood disorders, although the presence or absence of withdrawal did not appear to change long-term treatment outcomes. The report will be published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine and has been released online.

Related Articles


"Our results are timely given the changing attitudes and perceptions of risk related to cannabis use in the U.S.," says John Kelly, PhD, of the Center for Addiction Medicine in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the study. "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."

While several previous studies have looked at the incidence of cannabis withdrawal in adolescents and its relationship to treatment outcomes, few have included follow-up periods longer than 30 days or examined the relationship of withdrawal to factors such as the severity and consequence of cannabis use and the presence of other psychiatric symptoms. The current study enrolled 127 adolescents between ages 14 and 19 being treated at an outpatient substance use disorder clinic, 90 of whom indicated that cannabis was the substance they used most frequently.

Upon entering the study and at follow-up visits 3, 6 and 12 months later, participants received comprehensive assessments including interviews by study staff and completion of survey instruments analyzing factors related to substance use -- including whether or not they thought they might have a problem with drug use -- withdrawal symptoms, consequences in their lives attributable to substance use, and other psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses. Based on their answers, participants were divided into two groups -- those who reported cannabis withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression and difficulty sleeping and those who did not.

Of the 90 cannabis-using participants, 76 (84 percent) met criteria for cannabis dependence -- which include increased tolerance and use of cannabis, unsuccessful efforts to reduce or stop using, and persistent use in spite of medical and psychological problems made worse by cannabis. Withdrawal symptoms were reported by 36 participants (40 percent of the overall group), all of whom also met criteria for dependence. At the study's outset, substance use was likely to be more severe and consequences -- such as missing work or school, financial and relationship problems -- tended to be greater in participants reporting withdrawal symptoms, who also were more likely to have mood disorders.

While the presence of withdrawal symptoms is a strong indicator of cannabis dependence, the authors note, it did not significantly impact the ability of participants to reduce their use of cannabis during the 12-month follow-up period. The factor that did appear to make a difference was whether or not an individual recognized having a problem with substance use upon entering the study. Participants who both reported withdrawal symptoms and recognized having a problem had a small but steady improvement in abstinence through the entire study period. Those who reported withdrawal symptoms but did not recognize a substance use problem had a slight increase in abstinence in the first 3 months, but then had some increase in cannabis use during the subsequent 9 months, a pattern that was also seen in participants not experiencing withdrawal.

"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," says Claire Greene, MPH, corresponding author of the report. "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." Formerly with the MGH Center for Addiction Medicine, Greene is now a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Kelly, the Spallin Associate Professor of Psychiatry in Addiction Medicine at Harvard Medical School, adds, "The importance of understanding the addictiveness, risks and harms associated with cannabis use is a major theme of this study's findings. Recognizing those risks is known to reduce the likelihood that someone will start to use drugs, and better understanding of the role of substances in the problems experienced by patients may help them cut down on future use.

"Unfortunately, the general trend in attitudes in the U.S. is to minimize the risks and not recognize the addictiveness of cannabis," he continues. "Further research is needed determine the impact of these changing public attitudes and investigate the benefits of programs that reduce these misconceptions, which could allow us to predict whether increased education and awareness could help reduce the onset of, and harm caused by, cannabis use disorders." The study was supported by National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant R01AA015526.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Claire Greene, John F. Kelly. The Prevalence of Cannabis Withdrawal and Its Influence on Adolescentsʼ Treatment Response and Outcomes. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000064

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts General Hospital. "Cannabis withdrawal symptoms common among adolescents treated for substance use disorder." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902094103.htm>.
Massachusetts General Hospital. (2014, September 2). Cannabis withdrawal symptoms common among adolescents treated for substance use disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902094103.htm
Massachusetts General Hospital. "Cannabis withdrawal symptoms common among adolescents treated for substance use disorder." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902094103.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) — More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) — Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins