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Nearly half of pot users experience withdrawal when they stop

Researchers say that nearly half of all marijuana users experience withdrawal when they stop. Photo by lovingimages/Pixabay
Researchers say that nearly half of all marijuana users experience withdrawal when they stop. Photo by lovingimages/Pixabay

April 9 (UPI) -- Nearly half of all cannabis users experience some level of withdrawal when they stop taking the drug, a new analysis has found.

Several studies have identified a high rate of withdrawal symptoms among regular users of marijuana and products containing cannabinoids, according to a review of existing research published Thursday in JAMA Network Open.

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These products include marijuana flower, oils and supplements, as well as CBD-based supplements and oils -- and, where legal or prescribed -- used to treat a variety of health conditions, including anxiety, pain and sleep problems.

"We found an association between higher levels of cannabis consumption and higher prevalence of withdrawal," study co-author Dr. Anees Bahji, who works with the department of psychiatry at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, told UPI. "What that suggests is that individuals who consume more cannabis --such as daily cannabis use -- are more likely to experience cannabis withdrawal upon cessation."

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Purchasing products containing hemp-derived CBD is legal in the United States as long as they don't contain more than 0.3 percent THC, the intoxicant found in marijuana. Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in 11 states, while use of the drug for medicinal purposes is allowed in 33.

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Generally, public perception is that CBD is harmless, according to Bahji, and, debate continues as to whether marijuana and its derivatives are addictive.

However, cannabis use disorder -- defined as a problematic pattern of use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress -- and cannabis withdrawal syndrome -- described as physical and mental health problems occurring as a result of discontinuing use, according to American Addiction Centers -- are both recognized conditions that collectively affect an estimated 3 million people in the United States.

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For their research Bahji and his team reviewed data from 47 studies that, taken together, enrolled 23,518 participants, nearly 17,000 of whom were white. More than 14,000 were male.

In addition to the high overall prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome, the team found that simultaneous cannabis, tobacco and other substance use disorders were associated with a higher prevalence of withdrawal, as was daily cannabis use.

Perhaps not surprisingly, prevalence of withdrawal was higher among those undergoing substance abuse treatment -- 54 percent among those in outpatient settings and 87 percent among those in inpatient settings -- than in the general public, which was found to be 17 percent.

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"We hope that everyone who uses cannabis is aware of its effects and that they know where to obtain help should they need it," Bahji said. "Clinicians who provide support to patients who use cannabis should be aware of cannabis withdrawal syndrome, particularly for patients who are considering reducing their use of cannabis. We found that some of the characteristics of cannabis withdrawal syndrome are consistent with other substance use disorders."

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