Treating Withdrawal Aymptoms May Help Addicts Give up Cannabis – Study

It is not a good sign when heavy cannabis users experience withdrawal symptoms while trying to quit the drug. The withdrawal pangs, such as nervousness and cravings, are often tell-tale signs of a relapse for such users, says a recent study by the University of Illinois.

The researchers found that 85 percent people identified with cannabis withdrawal during their intake assessment for treatment would lapse and go on to use cannabis within 16 days to 24 days.

Whether cannabis use leads to withdrawal symptoms and psychological dependence has been a subject of perennial debate between those who oppose the drug use and those who advocate liberal marijuana laws, according to study author Douglas Smith, a professor of social work and an expert on substance abuse issues.

While publishing its fifth and most recent volume of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders, for the first time the American Psychiatric Association introduced a code for cannabis withdrawal in it, Smith said.

The withdrawal symptoms usually begin to surface after a couple of days when heavy users stop taking the drug abruptly. A person needs to experience at least three symptoms to come under the new DSM-5's criteria for cannabis withdrawal.

The researchers screened at least 110 young adults for their study. All the participants were near-daily cannabis users who consumed the drug on average about 70 of the 90 days prior to entering the treatment. Those who'd experienced withdrawal symptoms exhibited at least two symptoms on average. They reported experiencing mood disturbances (48 percent), difficulty sleeping (40 percent) and restlessness (33 percent).

"For people to be included in the study sample, they had to be using at least 45 days out of 90 days prior to entering treatment and had to have made an attempt during the preceding week to quit or cut down," said lead author Jordan Davis, a doctoral student in the School of Social Work.

But the researchers excluded those who used other illicit drugs and were binge drinkers to weed out any possibilities that withdrawal symptoms experienced by respondents are from any other substances rather than just cannabis.

The study found that almost 53 percent participants qualified to be lifetime cannabis use disorder patients, which suggests that they experienced many social and medical consequences from the drug use, apart from intense cravings and tolerance to it.

"Marijuana is tricky because it stays in your body so long. Highly addictive substances such as heroin have short half-lives and leave the body quickly, whereas marijuana is stored in the fat cells and can be excreted in a person's urine for up to a month-or even longer if you're a heavy user," said Smith

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