Most cannabis proponents deny that there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. However, cannabis researchers indicate that users can experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including rage, hostility, anxiety, sleeplessness, anorexia, sadness, restlessness, migraines, vomiting, and stomach discomfort. It’s amazing that anyone tries to cut back or quit using cannabis, given the extensive list of withdrawal symptoms.
Cannabis withdrawal syndrome prevalence at 47% cannabis dependent users
A recent meta-analysis in JAMA cited overall cannabis withdrawal syndrome prevalence to be 47% in individuals that depend on cannabinoids. Study authors raise an alarm that most members of the public and professionals may not be aware of marijuana withdrawal symptoms which leads to confusion regarding the benefits of marijuana medication in alleviating symptoms of depressive disorders and anxiety.
In general, most patients using medical cannabis to treat symptoms usually get caught up in a self-treating cycle of their cannabis withdrawal. It is possible that around 50% of cannabis consumers are experiencing severe cannabis withdrawal syndrome, but they just don’t know it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the JAMA study can be very broadly applied to actual marijuana smokers. This study is a meta-analysis, which combines multiple studies that are considered similar enough to be grouped together in order to strengthen the study’s conclusions and its statistical power. The scientists used studies from the mid-1990s, when marijuana was still banned in the US, had a range of potencies, and did not have the same strain options or cannabinoid combinations as it has now. A German mental hospital where 118 patients were undergoing cannabis detox includes “cannabis-dependent inpatients” in one of the studies included in the meta-analysis.
Cannabis withdrawal syndrome is real
All of this is not meant to imply that marijuana withdrawal syndrome doesn’t exist. Although it poses no immediate threat to life or health, it does exist. It is absolutely understandable that there will be a withdrawal syndrome given that, similar to many other medications, daily cannabis use causes the brain’s normal receptors to “down-regulate,” or cut off, in response to ongoing external stimulation.