Cannabis withdrawal symptoms in non-treatment-seeking adult cannabis smokers

Kenneth H. Levin, Marc L. Copersino, Stephen J. Heishman, Fang Liu, Deanna L. Kelly, Douglas L. Boggs, David A. Gorelick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background: Cannabis withdrawal is not recognized in DSM-IV because of doubts about its clinical significance. Objectives: Assess the phenomenon of cannabis withdrawal and its relationship to relapse in non-treatment-seeking adults. Subjects: Convenience sample of 469 adult cannabis smokers who had made a quit attempt while not in a controlled environment. Methods: Subjects completed a 176-item Marijuana Quit Questionnaire collecting information on sociodemographic characteristics, cannabis use history, and their " most difficult" cannabis quit attempt. Results: 42.4% of subjects had experienced a lifetime withdrawal syndrome, of whom 70.4% reported using cannabis in response to withdrawal. During the index quit attempt, 95.5% of subjects reported ≥1 individual withdrawal symptom (mean [SD] 9.5 [6.1], median 9.0); 43.1% reported ≥10. Number of withdrawal symptoms was significantly associated with greater frequency and amount of cannabis use, but symptoms occurred even in those using less than weekly. Symptoms were usually of ≥ moderate intensity and often prompted actions to relieve them. Alcohol (41.5%) and tobacco (48.2%) were used more often than cannabis (33.3%) for this purpose. There was little change during withdrawal in use of other legal or illegal substances. Conclusions: Cannabis withdrawal is a common syndrome among adults not seeking treatment. The intention to relieve withdrawal symptoms can drive relapse during quit attempts, giving cannabis withdrawal clinical significance as a target of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabis
  • Marijuana
  • Relapse
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cannabis withdrawal symptoms in non-treatment-seeking adult cannabis smokers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this