Sex differences in cannabis withdrawal symptoms among treatment-seeking cannabis users

Evan S. Herrmann, Elise M. Weerts, Ryan Vandrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Over 300,000 individuals enter treatment for cannabis-use disorders (CUDs) in the United States annually. Cannabis withdrawal is associated with poor CUD-treatment outcomes, but no prior studies have examined sex differences in withdrawal among treatment-seeking cannabis users. Treatmentseeking cannabis users (45 women and 91 men) completed a Marijuana Withdrawal Checklist (Budney, Novy, & Hughes, 1999, Budney, Moore, Vandrey, & Hughes, 2003) at treatment intake to retrospectively characterize withdrawal symptoms experienced during their most recent quit attempt. Scores from the 14-item Composite Withdrawal Discomfort Scale (WDS), a subset of the Marijuana Withdrawal Checklist that corresponds to valid cannabis withdrawal symptoms described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; APA, 2013) were calculated. Demographic and substance-use characteristics, overall WDS scores, and scores on individual WDS symptoms were compared between women and men. Women had higher overall WDS scores than men, and women had higher scores than men on 6 individual symptoms in 2 domains, mood symptoms (i.e., irritability, restlessness, increased anger, violent outbursts), and gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e., nausea, stomach pain). Follow-up analyses isolating the incidence and severity of WDS symptoms demonstrated that women generally reported a higher number of individual withdrawal symptoms than men, and that they reported experiencing some symptoms as more severe. This is the first report to demonstrate that women seeking treatment for CUDs may experience more withdrawal then men during quit attempts. Prospective studies of sex differences in cannabis withdrawal are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-421
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Cannabis
  • Sex differences
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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