Before the 1990s, many doubted that cessation of cannabis could lead to similar symptoms of withdrawal seen in other illicit drugs. However, as marijuana use began to rise over the next two decades, more patients began to seek treatment for marijuana-related disorders, including cognitive deficits, psychosis, and dependence.
Researchers began to see that discontinuation of regular cannabis use was frequently associated with behavioral, emotional, and physical symptoms that disrupted daily living and were associated with relapse. Based on support from neurobiological, clinical, and epidemiological studies, cannabis withdrawal syndrome (CWS) was added to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) in its 2013.
Cessation from heavy or prolonged cannabis use result in mood and behavioral symptoms which may include:
- Sleep difficulty
- Decreased appetite or weight loss
- Depressed mood
Individuals undergoing withdrawal may also experience physical symptoms including:
- Night sweats
- Abdominal pain
In a study of 1,527 cannabis users1, the most common side effects experienced post-cessation were:
- Nervousness/anxiety (76.3%)
- Hostility (71.9%)
- Sleep difficulty (68.2%)
- Depressed mood (58.9%)
Cannabis withdrawal syndrome is diagnosed when within a week after cessation of heavy, prolonged use an individual has three or more symptoms of withdrawal. Generally, symptoms of withdrawal begin within the first 24 hours of abstinence, peak by day three and can last for up to two to three weeks2.