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June 2020

Cannabis Withdrawal More Common Than Previously Thought

About 47% of regular or dependent cannabis users experience cannabis withdrawal syndrome upon reducing or discontinuing cannabis. Decriminalization of cannabis across many states has increased cannabis usage, but now several states have limited access to dispensaries due to COVID-19. This means that it may be more difficult for some people to get access to the cannabis products they normally use. It’s important to counsel long-term users about common withdrawal symptoms. And make sure patients considering cannabis use understand that dependence is a risk.

Cannabis withdrawal is especially concerning for people with pre-existing depression or anxiety. Common withdrawal symptoms include irritability, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, decreased appetite, and depressed mood. Some people might also experience stomach pain, tremors, sweating, fever, or headache. These patients might not understand that these symptoms are likely due to cannabis withdrawal, and do not represent the worsening of an underlying condition such as anxiety or depression. Symptoms can start 1-2 days after stopping cannabis and typically last 7-14 days.

Dependence isn’t the only concern related to chronic use – cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), a condition that leads to severe, repeated bouts of nausea and vomiting, is also becoming more common. CHS is especially concerning because it doesn’t respond to conventional antiemetics. Counsel patients who are considering cannabis for any medical use about these possible risks. For many conditions, these risks might outweigh any potential benefit. To learn more about other risks associated with cannabis use, check out our recently updated monograph. Also review our new CE/CME course on Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids.

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The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2020 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.