Study: Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Common in Teens Treated for Substance Use

A new study of teens treated at an outpatient substance abuse clinic found many showed symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.

Marijuana was the substance used most often by 90 of the 127 teens in the study, HealthDay reports. Of those teens, 84 percent were considered to be dependent on marijuana, and about 40 percent experienced symptoms of withdrawal when they stopped using marijuana—a sign of drug dependence, the authors said.

“As more people are able to obtain and consume cannabis legally for medical and, in some states, recreational use, people are less likely to perceive it as addictive or harmful,” study co-author John Kelly of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine, said in a hospital news release.”But research shows that cannabis use can have significant consequences, and we know that among adolescents it is second only to alcohol in rates of misuse.”

Teens who had marijuana withdrawal symptoms were more likely to experience negative consequences, such as problems with school, work, relationships or finances. They were also more likely to meet criteria for marijuana dependence and mood disorders, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Teens who recognized and accepted that they had a substance abuse problem related to their marijuana use were more likely to make progress toward becoming abstinent, compared to those who did not think they had a problem.

“The importance of understanding the addictiveness, risks and harms associated with cannabis use is a major theme of this study’s findings,” said Kelly. “Recognizing those risks is known to reduce the likelihood that someone will start to use drugs, and better understanding of the role of substances in the problems experienced by patients may help them cut down on future use. Unfortunately, the general trend in attitudes in the U.S. is to minimize the risks and not recognize the addictiveness of cannabis.”

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    Kathy B.

    October 1, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Just because a person experiences withdrawal symptoms from any substance does not necessarily mean the substance is harmful. A person can experience serious withdrawal from caffeine but the majority of us drink coffee or pop. I experience withdrawal from my husband when I travel.

    I am certainly not for children using any substance, including alcohol, cannabis or caffeine for that matter. The best way to control the distribution of cannabis to children is to legalize and regulate the substance and require a prescription for use under the age of 21 (18 in my opinion because, if you can go to war, you should be able to consume cannabis).

    We have to take this out of the hands of the cartels and put it in the hands of doctors and reputable shop owners who have an incentive not to distribute to minors. Until then, cannabis (and dangerous drugs) will be more available to minors than alcohol and cigarettes are.

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    Mary Sholtis

    September 11, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Absolutely, please EDUCATE. My loved one became very aggressive, moody, and uncontrollable unless there was access to the drug. I was shocked when the New York Times published its article in support of legalization. There is not enough voice to the adverse affects of this drug.

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    Dave Finch

    September 11, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    This study lends valuable support for a policy to keep even marijuana out of the reach of the teenagers. Neither legalizing sales in package stores nor prohibition are capable of doing that. We need a system of adult drug use toleration that puts the pervasive dealers out of business, coupled with counseling and control. This can be done by dispensing drugs to adults who register, commit to responsible use and handling of their drugs, and to regular contract with a counselor, not a rehab counselor, but one who can keep the clients informed of drug science and the full spectrum of treatment options. Those interested can learn more about such a system by clicking on my name above.

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    September 4, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Good Point Jim R.. The addicted Brain, and Body has similar withdraw symtoms regardless of the object of addiction. Once the Brain becomes altered, removing the object of addiction throws the whole body into chaos.

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    Jim Recktenwald

    September 4, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    Great article. Unfortunately you do not spell out withdrawal symptoms: irritability, sleeplessness, impaired appetite, increased anxiety, and aggression–not to mention a vague sense that something is just not right. When you make the claims that your article makes, it is a good thing to remember that most of the country believes that marijuana is a minor player in the drug game–a gift from God, since it grows–and just not very harmful at all, much less addictive. Most of the folks reading your article have knowledge of pot smokers who exhibit these symptoms and just think they are being difficult. Tell them what to look for.

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