Home > Clinical management of cannabis withdrawal.

Connor, Jason P and Stjepanović, Daniel and Budney, Alan J and Le Foll, Bernard and Hall, Wayne D (2021) Clinical management of cannabis withdrawal. Addiction, Early online, doi: 10.1111/add.15743.

External website: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.15...

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Cannabis withdrawal is a well-characterized phenomenon that occurs in approximately half of regular and dependent cannabis users after abrupt cessation or significant reductions in cannabis products that contain Δ -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This review describes the diagnosis, prevalence, course and management of cannabis withdrawal and highlights opportunities for future clinical research.

METHODS: Narrative review of literature.

RESULTS: Symptom onset typically occurs 24-48 hours after cessation and most symptoms generally peak at days 2-6, with some symptoms lasting up to 3 weeks or more in heavy cannabis users. The most common features of cannabis withdrawal are anxiety, irritability, anger or aggression, disturbed sleep/dreaming, depressed mood and loss of appetite. Less common physical symptoms include chills, headaches, physical tension, sweating and stomach pain. Despite limited empirical evidence, supportive counselling and psychoeducation are the first-line approaches in the management of cannabis withdrawal. There are no medications currently approved specifically for medically assisted withdrawal (MAW). Medications have been used to manage short-term symptoms (e.g. anxiety, sleep, nausea). A number of promising pharmacological agents have been examined in controlled trials, but these have been underpowered and positive findings not reliably replicated. Some (e.g. cannabis agonists) are used 'off-label' in clinical practice. Inpatient admission for MAW may be clinically indicated for patients who have significant comorbid mental health disorders and polysubstance use to avoid severe complications.

CONCLUSIONS: The clinical significance of cannabis withdrawal is that its symptoms may precipitate relapse to cannabis use. Complicated withdrawal may occur in people with concurrent mental health and polysubstance use.

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