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Marijuana Withdrawal Linked to Behavior Changes in People with Schizophrenia

In patients with schizophrenia, withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are clinically significant as they are often associated with changes in behavior.

In a new study, researchers found that most people who have schizophrenia and use marijuana at the same time experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit the drug.

“More research is needed to evaluate the effects of cannabis in people with schizophrenia and how withdrawal symptoms affect psychosis, relapse to cannabis use, and quality of life,” say the researchers in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

All 120 study participants (76.7% men), at least 18 years old, used marijuana on at least a weekly basis before they tried to quit. Of these, 16.7% met diagnostic criteria for marijuana abuse and 81.7% met criteria for marijuana dependence.

All participants took the 176-item Marijuana Quit Questionnaire (MJQQ) to measure withdrawal symptoms during their attempt to quit the drug.

The team found that 94.2% of the participants reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms, with 74.2% reporting four or more symptoms.

The most common symptom was marijuana craving (59.2%), followed by feeling anxious (52.6%), feeling bored (47.5%), feeling sad or depressed (45.8%), feeling irritable or jumpy (45.0%), feeling restless (43.3%), and difficulty falling asleep (33.3%).

There was a strong positive link between total number of withdrawal symptoms and the mean number of joints smoked on each occasion during the month before their attempt to quit, the researchers note.

Overall, 92% of participants took some action to relieve at least one of their withdrawal symptoms, with 23% resuming marijuana use.

Nearly two-thirds (63.3%) of patients relapsed after their attempt to quit, with a median time to relapse of 182 days.

“These [cannabis] withdrawal symptoms warrant clinical attention because they are often associated with clinically significant behavior change, including relapse to cannabis use and increased tobacco use,” writes David Gorelick of the National Institutes of Health, and team.

“Thus, our findings suggest that cannabis withdrawal is a clinically significant feature of cannabis use among people with schizophrenia, as it is among those without serious psychiatric illness, and deserves greater attention in treatment and research.”

Source:  Journal of Psychiatric Research


Marijuana Withdrawal Linked to Behavior Changes in People with Schizophrenia
APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Marijuana Withdrawal Linked to Behavior Changes in People with Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 16, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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