Cannabis: Not the Only Cause of Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome

A cold glass of beer with cannabis leaf floated on top of the head, sits in front of an aqua and yellow background. The colors are split on an angle, and the beer sits on the split.

Confused about cannabis addiction and withdrawal? So are the experts. Cannabis withdrawal syndrome, CUD, has been defined and enshrined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). But cannabis might not always be the culprit, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. A handful of scientists at University of Colorado, Boulder, looked at the correlates of cannabis withdrawal. They were surprised to find that cannabis use was not well correlated with its own supposed withdrawal syndrome. Better covariates included alcohol withdrawal and affective lability (psychological jargon for being “emotional reactive”). This could be construed as evidence that alcohol withdrawal symptoms may be mis-attributed to cannabis in people who use both drugs. In the authors’ words, “[t]hese findings suggest that other drug withdrawal and affective lability may confound or predict adolescent cannabis withdrawal.”

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Adrian Devitt-Lee, Project CBD's chief science writer, is pursuing his PhD in Mathematics at the University College of London.