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APA Recognizes and Describes Marijuana Withdrawal Syndrome

About 10% of people who ever use marijuana will become dependent on it at some point in life.

Those that become dependent will experience symptoms like continuing to use the drug despite realizing the harms it does to physical, mental or social well being, or experiencing strong drug cravings (heavier smoking increases the risks of dependence).1

For a long time, however, both researchers and marijuana users believed that quitting marijuana resulted in no or very minimal symptoms of withdrawal.

Research evidence from the last couple of decades, likely fueled by ever increasing cannabis potency, has shown pretty conclusively that marijuana withdrawal symptoms are real and that they can be serious enough to impair a person’s ability to get clean on his or her own.

In light of this growing body of evidence, The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has proposed adding marijuana withdrawal to the coming edition of the bible of psychological classification, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM- V.

The Proposed Diagnosis of Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms for the DSM-V

Under the proposed guidelines, a person would be diagnosed with marijuana withdrawal symptoms if he or she:

1. Had recently stopped using marijuana after having used it heavily for a long time

2. Experiences at least 3 of the following withdrawal symptoms within several days of stopping marijuana use:

  • Anger, irritability or feelings of aggression
  • Depressed mood
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • A loss of appetite (or weight loss)
  • Insomnia or other sleeping problems
  • Feelings of anxiety or nervousness
  • Physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as headache, stomach pains, increased sweating, fever, chills or shakiness. To count as a symptoms of withdrawal at least one of the above listed physical symptoms must be present and the severity of the symptom(s) must be great enough to cause substantial discomfort

3. The symptoms of withdrawal are severe enough to cause the person substantial problems with functioning at work or in social situations – or significant impairment in functioning in other important areas

4. The symptoms of withdrawal cannot be better explained by another physical or mental health condition2

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