Researchers say that withdrawal symptoms shown by those who try to kick 'pot' are similar to those displayed by smokers who try to quit.
The study, led by Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, stated that abstinence from marijuana appears to cause the same symptoms like - irritability, anger and trouble sleeping, as in the case of withdrawal from smoking.
In the study, the researchers followed six men and six women for a total of six weeks. All were over 18 (median age 28.2 years), used marijuana at least 25 days a month and smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day. None of the subjects intended to quit using either substance, did not use any other illicit drugs in the prior month, were not on any psychotropic medication, did not have a psychiatric disorder, and if female, were not pregnant.
For the first week, participants maintained their normal use of cigarettes and marijuana. For the remaining five weeks, they were randomly chosen to refrain from using, either cigarettes, marijuana or both substances for five-day periods separated by nine-day periods of normal use. In order to confirm abstinence, patients were given daily quantitative urine toxicology tests of tobacco and marijuana metabolites.
Withdrawal symptoms were self reported on a daily basis through out the week using a withdrawal symptom checklist that listed scores for aggression, anger, appetite change, depressed mood, irritability, anxiety/nervousness, restlessness, sleep difficulty, strange dreams and other, less common withdrawal symptoms. Patients also provided an overall score for discomfort they experienced during each abstinence period.
The analysis revealed that overall withdrawal severity associated with marijuana alone and tobacco alone was of similar frequency and intensity.
Sleep disturbance seemed to be more pronounced during marijuana abstinence, while some of the general mood effects seemed to be greater during tobacco abstinence. In addition, six of the participants reported that quitting both marijuana and tobacco at the same time was more difficult than quitting either drug alone, whereas the remaining six found that it was easier to quit marijuana or cigarettes individually than it was to abstain from the two substances simultaneously.
"These results indicate that some marijuana users experience withdrawal effects when they try to quit, and that these effects should be considered by clinicians treating people with problems related to heavy marijuana use," Vandrey said.
"Given the general consensus among clinicians that it is harder to quit more than one substance at the same time, these results suggest the need for more research on treatment planning for people who concurrently use more than one drug on a regular basis," Vandrey added.
The study is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.