A new study has found that over half of people who use medical cannabis products for pain relief experience multiple withdrawal symptoms between doses.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 527 people living in Michigan over two years. All participants were a part of the state’s healthcare system, and so were all certified to use medical cannabis for different conditions, excluding cancer-related pain.
During the survey, participants were asked whether they had experienced any of 15 symptoms, including trouble sleeping, nausea, irritability and aggression, during periods in which they had not used cannabis. After the first survey, patients were placed into groups according to the severity of their symptoms. At this point, 41% of patients fell into the mild symptoms group, whereas 34% fell into a ‘moderate’ group and 25% in the severe group.
The researchers went on to collect surveys from the patients on these same metrics a year and two years later. In doing so, they noticed that those who started off in the mild withdrawal symptom group tended to stay there, although some went on to develop moderate withdrawal symptoms.
Meanwhile, people in the moderate withdrawal group were more likely to report mild symptoms later on. Those in the severe category also tended to experience milder symptoms later on. By the end of the study, the percentage of people experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms fell from 25% to 17%.
The researchers also noted that those with more severe withdrawal symptoms tended to be younger and have worse mental health. Older adults, on the other hand, were less likely to transition upwards in the severity of symptoms, while those who vaped cannabis were less likely to transition downwards to a lower level of withdrawal severity.
The researchers now hope to further explore cannabis withdrawal among those taking medical cannabis. In particular, they would like to investigate the impact of different attempts to abstain from usage, different types of administration routes, and how it interacts with other physical and mental health factors.