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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Time-course of the DSM-5 cannabis withdrawal symptoms in poly-substance abusers

Morten Hesse* and Birgitte Thylstrup

  • * Corresponding author: Morten Hesse mh@crf.au.dk

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University, Artillerivej 90, 2nd, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:258  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-258

Published: 12 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Evidence is accumulating that a cannabis withdrawal syndrome is common, of clinical significance, and has a clear time course. Up till now, very limited data exist on the cannabis withdrawal symptoms in patients with co-morbid substance use disorders, other than cannabis use and tobacco use.

Methods

Symptoms of withdrawal were assessed through patient self-reports during detoxification in Danish residential rehabilitation centers. Patients (nā€‰=ā€‰90) completed booklets three times during their first month at the treatment centre. Self-reported withdrawal symptoms was rated using the DSM-5 Withdrawal Symptom Check List with withdrawal symptoms from all classes of substances, with no indication that the described symptoms should be attributed to withdrawal. Self-reported time since last use of cannabis was used as a predictor of cannabis withdrawal severity.

Results

With the exception of loss of appetite, time since last use of cannabis was associated with all types of withdrawal symptoms listed in the DSM-5. Only four of 19 symptoms intended to measure withdrawal from other substances were related to time since last use of cannabis, including vivid, unpleasant dreams.

Conclusions

The findings yield strong support to the notion of a cannabis withdrawal syndrome, and gives further evidence for the inclusion of the criterion of vivid, unpleasant dreams. Further, the findings speak against the significance of demand characteristics in determining the course of the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal.

Keywords:
Cannabis withdrawal; Withdrawal symptoms; Poly-substance abusers