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Cannabis Withdrawal Treatment Options Stimulated by Yale Study

July 9, 2021 10:00 am ET
Cannabis Withdrawal Treatment Options Stimulated by Yale Study

Amid the hype of legalization in Connecticut, a cannabis addiction study conducted almost 40 miles away is delivering fascinating results. According to Yale University Professor of Psychiatry Cyril Desouza, where the study was carried out, approximately three out of 10 people are developing a cannabis use disorder. Fortunately for those people, the cannabis plant’s active compounds AKA cannabinoids are being explored for their ability to treat cannabis withdrawal syndrome.

For the past 25 years, Desouza has been investigating the world of cannabinoid treatment options. His most recent bout of research is already two years deep. Based on his findings, cannabis withdrawal syndrome contrary to misconceptionis a real thing. “People thought that you know you smoke weed every day and you quit and nothing’s going to happen,” said Desouza, who noted the importance of controlling consumption so as to avoid the unwanted side effects of withdrawal.

The news comes after Connecticut became the 19th state to legalize recreational cannabis on Tuesday, June 22. From July 1, the people of Connecticut will be legally allowed to possess and smoke the cannabis plant. Not only this but state residents will be given the opportunity to eat and drink products laden with cannabis. As per terms of the new law, residents can grow their own buds from July 2023; no more than six plants per person and 12 per household.

The Yale University Professor of Psychiatry defines cannabis addiction as a habit that spirals out of control, whether the control is relinquished by means of excessive spending, or long hours spent recovering/consuming the plant. “We don’t have any proven treatments for cannabis addiction,” admitted Desouza, whose study is focused on the plant’s suitability for inhibiting cannabis withdrawal symptoms. 

Participants of Desouza’s study, all of whom receive compensation for their time and effort, agree to be administered cannabis-based medications for a total of eight weeks. In addition to this, each study subject is required to measure their quality of sleep. “In those who got the active drug there was a restoration of their stage three sleep to a great extent,” revealed Desouza, who confirmed that the therapeutic plant has already delivered encouraging results.

Cannabis Addiction is Becoming More Common as THC Potency Increases 

Cannabis products with high THC potency could be contributing to addiction. This is something that Desouza attributes to the rising levels of CUD. He says that, in the 1960s, the THC percentage of street cannabis averaged at 3% to 4% percent. 

Conversely, street cannabis now contains approximately 17%. The level of THC increases for other forms of cannabis, including candy and gummy bears, which may contain up to 80% or 90% of the psychotropic substance. 

Because of this, Desouza feels that cannabis addiction is becoming increasingly common. However, with inflating potencies comes concern regarding withdrawal symptoms which, he claims, “get more and more troublesome.” 

Youth Might be More at Risk

“We have concerns about potential contributions of cannabis to the development of serious mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” Desouza added. “One thing that I tried to remind our legislators over and over again is that we know that brain development is only completed by age 25 or 26,” he mentioned in regards to studies that have demonstrated the impact(s) cannabis can have on attention, learning, and memory among adolescents and young adults.

The recently approved cannabis legislation in Connecticut would apply to individuals 21 and older. With its passing, Desouza says, the state should develop surveillance programs that will assist officials in understanding precisely how many youths are consuming the plant, as well as their primary source. 

“What they’ve found consistently over the last two years is kids perceive cannabis to be less harmful than tobacco,” says Desouza, who feels that the implications are intense for young people in particular.

More participants are being sought out for the Yale University study on cannabis addiction. Participants will be paid $1,340 and will be required to commit for a total of 12 weeks. February of 2022 is the study’s projected commencement date. Anyone who is keen to partake should call 203-900-4093.

Supporting Research Examines Cannabis Dependence and Withdrawal

Desouza’s views on cannabis withdrawal are mirrored in previous studies. For example, this study showed that 9% of cannabis consumers show the characteristic symptoms of dependence.

Researchers claim that withdrawal is considered diagnostic criteria for cannabis use disorder (CUD) since it is usually accompanied by heightened functional impairment of normal daily activities; not dissimilar to the same level of functional impairment noticed in people with substance use disorder (SUD). This is according to DSM-IV criteria (Volkow et al. 2014a). 

Furthermore, research studies suggest that cannabis withdrawal symptoms tend to transpire within a similar time period to other types of substances (Karila et al. 2014). In most cases, cannabis withdrawal symptoms emerge 1-2 days following heavy consumption and may linger for 7-14 days. Generally, a clinical diagnosis of cannabis withdrawal includes symptoms such as:

  • anger
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • decreased appetite
  • depression
  • restlessness
  • insomnia

Even though cannabis has been utilized throughout human history, it’s now a rediscovered novelty as it reemerges from its century-long prohibition. At the end of the day, THC is an intoxicating element of cannabis and there currently isn’t a standardized or regulated dose in place yet. This leaves a ton of room for people to overdo their consumption which can leave them at risk, especially if they are already prone to addiction and/or substance abuse. To mitigate these risks, it’s always wise to speak with a healthcare professional that specializes in cannabis therapy who can tailor treatment with other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes, or suggest the best dosing practices for your needs. Responsible consumption and proper education will only help break the stigma surrounding cannabis and ultimately promote its medical value.

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