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Quitting Marijuana Just as Hard as Quitting Cigarettes

Study found smokers experienced irritability, anger and sleep disturbances

FRIDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The effects of withdrawal from marijuana use can be as bad as what people experience when they stop smoking cigarettes, including irritability, anger and trouble sleeping, a new study says.

"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," lead investigator Ryan Vandrey, of the department of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

This study included six men and six women (median age 28.2) who used marijuana at least 25 days a month and smoked at least 10 tobacco cigarettes a day. For the first week, they continued their normal use of both substances. For the remaining five weeks of the study, 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. Urine tests were used to monitor abstinence.

The participants used a withdrawal symptom checklist to self-report levels of aggression, anger, appetite change, depressed mood, irritability, anxiety/nervousness/restlessness, sleep difficulty, strange dreams and other symptoms. They also gave an overall score for the discomfort they experienced during each abstinence period.

Overall withdrawal severity associated with marijuana alone and tobacco alone was similar in frequency and intensity. Marijuana abstinence seemed to produce more pronounced sleep disturbance, while general mood effects (such as anxiety and anger) were more pronounced during tobacco abstinence.

This was a small study, but the findings are consistent with previous research indicating that marijuana withdrawal effects are clinically important, Vandrey said.

The study was published in the January issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

More information

The U.S. Library of Medicine has more about nicotine withdrawal.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Jan. 24, 2008

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