The cannabis withdrawal syndrome occurs after cannabis cessation in more than 50% of dependent smokers. But although opioid-dependent patients are more frequently cannabis users and cannabis-dependent than the general population, the frequency and phenomenology of cannabis withdrawal symptoms in this specific population is unknown. Our hypothesis was that cannabis-dependent patients with current opioid dependence would experience the same withdrawal syndrome after cannabis cessation.
To describe cannabis withdrawal symptoms in cannabis-only dependent patients and in cannabis-dependent patients with current opioid dependence.
Using retrospective interviews, we evaluated the number and duration of six cannabis withdrawal symptoms in two groups: 56 cannabis-dependent patients without and 43 cannabis dependent patients with current opioid dependence. Cannabis and opioid dependence diagnoses were defined with DSM IV criteria using the MINI structured interview.
The two groups were not different in terms of age of onset of cannabis use, and number of cannabis joints smoked at the time of the cannabis cessation attempt. The frequency of a cannabis withdrawal syndrome (defined as at least two different symptoms) did not differ in the two groups (65%). Neither was the proportion of subjects with the following symptoms: appetite or weight loss (30.8%), irritability (45.1%), anxiety (56%), aggression (36.3%) and restlessness (45.1%). Patients with cannabis dependence and current opioid dependence were more likely to report sleep disturbances (79.1 vs. 53.6%, chi(2)=6.91, P=0.007). The median duration of this cannabis withdrawal syndrome was 20 days post-cessation.
This is, to our knowledge, the first study describing cannabis withdrawal syndrome in cannabis-dependent patients with current opioid dependence. These patients experience a cannabis withdrawal syndrome as often as cannabis-only dependent subjects, but describe more frequently sleep disturbances. This high rate of sleep disturbances may cause relapse to cannabis use.