Withdrawal Symptoms Common in People Using Cannabis for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Lara Coughlin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor | Addiction Center
Department of Psychiatry
University of Michigan

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: In this study we followed people that were seeking certification for medical cannabis use for chronic pain over the course of two years. We assessed the prevalence and progression of cannabis withdrawal.

We found that most people experienced multiple withdrawal symptoms, such as craving cannabis, anxiety, and irritability, when they went without cannabis. People that used cannabis more frequently, used larger amounts, and reported smoking cannabis had more withdrawal symptoms. Over time, people that were younger were more likely to experience increasing withdrawal symptoms and people that vaped cannabis tended not to experience improvement in their withdrawal symptoms.  

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: People using cannabis to help with pain should be aware of withdrawal symptoms that can result from use, especially using often and in larger amounts. If people notice withdrawal symptoms after a period without use, such as first thing in the morning, they want to talk to a health care professional to consider options to prevent worsening of withdrawal symptoms and to consider alternative options for managing chronic pain, such as psychosocial interventions.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research on the association between the type of cannabis products, including varying compositions of CBD and THC content in products, and methods of use, such as smoking, vaping, ingesting, or topically applying cannabis, will help to provide a better understanding of how to reduce risk of developing withdrawal symptoms. This work relied on people recalling symptoms they experienced when they went without cannabis for a significant period of time. Future work to get a more granular, event-level picture of withdrawal symptoms will help to understand the temporal stability of withdrawal symptoms and particular contexts where these symptoms are most concerning.


Coughlin, L. N., Ilgen, M. A., Jannausch, M., Walton, M. A., and Bohnert, K. M. (2020) Progression of cannabis withdrawal symptoms in people using medical cannabis for chronic pain. Addictionhttps://doi.org/10.1111/add.15370

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Last Updated on January 8, 2021 by PainRelief.com