HealthDay News — Teens who develop withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are more likely to meet the guidelines for marijuana dependence and for mood disorders, according to researchers.

“Withdrawal, a diagnostic indicator of cannabis use disorder, is often minimized or ignored as a consequence of cannabis use, particularly among adolescents,” wrote Claire Greene, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Investigators followed outcomes of 127 patients aged 14 to 19 years treated at an outpatient substance abuse clinic. Marijuana was the substance used most often by 90 of the patients.

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Of those 90 teens, 84% met criteria for marijuana dependence, including increased tolerance for, and use of, marijuana, as well as unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop using the drug. About two-fifths of the 90 teens also experienced symptoms of withdrawal when they stopped using marijuana, a sign of drug dependence, reported the investigators.

Teens who exhibited withdrawal symptoms were more likely to experience negative consequences such as trouble at school or on the job, or financial or relationship problems.

Patients who recognized and accepted that they had a substance abuse problem tied to their marijuana use were more likely to make progress towards abstinence, compared to those who did not think they had a problem, noted the inspectors.

“Although withdrawal does not seem to be independently associated with substance use outcomes posttreatment, moderating factors such as drug problem recognition should be taken into account when formulating treatment and continuing care plans,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Greene C et al. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2014; doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000064

Disclosures: The study was supported by a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.