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The need to enhance awareness is particularly important “among those who experience severe or worsening symptoms over time,” emphasizes Lara Coughlin, Ph.D., a study author and a psychiatry professor at the U of M.

When patients experience more than a few related symptoms, Coughlin explains that it’s called cannabis withdrawal syndrome. She suggests this syndrome can mean a higher risk of developing even more serious issues, including CUD, which the university post defines as “when someone uses cannabis repeatedly despite major impacts on their lives and ability to function.”

Coughlin suggests cannabis withdrawal syndrome can mean a higher risk of developing even more serious issues, including CUD. / Photo by Robert F. Bukaty /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A study published in 2019 notes that “medical-only users appear to use it [marijuana] for evidence-based medical reasons and have lower prevalence of substance use disorder than other marijuana users.” Even so, “because most medical marijuana users also use non-medically, screening for psychiatric disorders and prevention efforts for cannabis use disorder should be implemented when authorizing medical marijuana,” it recommends.

As per the Michigan study, possible signs of withdrawal syndrome include craving weed after a period without use, such as after waking up, or the inability to cut back use without experiencing craving or other withdrawal symptoms, Coughlin says.

As such, she encourages people using cannabis for pain relief to talk with their health care providers about the amount, route of administration, frequency and type of product being used. They should also discuss if they should consider psychosocial treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

“Further research could help identify those most at risk of developing problems, and reduce the risk of progression to CUD,” states the university post.

An article in the Lancet suggests that CBD could, in fact, offer a novel treatment for CUD, but it is unclear which doses might be efficacious or safe.