Entries in Withdrawal (2)


Kicking Pot Habit Can Lead to Withdrawal

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chris M. -- who requested that his full name not be disclosed -- remembers the time in 1999 when he was caught by a security guard while smoking marijuana in a parking lot.

For him, it was a wake-up call.  Chris was no teenage stoner; he was a 38-year-old anesthesiologist.  But it was not the first time he had used marijuana.  He started smoking pot as a teenager, and by the end of his senior year he was using it every day.  Over time, his use went down, but the death of his father in 1997 led him to pick it up again.

The episode in the parking lot led Chris to rehab and a 12-step program that helped him understand the root causes of his addiction.  But the experience also led to an understanding of a process more commonly associated with so-called "harder" drugs -- withdrawal.

Chris lost his appetite, had trouble sleeping, and developed body aches.

"At the time, I didn't realize it because you chalk it up to other stuff," he said.  "Once I realized it and put two and two together, I talked to other people.  Over time, I realized what marijuana withdrawal is."

New findings show that many people can relate to his experience.  An Australian study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, surveyed nearly 50 marijuana users on their withdrawal symptoms before, during and after a two-week abstinence period.  The authors showed that marijuana withdrawal symptoms can interfere with the lives of regular users who are trying to quit.

"It's very similar to what people experience with tobacco," said study co-author Alan J. Budney, a professor of psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Lebanon, N.H.  "It makes you irritable.  It makes you restless.  It makes it hard to sleep."

At its worst, Budney said, withdrawal from marijuana "can be very disturbing and distressing. ... It can be enough to cause you some problems at work and home."

The researchers also found that heavy users were more likely to have worse withdrawal symptoms and were more likely to relapse during the abstinence period if their withdrawal symptoms were worse.  Subjects would also use much more marijuana in the following month if they had worse withdrawal symptoms.

The findings show that, contrary to popular belief, marijuana "behaves just like other drugs of abuse," said Scott E. Lukas, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and MacLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., who was not involved with the study.

"There is a common belief among the public that marijuana is not very addictive and so it is not a big problem," he said.  "It is not enough to simply say, 'I want to quit,' but, instead, the person must be able to withstand the turmoil of going through withdrawal."

Dr. A. Eden Evins, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said there are certain telltale signs that accompany marijuana withdrawal.  One of the most troublesome and common symptoms is an intense craving to use marijuana to get high, said Evins, who was not involved with the study.

People may "seem moody, tense, anxious and nervous," she said.  Other symptoms include an inability to sleep, a loss of appetite and difficulty sitting still.

The symptoms usually peak at around four days and last for two weeks, she said, but the extreme craving for marijuana is one symptom that can last longer than two weeks.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Murray Trial: Jackson Suffered from Demerol Withdrawal, Lawyers Argue

PRNewsFoto(LOS ANGELES) -- Lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray said in opening arguments this week that he was trying to wean Michael Jackson off propofol, the powerful sedative the defense says Jackson gave himself the night he died.

They allege Jackson wanted propofol because he was suffering from insomnia brought on by withdrawal from the painkiller Demerol.

Murray's attorneys plan to call an addiction specialist, Dr. Robert Waldman, co-medical director of the Recovery Unit at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey, Calif., to testify about the singer's addiction.

"And what he's going to tell you is that Michael Jackson was suffering from the Demerol withdrawal, that his insomnia was as a result -- partly, at least as a result," attorney Ed Chernoff said during the opening statement. Chernoff also told the court Jackson received Demerol three to four times a week from a dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, but Murray knew nothing about these regular doses of Demerol. Klein didn't respond to ABC News' request for comment on the defense's allegations.

Jackson told Murray his insomnia was caused by his creative mind always racing, but it was also the Demerol, Chernoff said.

Medical experts say there are numerous symptoms associated with Demerol withdrawal, and insomnia is one of them.

"Withdrawal is very much like suffering from the flu. You can get nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, tremors, a nervous or anxious feeling and insomnia," said Dr. Michael Schmitz, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/College of Medicine.

Chronic use of Demerol generally causes sleepiness, but not everyone experiences that effect.

"There is a sub-population that reports insomnia," said Dr. Keith Candiotti, professor of anesthesiology and internal medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "Probably people who are chronically on drugs would be less susceptible to sedation."

Some experts say there are a number of medications that help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, including propofol, although others argue propofol should never be used for that reason.

"Propofol and benzodiazepines have been used for managing withdrawal, but primarily in intensive care units," said Schmitz. "That's not something that would have been done at home." Benzodiazepines are medications that treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.

"Propofol is an intravenous anesthetic, not to be used to treat Michael Jackson's addiction to Demerol or the withdrawal he may have had," said Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Murray told police he gave Jackson only a small dose of propofol, but the defense said Jackson administered the fatal dose himself. Chernoff also said that Murray felt it was his duty to wean Jackson off the propofol and teach him to sleep naturally.

Criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, who is not involved in Murray's trial, said Chernoff's Demerol argument is central to the defense.

"I think it's essential," Geragos said. "My interpretation of his arguments is that Jackson may have become increasingly anxious to fall asleep." His growing restlessness, Geragos added, could have led him to self-medicate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio