Withdrawal Symptoms From Stimulants, Marijuana, Hallucinogens
Monday, May 16 2016 Kira Lesley
Withdrawal symptoms from stimulants, marijuana and hallucinogens is not considered directly life-threatening by the medical community. However, the withdrawal symptoms can still be dangerous, as can the behavior associated with the withdrawal symptoms of stimulants, marijuana and hallucinogens.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Stimulants
Withdrawal from stimulants is not considered, technically, life-threatening; however, as discussed in my last post, Substance Withdrawal: Alcohol, Opiates, and Benzodiazepines, complications from withdrawal effects can be life-threatening even if the symptoms themselves are not. Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, such as cocaine (both powder and crack cocaine), methamphetamine, speed, and medication such as amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts (Adderall) and methylphenidate hcl (Ritalin). People discontinuing use of stimulants often experience the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- Intense drug cravings
- Insomnia, followed by excessive sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- A dysphoric mood (unease or dissatisfaction), which may turn into clinical depression
- Suicidal thoughts
- Intense anxiety
- Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities (anhedonia)
People experiencing stimulant withdrawal are often paranoid, aggressive and violent (toward themselves or others). Therefore, while stimulant withdrawal may not usually be directly fatal, people are still vulnerable to accident, suicide attempts and acting out. They may also attempt to mitigate the side effects with other drugs, such as alcohol, opiates or benzodiazepines, the use and mixing of which brings its own dangers.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Marijuana
Using the words "withdrawal" and "marijuana" in the same phrase is controversial. Users, treatment professionals, and scientists have all been debating for decades whether marijuana discontinuation produces withdrawal symptoms (Marijuana Withdrawal and Managing Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms). This answer to the question depends in large part on how one defines withdrawal: there is general acceptance among those involved with marijuana use and research that discontinuation produces psychological symptoms, but whether or not it produces physical withdrawal symptoms is more debated. That being said, some of the symptoms associated with discontinuing use of marijuana include:
- Increased body temperature
Although I have not experienced withdrawal from marijuana myself, after talking (non-professionally) to many people who were once dependent on marijuana, I believe the psychological effects of discontinuation are probably more extensive than current literature recognizes.
Withdrawal Symptoms for Hallucinogens
Use of hallucinogens (which is a term describing a wide range of drugs, including but not limited to: lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), phencyclidine (PCP), magic mushrooms, peyote, mescaline and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)) is not widely considered to produce physical withdrawal effects. (This does not, however, mean that these substances are safe for use). It is possible that science will one day discover physical withdrawal effects. However, whether or not hallucinogens produce physical withdrawal, it is important to note that discontinuing hallucinogen use can have psychological effects.
While I am not a scientific professional, I must wonder whether focusing on the physical evidence of withdrawal might cause people to minimize the psychological effects. It is, of course, important to know the physical symptoms so they can be treated. But it is also important to know how to treat psychological symptoms. In addition, as science finds physical characteristics associated with more and more psychological conditions, I question how experts can truly distinguish between the two.
- Quick Guide for Clinicians published in 2001 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
- Drugs in Perspective: Causes, Assessment, Family, Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment by Richard Fields, 8th edition (2013).
- Substance Abuse Prevention: The Intersection of Science and Practice by Julie Hogan, et al. (2003)
- Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior by Carl Hart and Charles Ksir, 13th ed. (2009)