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New research identifies the possible frequency and severity of a broad range of adverse reactions to cannabis use.

A study featuring in the Journal of Cannabis Research identifies the possible frequency and severity of a range of acute adverse reactions to cannabis use. The researchers also investigate factors that might make a person more susceptible to these adverse reactions.

The team was specifically interested in acute adverse reactions, in which negative side effects happen for a short duration. The authors note that previous research has explored different chronic adverse reactions to cannabis use, whereas there is less research on acute adverse effects.

Dr. Carrie Cuttler, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University, Pullman, and one of the paper’s authors, notes, “There’s been surprisingly little research on the prevalence or frequency of various adverse reactions to cannabis and almost no research trying to predict who is more likely to experience these types of adverse reactions.”

More than half of the respondents reported the most prevalent acute adverse reactions to cannabis use; these were coughing fits, anxiety, and paranoia. The least prevalent were fainting, nonauditory or visual hallucinations, and cold sweats.

The adverse reactions that occurred most frequently were coughing fits, chest discomfort, and body humming (a buzzing or tingling sensation in the body). These reactions occurred 30–40% of the times the respondents used cannabis.

The reactions that the participants considered most distressing were panic attacks, vomiting, and fainting. They rated body humming, numbness, and feeling unsteady as the least distressing.

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JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(4):e202370. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.2370

Findings  In this meta-analysis of observational studies including 23 518 participants, the prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome was found to be 47%. Factors that were associated with higher cannabis withdrawal syndrome were clinical settings (particularly inpatient and outpatient vs population settings), concurrent tobacco or other substance use, and daily cannabis use.

Meaning  Cannabis withdrawal syndrome appears to be common among regular users of cannabis, particularly those in outpatient and inpatient settings and individuals with substance use disorders; clinicians should be aware of the high prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome to counsel patients and support individuals who are reducing their use of cannabis.

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A recent study in which rats could self-administer cannabis vapor may provide a useful research model for humans.

The study’s most significant finding was that the ingestion of cannabis resulted in drug-seeking behavior not unlike that common in human users of cannabis.

Another significant observation describes some familiar behavior the rats exhibited after receiving the cannabis vapor.

The rats consumed more food while under the influence, a phenomenon reminiscent of human “munchies,” and their activity levels were lower than they would normally be. Even so, they burned more calories than either of the other groups.

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