The Cannabis Withdrawal Scale development: patterns and predictors of cannabis withdrawal and distress

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 Dec 1;119(1-2):123-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.06.003. Epub 2011 Jul 2.


Background: Rates of treatment seeking for cannabis are increasing, and relapse is common. Management of cannabis withdrawal is an important intervention point. No psychometrically sound measure for cannabis withdrawal exists, and as a result treatment developments cannot be optimally targeted. The aim is to develop and test the psychometrics of the Cannabis Withdrawal Scale and use it to explore predictors of cannabis withdrawal.

Methods: A volunteer sample of 49 dependent cannabis users provided daily scores on the Cannabis Withdrawal Scale during a baseline week and 2 weeks of abstinence.

Results: Internal reliability (Cronbach's alpha=0.91), test-retest stability (average intra-class correlation=0.95) and content validity analysis show that the Cannabis Withdrawal Scale has excellent psychometric properties. Nightmares and/or strange dreams was the most valid item (Wald χ²=105.6, P<0.0001), but caused relatively little associated distress (Wald χ²=25.11, P=0.03). Angry outbursts were considered intense (Wald χ²=73.69, P<0.0001) and caused much associated distress (Wald χ²=45.54, P<0.0001). Trouble getting to sleep was also an intense withdrawal symptom (Wald χ²=42.31, P<0.0001) and caused significant associated distress (Wald χ²=47.76, P<0.0001). Scores on the Severity of Dependence Scale predicted cannabis withdrawal.

Conclusions: The Cannabis Withdrawal Scale can be used as a diagnostic instrument in clinical and research settings where regular monitoring of withdrawal symptoms is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannabis / adverse effects*
  • Cannabis / metabolism
  • Dronabinol / adverse effects
  • Dronabinol / urine
  • Female
  • Forecasting / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / urine
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Dronabinol