Marijuana withdrawal and aggression among a representative sample of U.S. marijuana users

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Sep 1;132(1-2):63-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Background: Previous laboratory-based research suggests that withdrawal from marijuana may cause increased aggression. It is unclear whether this finding extends beyond the laboratory setting to the general population of marijuana users. The purpose of this study was to test a cross-sectional association between marijuana withdrawal symptoms and aggression among a representative sample of U.S. adult marijuana users, and to test whether this association was moderated by previous history of aggression.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Wave Two data (2004-2005) were used for all variables except for history of aggression, which was assessed during the Wave One interview (2001-2002). Two outcomes were examined: self-report general aggression and relationship aggression. Odds ratios for aggression based on withdrawal symptoms and the interaction between withdrawal symptoms and history of aggression were calculated using logistic regression, adjusting for covariates and accounting for the complex survey design.

Results: Among marijuana users with a history of aggression, marijuana withdrawal was associated with approximately 60% higher odds of past year relationship aggression (p<0.05). There was no association between withdrawal symptoms and relationship aggression among those without a history of aggression, and no association with general aggression regardless of history of aggression.

Conclusions: The findings from this study support the notion that laboratory-based increases in aggression due to marijuana withdrawal extend to the general population of marijuana users who have a previous history of aggression.

Keywords: Aggression; Cannabis; Marijuana; NESARC; THC; Withdrawal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Crime
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Odds Ratio
  • Social Behavior
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology