University of Hertfordshire

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By the same authors


  • Benedikt Bernd Claus
  • Michael Specka
  • Heath MacAnally
  • Norbert Scherbaum
  • Fabrizio Schifano
  • Udo Bonnet
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Original languageEnglish
Article number598150
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020


Background: For cannabis-dependent subjects, the relationship between cannabis withdrawal syndrome (CWS) severity and the urine cannabinoid concentrations are unclear; we investigated this using a commercial point-of-care (POC) enzyme immunoassay detecting 11-nor-9-carboxy-Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH). Methods: Observational study of 78 adult chronic cannabis-dependent subjects assessed over a 24-day inpatient detoxification treatment, with 13 serial measurement days. Repeated Measures Correlation and Multilevel Linear Models were employed. Results: Absolute urinary THC-COOH levels significantly correlated with Marijuana Withdrawal Checklist (MWC) scores across the entire study duration (r = 0.248; p < 0.001). Correlation between serial creatinine-adjusted THC-COOH ratios and serial MWC scores emerged as significant only in the sample with higher MWC scores (>11 points) at admission (n = 21; r = 0.247; p = 0.002). The aforementioned significant relationships have persisted when replacing the absolute THC-COOH-levels with the (relative) day-to-day change in urinary THC-COOH levels. MWC scores were significantly correlated with the Clinical Global Impression-Severity (CGI-S; r = 0.812; p < 0.001). Females showed a significantly slower decline in urine THC-COOH levels and prolonged CWS course characterized by substantial illness severity (per CGI-S), occurring in nearly 30% of cases. Conclusion: Urine cannabinoid levels (THC-COOH) determined by POC assay significantly predicted CWS severity (moderate correlation), guiding detoxification treatment duration. In patients with MWC > 11 points upon admission, creatinine-adjusted THC-COOH ratios also significantly predicted CWS severity—again with moderate effect size. Females showed prolonged urinary THC-COOH elimination and cannabis withdrawal.


© 2020 Claus, Specka, McAnally, Scherbaum, Schifano and Bonnet. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY: The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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