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Cannabis use disorder: Treatment, prognosis, and long-term medical effects

Scott A Teitelbaum, MD
Robert L DuPont, MD
John A Bailey, MD
Section Editor
Andrew J Saxon, MD
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal substance worldwide [1]. Approximately 160 million people or approximately four percent of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64 years have been estimated to have used cannabis at least once in the past year.

The psychoactive properties of cannabis are primarily due to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [2]. The THC content of cannabis has increased significantly since the late 1960s from approximately 1 to 5 percent to as much as 10 to 15 percent [3]. This increased potency may contribute to increased rates of cannabis use disorder.

The psychiatric diagnoses, cannabis abuse and cannabis dependence, in DSM-IV-TR were replaced by one diagnosis, cannabis use disorder, in DSM-5 [4]. Although the crosswalk between DSM-IV and DSM-5 disorders is imprecise, cannabis dependence is approximately comparable to cannabis use disorder, moderate to severe subtype, while cannabis abuse is similar to the mild subtype.

The prognosis, treatment, and long-term medical effects of cannabis use disorder are reviewed here. Other issues related to cannabis use disorder are discussed separately. Treatment of medical conditions such as chemotherapy-induced emesis and cancer pain with cannabinoids are discussed separately. Other issues related to cannabis intoxication or addiction are discussed separately. (See "Cannabis use disorder: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "Characteristics of antiemetic drugs", section on 'Cannabinoids' and "Cancer pain management: Adjuvant analgesics (coanalgesics)", section on 'Cannabis and cannabinoids' and "Cannabis use disorder: Epidemiology, comorbidity, and pathogenesis" and "Cannabis (marijuana): Acute intoxication", section on 'Management'.)


Treatment for cannabis use disorder usually occurs on an outpatient basis, but residential treatment may be required for patients who cannot remain abstinent in an ambulatory setting or those with multiple concurrent substance use disorders. Treatment may occur in a partial hospital or inpatient setting if the patient is psychotic, suicidal, or agitated, or has been hospitalized for another psychiatric disorder.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Sep 22, 2014.
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