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Blunt smokers may consume more cannabis and have a tougher time quitting than those who prefer joints, research suggests.

According to a study published in the Elsevier journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence on May 1, 2019, blunt users who spend more days smoking tend to also smoke more marijuana on each of those days, and when they quit they tend to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms. The same tendencies don't seem to appear with smokers who consume joints, and that withdrawal patterns appear to be more closely associated with tobacco use.

The findings could help clinicians diagnose and treat cannabis withdrawal symptoms, which were only recently added to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 2013. Research into the relatively new diagnosis is still developing.

The research team was made up of clinical psychologists from the medical schools of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. The study's authors set out to compare blunt and joint use, and how both are tied to cessation treatment. And though they tried to control for nicotine dependency, researchers say further studies are needed to disentangle these overlapping factors.

“At the very least, this study calls for additional studies that assess the relationship between forms of cannabis administrations and outcomes,” the researchers wrote.

Blunts vs. Joints: What Research Tells Us

The study relied on responses from 377 adults who enrolled in a 2014 drug study. Before receiving a test treatment for cannabis dependence, the participants provided detailed information on themselves and their marijuana habits.

Participants answered questionnaires about their cravings, withdrawals, and any potential personal problems caused by marijuana, and also told researchers how much they smoked daily by weighing out amounts of a similar herb — in this case, dried motherwort. Survey respondents also assigned a dollar value to the daily consumption amount, which helped researchers measure the potency of that sample substance.

On average, participants used just less than one-tenth of an ounce, or 2.83 grams, of cannabis per day, valued at $8.65. The study also found that blunt users upped the number of days they smoke and reported smoking more each day. Joint users, on the other hand, did not show the same tendency.

Additionally, the 2014 survey data suggested blunt users are more likely than joint users to report withdrawal symptoms after quitting, such as angry outbursts and insomnia, according to the latest study.

The study did not find a connection with the other areas of participants' lives. Increased blunt and joint use did not appear to be tied to more cravings or personal problems.

The subjects in the study came from treatment centers in six states, giving a valuable broad geographic perspective. Out of the pool of participants, 75% were male, 58.7% of the participants were white, 27.3% were African-American, and another 14% were classified as other.  

Blunt Research is Limited

To date, only a handful of scientific studies have examined the effects of consuming cannabis with blunts, and they have largely been limited to the demographics and sociology of specific users. This study was among the first to compare nationwide data to observe how blunts and joints both affect withdrawal and cravings.

Researchers note that withdrawal symptoms for cannabis overlap those of tobacco, and a number of studies have explored the physiological and cultural connections between blunts and tobacco.

“Blunt smokers may also display higher ratings of withdrawal symptoms due to their exposure to both cannabis and nicotine, as well as other harmful chemicals found in tobacco,” the researchers wrote.

Not only does the cigar paper in blunts contain some residual tobacco, but past studies also have established a connection between blunts and cigarette smoking. For instance, the researchers cited a 2008 study also published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence that explored the practice of blunt “chasing,” or following up marijuana with a cigarette, among young marijuana users in New York City. That study found that mixing cannabis and tobacco contributes to cannabis dependence symptoms.

The findings call for further studies exploring the true effects of cannabis and tobacco, as well as more research into the cannabis withdrawal process, which can run a one- to two-week cycle after the last use.

“It is important to determine if there are meaningful clinical differences between blunts and joints that might inform the direction of future treatments and research,” the researchers wrote.