The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that up to 9% of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. This percentage almost doubles among individuals who begin using it in their teens. It is also worth noting that marijuana potency has increased steadily in the last few decades. The elevated THC content of weed has led to growing concerns about the consequences of long-term use.
Even if you’re not concerned about becoming addicted to marijuana or potential health issues, there is always the specter of a workplace screening! In other words, there are plenty of viable reasons to quit smoking weed, but it isn’t always as easy as you would hope. This article outlines different ways to wean yourself off Mary Jane, including advice on avoiding triggers, alternatives to smoking, and how to combat withdrawal symptoms.
Reasons You Might Be Thinking About Quitting Weed
There are many reasons why a person may choose to quit smoking weed. Some people might decide to do so for health, financial, career, or personal relationship reasons. Others may experience severe or off-putting adverse reactions such as paranoia or anxiety after consuming cannabis.
Some people may feel that marijuana is taking too heavy a toll on their lives.
Maybe they find it difficult to get up for work, stay connected with friends/family, or be productive. Cannabis affects everyone differently. It does not make everyone energized and ready to create. It can make some people sluggish, resulting in very difficult patterns to break free from.
While smoking cannabis is potentially suitable for relaxing and unwinding, it’s not great for our lungs. Some individuals could experience respiratory issues or quit smoking for various medical reasons. Some may not have to give up on cannabis completely, however. There are plenty of alternative options to smoking for those looking for new ways to consume cannabis.
The Science Behind Smoking
Health concerns are among the most common reasons to stop smoking marijuana. The detrimental effect that smoking cigarettes has on our respiratory system has been well-known for decades.
In 2016, Martinasek et al. carried out a systematic review of the literature on the respiratory effects of inhalational marijuana. According to the study’s authors, “the research indicates that there is a risk of lung cancer from inhaled marijuana as well as an association between inhalational marijuana and spontaneous pneumothorax, bullous emphysema, or COPD.”
The researchers also noted that inhalational marijuana smokers reported a variety of symptoms. Some of these included “wheezing, shortness of breath, altered pulmonary function tests, cough, phlegm production, bronchodilation, and other symptoms.”
In general, the research suggests that the respiratory effects are much more severe for long-term heavy users than for those who partake in an occasional toke.
One other issue is that you do not always know the source of the marijuana flower, and it may not have been grown organically. You could be inhaling pesticides and other toxic chemicals when smoking the substance.
How to Stop Smoking Weed: The Importance of Triggers
Once you understand the potential negative effects of marijuana and want to quit, the next step involves an analysis of your habit. If you have a marijuana addiction or are concerned that you may develop a dependence, it is important to look into why you use weed.
As is the case with any form of dependence, there are ‘triggers’ that increase your likelihood of imbibing. You may not realize it, but dependency develops over a long period and can creep up on you. At some point, your mind begins to expect the consumption of certain substances depending on the environment, time of day, your mood, and even the company you keep.
For instance, you may crave marijuana whenever you’re with a friend with whom you often share some weed. Alternatively, you reach for a joint after a stressful day at work, when you can’t sleep, or even when you relax and listen to music.
Therefore, you must analyze your marijuana usage to determine your triggers. Once armed with this information, you can look to reduce your exposure to the triggers and be better prepared for when they inevitably arrive. It is also possible to finally develop a strategy to reduce or eliminate your weed usage.
How to Quit Smoking Weed: Two Quick and Easy Ways
Ultimately, you have two options when it is time to quit smoking weed: Gradual tapering or cold turkey. Let’s outline both so you can decide which one is best for you.
Tapering Your Use
This process involves gradually reducing your existing marijuana intake over a specific period. The goal is to slowly wean yourself off weed, making handling any withdrawal symptoms you encounter easier. Here is a quick overview of how to taper.
- Determine your current marijuana consumption and write it down. For instance, you may use 0.5 grams on weekdays and 1 gram per day on the weekend.
- Use this information to determine how long it will realistically take to cut your intake to zero.
- For example, you may choose to avoid smoking on specific days or reduce your intake to 0.4 grams per weekday and 0.8 grams on the weekend on week one. Week two involves 0.3 grams per weekday and 0.6 grams at the weekend, and so on.
- Choose a realistic timeline and write down the day you finally quit weed on a calendar.
- If you find your schedule too difficult to adhere to, show some flexibility. For instance, keep your daily intake to 0.4 grams a day for two weeks instead of one, or trim it to 0.35 grams instead of 0.3 grams, etc.
- Regularly review your schedule to ensure it remains realistic.
- Look for ways to deal with temptation, triggers, and any anxiety you feel during the tapering process.
This is a short, sharp, and intense way to quit smoking weed. On the plus side, it will help you quit rapidly. The downside is the difficulties involved, including the withdrawal symptoms.
Before you embark on this journey, you need to determine why you use marijuana in the first place. Many people consume it to help with anxiety or insomnia, for instance. Therefore, you have to find new ways to cope with the issues driving you towards weed.
If you use it to help you sleep, you must find other methods. For instance, listen to soothing music, engage in light reading 30 minutes before bedtime, and ensure your sleeping area allows for comfortable sleep. Now, it is time to go ‘cold turkey’ by following these steps:
- Throw/give away any marijuana you have along with accessories and paraphernalia
- Stay away from anyone who can get you weed
- Tell friends and family about your decision; this makes you more accountable
- Distract yourself by engaging in new hobbies
- Change your routine to reduce your exposure to triggers
- Eat a balanced diet and start exercising to release endorphins
- Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon; try again!
- Prepare for withdrawal symptoms
Marijuana Withdrawal for Chronic Users
The experience of quitting marijuana varies depending on the type of user. Moderate users will likely find it relatively straightforward to kick their weed habit. However, the same can’t be said for chronic, heavy users who have decided to quit their long-standing habit.
According to addictioncenter.com, a medically supervised detox is recommended for chronic marijuana users with co-occurring disorders, including other drug dependencies and mental health conditions. Medical detox is designed to slowly ease a person off a substance, such as marijuana, thereby lessening the associated withdrawal symptoms.
Many people undergoing a medical detox opt for continuing their recovery at a rehab center to prevent relapsing.
While occasional users may experience mild withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and restlessness, chronic users often suffer from more severe withdrawal symptoms. Generally, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on how long the person has been using marijuana. Some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms experienced by chronic users include fever, sweating, chills, and hallucinations.
More common symptoms include:
- Mood changes
- Stomach pains
- Appetite loss/weight loss
- Insomnia or fatigue
Most chronic users will experience withdrawal symptoms from the first day, including irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. Such symptoms generally tend to peak between 48-72 hours, and relapse potential is highest during this period. Chronic users commonly report experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, chills, and stomach pain. After the peak 72-hour period, the physical symptoms tend to taper off.
However, depression can occur as a person’s brain chemistry adapts to functioning without THC. The person undergoing the detox may still experience cravings during this time.
Withdrawal symptoms generally tend to peak between 48-72 hours, and relapse potential is highest during this period.
However, some chronic users with a psychological dependence on marijuana have experienced depression and anxiety for several months after quitting.
However, without a chronic addiction to marijuana, more moderate users will not have to endure such extreme withdrawals.
How to Quit Weed with a Specialist
There are no FDA-approved drugs to help with marijuana use disorder. However, you do have the option of seeking professional help. There is a wide variety of therapy options, but you may find the following three to be particularly useful:
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): This form of therapy looks into the reasons why you chose to quit weed in the first place. Rather than looking into underlying issues, the professional will help you analyze and prioritize the goals you have in mind when quitting the substance. Once you understand the ‘why,’ the ‘how’ theoretically becomes easier.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The therapist will help you identify unhelpful emotions and thoughts and guide you towards creating healthy habits to overcome them. For instance, if you use weed to cope with stress, CBT can help you recognize the signs and develop different ways to handle them.
Contingency Management: This form of therapy encourages you to quit through the process of offering yourself rewards. For example, you treat yourself to something you desire when you go a month without smoking weed or pass a drug screening at work.
Alternative Options to Smoking Weed
Not everyone who wants to quit smoking weed will want to stop consuming cannabis altogether. Maybe you want to explore alternative ways to consume marijuana that may be less harmful than smoking. Some alternatives to smoking include:
- Consuming edibles (including candies, gummies, and chocolates)
- Dabbing extracts/concentrates
- Taking cannabis oils and tinctures (such as CBD oil); brands such as Premium Jane and Joy Organics offer low-THC products derived from hemp
- Drinking cannabis-infused tea or other cannabis beverages
Final Thoughts on How to Quit Smoking Weed
If you want to quit smoking marijuana, we hope this information has brought about greater clarity and understanding. Ultimately, you need to choose the best path for you, and only you can make this choice.
Don’t assume that it is easy to quit smoking weed. It may prove more challenging than you expect, so it is best to prepare yourself mentally and have a support group you can rely on.