Learning how to stop smoking weed is harder than you may think. Although we often think of cannabis as a non-addictive substance, we can indeed build both psychological and physical dependence. We build our lives around use, create habits, and have a hard time quitting smoking.
Resources for Giving up Weed
Marijuana is one of the most commonly used substances in the world. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 7% of adults in the United States have used cannabis in the last month, while over 1/3 of high school seniors report using it in the last year.
With recent marijuana legalization, we are seeing a changing landscape in the world in regards to recreational marijuana use. Although many people smoke weed their whole lives without problem, some people face addiction, problems, or the need to get sober due to work or family obligations.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking
There are many benefits of qutting smoking marijuana, and we don’t have space to go through each and every one here. Nevertheless, here are some key benefits of quitting smoking weed:
- Better lung function
- Improved motor skills
- Relieved symptoms of depression
- Better sleep
- More motivation
- Greater memory retention
- Less anxiety
- Better eating habits
- More likelihood of fitness activities
- Better sense of smell and taste
- Increased cleanliness
Many individuals who stop using cannabis also report side effects like more cash, more free time, and finding a healthy support group and relationships. Furthermore, issues like polysubstance abuse are likely to decrease when quitting smoking.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Contrary to popular belief, individuals can indeed become addicted to marijuana. When you see statements that marijuanat is a “non-addictive” substance, it is scientifically incorrect. You can get addicted to marijuana, and modern science has shown this many, many times.
As the National Institutes of Health points out, somebody can progress to problem use and substance use disorder, with addiction arising in some individuals. The person becomes psychologically dependent upon the drug in the system, and you are likely to experience psychological symptoms of withdrawal upon cessation.
In addition, you can truly become physically dependent on marijuana. According to multiple studies, like this one, individuals who use marijuana heavily may experience physical withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, an indication that the body is physically dependent. It’s not the worst drug withdrawal out there, but can be quite unpleasant. You may experience anxiety, lethargy, depression, sore muscles, and nausea after quitting smoking.
Of course, not everyone becomes addicted or even dependent on cannabis. There are many causes of addiction, and some individuals may be more likely to develop dependence than others. Common risk factors for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol include:
- Family or personal history of mental health disorders
- Personal history of trauma or abuse
- Family history of substance use disorders
- Frequency of marijuana use
- Amount used
- Length of use
Ways to Quit Smoking Weed
We don’t pretend to have the one way to quit smoking weed. There are different methods that work for different people, and we have to find what works for ourselves. Here are a few ways you can try to quit smoking pot.
Many people simply quit cold-turkey. They give it up at once, and may white-knuckle it to quit. Research suggests it can take anywhere from three to eight weeks to build a new habit. If somebody can stay quit for a few months and build new habits, they may find success in staying clean from cannabis.
To help with this, you can work on re-training the mind and body. When you normally would smoke, try doing something different consistently. For example, if you normally smoke when you get home from work, try going for a walk, making a smoothie, or playing an instrument instead. As you do this repeatedly, you will slowly retrain the mind to respond differently, and the cravings begin to dissipate.
The 12 step model of recovery is one of the most popular, with millions of people active in the programs. Originally created from AA, Marijuana Anonymous is a twelve-step program created specifically for those struggling with addiction to marijuana. It’s a community of others who are struggling to quit weed, those who have quit, and those who are willing to help others stay clean. From working the 4th step to sponsoring others, twelve-step can be a great way to go.
There are many support groups out there other than Marijuana Anonymous. Although twelve step is the most popular format it seems for recovery groups, there are many alternatives to twelve-step. There are programs based on a specific religion or tradition like Refuge Recovery and Celebrate, and more secular programs like SMART. You can find what works for you, and what fits your needs!
Psychotherapy for Addiction
If a support group isn’t your thing or you want a trained professional, you can find a therapist to help. There are many qualified psychotherapists that work with addiction, and can help you address the issues below your dependence. From dealing with anxiety to learning new coping mechanisms, a therapist may be able to help you quit smoking. Some therapists also offer group therapy, which is a great way to engage with a community of people also seeking help.
Treatment Centers for Marijuana Addiction
You may be surprised to know that there are treatment centers who work with those struggling with marijuana addiction. Because of the popular image of cannabis as a safe and non-addictive substance, many people don’t realize that there are treatment options for cannabis addiction. There are marijuana treatment programs like Crownview Co-Occurring Institute who work in-depth with those struggling with addiction to marijuana, and this is a great way to jumpstart your recovery. You can also find local free treatment centers from faith-based and county-funded providers.
Factors in Helping You Stop
There are many benefits of social support, and these are relevant to quitting any drug. Social groups provide a sense of belonging, can reduce stress, and help keep us healthy. Finding a supportive social group can go a long way in helping us stay sober.
Exercise is another powerful way to help ourselves in recovery. The mental health benefits of exercise are numerous, and include decreased stress, lower anxiety levels, helping relieve symptoms of anxiety, and higher self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise; even walking can have great benefits as we try to stop smoking weed.
There has been quite a bit of research around a growth mindset recently, which is incredibly applicable to getting clean. Growth mindset can help us increase resilience, build confidence, learn from setbacks, and more. Keeping this mindset and encouraging it can really help us to move forward, continue learning, and not beat ourselves up.
Food and nutrition are important ones to look at. In active addiction, we deprive our bodies of important nutrients. Eating well in recovery can help our minds and body recover and resume healthy functioning. From improving cognition and memory to helping relieve depression and anxiety, getting our nutrients can help us feel healthy as we come off cannabis use.
Sleep can help us greatly as we quit smoking. Getting healthy sleep can be difficult when we stop using marijuana, but it can help our bodies and minds in many important ways. Sleep is one of the ways our bodies and minds generate energy and refresh themselves, so try to find habits that help you sleep better. Take baths, use essential oils, and try reading a book instead of watching TV!
Tips from Ex-Smokers
We asked a few people we know who smoked weed for years habitually about how they quit. Although it’s hard to give just one simple tip, our four friends tried to simplify it as much as possible.
“For me, the key was finding better ways to spend my time. I got into rock climbing, spent more time outside with my dog, and tried to fill my time with healthy activities. I think the focus on taking care of myself was a huge change in attitude that really helped me build a new mind-habit.”
“I found the rooms of MA (Marijuana Anonymous) to be exactly what I needed. I met a community of other people who had gone through the same things I had gone through, had doubted if they were addicted, and had found relief. Through working the steps and working with others in the program, I feel like I have found a place I really belong and a newfound purpose in life.”
“Having a support network has been my number one thing. When I was first trying to quit, it was hard as all of my friends also smoked. Twelve step helped me meet other sober people. Today, the support network helps me keep my head on straight when I’m struggling. I have friends and people to turn toward when the shit hits the fan, when I’m struggling, and when I feel like smoking weed. I know this safety net is always present for me, and it helps me feel safe and stable in mr recovery.”
“It’s difficult to give just one tip, as quitting smoking required a substantial lifestyle change. If I could pin one tip down, I’d say that it was practicing honesty with myself and those around me. I told my family and friends I was quitting smoking pot, and it helped me really be honest about my struggles. When I felt like smoking or was in a moment of craving, I knew they were there for me. It gave me some accountability and responsibility to more people than just myself.”