This is common question many people are currently asking and realizing to quit smoking weed is a challenging feat.
In the addiction field we are noticing more frequently that young adults are struggling more often with the question of how to quit smoking weed than in the past.
Weed Addiction Statistics
According to Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse weed has been a growing problem for many individuals in Canada. These numbers are likely higher as many may feel uncomfortable giving an honest report on substance use. You should commend yourself for asking how you can make a positive change for yourself and for noticing that a substance may be having a negative impact on your life. It is often much more challenging than we expect to reduce or stop using any type of substance, and this is because of how habitual it can become, and dependency can develop over time. Your mind begins to expect certain substances, specifically at certain times of day, with certain people and in certain environments. For example, you may have a close friend who you always smoke weed with you and when you see him/her – you automatically crave weed. This is called conditioning. That being said, if you are reading this article you have likely already attempted to quit smoking weed or at least are preparing yourself to do so. Below I have outlined steps you can take into consideration in this process.
Quitting Smoking Weed Gradually
Be prepared for this to be challenging as you might experience cannabis withdrawal effects. There will be days that are difficult to stick to the outlined plan of weed reduction. The following would be factors that can contribute to it being more difficult:
- Experiencing intense emotions puts you at risk for increasing your weed use, when we feel extreme happiness, sadness, anger etc. – it puts as at a higher likelihood of relapsing back to higher substance use.
- Interpersonal conflicts – if you have a fight with your girlfriend/boyfriend, you have an issue with a coworker, you are going to be more likely to return to higher substance use. When we have relationship issues, we often turn to substances for self-soothing.
- Environmental factors – if you go to a party, see friends who smoke weed, go to your favourite park where you used to smoke – your mind will automatically be triggered to thinking of smoking. You will be ‘cued’ into wanting to use even though you have set out your goals.
- Social support – if all of your friends, your partner and family engage in smoking weed this is going to be very difficult. If your loved ones are not encouraging of you to quit, this will require some work around communicating about your desire to change and what you need from them. If your social network is supportive – still explain to them what you may need
Quitting Weed Gradually – Step by Step
- Ask yourself what is your current weed intake? How much are you actually using on an average basis? Let’s say for example you smoke 1 gram of weed per day and 2 grams on on the weekends. Write this down.
- Now that you know how much you smoke, ask yourself what is realistic as a goal for cutting down? Let’s say now that you feel confident in being able to cut down to 0.5 grams of weed a day during the week and 1 gram on the weekends.
- Set out a timeline. It is critical that you put your plans to cut back on a specific schedule, otherwise it will be very easy to slip back into using more. When motivation lessens, it will be easy to rationalize with yourself to use more than the 0.5 gram plan. For the timeline, put the reduction amount on a schedule. For example, the plan in step two will be completed for next 2 weeks and at that point you will cut that in half as well.
- Be flexible and patient with yourself. For example, if it turns out that 0.5 grams is not realistic, instead of beating yourself up adjust your goal to 0.75 grams. It is okay to go more slowly than you set out, the hard part is giving yourself the necessary time to adapt to the changes.
- Coping skills – introduce yourself to new ways of regulating your emotions. You may not realize how much weed may be acting as a coping mechanism until you cut it out. Look at what are some new ways of coping with feelings of anxiety or depression before reducing use. Prepare yourself for the reduction by looking into what might work for you.
- Try new things. Allow yourself to experience new activities that do not centre around smoking weed or remind you of smoking weed. Try new physical activities, try new fun things and explore what you may enjoy. Distracting yourself from the desire to smoke weed will help you stick to your goals.
SMART Action Plan to Quit Smoking Weed
There are 5 important guidelines for sticking to any goal – they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, time-specific and realistic. When making your action plan, make sure that all of these aspects are considered. Here is an example of a plan using the SMART guidelines:
- Specifically: I will stop smoking weed completely in the next 6 months.
- Measurable: I currently smoke 1 gram every day. My goal is reduce this to 0.5 grams in the first month, in second month cut this down to every other day, in month 3 cut this down to 0.25 grams per day, then in month 4 to every other day, in month 4 cut down to 2 days per week and month 5 to 1 day per week.
- Realistic: I realize it will be difficult for me to stick to this plan because my friends all smoke weed around me. I realize I will need to either talk to my friends about not smoking around me for a period of time or reduce the amount of time I spend with them.
- Achievable: I believe it is attainable for me to reduce my weed intake on this gradual plan for next 6 months. It would be unattainable for me to quit weed cold turkey.
- Time-specific: I have set out this schedule and will stick to this plan. I will review it at the end of each month and see if it needs to be adjusted.
Quitting Weed Cold Turkey
You may not want to quit smoking weed on a gradual basis, you may need to quit immediately for many reasons (work, relationships, school, etc). You may be the type of person who does things ‘all or nothing’ and it may work best for you to cut it out completely. Here are some ways to do this:
- Prepare yourself. Look at what ‘function’ does marijuana currently fill? Ask yourself and look into what are other ways to fill that function? For example – if weed helps you to fall asleep – look into different ways of how you can help yourself sleep. You can look up ‘sleep hygiene’ and start practicing these tactics right away.
- Let people know. You may want to ‘just stop’ and tell everyone later – but this is often hard. By telling people, it will keep you accountable, it will let people know not to offer it to you and you can get social support with your goal.
- Create a set plan for how you will cope with a desire to relapse. Make a safety plan that you can use instead of returning to weed. For example – have a supportive friend you can call to help distract you.
- Distract yourself – it may help to stay busy, to avoid boredom (major trigger for many people) and to keep yourself from focusing on weed.
- Remove the substance – Get rid of all weed and weed paraphernalia you own. Delete your weed dealer’s phone number (and block it if possible). Remove the ‘option’ for yourself as much as possible.
- Change your routines. As mentioned earlier – we become conditioned to want substances based on the environment. If you normally smoke weed every day with your girlfriend on the balcony at 9pm, change this routine. Ask her to watch a movie inside with you at that time and for her to not smoke in front of you.
- Don’t give up – it is normal to have slips. If you quit cold turkey and have a slip, do not tell yourself that you are incapable – remind yourself this is difficult and work through how the slip happened. Identify what let to the slip and adjust your skills/goals to make sure it does not reoccur.
How to Quit Weed (When Nothing Seems to Have Worked)
In the case that you have tried all of the options above and nothing seems to be working, there are a few more options you can try:
- Speak to a professional A therapist can be very helpful in working through what makes it so challenging for you personally to give up weed.
- Addiction Counselling and outpatient groups There are addiction centres that offer groups on outpatient basis that teach you how to quit using substances.
- Drug rehab centers if you have tried everything and need more help, residential treatment is likely the best option.
More and more people are coming into our addiction treatment centres looking for how to quit smoking weed. It is easy to say giving up weed “should be simple” but this is not always the case. Weed can become a very difficult habit to break and residential treatment centres offer individualized programs designed to assist in such a goal. For many people there needs to be an absolute barrier between themselves and the substance in order to quit, this is where residential care comes into place.