You may think you can quit smoking weed whenever you like.
Especially since consuming cannabis or smoking marijuana seems less addictive compared to other drugs.
There is a lot of misunderstandings about whether smoking weed is addictive. It is often known as a so-called “gateway drug” to even more harmful drugs. However, there is evidence that smoking weed can be addictive.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 30 percent of people who use marijuana develop a dependency or disorder in relation to the drug.
This also depends on the age when the marijuana user starts. For instance, people under the age of 18 years old are over four times more likely to become dependent on weed consumption than other groups.
So as it becomes like a daily habit, many weed smokers realize it is not easy to quit gradually or cold turkey.
Can You Stop Smoking Weed?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is it depends on your dedication and willingness.
Even the heaviest marijuana users can give up weed given the structured support and help.
This guide MAY HELP.
We prepared a comprehensive guide so you can learn how to cut out cannabis.
The best part?
This guide will help you understand why you have developed marijuana addiction.
So you will learn how to cope with quitting weed and recover successfully.
If you are ready, let’s start.
The Effects of Smoking Cannabis
In the first months of your marijuana consumption, smoking might have helped you calm down or uplift your mood.
Considering the positive side effects in the beginning, cannabis dependence may be inevitable when used frequently.
You may experience short term effects of joy or calmness. But you may also experience the following during or after smoking:
- Altered sense of time
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Changes in mood
- Anxiety / panic / paranoia
- Lowered reaction time and impaired body movement/condition
- Hallucinations (in high doses)
However, the long term effects are the ones that make most people consider quitting:
- Relationship problems
- Financial problems
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Lower life satisfaction
- Less academic and career success
- Bronchitis/breathing problems
- Increased risk of schizophrenia, especially heavy use during teenage years.
- Increase in other substance use disorders like alcohol or cocaine.
If you recognize any of the side-effects mentioned in your own experience or loved ones, it’s important to take action to quit smoking marijuana now.
Every user of marijuana has a different experience of consumption and dependency.
Equally, there are many different reasons why people decide to quit marijuana. Whether it’s the financial cost, relationship problems or health worries, there are always ways to quit the habit.
The following tactics and methods of how to quit smoking weed can be approached as single solutions or combined as a strategy for kicking the cannabis habit.
You should ASK YOURSELF:
Can you notice how this substance harms your life?
If your answer is yes, let’s continue.
It is possible to quit weed in the comfort of your home. -
First, Learn About The Conditioning and Triggers
When you want to quit, you will realize it is often much more challenging than you expect even to reduce or stop using any type of substance.
Since it becomes habitual, 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 always smokes weed with you. So when you see him/her – you automatically crave weed.
This is called conditioning. In this scenario, the meeting with your friend is a trigger.
Being aware of conditioning and triggers is important because you will use this information to your advantage to recover from weed for good.
While outlining your quit plan, you will decide on your approach by considering your conditionings and triggers.
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 we have outlined steps you can take into consideration in this process.
Which approach works best for quitting marijuana?
Frankly, there is no best way to give up weed.
An approach that works for someone might not work for you but there is at least one for everyone.
Since everyone develops different habitual smoking patterns, considering different methods and maybe a trial and error approach may be beneficial.
In this guide, we will cover quitting cold turkey and quitting gradually in different sections with pros and cons.
Approach 1: Quitting Smoking Weed Gradually (Step by Step)
When you want to quit cannabis with a gradual approach, you should create and stick to a step by step plan.
We have outlined some points you should consider before setting your ultimate quit date.
1) Write Down Your Current Weed Intake
Ask yourself what is your current weed intake? How much are you actually using on an average basis?
For example: If you smoke 1 gram of weed per day and 2 grams on the weekends, write this down.
You will use this information to decide your quit date.
2) How Much Will You Cut Down?
Now that you know how much you smoke, ask yourself what is realistic as a goal for cutting down?
For example: Will you be able to cut down to 0.5 grams of weed a day during the week and 1 gram on the weekends?
Write down the amount you want to cut down gradually. Setting realistic goals is important in this step.
You might be tempted to say you will cut more and end up not doing it.
This negative consequence may harm your confidence in yourself, so it is better to set a realistic goal than to set something impossible.
3) Timeline with A Quit Day
Set out a timeline with a definite quit day.
When you calculate the amount you cut, create a schedule of milestone days.
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.
For example: Every 3 days or 5 days, you will decrease the amount you decided from your cannabis consumption.
The day you reduce to zero is the day you choose as your quit day.
Please note that you shouldn’t select your quit day too much farther in the future since you may forget your goal and lose motivation along the way.
When motivation lessens, it will be easy to rationalize with yourself to use more than, for example, the 0.5-gram plan.
Thus, deciding on the intervals between milestone days is crucial.
For the timeline, put the reduction amount on a schedule. For example, the plan in step two will be completed for the next 2 weeks and at that point, you will cut that in half as well.
4) Be Flexible And Patient During Your Schedule
Be flexible and patient with yourself.
For example: If it turns out that cutting 0.5 grams is not realistic, instead of beating yourself up, adjust your goal to cut back 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.
5) 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 new ways of coping with stress, feelings of anxiety or depression before reducing use.
Prepare yourself for the reduction by looking into what might work for you. We will elaborate on this more in the following sections.
A Tool: SMART Action Plan For Quitting Weed Gradually
There are 5 important guidelines for sticking to any goal.
They need to be:
- Realistic and
When making your action plan for cutting off cannabis gradually, make sure that you consider all of these aspects.
Here is an example of a plan using the SMART guidelines:
You may fill out your own measures and ideas.
- Specific: I will stop smoking weed completely in the next 6 months.
- Measurable: I currently smoke 1 gram every day. My goal is to reduce this to 0.5 gram in the first month, in the second month cut this down to every other day, in Month 3 cut this down to 0.25 gram per day, then in Month 4 to 0.25 gram every other day, in Month 4 cut down to 0.25 gram 2 days per week and Month 5 to 0.10 gram 1 day per week. End of Month 5: no marijuana.
- Achievable: I believe it is attainable for me to reduce my weed intake on this gradual plan for the next 6 months. It would be unattainable for me to quit weed cold turkey.
- Realistic: I realize it will be difficult for me to stick to this plan because all my friends 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 I will reduce the amount of time I spend with them and I will meet them in places where it is not possible to smoke.
- 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.
Quit Weed At Home, At Your Convenience! -
Approach 2: Quitting Weed Cold Turkey
You may not want to quit smoking weed on a gradual basis because:
You may need to quit immediately for many reasons (work, relationships, school, legal issues 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.
The approach of going cold turkey has a history of being associated with drug addiction. It simply means you completely cut out marijuana consumption.
It certainly has the clear advantage of a quick impact. You’ll see results straight away. However, it’s much more complicated than it appears. You have to have a strategy to deal with the withdrawal symptoms that you’ll inevitably experience.
You can’t simply put don’t your spliff and say goodbye to weed forever without looking back. This is because even if you are mentally prepared for the challenge of giving up weed. Your body probably isn’t ready.
After all, your body has developed a tolerance for marijuana. While the body stores THC for up to a month at a time, this simply won’t be enough to prevent you from craving cannabis.
Although going cold turkey might be worth a try, it’s rarely successful on its own without a solid strategy. It’s difficult to fight against your own biology.
In this part of our guide, we will talk about useful strategies for quitting cold turkey.
Look at what ‘function’ marijuana currently fills.
Ask yourself what are other ways you could fill that function?
Example #1: If weed helps you fall asleep…
Look into different ways of how you can help yourself sleep.
Instead of smoking pot, you may:
- eat less before bedtime so the full stomach doesn’t disturb you
- staying away from the blue light of mobile phones, tablets and TV before bedtime
- relaxing before going to bed with a warm shower and light stretching
- listening to soothing music or white noises
- creating a pitch dark sleep environment with blackout curtains
- ventilating the room and keeping a temperature between 60-67 °F (16-20 °C)
- exercise 10-30 minutes (ideally no later than 5pm) every day to improve your sleep quality
You can look up other ‘sleep hygiene’ tactics and start practicing these right away.
Example #2: If weed helps you deal with work stress and anxiety…
Instead of running to your smoking and weed paraphernalia, try to manage your work stress and anxiety with these long-term tactics:
- Control your breath. Try to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Take regular breaks. Stay away from your computer and take a short walk.
- Do some stretching in front of the computer to help your body relax.
- Communicate more with someone you trust (family member, friend, coworker, doctor, religious leader). Sometimes socializing and confiding your anxiety in trusted persons may be helpful and make you feel less lonely.
- Keep work/life balance. Try not to bring work home and spend your leisure time with family, friends and hobbies.
Give some time for these things to become habitual before judging their effectiveness.
Remove The Substance, Don’t Buy Cannabis
This is the most simple and obvious first step to quitting your dependency on weed. After all, if you don’t buy it, you won’t smoke it. If you don’t buy yourself anyway, make sure you just don’t get it at all anyway.
The extent of the challenge of not buying weed partly depends on your circumstances. For instance, whether you’re living in a place that has legalized marijuana or not. Or, whether your friends and the social group also smoke weed.
Either way, this step certainly involves bucket loads of willpower to get through it. You are almost certainly going to experience strong temptations to go back to your old ways. The best way to counter these urges is to distract yourself by calling a friend for a chat or going out with non-smoking friends for coffee, and to remind yourself the reasons for wanting to quit.
Let us emphasize once again:
Delete your weed dealer’s phone number (and block it if possible).
Change your daily route if there is a cannabis store on your way.
Get Rid of All The Gear (Smoking Accessories etc.)
This suggestion is crucial.
Most users of marijuana accumulate a wide array of different instruments and accessories. These include anything from pipes and bongs to paper and grinders.
It’s important that you immediately remove all of these items as a statement that this is the start of your non-smoking marijuana-free lifestyle.
Besides, not only do these items have no purpose in your weed-free life, there serve as triggers for relapse.
Many of these accessories could set you back quite a bit. So there’s an extra incentive for you to make a bit of cash on the back of giving up your dependency on smoking weed.
Get rid of all weed and weed paraphernalia you own.
When you have them handy, it is always easy to postpone your goals and get into the vicious circle of “I will do it tomorrow”, a typical procrastination sentence.
Remove the ‘option’ for yourself as much as possible.
Let People Know, Make Yourself Accountable
While you might think that you can handle this on your own, it’s much better to involve other people in your struggle against cannabis dependency.
Make use of your support network, whether it’s family, friends, partners or colleagues. The people that you surround yourself with this time can play a significant role in helping you overcome your dependency and progress towards your goals.
You may want to ‘just stop smoking’ 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 you a joint or a reefer and you can get social support with your goal.
If you feel intimidated to tell everyone before you are successful, there is another option.
Find a reliable and trusted accountability buddy. This friend, family member or partner can check in on you and help you stay on track when you seem to be forgetful of your goals.
It’s vital to realize that ultimately, giving up your drug disorder is down to you. Nobody else can achieve this for you.
Most weed smokers spend many hours in the day getting high. Therefore, it can be difficult removing this from your lifestyle when quitting cold turkey.
That’s why you have to fill the void left. The best thing to replace your marijuana habit with is a healthy hobby. This can be anything from starting a new sport or learning how to bake cakes. It may help to stay busy, to avoid boredom (major trigger for many people) and to keep yourself from focusing on weed.
Your Weed-Free Game Plan
There are many scientifically tried and tested ways to overcome the challenges associated with stopping smoking marijuana and starting your journey towards a weed-free future. The section below works for both quitting cannabis cold turkey or gradually.
Try New Things
Allow yourself to experience new activities that do not centre around smoking marijuana or remind you of it.
Getting off weed might be a good excuse to pick up a new hobby.
Try new physical activities: You may find many exercise videos from yoga to body-weight circuits that do not require much equipment or investment.
Regular exercise also benefits mental health and improves your overall physical and psychological well-being.
It will also decrease the symptoms of anxiety, depression or unhappiness you may experience during cutting back weed.
Try new fun things: From board games to computer games, there are many possibilities out there. You can even turn on the music and learn how to dance with some Youtube dancing tutorials.
Learning how to draw is also another option.
Distracting yourself from the desire to smoke will help you stick to your goals.
Use this time to improve yourself positively so it will increase your motivation to quit smoking marijuana.
Eat A Balanced Diet
Many weed smokers have low appetites and poor diets.
On the one hand, this means that they are less likely to suffer from obesity – as Time Magazine calls it “Marijuana Slims”. On the other hand, this means that giving up your smoking dependency can also result in not returning to a healthy diet.
Some people who are quitting weed find it very difficult to eat without smoking weed. They don’t have an appetite without smoking. If this is the case for you, try to eat mechanically at the beginning. Don’t wait to be hungry. Eat at regular times (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Start with light food and tell yourself that your body will learn to process the food without marijuana.
That’s why it’s especially important to make sure you are maintaining a healthy and balanced diet when giving up your drug dependency.
You should make sure you are eating plenty of healthy food with high-fiber, such as leafy and green veggies. It’s also vital that you stay hydrated. So make sure you drink plenty of water because it is good for your recovery from weed dependency.
Change Your Routines
As mentioned earlier, we become conditioned to want substances based on the environment.
So to continue your progress, change some of your triggering routines.
Example #1: If you normally smoke weed every day with your girlfriend on the balcony at 9 pm…
- Ask her to watch a movie inside with you at that time or
- Request her to not smoke in front of you.
Example #2: If you smoke when you see a certain friend…
- Try to meet with them in places where you cannot smoke or
- Simply refrain yourself from seeing them for a while.
Don’t Give Up
It is normal to have slip-ups.
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.
Remember, your cannabis addiction wasn’t developed in one day.
So you may not develop opposite habits in one day as well. And this is totally acceptable.
Identify what led to the relapse and adjust your skills/goals to make sure it does not reoccur.
Learn From Your Mistakes. Try Again.
Create a set plan for how you will cope with a desire to relapse.
As we mentioned in the previous section, learn from your mistakes and identify what caused you to relapse.
And according to these triggers and conditions, make a safety plan that you can use instead of returning to weed the next time.
Prepare some answers or action plans for specific situations.
- Practice some polite refusal sentences in case a marijuana user offers you a joint.
- If your friends decide to smoke, plan to take a walk and come back after they finish.
- If you happen to find yourself in a situation that you didn’t think of before, have a supportive friend you can call to help distract you.
Simply engaging a phone call in a social environment would help your mind be absent from the current situation, thus increase your chances not to relapse.
Predetermining different verbal and behavioural responses to different situations strengthen your hand in your recovery journey from marijuana.
Why Is it Challenging To Quit Smoking Weed?
Quitting smoking weed could be challenging as you might experience cannabis withdrawal effects.
Cannabis Withdrawal Effects
Everyone who goes on a journey of recovering from their weed dependency experiences different withdrawal symptoms. However, there are many common symptoms that it’s important to know about before.
While these psychological and physical symptoms do not usually present a direct danger to your health, they can be severely unpleasant and disruptive.
They may last anywhere from two weeks to several months.
In some cases the psychological symptoms may last much longer. Understanding more about them may ease your mind.
Effect #1: Cravings
Cravings are naturally the most common symptom of marijuana withdrawal.
They may be consistent or come on suddenly. They may also vary in intensity at different times.
This intensity will usually be influenced by the length of the time and the amount you used cannabis.
Nearly everyone who decides to give up their dependency on marijuana experiences cravings at some point. This is simply the normal reaction of your body when you give up something all of a sudden.
The chemical THC in marijuana is stored in the fat cells of your body. Unlike other drugs, such as tobacco, THC remains in your body long after you’ve stopped smoking.
In fact, according to the University of Notre Dame, France, it can take over a week for the THC chemical to leave your body after just a single joint. This results in a continued craving for a longer period than many other drugs.
The good news is that cravings and withdrawal symptoms only last around a few weeks. After this, you should be able to go about your day without feeling the mood swings, depression, and cravings for marijuana.
Effect #2: Irritability or Anger
During weed withdrawal, you may feel very irritable or angry.
You may experience these feelings consistently or in short bursts. This is totally normal and will ease over time.
Effect #3: Anxiety or Agitation
Feelings of anxiety or agitation are very common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.
You may struggle to focus, relax, sleep or interact with others as a result of these feelings.
Again, these feelings will usually subside over time as marijuana leaves your system and you adjust to life without it.
Effect #4: Mood Swings, Depression
You may also experience mood swings or depression.
Your body and mind are trying to adjust to life without the mood-enhancing and stabilizing effects of marijuana.
Effect #5: Headaches
Headaches are common symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.
This is a natural effect of ending the use of a substance your body has come to depend upon.
Headaches will usually ease as the withdrawal process continues. However, if they persist beyond a few weeks and at a severe level, you should speak to a doctor.
Effect #6: Focus and Memory Issues (Cognitive Impairment)
Regular, sustained weed use can negatively affect your cognitive function.
This means that you may experience issues with focus and memory.
This is a natural part of the body’s adjustment to no longer using marijuana. As your body adjusts to recovery, your cognitive functions will improve back.
Effect #7: Problems With Sleep
While going through weed withdrawal, you may experience problems with sleep.
Insomnia is a very common symptom of the withdrawal process.
You may previously have relied on the substance to get to sleep or stay asleep. Exercising daily can be helpful for these symptoms.
The agitation and restlessness common in withdrawal may also prevent you from getting adequate sleep.
It is also common to experience vivid, disturbing dreams for weeks or months after ending marijuana use. These symptoms will usually subside over time.
Effect #8: Weight Change or Loss of Appetite
Marijuana withdrawal can change your appetite. This usually lasts two or three weeks at most.
Effect #9: Changes in Sex Drive
You may experience changes in your sex drive, as well. It is usually temporary and will subside as you progress through the withdrawal process.
Effect #10: Flu-like Symptoms
In the early phases of weed withdrawal, you can experience flu-like symptoms as your body adjusts.
These symptoms may include headaches, tremors, aches, excessive sweating, fever and chills.
However, they are relatively rare and will usually only occur in the first week or two.
Getting Help For Withdrawal
During the withdrawal process, you can always ask help to manage these symptoms.
Some of them are related to concurrent diseases which are the reasons for marijuana use in the first place, like addressing your anxiety or depression problems.
Recovery from this addiction will give you the opportunity to address your issues with a therapist in a progressive way, rather than masking them with weed.
It is always important to note that, you may struggle to fulfill your professional and personal responsibilities during the first two weeks of the withdrawal process.
So, it is important to be aware of this when quitting cannabis.
Consult with a professional now!
Other Factors That Make Quitting Difficult
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
When you experience extreme happiness, sadness or anger, you are more likely at risk for increasing your weed use. Hence, a higher likelihood of relapsing back to higher substance use.
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 some people have relationship issues, they often turn to substances for self-soothing.
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.
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 you to quit, this will require some workaround 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.
How to Quit Weed (When Nothing Seems to Have Worked)
This is a common question many people are currently asking and realizing to quit smoking weed is a challenging feat.
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:
- Speaking to a Professional: A therapist can be very helpful in working through what makes it so challenging for you personally to give up weed. Here you can understand concurrent disorders and addressing them would help you quit your marijuana addiction easily.
- Virtual (At Home) Treatment Programs: Do you know that you can quit marijuana with virtual outpatient programs in the comfort of your home, at your convenience? You can start your recovery journey easily with a comprehensive and structured online treatment program through a secure telehealth platform.
- Outpatient Addiction Counselling: Some Addiction Centres offer outpatient rehab programs that teach you how to quit using marijuana.
- Residential Treatment: If you have tried everything and need more help, inpatient rehab treatment is likely the best option.
Many people follow these guidelines to quit their marijuana addiction.
It is easy to say giving up weed “should be simple” but this is not always the case.
Sometimes life gets in the way and you simply cannot stop it.
It doesn’t mean you will have to live with your weed addiction forever.
There is always help and you are not alone.
More and more people are coming into our addiction treatment centres looking for how to quit smoking weed.
Weed can become a very difficult habit to break, and outpatient 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 with inpatient rehab options.
For some others, outpatient addiction counselling or virtual rehab programs with teletherapy sessions may suffice.
If this is the case, we suggest you to do a research about the costs of rehab options with this guide.
Some Interesting Weed Addiction Statistics
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.
Let’s look at the statistics.
According to the 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.