More and more in the news today you’ll see the lists of the health benefits that come from smoking weed. And they’re not wrong. THC has several well-documented health benefits across the board. But the excess of anything can be bad, and the way you intake any substance can make it more harmful than not. There are reasons to use marijuna, and there are reasons to quit.
Why Quit Smoking Weed?
With all good things comes the other side of the coin. Marijuana is not perfect, nor is it healthy to use repeatedly, on a daily basis especially when you smoke it, instead of using a weed vaporizer. There are several immediate and long-term factors that can really mess with your body if not treated properly:
- Impaired short-term memory: Marijuana use can impair your short-term memory, which could potentially become dangerous
- Changes in mood: Use of the drug can cause mood swings and drastic altering of mood which can have long-term psychological effects
- Effects on development: In teenagers and those still growing, marijuana can permanently damage brain cells, which will never grow to their fullest potential.
- Respiratory problems: Smoking weed can have similar effects on the lungs as smoking cigarettes and lead to the same deadly outcomes.
- Elevated heart rate: Marijuana can raise the heart rate for an extended period of time after ingested, which can cause problems in those who have existing blood pressure or other coronary issues
Ultimately, smoking marijuana chronically and with little control can lead to several health problems. And in the long term can result in decreased mental health and life quality. If you’re experiencing anything like this, the time has come for you to call it quits on your weed smoking life.
But Marijuana Isn’t Addictive, Or Is It?
Studies show that up to 30% of regular marijuana users end up forming a dependency on the drug, similar to an addiction. In fact, there could be as many as 2.5 million people in the United States who regularly suffer from marijuana dependency. This means that marijuana addiction and marijuana’s role as a possible “gateway drug” aren’t fallacies. There could be real cause for alarm if you find yourself consistently dependent on the drug. There are several ways to deal with this, however, and each one is going to be different.
Methods of Quitting Smoking Weed
Everyone is unique and so is his or her dependence on marijuana. Emotional factors might play more of a role in some than others as well as financial or health issues. Whatever the reason, when you realize you have a problem and make the decision to quit, there are several ways you can go about your choice to quit.
- “Cold Turkey” – For Enthusiastic Folks
Cold turkey often refers to the process of simply halting your smoking habit. It’s a good plan for those who want results fast but you’re going to need a game plan. You cannot simply throw away your weed and bong, or your best vape, and say today is the day you’re done. Even if you’re mentally strong enough for that, your body might not be and you need to be prepared. Your body stores THC for weeks and months after you last smoked, which means it’s still secreted into your system in small doses daily. This isn’t going to be enough for your body, which has built up a tolerance to the drug. This means willpower might not be enough. It’s difficult to fight biology, and biology will knock at your door in the form of severe withdrawal symptoms. You cannot simply throw away your weed and bong, or your best vape, and say today is the day you’re done.
If you haven’t been smoking for too long, it’s possible you’re able to overcome this first, and very arduous, hurdle. You can push past your body’s own cravings and move on. But, if that doesn’t work for you, it’s okay. Biology cannot be conquered by sheer willpower sometimes. And that’s where other options come in.
- Medical Aid – For Everyone
This is one step up from quitting cold turkey but not nearly as drastic as rehab. There’s also tons of research on how effective, or ineffective this is. Currently, there’s no true approved medication that can be prescribed to treat marijuana dependence. But that doesn’t mean other medications, with a different intended purpose, can help out the process.
There’s not going to be a miracle pill that will cure you of your dependence. But there are things you can get to supplement your plan and help curb symptoms that come along with withdrawals. If you’re nervous about withdraw symptoms, talking to your doctor about this could be a very smart and efficient way to go.
- 12 Step Program – For The Spiritual Souls
This has become famous as a program for alcoholics, but any addiction can be combated under the 12-Step Program. This approach offers anonymous support groups and sponsors who will guide you through the emotional process of fighting addiction. This program is best for those who have an emotional dependence on substance abuse and want to seek out support. Because of this, the success rate could be better and it hasn’t kept up well with modern science, but for some, it’s the way to go. The steps follow closely to the program used for Alcoholics Anonymous:
- Acknowledge you have an addiction and everything that means
- Ask a higher power for help in overcoming your addiction
- Offer your will over to your spiritual higher power for guidance
- Take responsibility for the mistakes you have made as a result of your marijuana dependency
- Confess those mistakes to yourself and to others who you feel safe with
- Decide you are ready for your higher power to help remove your faults
- Ask for assistance in removing these faults
- Keep track of those you have harmed with your decisions
- Make amends with those on your list
- Continue your habit taking an inventory of your wrongs and whom you have wronged
- Engage in prayer
- Come to a point of awakening and health
This program is not for everyone, but for those it does help, it’s sworn by and might be something for you to try in your own battle against addiction.
- Rehab – For Heavy Smokers
This one is and should be the end all, be all for addiction treatment. Rehab is a huge financial and time commitment that requires you to put your life on hold in order to get better. For people who are truly struggling and on the brink of health collapse, this is the best option. Rehab will offer intensive treatment, medical help, and various counseling during the process. But it’s not for everyone, and like the 12 Step Program, can have poor success rates if people don’t approach it in the correct way.
- Counseling – For Undecided Ones
This is perhaps the best option for those on the fence about rehab. If an environmental change and medical intervention aren’t needed but therapy and talking are, then this is the best option to supplement your self-guided plan to quit. Talking out your dependency and urges with a professional is the best way to combat it in a low-intensity setting.
How to Quit Weed: Step by Step
Stop Buying/Getting It
If you have committed yourself to living weed-free than this should be your first step. Unlike tobacco or alcohol, stopping buying weed should be the easiest part of quitting, since it is not so readily available – unless you live in a state when recreational marijuana is legal. You can’t smoke it if you don’t get it. This step involves nothing more than sheer willpower.
You might feel strong urges, once your stash is gone, to pick up the phone or go over to a friend’s house to get some but find a way to distract yourself – spend some time with a loved one, go out with non-smoking friends, do something fun that does not involve getting high.
Get rid of paraphernalia
During your weed-smoking days, you probably surrounded yourself with all kinds of accessories, pipes, bongs, rolling papers, grinders, etc. Once you have entered that new, weed-free phase in your life, it can only makes matters worse to have all those triggers around you. So it only makes sense to get rid of them all. If some of those accessories were expensive or hold some kind of sentimental value, you can give them away just so you don’t have to see them everyday. So it only makes sense to get rid of them all, yes, even your best dab wax pen, if you have more than one.
Quitting weed smoking cold turkey, just like quitting tobacco cold turkey, comes with its own pitfalls and withdrawal phase. The most serious of these pitfalls is the incessant cravings that come with quitting all of a sudden.
The unique thing about weed is that, unlike nicotine which leaves the body relatively quickly, the active chemical ingredient in weed, THC, is stored in fat cells, so even after you stop smoking small amounts of THC get released into your body, which invariably triggers cravings.
You would think that this would actually help you – kind of like a nicotine replacement therapy but for weed – having small amounts of THC released into your body. Except, since they are only small amounts and since your body is used to receiving more, it actually works against you.
Controlling cravings then becomes your most difficult and most important task. Some of the better ways to control you cravings include:
- Doing something else – Seems really simple, doesn’t it? But it is true that distracting yourself from wanting to smoke weed is a very easy way to control your cravings. Take up a hobby, do something you always wanted to do but were too high too start or finish and you will forget all about weed.
- Exercise/Physical activity – Why don’t we exercise more? It helps with practically everything, from your overall physical health to alleviating symptoms of depression, exercise is a cure-all. Helping take your mind off of smoking weed is another thing that exercise is excellent at doing.
- Having a support system – Having people you can call in times of need is essential in life, but when you are trying to quit weed it is doubly useful so they can give you the support and motivation to stay away from marijuana.
- Avoid idleness – This has a lot to do with the first one. Having nothing better to do is one reason people take up smoking weed in the first place. So don’t fall into that trap.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
Since we already established above that marijuana is an addictive substance, it naturally follows that once you give it up, some withdrawal symptoms are sure to follow. Symptoms like:
Again, everything that we mentioned about how to control your cravings can also be applied to controlling your withdrawal symptoms. Exercise, of course, but we can also add to that list:
- Eat healthier foods, high fiber foods, green leafy vegetables
- Drink plenty of water
- Drink coffee (caffeine is a great antidote to the lethargy brought on by weed)
- Drink teas with high concentrations of antioxidants
A Complete Game Plan for Dealing with Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
So it’s the cravings and withdrawal symptom that make quitting weed or any other drug extremely hard. No matter which approach you adopt, withdrawals will test your limits. Here a few things you can do to tame your body when it urges you for the puff of pot:
- Get Motivation from Your Friends and Family
The first things you need to do is involve your friends and family in your venture. They can be your biggest motivation and can help you stay positive 24/7. Without their help and support you will feel lonely, even depressed and might want to go back.
- Find a Healthy Replacement Activity
In addition to the high you get from weed, it also becomes a pet physical activity, even a habit and when you suddenly stop, you most likely feel down and depressed. It’s time to find a replacement activity. You can consider watching a movie that makes you laugh, spending time with somebody who make you feel good. Remember, you can’t just replace this activity with any other activity, it has to be a healthy activity. For example, instead of gulping down massive mugs of coffee do exercise, take long walks, talk to a friend on the phone, cook or watch your favorite TV show, reading your favorite book, or simply the newspaper.
- Do Something New… Or At Least Different
With smoking marijuana out of your daily routine, it might become boring so you need to change it. Try getting up early, eat something different for breakfast, go to work or school from a different route, try to change your work schedule, eat something different for lunch. In short, you have to make your life more exciting by doing new things or at least doing things differently. Also, it’s possible that you might feel less hungry, still try to eat the same amount of food as you have been eating but don’t force yourself to eat.
- Curb the Urge
The cravings to smoke will show up very frequent in the early days, so you have to be very careful during the first few days. Try to avoid the triggers, the locations or the group of friends you used to smoke with. Flee the scene for a few days, ago to your favorite vacation spot, spend some time away from home as quickly as you can after quitting. Drinking a lot of water, eating healthy, and staying active can exponentially boost your efforts of curbing the urge to smoke.
- Trick the Brain, Minimize the Withdrawals
The simplest trick to make sure you suffer the minimum withdrawals is to set up your pot portions ahead of time and take only as much amount as you have promised yourself. So, treat it just like taking your medication and not a recreational activity. Then gradually reduce the amount you take before you eventually stop.
- See a Therapist
If all else fails and you’re still having trouble with withdrawals, do see a therapist. You might think there is some stigma attached to it, but let’s not forget that a bigger stigma is attached to excessive weed smoking. Try to find someone who specializes in addiction issues, more specifically in marijuana addiction. You may also join a support group so you could talk to people going through the same situation as you. It can be very helpful to share your thoughts with them and to listen to their thoughts and learn how they are coping with their predicament.
What Happens After You Quit Smoking Weed
According to a quit smoking weed guide produced by the University of Notre Dame, it takes about a week for the THC content of one weed cigarette (or joint) to leave your body and for heavy users, you can begin to expect feeling withdrawal symptoms 3 weeks after your last dose.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists as withdrawal symptoms of quitting weed the following:
- Mood swings
- Stomach pain
- Reduced appetite
A whole cascade of symptoms follows from the ones already mentioned and just like with quitting smoking cold turkey, you will probably have to fight a battle against your cravings for weed. This is what will usually cause you to become irritable and anxious.
Your body not getting any THC will affect your sleep patterns as well, so you might not be able to get a good night’s rest. This is a common one with weed smokers, since a lot of weed smokers like to light one up right before going to bed, so they can sleep better. But, just like with any sleeping pill, if you take it away then you can be sure that your sleep will be affected.
Less sleep can reduce performance at work or school and lead to a loss of motivation to do anything. Eventually leading right back to where we started: irritability.
It is important to remember however that despite the realness of these symptoms they are not long-lasting or life-threatening. The National Institute on Drug Abuse even states that “some people having marijuana withdrawal might not realize it”.
Withdrawal symptoms from quitting weed smoking typically last only for a few days or, at most, weeks and once the initial feelings of anxiety and irritability pass there are some other things that might start to happen. If you were a long-time weed smoker the very act of smoking weed became, over time, ritualized and your body starts to crave not only THC but the environmental factors (such as the touch and feel and a smell of marijuana) that accompany it.
As Dr. Stuart Gitlow a professor at the University of Florida states about quitting weed, “there’s a familiarity with an experience that now will be missed”. This sudden emptiness, which is a more subtle withdrawal symptom, might allow ex-users to begin to explore more fully the reasons why they stopped or even why they started. Dr. Gitlow describes this post-withdrawal phase as when ex-users begin to “feel feelings again”.
Despite the physical withdrawal symptoms of quitting weed only lasting a few weeks, Dr. Gitlow cautions that getting used to the “new reality” of quitting weed smoking can be a process that lasts up to a year. While the more immediate withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia and irritability dissipate within a few days, the more deep-seeded psychological problems of habitual weed smoking or any abuse of a substance can persist and in that case, further therapy should be pursued.
Again, the reasons to quit smoking weed can vary among different people and the significance of withdrawal symptoms from quitting weed smoking can also vary depending on how long you smoked weed and how often you smoked. Whatever the case may be, the physical, behavioral and mental effects of quitting weed smoking are real and you should be prepared for them. At the same time though, they shouldn’t put you off from doing something as important and meaningful as quitting smoking weed.