CCFA’s Effective Top Tips on How to Quit Smoking Weed
Weed (marijuana or cannabis) is often portrayed as a relatively harmless substance in the media and elsewhere. Its sale for medicinal or recreational use is legal in Canada and other parts of the world. However, regular weed use can adversely affect one’s life. Weed also carries a potential for addiction and can be a gateway drug for harder substances. Research shows that 30% of people who use cannabis develop cannabis use disorder. Individuals who start using before turning 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop the disorder.
Trying to stop smoking weed or any form of cannabis use is challenging and requires some effort. Cannabis contains a psychoactive compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that interacts with brain receptors to produce the associated high. Consistent use leads to dependence as the brain adapts to THC, making it difficult for the individual to stop using. They may also experience weed withdrawal symptoms if they stop using to reduce their consumption. However, quitting weed is possible with the right combination of commitment and guidance. Learn how to quit smoking weed and build healthier habits with CCFA’s comprehensive guide.
- Cannabis is approved for medicinal or recreational use in Canada and other places in the world
- Smoking cannabis can lead to dependence as the brain adapts to THC, its psychoactive component
- Weed users who have developed dependence will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to quit or reduce their weed use
- You can stop smoking weed by adopting a cold turkey approach or cutting down consumption slowly
- Individuals who cannot stop smoking weed on their own will need to seek professional help
The Effects of Smoking Weed
The euphoric sensations from smoking weed can make it seem like something great at first. Weed can help you relax, sleep better, manage anxiety, or relieve pain. With continued use, however, the downsides of smoking weed will begin to outweigh the positives. The effects of weed may be psychological or physical:
When you smoke weed, THC gets to the brain and alters functions related to memory, perception, mood, and behaviour. The most prominent psychological effects of weed include
The high that comes from smoking weed is why it’s so popular. For many people, the euphoria associated with the drug is described as a pleasant sense of relaxation and contentment. You may become excited, giggly, or chatty. Some people may experience a high, then a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. Not everyone experiences these sensations. Some people experience panic attacks, social anxiety, or paranoia, especially if they consume marijuana edibles.
Smoking weed can also cause visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations. Colours, textures, and sounds become sharper and more vivid. A person may see, feel, or hear things that are not present and there may be a distortion in time perception. Weed-induced hallucinations may cause paranoia and feelings of isolation.
Other psychological consequences of smoking weed include:
- Problems with memory and learning
- Antisocial behaviour
- Diminished inhibitions
- Difficulty concentrating
Smoking weed has the following physical effects:
- Irritated lungs from carcinogens and burns to the throat or mouth
- Worsening of pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis
- Weakened immune function
- Elevated heart rate
- Reddening of the eyes from increased blood flow
- Increased phlegm production
Some of these effects of smoking weed may be severe, and you’ll require professional help to get through them. The Canadian Centre for Addictions offers treatment for weed dependence in an environment that inspires lasting change. We employ multiple treatment options and equip our clients with coping strategies to overcome their addiction. Call 1-855-499-9446 to learn more about our services.
Can Weed Be Addictive?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, is responsible for addiction caused by weed. Not everyone who uses weed will become addicted, but studies show that up to 30% of weed users will develop cannabis use disorder (CUD). This condition is marked by mild to severe physical, emotional, or mental problems due to cannabis abuse or dependence. Individuals who start using cannabis as adolescents or use it more frequently have a higher chance of becoming addicted.
THC mimics the action of natural neurotransmitters in the brain. With continued use, the body adapts to THC and stops producing sufficient neurotransmitters. This adaptation causes the individual to become dependent on cannabis, which causes them to experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit. The more potent a marijuana strain, the higher the risk of addiction and dependence.
Some signs of weed addiction or dependence include:
- Needing increased amounts of weed to get the same high
- Intense cravings for weed
- Using weed in high-risk situations, such as when driving or operating machinery
- Continued weed use despite adverse physical or psychological consequences
- Trying to quit weed use without success
- Abandoning or falling behind in responsibilities due to excessive weed intake
- Prioritizing weed use over spending time with loved ones or previously enjoyable activities
- Developing withdrawal symptoms whenever you stop or reduce weed use
Factors Associated with Marijuana Abuse
Anyone who uses marijuana can abuse and become addicted to the drug. However, some factors increase an individual’s likelihood of abusing and becoming hooked on the drug:
Genetics and Family History
Young people with a family history of marijuana abuse have a higher chance of falling into the same trap of marijuana abuse. Studies also show that some genes might put people at risk for cannabis use disorder.
People exposed to marijuana at a young age have a higher chance of using or abusing marijuana at some point in their lives. The earlier they’re exposed to marijuana, the greater their risk of abuse. Peer pressure can also make young people try and abuse marijuana.
Pre-existing Health Conditions
Marijuana is often used to self-medicate for pain, muscle spasms, anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation. Using marijuana without a prescription can also increase the risk of abuse and dependence.
The Benefits of Quitting
Whether you’re dependent on weed or just a casual smoker who knows when and when not to smoke weed, it is always in your interest to stop smoking weed for good. While it may not be the easiest thing to do, the associated gains should be enough motivation. Some benefits of quitting weed include:
Improved Respiratory Function and Health
Smoking weed releases carcinogens and other toxins into the lungs, increasing the risk of lung cancer, bronchitis, and other respiratory ailments. Smoking weed also leads to the formation of air sacs in the lungs, increasing the risk of exposure to pathogens often contained in street weed. Marijuana smokers typically inhale more deeply and hold their breath for longer than cigarette smokers, so they’re exposed to lung-scarring tar, which can cause pulmonary fibrosis.
By quitting weed, you allow your lungs to heal and function more efficiently. You also reduce your chances of catching infections or developing cancer of the lungs.
Improved Heart Health and Function
Smoking weed increases the heart rate, which comes with the risk of cardiac arrest, stroke, and other cardiovascular ailments. Chronic marijuana use can also make the heart swell and diminish cardiac function. When you quit smoking, you allow your heart to return to its normal size and reduce your chances of developing a heart-related disorder.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Marijuana is a psychoactive substance that directly affects areas in the brain responsible for memory, learning, perception, and decision-making. Regular weed use will impair brain function; permanently in some cases. If you stop smoking, your cognitive capacity will start to improve, and you’ll notice that it’s much easier to form coherent thoughts.
Reduced Risk of Mental Health Conditions
Chronic marijuana use leaves smokers with depression, anxiety, and other unpleasant feelings after the euphoria wears off. It’s why they keep going back to the drug. Many people start smoking weed to cope with these feelings in the first place. However, marijuana will likely worsen or trigger mental health conditions with time. Quitting marijuana can improve your mental state and allow you to find more effective ways of dealing with any existing problems.
Improved Relationships and Overall Quality of Life
When people become dependent on marijuana, they tend to prioritize getting the drug above everything else. This sort of behaviour often leads to a breakdown in relationships with friends and loved ones, as the individual would rather spend time with fellow weed users. They may also get into financial, legal, and work-related problems. Quitting marijuana allows you to focus on rebuilding damaged relationships and getting your life back on track.
How Long Does It Take to Quit Smoking Weed
How long you’ll need to stop taking weed depends on factors such as frequency of use, the amount used and your physical and mental health status. Withdrawal symptoms generally start within one to three days after your last use. The symptoms peak within a week to 10 days and begin to wane within 10 to 20 days. Brain receptors will begin to recover normal functioning within three to four weeks as the body removes every trace of marijuana. For some individuals, withdrawal symptoms like insomnia and vivid dreams may last three months to a year. They may also experience marijuana cravings, especially when they encounter people, places, or circumstances that were triggers for past marijuana use.
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
Not everyone who quits cannabis use will go through withdrawal symptoms, but they can be a rather unpleasant experience for those who do. Most symptoms of cannabis withdrawal start within 24 to 72 hours and may be mild or severe. They are usually not life-threatening and include the following:
- Intense cravings for cannabis
- Diminished appetite and weight loss
- Loss of focus
- Mood swings
- Stomach troubles
- Chills and cold sweats
- Nausea and vomiting
Our Tips for Quitting Weed Effectively
Like all substance use disorders, quitting weed use is challenging but entirely possible. You can become dependent on cannabis no matter how long you’ve been using the drug. Here are our top tips on how to stop smoking weed.
Explore Your Relationship with Smoking Weed
It’s vital to understand your relationship with weed. You need to know why you smoke and why you’ve decided to quit. Being clear on what weed is to you strengthens your resolve and equips you to stick to your plan for quitting successfully. Perhaps you started smoking weed to relax, sleep better, or manage pain. But now you observe that the downsides outweigh the gains. Maximizing tips for quitting weed is easier when you understand why and how you use weed.
Identify Your Triggers
Exploring your relationship with weed also involves pinpointing places, people, and situations that make you want to smoke. Identifying all cues associated with smoking makes it easier to plan for the steps you’ll take when you encounter them.
Choose an Approach
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to quitting cannabis, so you must decide the most suitable way for your situation. There are two common approaches to quitting weed. You could either quit cold turkey or cut down slowly.
Quitting Cold Turkey
Quitting weed cold turkey means stopping the use of the drug at once. It is a challenging process often accompanied by intense withdrawal symptoms. Quitting cold turkey is quicker, usually more effective, and preferred for those who want a fresh start.
Cutting Down Slowly
Cutting down slowly means gradually reducing your weed intake by lowering the quantity you consume or frequency of use. This method aims to allow your body to get used to lower levels of weed with a view to quitting eventually. It also helps to minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
It’s essential to fix a date when you’ll quit for good if you choose to cut down slowly. A deadline lets you know how much you’ll need to cut down to quit on your set date. You may reduce your weed use by a certain amount weekly or opt for a less potent strain.
Set Goals and Make a Plan
You are unlikely to succeed at quitting cold turkey or cutting down slowly if you don’t set goals or have a clear plan. Examine your daily activities and see how your marijuana use fits into them. You also need to learn what withdrawal symptoms to expect and have a plan for dealing with them, especially if you’re quitting cold turkey.
If you’re cutting down slowly, set written goals for how much you’ll be cutting down daily or weekly. Your goals should be realistic so you don’t feel discouraged if you fail to meet your targets. Understand that you may fail to hit some of your goals, so you don’t need to beat yourself up if that happens. The important thing is persevering as your body adapts to the new changes.
Get Rid of Smoking Accessories
Keeping some weed at home or having smoking accessories within reach can make quitting more challenging. You have to get rid of smoking gear and other paraphernalia like pipes, vapes, bongs, rolling paper, and bowls. Anything that triggers or reminds you of smoking should be removed from your space.
Find Replacements and Form New Habits
If you smoke to de-stress or relieve boredom, you may need to form new habits or find other ways to keep yourself busy. Revisit old hobbies, learn to play an instrument, take up a new language or engage in other activities that take your mind away from cravings.
Develop a Support Network
Having a support structure of friends and loved ones will do a lot to help you hit your goals. Surround yourself with people who understand and support what you’re trying to do. This also means steering clear of people who remind you of your past behaviour or make it difficult for you to quit. Groups like Marijuana Anonymous can also provide the required support to get through this period. A solid support network makes quitting weed easier and offers the necessary connections to maintain sobriety.
Prioritize Self Care
Withdrawal symptoms put the body under a lot of stress, so it’s vital to care for your body at this point. Some ways to prioritize self-care include:
Engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise stimulates the release of endorphins which can improve your mood and take your mind away from cravings and uncomfortable symptoms. Other activities like meditation and mindfulness also help you stay relaxed and focus on your goal of achieving sobriety.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Cannabis withdrawal affects appetite, and food may taste differently. You must eat healthy foods to provide your body with the necessary nutrients. If you don’t feel hungry, eat a little often or have smoothies if possible. Consume fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods if you can, and always keep your body hydrated.
All addictions take time and effort to overcome. You will inevitably encounter triggers, experience cravings, and probably slip up. However, understand that slipping up does not mean that you’ve failed. Don’t get discouraged; instead, consider every slip a part of the recovery process. Recovery is, more often than not, a long journey, so all you need to do is learn from your mistakes and move forward.
Prepare Yourself for Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms are one of the main reasons people relapse when they attempt to quit smoking weed. Expecting and preparing for these symptoms before they appear is crucial. Have a plan that will help you commit to your recovery efforts. You could call a friend to come over and help you through this period. It also helps to continue reminding yourself that the unpleasant feelings are temporary and will improve in a few days.
Professional Treatment for Cannabis Addiction
Self-help tips are great, but sometimes you may need to reach out for help. For many people, the best way to quit smoking weed or using cannabis in any form is by getting specialist treatment. You don’t need to do it alone. Getting professional addiction treatment is necessary if you can’t stick to your plan or handle the symptoms. A doctor or psychiatrist will evaluate your situation and devise a treatment plan that offers you the best chance at recovery. You should also seek help if a loved one’s cannabis use is causing severe negative consequences to them and others around them.
Beating a weed habit is challenging and usually takes time, so you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if it seems you’re not succeeding. Contact us if you or someone you care about is struggling with a weed addiction. Our team of addiction experts has over 100 years of combined experience. If you want to know the methods for dealing with weed specifically, we are a rehab that can provide the help and support you need and take you through this process. Please visit our Understanding Addiction resources for more information on marijuana addiction.
Frequently Asked Question
Smoking weed harms lung health and is linked to bronchitis, wheezing, and phlegm production, independent of tobacco smoking. These symptoms tend to improve in people who quit using weed, indicating that their lungs can get better with smoking cessation.
Yes. Marijuana affects the areas in the brain responsible for motivation, which can lead to smokers becoming lazy, apathetic, and withdrawn in the short term. Feelings of lethargy set in after 10 minutes of using the drug and peak a few hours after the last use.
Consuming large amounts of cannabis is associated with frequent snacking (the “munchies”) in some individuals leading to an increase in weight. However, other studies show that cannabis use speeds up metabolism, possibly contributing to weight loss. More research is required to determine the relationship between cannabis and changes in weight conclusively.
Yes. Cannabis use has been linked to psychosis in some individuals. In most cases, the symptoms of cannabis-induced psychosis are acute; they set in and resolve quickly. Research has also shown cannabis use is associated with early onset of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.
There are no established guidelines on how much weed is healthy to take. A standard unit of THC is 5mg, but experts recommend starting off with half of that (2.5mg) and not exceeding 40mg of THC daily.