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How Quitting Weed Will Improve Your Life
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How Quitting Weed Will Improve Your Life

Written by Seth Fletcher on May 27, 2024
Medical editor Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: May 27, 2024

Marijuana has had a long journey through public perception. It went from “Reefer Madness” to legalization and becoming almost as casual as cigarettes or alcohol. It’s often seen as a relatively harmless recreational substance, especially compared to harder drugs. Nowadays, the general attitude towards cannabis has shifted towards acceptance and normalization. Many view it as a lifestyle choice or a medical necessity rather than a vice.

However, marijuana use has its risks. Prolonged and frequent use can lead to altered brain function, anxiety and mood disorders. And although it’s less likely to get addicted to it than alcohol or nicotine, the risk remains. If you are one of the unfortunate weed addicts, let us guide you on the path to recovery. Find out how to quit smoking weed and start your journey towards a healthier, more controlled life.

Key Takeaways

  • Addictive Nature of Marijuana: Marijuana, although less harmful than opioids and nicotine, can be addictive, impacting the brain's dopamine pathways and causing dependency.
  • Benefits of Quitting: Quitting marijuana improves respiratory health, mental clarity, and emotional stability, providing a lasting sense of well-being.
  • Challenges of Quitting: The process is tough, with physical symptoms like headaches and psychological impacts like irritability. Social pressures and habits also pose barriers.
  • Effective Quitting Strategies: Key strategies include choosing a quit day, clearing out cannabis items, forming healthier habits, and practicing mindfulness.
  • Long-Term Improvement: Sustained abstinence enhances life quality through better hobbies, engagement, productivity, and relationships, plus financial savings.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

The question of whether marijuana is addictive or not is hotly debated by scientists and the general public. The simple answer is yes. Although it is less harmful compared to other common drugs, it can indeed cause addiction. Let’s dive into specifics.

How is Marijuana Addictive?

While marijuana may not cause dependence quickly, it tends to form a habit when smoked often. Its negligible health effects are deceptive, and smokers may simply not notice as they build up over time. This is also why it’s so hard to quit. It may not be as strong as opioids or obvious symptoms as alcohol, but the damage is still there. Those who realize the necessity of quitting will have to undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program, both physically and mentally.

How is Marijuana Addictive Physically?

Marijuana addiction is primarily linked to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s the psychoactive component of cannabis which interacts with the brain's endocannabinoid system. It affects the brain's reward systems, which are designed to recognize and repeat enjoyable activities. THC stimulates these reward pathways, releasing dopamine. It creates that distinct sensation of euphoria weed smokers feel after taking a hit. Regular marijuana use alters the natural production of dopamine and lowers the sensitivity of these neurotransmitters. The brain becomes reliant on marijuana to maintain that pleasurable feeling. When the person stops, they might experience withdrawal symptoms. The first sign of physical dependency is the strong desire to smoke again. Other withdrawal symptoms include irritability, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, restlessness, and physical discomfort.

How is Marijuana Addictive Psychologically?

Psychological addiction to marijuana is more insidious than physical symptoms. The victim starts to feel a strong need to use marijuana when they need to cope with emotional, social, or psychological challenges. Some people smoke weed just to manage stress. Others do it to manage stress or boredom. But the underlying issue for both may be more profound, such as anxiety or depression. Over time, this reaction becomes automatic. People immediately want to take a hit after any emotional trigger, even when it is caused by weed itself. This is why quitting weed is such a challenge of willpower and self-discipline.

How Addictive is Marijuana Compared to Other Drugs?

Marijuana is generally considered to be much less addictive than opioids or cocaine. They cause more physical dependence since they heavily affect brain chemistry. However, this does not mean marijuana is safe or risk-free. It’s only a matter of scale.

How Addictive is Marijuana Compared to Alcohol?

Marijuana and alcohol both have strong but different addictive potentials. Alcohol is socially acceptable and widely consumed. This is why people become physically and psychologically dependent on it faster and with more serious health consequences. Marijuana, on the other hand, takes much longer to take effect since it’s not as easily accessible. Hypothetically, if weed were sold at grocery stores and for a comparable price, the risks would be much closer. Still, marijuana has comparatively less severe withdrawal symptoms than alcohol.

How Addictive is Marijuana Compared to Cigarettes?

Nicotine is widely recognized as one of the most addictive substances available. Cigarette smokers have a higher rate of dependency compared to users of other widely available substances. Marijuana typically has a lower risk of dependency than nicotine, but since both are 

Side Effects of Quitting Weed

Quitting marijuana, much like any addictive substance, can lead to a number of side effects. These effects vary from person to person and can be both physical and psychological.

Physical Effects of Quitting Weed

Once a person decides to quit weed, withdrawal quickly causes a lot of physical discomforts. The most common physical withdrawal symptom is headaches, which can range from mild to severe. Other less severe symptoms are chills and sweating. Withdrawal may also cause stomach problems like nausea and changes in appetite. It’s also common for addicts to suffer from insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.

Psychological Effects of Quitting Weed

Marijuana cravings intensify all negative emotions as the brain adjusts to the lack of THC stimulation it has grown accustomed to. The most common trigger for them is stress. Quitters also often report increased irritability and mood swings. It can negatively impact their social life and relationships. Anxiety and depression can also surface or worsen during the withdrawal period. Individuals suffering from these symptoms should develop coping mechanisms for the duration of recovery.

Effects of Quitting Weed: Timeline

During the first few days, quitters experience strong physical symptoms such as headaches and sleep disturbances. It’s a sign that their bodies begin to adjust to a THC-free state. Anxiety and depression can also peak during this period.

After the first few weeks, these symptoms generally become less intense. Physical symptoms often mellow out quicker than psychological ones. Mood swings and cravings may persist and can sometimes continue for several months. The duration of withdrawal symptoms depends on how long and how often the person smoked marijuana prior to quitting.

Why is it so Hard to Stop Smoking Weed?

It takes a long time to become addicted to weed and as much time to recover. Not many people have the will to resist the cravings for weeks or months. Many become frustrated and relapse, then try again, and the cycle repeats. There are other factors that make it especially hard to quit smoking marijuana.

Factors that Make Quitting Difficult

We have discussed physical and psychological symptoms that appear after quitting weed earlier. The discomfort caused by them is often enough to give up and smoke again just to get a dose of THC and feel better. But there are other reasons as well. For many people, smoking weed is a social activity, and peer groups encourage it directly and indirectly. Quitting can make a person an outcast from groups built around marijuana use that they belonged to. This causes a lot of reluctance to quit in the first place since it would mean giving up not just the drug but also the community.

Environmental triggers can also provoke cravings. They are caused by habits, such as smoking when stressed, after work or when hanging out with friends. These triggers often cause relapses because they are deeply ingrained in the user’s habits and lifestyle. The normalization of marijuana use in media and some social circles also makes people doubt the need to quit. Since cannabis is legal in many places and often discussed in a casual or positive light, people have fewer reasons to stop. The negligible perceived risks associated with marijuana use make quitting seem less necessary than other substances.

Positive Effects of Quitting Weed

Quitting marijuana improves physical health and restores mental clarity. While the abstinence period will be challenging, the individual will eventually return to their pre-addiction state. Once free from the side effects of marijuana, individuals often experience a renewed interest in hobbies and activities. The biggest reward is the renewed ability to experience genuine happiness rather than an illusion of it.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking Weed: Timeline

Just like the first few days of the withdrawal are the hardest, quitters won’t feel much improvement, However, after the first week or so, individuals report that their breathing improved. Marijuana smoke irritates the lung, so quitting reduces the irritation and helps mitigate respiratory issues. After a few weeks, many report enhanced mental clarity. They show better memory retention and concentration. As a result, weed quitters become more productive at work or school and can better handle complex tasks. 

The next noticeable improvement is stabilizing sleep patterns. After the initial struggle with insomnia, the body returns to its natural sleep cycle. Quitters report being more energetic during the day and feeling better thanks to the natural regeneration provided by healthy sleep. Several months after quitting, many report better mood and lower anxiety. Quitting stabilizes mood swings and leads to a more consistent emotional state. Last but not least, all that money spent on weed can be used more productively, like getting a gym membership or eating healthy.

How to Successfully Quit Weed

Successfully quitting marijuana is more than just a desire to stop. It requires a well-thought-out strategy that includes both immediate needs and long-term goals. Here are a few tips to help you come up with your own plan for quitting weed.

Preparing for Quit Day

Start by choosing a quit day. Ideally, it’s a date in the near future so as not to lose motivation. Before this day comes, remove all cannabis-related items from your home. Clean and air the house to remove even the lingering smell of marijuana to prevent it from triggering cravings. Always inform your friends and family about your decision. This will warn them against smoking cannabis around you and turn them into supportive allies for the withdrawal period.

How to Avoid Relapse

Relapse is often caused by habits formed at the time the person still used marijuana. You need to change your lifestyle or develop coping mechanisms to avoid succumbing to the addiction again. It’s best to start by identifying the triggers for the desire to smoke weed. After these situations or circumstances are clear, develop new, healthier habits to replace them. For instance, if you smoke to relax after work, try replacing that habit with exercise, reading, or another relaxing activity.

Beating addiction is a marathon, not a race. Set simple and manageable goals spread out across long periods of time. For instance, complete one weed-free week. After that, extend it to two weeks, then a month, and so on. Don’t forget to reward yourself for these small victories by treating yourself to something nice or some other drug-free pleasure. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to continue abstaining. 

Additionally, try different stress management techniques. Mindfulness, meditation, or even simple breathing exercises can help manage the urge to smoke when faced with stressful situations. Find creative ways to include these techniques in your daily life. They will not only help curb the immediate desire to smoke but also build a foundation for a weed-free lifestyle. 

How to Manage Cravings

After you’ve identified your cravings triggers, you need to come up with techniques to suppress or subvert them. One such trick is the "delay and distract" method. Basically, when you start feeling cravings, immediately switch to doing something else. Returned home after work and feel a need to smoke? Get a cold shower, go for a jog or cook dinner. This momentary delay lets the craving pass, and it will give you something else to focus on. Another type of distraction is grounding techniques. They focus on bringing your attention to the present moment and cutting out everything else. One such technique is to engage all five senses: list five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This provides a quick distraction and stabilizes your emotional state. 

Another common technique is visualization. Every time you feel a need to smoke, imagine the negative consequences of it or the benefits of not doing it. This should strengthen your resolve in moments of weakness. You should also try deep breathing and meditation. If these activities help you manage stress and clear your mind, they will help you overcome cravings as well.

If you’re looking for something long-term, consider turning those momentary distractions into replacement activities. Exercise is great for managing cravings. Activities such as jogging or cycling stimulate your body and produce endorphins naturally. Yoga helps manage stress and relax after work or school. Creative hobbies such as arts or writing can be meditative and give a sense of accomplishment. And most importantly, all these activities will give you a new sense of purpose once you finally stop feeling cravings.

Celebrity Stories of Quitting Weed

Many celebrities have shared their stories of quitting marijuana.  providing insights into their challenges and the positive changes they experienced afterward. For instance, Miley Cyrus announced she quit smoking weed and drinking to clear her mind. She found this gave her more energy and made her more productive. Similarly, Woody Harrelson stopped using marijuana because he felt it made him emotionally unavailable​. Alex Bleeker, the bassist from Real Estate, chose to quit after realizing that marijuana was enhancing his anxiety rather than alleviating it. He felt his social life and happiness improve once he stopped​. Tyler the Creator had a negative experience with a weed brownie, which led him to quit using marijuana. He described the experience as extremely distressful and made a conscious decision against using substances altogether after that.

Quitting marijuana is a daunting challenge. When a person goes without it for a while, they start feeling intense physical discomfort and stress. They might even become an outcast in their social group because of quitting. It will be a long and exhausting process, but by the end, you will be able to enjoy a healthy life and mental clarity once again. Your emotional state will become stable thanks to detoxing your brain from THC. You will mend connections with friends and family who might have turned away from you because of the addiction. If you want to quit, we hope these insights and stories will serve as motivation to take the first step toward a weed-free life.


Is marijuana addictive?

Yes, marijuana can be addictive. Although it's considered less harmful than substances like opioids or nicotine, it can still lead to physical and psychological dependency by altering dopamine production in the brain.

What are the benefits of quitting marijuana?

Quitting can significantly improve your physical health, enhance mental clarity, and stabilize your mood. Over time, you'll experience a true sense of well-being, increased productivity, and renewed interest in personal hobbies and activities.

What challenges might I face when quitting?

The process can be difficult due to withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, irritability, and mood swings. Additionally, social pressures and lifestyle habits make quitting challenging.

How can I successfully quit smoking weed?

Start by setting a quit date and removing all cannabis-related items from your environment. Identify triggers that make you want to smoke and replace them with healthier habits. Utilize stress management techniques like mindfulness and meditation to help manage cravings.

What long-term improvements will I see after quitting?

Beyond initial withdrawal, you'll likely see improved respiratory health, better memory retention, more stable sleep patterns, and overall better emotional health. Financial savings from not purchasing marijuana can also be redirected towards healthier lifestyle choices.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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