If you want to stop using marijuana, you can do it gradually or all at once.
For some people, cannabis is a medicine or a harmless way to relax. However, others may become addicted and dependent on the drug. Although marijuana addiction may not seem as serious as harder drugs, it can still lead to short-term and long-term problems.
If using marijuana is negatively impacting your life or affecting your ability to reach goals, you may want to consider quitting. Whether someone quits cold-turkey or by gradually tapering their usage, they will often need to deal with withdrawal symptoms.
People who have been unsuccessful at getting sober may want to consider getting professional help from a doctor or psychotherapist.
Should I Quit Marijuana?
If cannabis is negatively impacting your life, you may want to consider quitting.
While an addiction to cannabis won’t affect your life as much as certain other drugs, it can still create problems. In the short-term, a cannabis dependence may lead you to miss important events or affect your motivation. Long-term, it may lead to memory problems and poor decision-making.
Whether it’s affecting your performance at work, school or home, it may be beneficial to quit. After stopping marijuana for a few weeks, some people notice more clarity, less “brain fog,” and increased productivity.
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Some people argue that marijuana is not addictive, but they’re only half right. The truth is that marijuana is psychologically addictive, but not physically addictive.
Psychological addiction is when a person’s thoughts and feelings create the addiction, while a physical addiction is when the person’s body needs the substance to function normally.
However, just because marijuana is not physically addictive does not mean it’s not a real addiction. In fact, cannabis dependence disorder affects about 1 in 10 users, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
It may be helpful to go through the list of cannabis dependence disorder symptoms and see if any apply to you:
- Using cannabis in larger amounts over a longer period
- Efforts to cut down or control usage are unsuccessful
- Significant time wasted trying to get or use cannabis
- A strong desire to use cannabis
- Continuing to use cannabis even after it’s caused or worsened social or interpersonal problems
- Work and/or recreational activities are affected or reduced due to usage
- Using cannabis when it’s physically hazardous
- Building tolerance. This means you need more cannabis to achieve the same high
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
How Do You Quit Marijuana?
There are two main ways to quit marijuana: cold-turkey and gradual tapering.
Quitting cold-turkey means that you’ll try to stop using marijuana all at once, immediately and indefinitely. Gradually tapering your usage means that you’ll attempt to slowly wean yourself off of cannabis.
The first step to quitting cold-turkey is to get rid of your cannabis and paraphernalia. It doesn’t matter if you throw it out or give it to a friend; so long as you no longer have access to it.
If you have a dealer, delete their number and any contact with them. Once you commit to fully quitting, you’ll need to manage your urges.
Quitting cold-turkey is the fastest way to get sober. Unfortunately, this method is also more difficult and results in more withdrawal symptoms.
Before you begin gradually tapering off marijuana, set a date you want to be completely sober—about two weeks to two months from now.
Next, you’ll need to create a plan. Halfway through your start date and quit date, your consumption should be cut in half. With this in mind, portion out the cannabis you’ll use daily. Each day the amount should gradually decrease until the last day—when you’ll be completely sober. It may also be helpful to try using later in the day, going to bed earlier and increasing the amount of time between getting high.
Although this method takes longer, it’s often more successful because it’s easier for you to adjust. Users who choose this method also experience less withdrawal symptoms.
Tips for Quitting
- Get clear on the benefits. Create a list of personal, professional and health reasons for quitting. View this list every time you feel the urge to use cannabis.
- Develop a support system. Tell your family and friends about your decision to stop using marijuana and ask them to keep you accountable. Even fellow cannabis users are likely to support you if they want what’s best for you.
- Create substitute habits. Fill up your newfound free time with a productive hobby or habit such as working out or reading. It’s easier to fight urges if you keep busy and see beneficial changes.
- Reconsider your social group. If your friends also use marijuana, it may affect your ability to get and stay sober. If this is a trigger, you may need to add new activities to your hangouts or meet new friends.
- Consider getting help. If you’re having a lot of trouble quitting marijuana, you may want to speak to a doctor or a psychotherapist.
What to Expect When Quitting Marijuana
If you’re a regular marijuana user, you may experience negative side effects when you quit. According to a 2010 study, 42% of cannabis users who try to quit experience withdrawal symptoms.
Unfortunately, 70% of these participants relapsed and used marijuana to relieve their symptoms. The good news is that symptoms usually subside after one or two weeks.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), cannabis withdrawal is characterized by 3 or more of the symptoms below:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Physical symptoms (i.e. tremors, chills, sweating, headache, stomach pain)
If you’re having trouble quitting cannabis, you may want to speak to your physician. A doctor can prescribe you medications to ease the withdrawal symptoms. He or she can also refer you to a psychiatrist, group counselling sessions or rehab facility.
Although marijuana is not physically addictive, it can be psychologically addictive. If getting high is negatively affecting your ability to perform at school, work or at home, you may want to consider quitting.
You can quit cold-turkey, by gradually tapering your usage, or by seeking professional help from a doctor or therapist.
You may experience some withdrawal symptoms such as irritability or sleeplessness, but these are only temporary and shouldn’t last more than 2 weeks.