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How to Stop Smoking Weed or Reduce Marijuana Use

I like to be realistic in my relationship with cannabis and take time off here and there.

It's not uncommon for people to want to take a break from a medicinal or recreational substance. Cannabis, alcohol, nicotine, and even caffeine use can get out of control. Even if you are not addicted, you might want to take a break from cannabis to make sure you don't become dependent on it or just to give your body a rest.

This article will give you tips on how to take a temporary or permanent break from cannabis.

Do I Have a Problem With Marijuana?

People say that weed is not addictive, but cannabis addiction does exist among around 9% of users, and those with a history of teenage and daily use have increased risk. Addiction is the consumption of any substance to the detriment or interruption of other facets of a normal life. In other words, if your cannabis use starts to become a habit, one that spills over into other parts of your life, it might be time to pause.

Determining if one is an addict can difficult. Habitual behaviors weave themselves so tightly into the fabric of daily life that their effects can be practically invisible. Users often overlook, underestimate, and minimize the effects of their addictive behavior.

Signs You May Have a Weed Problem

  • If you keep trying (but failing) to quit.
  • If you think you can't function properly without using.
  • If you miss important events or activities with friends and family because of use.
  • If you use it at work, school, while driving, or in any other situation where sobriety is needed.
  • If you begin to notice health repercussions or issues with forgetfulness or loss of memory.
  • If you lie or steal to support your habit.
  • If your use becomes a daily routine.
  • If you think you need it.
  • If you can't afford it.
  • If you use weed instead of doing other, more productive things (like making money, having relationships, or exercising).
  • If your job, education, or relationships have been negatively affected by your use.
  • If you lie—to yourself or to others—about your use.
  • If using is making you unhappy.
  • If you feel defensive, guilty, or ashamed about it.

Pamphlets from recovery communities and organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous can help externalize this question and make it easier to answer. The American Psychiatric Association also defines addiction in depth and might help you to self-assess.

Ways to Stop Smoking Weed

  1. Find Out Why You Use Cannabis
  2. Take a Break
  3. Find a Replacement
  4. Give Away Your Stash
  5. Find New Friends
  6. Get Help

1. Figure Out Why You Use Cannabis in the First Place

For some, cannabis use is merely recreational, but for many, it is an important rite of self-medication. You might be using cannabis to deal with a specific problem in your life. Boredom, pain, stress, and anxiety are all common reasons someone might self-medicate with cannabis, but emotional triggers might also motivate you, as in a desire for love, a boost of confidence, or a distraction from a difficult situation or relationship.

In other words, if your cannabis was a solution to a problem, you will need to recognize and understand that underlying problem and find other ways to address it. In order to quit successfully, you will need to find other (and hopefully more direct and healthy) ways to deal with your issues. For me, I know that I oftentimes use weed when I'm bored, so I've expanded my repertoire of activity options, and that makes a huge difference for me.

2. Take a Break

At its most basic level, quitting a habit is an act of retraining oneself. Humans respond to external stimuli and, despite our protestations of free will, our reactions can become rote and habitual. Often, the act of retraining can be simplified to changing these external stimuli, removing encouragements for unwanted behaviors, and reinforcing positive responses. In other words, Pavlov yourself.

Instead of quitting cold turkey, you might have more success by taking a break. For example if you usually partake in cannabis every day after work, then begin by reducing that pattern to a few days a week, or switch to a week-on, week-off schedule. Whatever you can do to disrupt your routine will help break the cycle. I find that every time I do something else rather than use weed, this makes it easier to skip using it next time.

3. Find a Replacement

A hobby, a meet-up, a class...even movie nights or a new exercise schedule can help distract you from the habitual use of marijuana. Hobbies are a great way to keep your mind and hands busy and achieve that profound and self-effacing focus of deep thought that can free you from the need to use.

If an alternate activity doesn't work, many find that using an alternate substance does the trick. Instead of smoking weed, you might try drinking a coffee. Instead of eating a gummy, you might indulge in some other edible (non-medical) treat. The dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin released in your brain during exercise might be a great replacement for the effects of THC.

The idea is fairly simple, and it works for many: Instead of just taking away the weed, find something to replace it with. I go to the gym and the endorphins released during my workout are a fairly satisfying replacement for the cannabis high.

Note: There is some evidence that CBD might help reduce pot use. Read Can CBD Help Decrease Dependence on Marijuana and Opioids? to learn more.

4. Give Away Your Stash

Surrendering your stash to a friend is often a key step in giving up pot for either a long or short period. If it's not there, after all, you won't be able to use it. If it's right there within reach, you make it too easy, but if you remove it from your home, you introduce an obstacle that will likely deter use. (Of course, one might consider only lending one's stash to a friend, as one-hitters, bongs, pipes, and other paraphernalia are expensive to replace.)

5. Find New Friends

Some relationships are centered around a mutual interest in recreational drugs. If you want to reduce or quit, it can be extra difficult when everyone around you is still going strong. It can also be hard to find other things to do and talk about with those old friends. It might be time to find some new ones.

6. Get Help

In those instances where marijuana has truly overwhelmed a person's life, they might benefit from a little outside help. Addiction often requires some sort of outside support or attention. Therapists, counselors, treatment facilities, and Narcotics Anonymous are all possible avenues for treatment.

A note of warning: Many treatment centers peddle ineffective services at exorbitant prices. A therapist or counselor may be inexperienced in an addict's needs or may lack a relevant educational background. There are global NA groups, findable here. Research, here, is key.

Marijuana can become a disruption in anyone's life. Once it takes on that role, reevaluating that relationship takes care and thoughtfulness. As described above, take time to:

  • Evaluate your situation and understand your reasons.
  • Admit you have a problem and ask for help.
  • Find creative strategies to mitigate your desire to use.

These solutions are from my personal experience, but every person is different. It may take you some time and trials to figure out exactly what you need to do to change. You may slip up, but keep working at it!

When Does Cannabis Use Become a Problem?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.