Quitting weed can be challenging.
If you’ve regularly used the drug for a long time, you will likely need some assistance in stopping use. This can come in the form of an addiction treatment program that can support you as you stop using weed.
Why Is It Hard to Quit Weed?
Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction?
Marijuana affects the brain in ways that may not be immediately noticeable. Its use is associated with decreased memory and concentration. It may weaken judgment and impair learning skills. It has also been connected with mental health issues, such as increased anxiety and depression.
While it’s often viewed as a “lighter” drug, marijuana can be addictive. You’ll need to address the underlying triggers that led to your continued use of weed in order to effectively quit using it and avoid relapse.
Methods of Quitting Weed
If you decide to quit using weed, you can choose from different approaches, such as going cold turkey, tapering off gradually, or getting support from a treatment professional.
This is a more extreme way to stop using weed. It sounds simple, but it can be very challenging to stop use suddenly when your body is used to the presence of weed.
You may make a plan to stop, but intense emotions, conflicts at work, social triggers, and a lack of support may all contribute to you using the drug again.
If you are stopping on your own and want to do it completely, make a master plan. Organize your schedule so you aren’t surrounded by familiar triggers to use.
Here are some tips if you are attempting to quit weed use cold turkey:
- Get rid of all your marijuana and associated paraphernalia, like pipes and bongs.
- Tell at least one trusted person in your life that you are quitting weed. Their support can be vital in the coming days.
- Take care of yourself. Get solid sleep, eat healthy, and engage in exercise, so your body is best supported as you start this new chapter.
- Make a new schedule. Since much of your prior days likely revolved around marijuana use, map out a new schedule with activities that don’t relate to substance use. Schedule time to read, journal, or take a walk.
- Meditate. When the craving to use marijuana gets intense, focus on breathing deeply until the craving eases a bit.
Your withdrawal symptoms will be most intense in the first few days after stopping use. They will then begin to dissipate.
While a cold-turkey detox involves stopping all use suddenly, a tapered approach can be a more gradual, gentler way of stopping weed use.
With tapering, you will slowly reduce your use of marijuana over time. If you currently smoke weed four times a day, you’ll start by reducing this to three times per day. After a couple days, you’ll cut down to twice per day. Within a week or two, you can fully stop marijuana use.
For some people, this approach is easier than going cold turkey. For others, it is harder. Experiment and see what works best for you.
If you find yourself returning to your normal consumption levels when you attempt a tapered approach, it’s a sign that it isn’t right for you.
The best way to quit using weed is with professional assistance. This is particularly appropriate for long-term, high-dose use. If you have tried to quit using marijuana in the past and been unsuccessful, addiction treatment is a good choice for you.
You’ll work with a professional therapist who can help you address the reasons that led you to abuse marijuana. You’ll identify your triggers for use and develop coping strategies to help you avoid weed use when cravings hit.
You’ll also have assistance in establishing new healthy habits that support your sobriety. You may participate in support group meetings where you can learn from peers who have been in your shoes.
Studies show that individuals who receive professional assistance and support for marijuana use disorder have higher rates of sustained abstinence from the drug than those who don’t get this help.
Weed Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
Cannabis withdrawal can be tough on the body and mind. But the good news is the symptoms don’t last forever. They are most intense in the initial phase, but they gradually dissipate within about a week or so.
You may experience these marijuana withdrawal symptoms:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unusual dreams
- Feelings of restlessness
- Irritability or anger
- Flu-like symptoms
- Fluctuations in your appetite
If you’ve used marijuana regularly for a long time and at high doses, your withdrawal symptoms will be more intense.
Most symptoms are gone after 10 days of stopping use. However, for some people, the symptoms can continue for up to four weeks after stopping.
Cannabis has active ingredients that are stored in fat cells. It takes approximately four weeks to release these ingredients from your body.
Triggers for Weed Use
When it comes to any kind of substance use, it’s helpful to identify your triggers — those things that cause you to want to use marijuana. When you know what these are, you can develop plans to avoid them or ways to deal with them when they are unavoidable.
Here are some common triggers for marijuana use:
- Lack of sleep
- Seeing drug paraphernalia, like rolling papers or pipes
- Drinking alcohol
- Listening to certain types of music or specific songs that you associate with weed use
- Financial problems
- Relationship issues
- Feeling self-conscious in social situations
- Hanging out with people you used weed with
- Certain locations, such as parties or bars where you previously used weed
Take some time to identify what your personal triggers are and then come up with ways to limit exposure to them or deal with them when they do come up.
For example, if you know you are more likely to use weed when you are tired, develop a good sleep schedule that promotes sufficient rest. If you are set up for good sleep, you may be less likely to experience this trigger.
If you’ll be at a party where you know there will be marijuana, bring a sober friend. Having their support can help you to resist the temptation to use again.
If you’re working with an addiction treatment specialist or therapist, they can help you to identify these triggers and form plans to deal with them.
Tips for Quitting Weed
Prepare yourself mentally before you stop using marijuana. Be aware that the process won’t be easy, but you can accomplish it with the right support.
Here are some tips to help you stop marijuana use:
Consider why you want to stop using weed. Identify a few solid reasons, and write these down. Reread this list when you feel a craving to use again.
Your list may include goals for the future, such as better relationships, a specific career goal, or another aim that your marijuana use is currently thwarting. When you have a clear idea of your goals, it will be easier to resist relapse.
Limit Exposure to Triggers
While you won’t be able to avoid all triggers, limit your exposure to triggers during this critical time. Once you have a stronger footing in sobriety, you’ll be able to withstand exposure to triggers better.
Avoid parties or gatherings where you know there will be marijuana. Throw away all weed paraphernalia. Just seeing it might tempt you to use again.
Find Some New Habits
Swapping a new habit for an old one is one of the best ways to start fresh. Find new activities that can fill the time you previously spent using weed.
Consider hobbies that might interest you, such as gardening, reading, or another activity that can keep you occupied. Boredom is often a trigger for weed use.
It’s important to really take care of yourself as you detox from marijuana. Prioritize your health and wellness during this time by getting regular sleep, eating a nutritional diet, and exercising.\
Consider doing something you really love, like getting a massage or watching a good movie.
Know That It Is Temporary
When you’re used to getting a hit of cannabis, it’s not just a physical habit. Your brain is used to the input.
When you smoke a joint, your brain releases a hormone that makes you feel good, called dopamine. When you stop using weed, you may feel low without this input.
This kind of low often lasts for about 4 to 10 days after stopping use. During this time you might feel irritable, crave marijuana, and feel restless. It may also affect your sleep as you may have difficulty sleeping and unusual dreams.
Keep your eye on the fact that when you get through these valleys, your brain will start naturally producing dopamine. You’ll feel better, and you won’t need to rely on weed to feel happy.
Want to Quit but Keep Relapsing?
If you have tried to quit using marijuana but keep relapsing, it’s a sign that you need help. Work with an addiction treatment professional, doctor, or therapist who can support you through the withdrawal and recovery process.
They’ll help you develop a plan for quitting marijuana, identifying challenges that may come up and planning for ways to effectively deal with them.
Remember that relapse is part of recovery from substance abuse. It isn’t a sign of failure. It’s a sign that you need to tweak your approach. Professional help may be just what you need.
Understanding Cannabis Use Disorder
Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is a medically defined addiction to cannabis. The condition involves continued use of cannabis despite negative impacts on health.
According to Yale Medicine, about 10 percent of people who start smoking marijuana become addicted. Among current marijuana users, about 30 percent meet the criteria for addiction.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, 11 criteria are used to diagnose cannabis use disorder. For a person to be considered addicted to cannabis, they need to show at least 2 of the 11 criteria. These include behaviors such as continual cravings for marijuana, being unable to reduce consumption, and having relationship and social problems as a result of marijuana use.
Cannabis or marijuana use disorder appears to be more common in men than in women and in people between 18 and 29 years old. It tends to develop before the age of 30 for most people, and it rarely develops after age 40. However, like any addiction, it can affect people of any age even if it is less common in certain age groups.
Treatment for CUD & Marijuana Use
Treatment for marijuana abuse and cannabis use disorder generally includes therapeutic work. While medications may be used to manage specific withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or insomnia, therapy is the primary method of treatment.
This may include the use of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Studies show that CBT can help people develop skills to identify and avoid triggering situations, understand patterns of drug use, cope with cravings, manage negative thoughts, and improve problem-solving skills.
All these skills can help people in recovery to resist the urge to use marijuana, helping them to maintain sobriety for the long term.
- Cannabis. National Health Services (NHS).
- Marijuana Guide to Quitting. Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS).
- Cannabis Withdrawal in Chronic, Frequent Cannabis Smokers During Sustained Abstinence Within a Closed Residential Environment. (May 2014). The American Journal on Addictions.
- If Cannabis Becomes a Problem: How to Manage Withdrawal. Harvard Medical School.
- How to Stop Smoking Cannabis (Weed). With You.
- Marijuana Dependence and Its Treatment. (December 2007). Addiction Science & Clinical Practice.
- Treatment of Cannabis Use Disorder: Current Science and Future Outlook. (May 2016). Pharmacotherapy.
- Sleep and Tiredness. National Health Service (NHS).
- Anxiety and Panic Attacks. Mind
- Cannabis Withdrawal Is Real and Likely to Lead to Relapse. National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
- Cannabis/Marijuana Use Disorder. Yale Medicine.
- Assessing the Risk of Marijuana Use Disorder Among Adolescents and Adults Who Use Marijuana. (May 2016). The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
- Cannabis Use Disorder: Epidemiology and Management. (July 2009). International Review of Psychiatry.
- Cannabis and the Current State of Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder. (April 2019). Focus.
- Cannabis Use Disorder. (February 2022). StatPearls.
- Cannabis use disorder. (2017). American Psychological Association.
- A Brain on Cannabinoids: The Role of Dopamine Release in Reward Seeking. (August 2012). Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Cannabis Use Disorder. (May 2020). Psychological Health Center of Excellence, Department of Defense.
- Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. (September 2015). Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.