Because wake-and-bake is only cute until you have something to do.
In the past decade, cannabis use has become much less stigmatized, especially where it’s legal. But some people find that, even though weed is not considered a highly addictive, they end up smoking more than they really want to. I asked experts for tips on how to quit smoking weed — or just how to cut back a little if we want to.
First of all, there is no firm consensus on whether cannabis is physically addictive. In practical terms, it doesn’t actually matter, because almost everyone agrees that you can develop a dependence on weed or a behavioral cannabis addiction. “One in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted, asserts Anton Bizzell, a physician in Maryland who is the former medical director the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “When young people start to use marijuana before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to one in six.”
While those statistics are eye-opening, you don’t have to have a substance abuse problem to come to the conclusion that you want to smoke less weed. That said, if it’s evident that weed is causing problems in your life, curbing your habit is definitely more urgent.
Determine why you want to stop smoking weed
Figuring out why you want to quit or cut back on weed is actually the first step in the process because it can help provide focus and motivation. Bizzell recommends asking yourself some of these questions: “Are you smoking marijuana or consuming it in an edible form on a regular or daily basis? Has it become a crutch that you need to help you get through your day, or is the use of marijuana affecting your job, friendships or relationships with family?” These are all questions to consider when weighing whether a habit is harmful to you, he says.
Maybe your reasoning is less dramatic — perhaps you just want to cut back on expenses, you don’t like the way your clothes smell when you smoke, or you got a job that does tests for cannabis. Whatever your “why” is, make sure you have a firm grasp on it so you can remind yourself later, if and when it feels difficult or inconvenient. Write your reason down and explain it to someone else so that you can hear yourself saying it.
Don’t try to quit weed on your own
The next step is to talk to someone since community can be a crucial determinent to how successful you’ll be. Bizzell recommends starting with your doctor if that’s a realistic option for you (some us just don’t have that type of relationship with our physicians).
If you want someone to guide you through the process of tapering or quitting, you can reach out to a recovery coach or a support group. There are many cannabis 12-step recovery groups these days, the most prominent of which is Marijuana Anonymous — but my experience is that most 12-step fellowships will be open to helping you, no matter what your drug of choice is.
Decide whether going cold-turkey or gradually cutting back on weed is right for you
If you're looking to cut down on your weed use, you can do a few things, says Bizell. First, try to set some limits on how much you take, he says. For example, if you usually smoke once a day, try to cut back to once a week or even once a month. If you take edibles, you can start buying products with a lower dosage.
Then again, a lot of people actually find that it’s easier to totally stop doing something than it is to cut back. Taylor Draughn, a psychotherapist in Louisiana and an addiction counselor at the free counseling service Drug Helpline, says that you can quit weed cold turkey or gradually taper off your usage. Please note that if you are a heavy user, you may have some withdrawal symptoms — like cravings or difficulty sleeping, but they are generally milder than withdrawal from many substances, and not life threatening.
Consider other lifestyle changes
Here’s the thing, though. As someone who’s spent years in recovery, I can tell you that the literal cutting back or removal of a substance is only part of the process. You’re probably also going to have to make some other changes in your day-to-day.
“Try to avoid smoking in situations where it's easy to get carried away, like at parties or when you're hanging out with friends who also smoke,” Draughn says. “Try to find other things to do when you get the urge to smoke over your limit, like going for a walk or exercising.” Basically, you want to replace the time that you would have spent smoking weed with a different activity.
Cut out reminders of weed, too
Whichever way you choose to quit smoking weed, there are a lot of things you can do to ensure your success. “One thing that you can do is to remove all of the weed from your house,” says Draughn. Yes, that means any smoking paraphernalia and anything else that may remind you of smoking weed. So that marijuana leaf-shaped soap may have to go. You should also avoid places where you used to smoke weed, such as certain parks or friends' houses, says Draughn. Don’t freak out — you probably won’t have to avoid those things forever — but it will make it easier to quit if you’re not immediately surrounded by reminders of how much fun it is to smoke.
Create a back-up plan
Finally, if you usually spend a lot of time smoking, you may find that you don’t know what to do with all your new free time, so it’s also important to make a plan for what you’ll do when you feel the urge to imbibe, says Draughn. “This may include going for a walk, calling a friend, or watching a movie,” Draugn explains. “Having a plan in place makes you less likely to give in to the temptation to smoke weed.” In my early days of sobriety, I did a meditation teacher training, which was a great way to “stay busy” while doing something I had always wanted to do.
At the risk of being cheesy, remember that even if you want to quit smoking weed forever, you only have to actually do it one day at a time. When it feels hard, remember why you’re doing it, and if you can’t remember, call that friend or coach or head to a support group. It may help you to be reminded that you are not the only cool young person who wants to quit smoking weed. If Miley Cyrus can do it, so can you.