Updated on July 16th, 2020
Despite some of the claims that marijuana is not addictive, many people struggle to kick their smoking habit and quit marijuana for good. In 2015, about 4 million people in the U.S. suffered from marijuana use disorder and 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for their marijuana abuse.1
Although it can be a very difficult process, it is possible to get sober and reap the many benefits of a lifestyle that is free from marijuana addiction and abuse. If you are a long-term marijuana smoker and you’re ready to quit, here is a comprehensive guide on how to stop smoking weed.
Why Quit Smoking Weed?
Marijuana contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC), which is the chemical that creates the high users experience after smoking weed or ingesting marijuana edibles. This high produces increased sensory perception and feelings of overall relaxation and euphoria. These pleasurable effects increase the person’s likelihood of using marijuana again, and once it becomes a daily habit, it is much more difficult to stop.
Many people abuse marijuana regularly to deal with stress, to fit in with peers, or to cope with difficult life circumstances. When marijuana is used as a crutch like this, it becomes a necessary means to function and users often have a very hard time giving it up.
Despite its pleasurable effects, marijuana has several lasting side effects on the brain and marijuana abuse can cause many physical, mental, and social problems.
- Negative brain changes: Although some medical studies have been contradictory, there is reputable evidence that regular marijuana use during adolescence is associated with negative brain changes like reduced cognitive abilities, impaired memory and learning, and reduced impulse control.2
- Lower quality of life: Heavy marijuana use has been linked to unemployment, lower income, criminal behavior, and greater welfare dependence. Studies have also linked heavy marijuana use to increased workplace absenteeism and more workplace injuries and accidents.3
- Psychiatric disorders: People who abuse marijuana are also more likely to develop psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia (psychosis). In fact, one study found that the risk of psychosis is seven times higher in individuals who use marijuana daily than those that use it infrequently or not at all.4
- Problems sleeping: Regular users of marijuana are also likely to experience sleep problems, which can lead to physical injury and accidents, weight gain, forgetfulness, impaired judgment, and serious health problems.5
- Increased risk of addiction: The risk of developing marijuana addiction or other substance use disorders is also much higher among marijuana users.4
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Yes, marijuana is an addictive drug. Regular marijuana use can lead to the development of a marijuana use disorder or marijuana addiction. Tell-tale signs of marijuana addiction include being unable to stop using it even when it interferes with your life or having extremely strong cravings for marijuana that can’t be ignored.
Most often, marijuana addiction is associated with physical dependence on the drug. This is characterized by uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and discomfort when a person stops using marijuana suddenly after a period of regular use. However, it is also possible to be dependent without being addicted to marijuana.
According to recent data cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 30 percent of people who use marijuana have some degree of marijuana use disorder and people who start using it before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana addiction than adults.6,7
The average THC content in marijuana has also increased from less than 4 percent in the early 1990s to more than 15 percent in 2018, making it more potent and addictive than it used to be, especially for adolescent users.8,9
Is It Okay to Quit Marijuana Cold Turkey?
Although quitting marijuana cold turkey may seem like a fast and easy solution, it can actually be very difficult and dangerous. In most cases, quitting marijuana cold turkey rarely works anyway because people resort to using again, primarily to resolve uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can be powerful, especially for regular users, so those who try the cold turkey method may also be much more likely to relapse. Slipping back into using is all too easy when sickness, exhaustion, anxiety, and depression take over and there is no accountability.
People who attempt to quit marijuana cold turkey may also have a higher risk of suicide, as withdrawal may cause them to feel overwhelmingly anxious and depressed. Without marijuana to ease the emotional and physical pain, a person may resort to suicidal behaviors to cope.
An effective and safe alternative to quitting marijuana cold turkey is a professional marijuana detox program. This type of detox program provides 24/7 medical supervision to treat uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. With group and individual therapy, detox clients can also begin to unpack the deep-rooted causes of their marijuana addiction and abuse to prepare for entry into an inpatient or outpatient rehab program after detox.
What Are Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you try to quit marijuana on your own, the resulting bad feeling is much more than just a “bad feeling” or an off day. Marijuana withdrawal is a very real disorder, especially among those who are daily users or who are severely addicted to it. 11 Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within 24 to 72 hours of quitting.
Common marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:12
- Physical tension
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
According to Live Science, marijuana withdrawal symptoms play a very strong role in the likelihood of relapse. So if you’re trying to go it alone, you should consider how seriously you intend to get sober, because the most effective way to overcome marijuana addiction and abuse is to seek professional medical help.
How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?
Marijuana usually lasts about one to two weeks. Sometimes, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms for several weeks or months, which is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
Sometimes, people who quit marijuana can experience severe insomnia. If their insomnia is left untreated, it can lead to PAWS. Unfortunately, PAWS is often a major barrier to recovery and although it can be very severe, it is also manageable with professional treatment and medical management.
How to Deal With Marijuana Withdrawal
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, but they are not life-threatening. As such, a person may opt to quit cold turkey and detox on their own. Although some people successfully quit smoking pot on their own, one study found that 70.4 percent of users trying to quit smoking marijuana relapsed to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.13
It’s extremely tempting to revert to marijuana use to relieve the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms, which can make quitting very difficult. Instead of trying to deal with marijuana withdrawal on your own, a great alternative is a medical detox program.
A medical detox program for marijuana addiction helps users stop smoking pot by providing medical and clinical treatment to relieve the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. The professional support makes it much easier to quit marijuana for good and referrals for ongoing care also improve the user’s likelihood of maintaining their sobriety.
How Long Does It Take to Quit Smoking Weed?
For some people, it may only take a week or two of fighting through withdrawal symptoms to quit smoking weed. For others, it could take months. There is no exact timeline for the process, as quitting marijuana is a highly individualized process. It’s impossible to predict exactly how long marijuana withdrawal will last or how severe the symptoms will be. However, if a person is heavily addicted to marijuana, quitting is more likely to be difficult and withdrawal symptoms may last longer.
How to Quit Smoking Weed: 7 Steps
Each person’s recovery experience will be different, but there are a few certain steps you can take to increase your success in sobriety. Here are seven helpful steps you can follow to quit smoking weed.
- Admit you have a problem and need help.
Admitting that you need help is often the hardest part of getting help, but you must be willing and ready to make the necessary life changes to get sober.
- Research treatment options.
Do a Google search, talk to your doctor, and/or enlist the help of a trusted family member to find out what treatment options are available to you.
- Choose the best program for you and get started right away.
Once you find an addiction treatment program that is affordable and that addresses your needs, you should enroll immediately so you can start working toward a sober lifestyle.
- Give treatment everything you have.
What you get out of treatment is largely based on what you put into it. By choosing to work hard and giving up any unrealistic expectations about the process, you can overcome your addiction and establish a healthy and fulfilling life without marijuana.
- Continue treatment on a long-term basis.
Research shows that good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length and addiction treatment that lasts 90 days or longer has the most potential for positive results.8 If you’re severely addicted or you’ve relapsed before, enrolling in rehab, sober living, or aftercare can help you maintain your sobriety and reduce the risk of relapse.
- Support your sobriety with lifestyle changes.
Getting sober requires more than just abstaining from marijuana. Making improvements to your diet, establishing a network of supportive sober peers, working with a sober sponsor, and getting rid of all your old drug paraphernalia at home are all things you can do to promote sustained sobriety.
- Remember that recovery is an ongoing process.
Having realistic expectations about life in recovery will help you view lapses or relapses as opportunities for improvement instead of failure. Recovery is a lifelong process that requires continued effort but staying involved with a recovery community will help keep you motivated and accountable.
How Hard Is It to Quit Smoking Weed?
Getting sober after weeks or months of heavy marijuana use can be difficult. Unlike other lifestyle changes, marijuana use disorder or addiction comes with a host of physical factors and behavioral habits that have to be addressed before you can fully recover. Far too often, individuals try to overcome their physical dependence without addressing behavioral problems or mental health issues, which can lead to relapse down the road.
To quit smoking weed for good, one must treat the physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal while also addressing harmful behavioral patterns and co-occurring disorders, such as depression or PTSD. A personalized and comprehensive addiction treatment program can help marijuana users overcome their addiction by helping them make positive behavioral changes, uncover the deeply-rooted causes of drug abuse, and deal with long-lasting withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and high-risk situations.
Marijuana Detox: Professional Help to Quit Smoking Weed
If you’re ready to quit smoking weed and begin a new lifestyle of sobriety, a professional detox program can help get you started. Whether you’re a college student or a top executive, Briarwood Detox Center offers individualized detox programs and medical supervision for people from all walks of life who are addicted to marijuana and other drugs.
Our caring and experienced staff provide fluid programs to address your changing needs as they arise. We also offer varying levels of privacy and amenities to best suit your lifestyle, as well as your personal and professional needs.
Regardless of how long you’ve been using marijuana or how many times you’ve tried to quit, the team at Briarwood is here to help you quit smoking weed and achieve a life of sustained sobriety from all addictive substances.