How to Quit Smoking Weed

a person at home smoking weed on their couch

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

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Some people assume that marijuana is relatively harmless, but research has shown that it can have a number of negative effects on health. While it may be less habit-forming than some other substances, there is also a potential for dependence and addiction. 

If you want to quit smoking weed, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of success like tapering your use, quitting cold turkey (if you're prepared to handle withdrawal symptoms), and finding healthier distractions.

This article explores some of these and other tactics you can try as well as information on the withdrawal symptom you may experience.

Choose an Approach

Once you decide to quit smoking weed, your first decision is to pick which approach is right for you and your needs. While some people may find giving up marijuana easier than others, your own experience may depend on whether you have developed a dependence or addiction to the substance.

Cannabis use disorder is more likely to develop in individuals who began smoking weed at a younger age or use the drug heavily. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that around 30% of people who use marijuana have a cannabis use disorder.

There are two common approaches to choose from when you are trying to quit smoking weed: tapering your use or quitting cold turkey.

Tapering Your Use

Tapering is a process that involves gradually reducing drug use by lowering the dose used over a period of time. The goal is to slowly allow a person's body to become used to lower levels of the substance while minimizing drug withdrawal symptoms. 

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) generally favors a gradual tapering approach to help minimize severe withdrawal symptoms.

If you decide to try the gradual approach, there are some things you can do to help improve your chances of success.

  • Give yourself a deadline. Pick a date that you would like to quit smoking marijuana for good. Then figure out how much you'll have to cut back to quit by that date.
  • Pick a tapering strategy. You might opt to cut back a certain amount each day or each week. You might also opt to switch to a lower-potency cannabis product.

Quitting Cold Turkey

This approach involves simply stopping the use of the drug. While quitting cold turkey isn't easy and often leads to more intense withdrawal symptoms, there are some reasons people might choose this method.

For instance, it can be an effective way to stop your habit and get a fresh start. People who doubt their ability to reduce their marijuana use gradually may find this method more effective.

To quit smoking weed, you need to choose an approach that works for you. You can either gradually wean yourself off the drug or stop smoking cold turkey. 

Prepare for Withdrawal

Once you decide to quit smoking weed, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the withdrawal symptoms you might experience as you give up the drug. By doing this, you'll be better prepared mentally and can plan how you will deal with these symptoms.

Common signs of marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, sweating, and chills
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Weight loss or gain

For most people discontinuing their marijuana use, withdrawal symptoms will usually last for around one to two weeks. However, some people may continue to experience these symptoms for several weeks or even months, a phenomenon known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Symptoms of withdrawal can be unpleasant and can derail your efforts to quit smoking weed. When the physical and psychological symptoms get bad enough, you might return to using the drug to find relief. 

During this time, it can be helpful to have a plan that will help you stick to your recovery efforts. Look for ways to relieve your symptoms without turning to marijuana and consider reaching out to your healthcare provider for solutions that can help.

Reminding yourself that these feelings are temporary and that you will get better in a few days can help.

Understand Your Triggers

When you are trying to quit smoking weed, it is essential to get rid of any marijuana-related paraphernalia in your home. Getting rid of the drug itself is crucial, but you should also eliminate any pipes, bowls, bongs, vapes, and related products.

Having them readily available makes it easier and more tempting to give in to a drug craving.

It would help if you also spent some time thinking about the triggers that make you want to smoke weed. Are there certain times of day you're more likely to smoke? Do you feel an urge to smoke more in specific settings, situations, or around certain people? 

Once you are more aware of the things that trigger your drug use, you can plan to deal with those triggers. Sometimes this might involve avoiding or eliminating things that create pressure on you to smoke marijuana. In other cases, you'll need to explore healthy coping mechanisms to help you manage your urges.

Don't be too hard on yourself if you do make a mistake and smoke again. Relapse is common for anyone who is trying to quit. Research has found that it usually takes people a few tries before they are successful.

A slip-up doesn't mean that you've failed; it's just a temporary setback.

Learn Your Triggers

Whether you are tapering your use or quitting cold turkey, it is vital to be aware of the people, objects, or situations that can trigger drug cravings and use. Identifying these triggers and finding ways to avoid or cope with them can help you be more successful.

Tips for Quitting Marijuana

No matter what strategy you decide to use to quit smoking weed, several techniques can help you stick to your goals. Some things you can try are listed below.

Find Distractions

Finding ways to stay busy can help distract you from some of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. It can also keep your mind off of the drug cravings that you might be experiencing.  

Look for things that you can do that will help take your mind off of smoking weed. If you usually smoke during specific periods, such as on the weekends, find activities that will help keep you occupied and distracted.

Creating a new routine can also be helpful when you are quitting a substance such as marijuana. Keeping a routine during stressful times can be important for your mental well-being, but sticking to old habits (those that featured regular drug use) can make recovery much more difficult.

Exercise

When you are quitting marijuana, you may find that getting regular exercise can be helpful for various reasons.

First, it can act as a valuable distraction when cravings hit. It can also help you feel better and more energized as you cope with symptoms of withdrawal.

Some research also suggests that exercise may help complement other treatments for cannabis use disorder. Researchers indicate that since marijuana use can affect the systems that regulate stress and rewards, exercise might help reduce withdrawal symptoms, aid in stress management, and reduce drug cravings.

One small study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that moderate exercise curbed marijuana use and cravings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, which amounts to about 30 minutes of brisk walking five days each week.

Care for Yourself

It can be challenging to deal with symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, so caring for yourself is particularly important during this time. Make sure you are eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest.

When you find yourself struggling with stress or anxiety, try implementing some effective stress management techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Also, focus on finding a sense of balance in your life. Practicing mindfulness, in which you learn to focus on the present moment and build a stronger sense of self-awareness, can help you become more in tune with your needs.

Find Support

Your social support system can also play an important part in achieving your goals. 

You might notice that some people in your life may be less supportive—particularly if much of your social life centers around marijuana use. In these cases, you may need to consider reevaluating some of your relationships and places where you spend your time. 

Create boundaries with people who make it more challenging to quit. Talk to supportive friends about your goals. They can offer the encouragement and support that you need to be successful.

How to Get Help for Marijuana Addiction

If you want to quit smoking weed, it's also important to remember that you don't have to do it all on your own. Getting help from your healthcare provider or therapist can increase your chances of successfully quitting marijuana.

Start by talking to your doctor or mental health professional about your treatment options. 

There are currently no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of marijuana use disorders, but research in this area is ongoing. Clinical trials have shown that buspirone, an anti-anxiety medication, can reduce cravings and drug use and decrease symptoms of irritability.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to treat co-occurring mental health disorders.

Therapy is generally the recommended treatment for marijuana use disorder. Specific strategies that may be used include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which addresses the underlying negative thought patterns that contribute to addictive behavior. Your therapist can also help you find coping mechanisms that will help you deal with the thoughts or emotions that often contribute to drug use.
  • Contingency management, which involves the use of rewards to reinforce and encourage drug abstinence. For example, you may be able to earn desired rewards by passing a drug test.
  • Motivational interviewing, which is an approach that helps people develop a strong motivation to make positive behavior changes in their lives. This type of therapy can be helpful for people who struggle to find the motivation to quit smoking weed. 

Self-help strategies are important, but sometimes you might need a helping hand. Reach out to your doctor or find a mental health professional who specializes in treating addictions.

A Word From Verywell

While marijuana may be less habit-forming than other substances, some people do struggle with unpleasant side effects or dependence. If you are wondering how to quit smoking weed, it is important to remember that there are tools and resources available that can help. 

It is possible to be successful on your own, but talking to your doctor or therapist can also be a great place to start. Choosing a way to quit, setting goals, and taking care of yourself as you work giving up weed can all help you feel better and improve your ability to stick to your goals.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.