Cannabis dispensaries are cropping up nationwide now that marijuana is legal for medical and/or recreational use in many states.
Marijuana has a high concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component in weed that gets you high. It can be smoked in joints, blunts, bongs and vape pens, or it can be consumed as "edibles" in food forms, such as weed brownies, gummies, cookies or cakes.
The health risks of smoking tobacco are well known, but the health risks associated with smoking weed are less publicized.
The THC in weed changes the way your brain works, just like other drugs do. It tends to affect the parts of the brain tasked with learning, attention, ability to make decisions, memory, reaction time, emotions and coordination. Developing brains are most at risk for these changes.
Excessive use of marijuana may cause a permanent IQ loss of as many as 8 points if you start smoking it at a young age, according to research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Today's marijuana is stronger than ever and may be addictive for some people. About 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will get hooked, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The younger you start, the greater your chances of addiction (about 1 in 6 if you start smoking weed before 18 years old), SAMHSA says.
Unlike addiction, marijuana use disorder occurs when you're not able to stop smoking marijuana or using it in its other forms, even if it's creating problems in your life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other health risks may develop from smoking weed, including:
Smoking marijuana may also raise your risk of stroke, heart disease and other cardiac conditions.
Plus, if you're pregnant, smoking marijuana may cause low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth or complications with the baby's brain development.
Deciding to stop smoking weed is the first and most crucial step in your quitting journey. It can be difficult, especially if your friends all seem to enjoy it occasionally and without issue.
If weed affects major life factors, such as your career, relationships, finances or physical or mental health, it's likely time to consider kicking the habit.
If you don't know where to start, here are 5 ways to stop smoking weed:
Pick a date, put it in writing and devise an actionable plan to stop smoking weed. Keep your reasons for quitting top of mind by writing them down so you can refer to them when you feel the urge to smoke weed.
Set yourself up to win: Checking in with a substance use counselor or addiction specialist may help you better understand your options and highlight the benefits of quitting marijuana.
Some people just immediately stop using weed on their quit date. The downside? Withdrawal symptoms.
Common signs of marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:
As a general rule, withdrawal symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 weeks. Some people may experience withdrawal symptoms for longer, especially if they're heavy users. This condition is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Set yourself up to win: Get rid of any marijuana bowls, bongs or pens around your home, as well as other supplies, such as rolling papers and lighters. Throw out any edibles.
Tapering off weed involves gradually cutting back before your quit date deadline and decreasing your usage in small increments.
Set yourself up to win: Portion out marijuana ahead of time and cut down on your usage over a set period.
Regardless of whether you go cold turkey or taper off weed, joining a support group such as Marijuana Anonymous (MA) may help. This 12-step program involves regular meetings where attendees can share stories and tips on how to stay the course.
Set yourself up to win: Find an MA meeting that fits your schedule. Meetings are offered virtually, in-person and over the phone.
Some people smoke weed to self-medicate emotional or physical problems, such as depression, anxiety, pain or sleep issues. Talking to your doctor about what else you can do to help relieve these underlying issues may help reduce the chances that you’ll turn back to marijuana.
Set yourself up to win: Stay up to date on all of your medical appointments so you can do all you can to help treat and prevent any underlying medical issues you may have.
Staying the course will be easier when quitting weed's positive mental and physical effects become evident. They include:
You'll also stop coughing and wheezing and have less phlegm in your throat.
It's not easy to quit smoking weed, and relapses happen. According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you were a heavy user for many years, your chance of relapse begins to fall roughly 2 years after your last use and continues to drop over 5 years. For people who smoked less, your chance of relapse decreases at 2 weeks and continues to drop over 6 months from your last use. The key is not to let a slip-up be a significant setback. Instead, hit reset and start your quitting journey over.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): What We Know About Marijuana.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Marijuana.
American Lung Association (ALA): Marijuana and Lung Health.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Addiction (Marijuana or Cannabis Use Disorder).
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Is marijuana addictive?
Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation: The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: current insights.
Semel Institute at UCLA: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
Cleveland Clinic: How To Stop Smoking Weed.