This is a guest post by Regan Jacklin, co-creator of Vice Breakers and Dick Detox with Ed Latimore
If I’m being honest, the first few years of smoking weed were incredible…
A few bucks and a couple of quick puffs was all it took to make:
- Music touch the soul
- Sleep hit harder and faster
- Movies significantly more intense
- Food taste mind-blowingly delicious
- Creative and philosophical thoughts flow freely
Initially, weed also made making new friends easy due to a shared enjoyment of getting high.
Best of all? There was no hangover! I personally never drank much alcohol because the downsides were far more significant than any benefits I received. But I smoked weed for years before ever thinking it might be bad for me.
Unfortunately, there was a time limit on how long this fun would last. As I got older and I began to want more out of life, my experience with weed slowly but surely went from a magic way to ‘solve’ all my problems to the greatest source of pain in my life.
A few short years into my marijuana addiction:
- I lacked motivation
- My mind was constantly foggy
- I wasn’t eating healthy or exercising
- My once athletic body was stiff and achy
- I had racked up $20,000 in debt
- My mental health was declining
- I was neglecting my responsibilities and relationships
Then, the only way to feel good and escape my shortcomings was to smoke more weed. But even when it was time to move on, I found myself unable to quit. Everyone I knew told me ‘weed isn’t addictive’ which only made me feel worse about myself.
This article is for you if you find yourself struggling to quit weed despite obvious consequences like I was. I will share everything I learned after trying and failing for an entire decade–and finally succeeding—so you can avoid the physical, emotional, and financial rollercoaster I had to go through.
PS: This article doesn’t exist to persuade anyone to quit smoking weed. I’ve created this article as a tool to aid you or a loved one if you know or suspect you need to quit marijuana but can’t do it on your own. I’m not a doctor or medical professional. I’m just a guy who wrestled with marijuana dependence for ten years and made it out to the other side happier and healthier.
Watch my Ted Talk on what I learned about the relationship between addiction and identity.
Weed has changed
Just as there are both alcoholics and people who can drink responsibly, some people can smoke pot without getting addicted and others can’t.
A study titled Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use suggests that 9% of people who try marijuana will become addicted. This addiction rate goes up to 17% for people who begin smoking as teenagers and as high as 25-50% of people who smoke daily.1
Weed isn’t the mild drug it used to be. Between 1960 and 1980, THC content in marijuana (the key psychoactive ingredient that gets you stoned) was around 2%.2 I live in British Columbia, where ‘BC bud’ is legal and known to be some of the best weed on earth. It’s not uncommon to see pre-rolled joints as high as 26% THC for just $5. That’s more than a 1000% increase in strength in only a few decades!
This increase in THC content isn’t even beginning to discuss the more extreme ways of consuming cannabis like eating edibles, ripping bongs, dabs, or shatter, which can get closer to 100% concentration.
Additionally, the increasing legality around marijuana makes using easier, more acceptable, and more accessible than ever before.
1. It’s not about weed (addiction is a coping mechanism)
It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour. —Gabor Mate
The physical act of quitting weed isn’t hard. You might experience a few days of marijuana withdrawal symptoms like lousy sleep, mood swings, mild muscle aches, and cravings, but cannabis withdrawal is mild when compared to other drug use. You won’t experience any life-threatening physical symptoms like you can with opioids or a severe alcohol dependency.
The hard part of quitting smoking weed is learning to deal with the things you’ve been avoiding. Once the clouds clear, you will find yourself face to face with your reasons for smoking.
Ultimately, weed addiction doesn’t come from chasing good feelings. It comes from avoiding uncomfortable ones.
I stayed hooked on weed for years because:
- My financial situation was shit
- I had a sleep issue I needed to correct
- I had some underlying depression
When I quit smoking weed, I always came face to face with these issues. They were painful enough that—until I fixed them—I always cowered back to weed for comfort (ironically, they almost all started or were exacerbated by weed abuse).
It doesn’t matter how much willpower you have; marijuana addiction will remain a problem for you as long as your major issues go unresolved. The crazy thing is, if you’ve been smoking yourself numb for long enough, you might not even be consciously aware of what you’re running from!
The most common problems you might be using pot to cope with include:
- Career dissatisfaction
- A bad relationship
- Sleep issues
- Severe boredom
- Childhood trauma
- Lack of accomplishments
- Issues with parents
Remember that cannabis never solves these issues. It only hides them and lets them fester for another time. The sooner you address your issues and begin to make progress, the less you’ll rely on weed to numb you.
If you need professional help, please speak with a therapist, medical professional, or helpline.
2. Replace the rituals and rewards
Human beings have deeply ingrained needs. When these needs get met, fulfillment and satisfaction are the natural results of life. However, when these needs go unmet, we experience pain and suffering, or quite literally, depression.
Needs like love, joy, adventure, excitement, creative expression, and accomplishment must get fulfilled. If we don’t satisfy these needs naturally through positive habits, we will attempt to satisfy them unnaturally through weed.
There’s a famous study known as Rat Park that illustrates this beautifully. In this study, researchers gave caged and isolated rats a lever they could pull at any time that would dispense an addictive drug like cocaine. Almost all rats in this control group became extremely addicted and would pull the lever all day long.
However, the researchers also gave the same option to another group of rats placed inside an environment full of toys and companions. In this group, almost none of the rats became addicted because the deepest needs of the rats were met.3
Spend a few moments in self-reflection and ask yourself what you think you get from marijuana. For me, it provided a way to relax, turn boredom into excitement, enhance creativity, and grow spiritually.
Once you become aware of what you are after, try to find a new hobby that will allow you to get this same satisfaction in a healthy way.
For example, do you:
- Want to feel good? Exercise, cook good food, try breathwork (see Ed’s review of the Wim Hof method!)
- Want to be more creative? Read from people ahead of you, practice your craft, learn how to visualize.
- Want to relax? Meditate, go to the sauna, get out in nature, workout.
- Want to feel more spiritual? Read a bible, go to church, join a yoga studio, get out in nature.
Positive habits might not give you the same high upfront, but they will improve your life on a daily basis with none of the crash and depletion that accompanies marijuana use.
Sidenote: I’ve created a free PDF containing over 50 ways you can conquer boredom, cope with stress naturally, and improve your overall enjoyment of life without weed. Get your free copy here!
3. Do a cost-benefit analysis
You need to begin to see how substance abuse causes more problems than it helps you escape. If you continue to think—even subconsciously—that weed is some super drug without side effects, you will continue to relapse into old patterns.
An opportunity cost is what we lose when we choose one option over another. Every time we decide to smoke weed, we close the door to other opportunities to improve our lives. You just can’t do certain things as well high or when hungover with a hazy mind.
There are many things in life that need your attention.
You have your:
- Family members
- Physical health
- Mental health
The nature of any drug addiction is that you only prioritize one thing at the expense of everything else—in this case, your weed addiction.** **
Your weed use is robbing you of energy, wasting time, and blunting your cognitive performance. If you aren’t where you want to be in life, you have to acknowledge that excessive weed use contributes to that equation. What helped me finally kick the habit is that I started to fear the consequences of my behavior more than I enjoyed the high.
Last year, Ed and I created a course called Vice Breakers: The complete program for kicking your bad habits and addictions. As a part of this course, we developed and designed nine different worksheets. He’s permitted me to share one of the worksheets here, which will help shift your perception around marijuana.
I recommend you check out Vice Breakers to access the 8 other worksheets and one of the most comprehensive guides for quitting bad habits—like pot—available anywhere on the internet!
4. Consider using CBD
When I quit smoking marijuana, I found it easiest to go cold turkey. However, some people swear by CBD. I know that Ed has personally had great success. He used it for recovery from an injury and as a natural sleep aid. He also mentions how it can be an effective aid in overcoming substance abuse.
CBD is less addicting than THC because you can’t alter your mood on the spot with it. Lacking any tangible high, it isn’t the same escape from problems that THC can have and, consequently, doesn’t create the same dependency. It’s like trying to quit coffee and going to tea. You don’t get addicted to tea because it doesn’t hit the same even though it tastes just as good or possibly even better.
Since marijuana can have some benefits when used responsibly, CBD might hold value in short-term situations or addiction treatment. According to a 2018 Consumer Reports study, 55% of Americans regularly take prescribed medication.4 Therefore, CBD oil might be worth taking as a natural alternative in place of heavier medications with harmful side effects like sleeping pills or painkillers. If you truly need cannabis for reasons beyond recreation, this might be a good alternative for you.
Ultimately, CBD is worth considering as a part of your treatment plan as you detox from heavier drug abuse and transition to a weed free life.
If you’d like to check out a reliable source of CBD you can get the brand Ed uses here.
In effect, we are paying good money to feel tired, detached, unmotivated, anxious, and paranoid for the sake of brief moments of superficial peace. Life has become about avoiding pain rather than seeking happiness. —Matthew Clarke
If you’re anything like I was, you cannot be a casual smoker. You’ve tried many times, and it doesn’t work. You told yourself that you could stop whenever you wanted years ago but still haven’t.
We must remember that cannabis use will never be the wonderful thing it was in the beginning. Weed once had a spot in our lives that was genuinely helpful. But our goals have changed, our lives have changed, our brain’s receptors have changed, and even weed itself has changed.
Thankfully, with a little work, we can get what we seek from weed from a sober life. Through natural and healthy methods, we can cultivate mental and physical health, advance our careers, grow spiritually, and improve our relationships.
Why wait another day?
I’d love to share many more strategies and ideas, but this article is already getting long. I do offer 1-on-1 coaching and would be happy to assist you in living weed-free. Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com or DM me on Twitter where we can discuss effective treatment options and build a customized treatment program to help you quit smoking marijuana once and for all.
One last gift before you go: I’ve developed two sets of affirmations that will help rewire your beliefs and cravings for weed. Within just a few short days you will notice that you crave weed less and can go without it easier than ever before. They’re free and highly effective but I plan to charge for them soon. Get them here before they’re gone!
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Ruben D. Baler, Ph.D., Wilson M. Compton, M.D., and Susan R.B. Weiss, Ph.D. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370:2219-2227 ↩
Stuyt, E., MD. (2018). The problem with the current high potency THC marijuana from the perspective of an addiction psychiatrist. The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, PMC6312155 ↩
Suzanne H. Gage, Harry R. Sumnall. (2018). Rat Park: How a rat paradise changed the narrative of addiction. _Society for the study of addiction, _doi.org/10.1111/add.14481 ↩
Carr, T. (2017). Too Many Meds? America's Love Affair With Prescription Medication. Consumer reports. ↩