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I Know I’m Dependent on Weed But I Don’t Want to Quit

At my fifth grade graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, I stepped to the podium sporting a blue button-up shirt, braces, and uneven bangs, and played the flute. I can’t remember exactly how D.A.R.E. had molded me into an eleven-year old who believed that doing drugs was a crime and a sin, but it had succeeded. Some weeks later, I caught my teenage sisters smoking weed behind our back porch during a dinner party. In a brainwashed fervor, I cried and screamed at them, “Well I hope you know you’re going to hell!”

At fourteen I took my first hit, lay back, and said, “This is heaven.”

Weed is complicated for me. It has been an escape, a ritual, and a medicine. And it has been a trap, a habit, and a source of pain. I’ve gone from glass bowls and bongs to grape Swisher Sweet blunts to spliffs in RAW papers. I smoke with friends and by myself, while I’m making music and while I’m watching TV. I smoke when I am sad and when I am overjoyed. I smoke a lot. I know I’m too dependent on weed, but I don’t want to quit.

Quitting means giving it all up, including the times when weed is a conduit for connection and creativity, an extra eye for the subtly sweet things, like Riis beach at sunset, sitting on the boardwalk, dusty turquoise benches and lavender sky, with all my favorite people, passing a joint between us. Or stuffed with homemade pasta at my parents’ house in the winter with a fire in the living room, when I step onto the back porch and smoke a spliff. Springtime on a stoop in Brooklyn, my friend and I burning one with some beats on, her freestyling like a fool and me laughing hard.

But most of the times I smoke are not necessarily special. It’s pretty easy for me to find reasons to roll up.

If the morning feels bleak and I need a lift, I’ll smoke a little something. When the words won’t flow and a draft is due, I light one to get loose. Maybe it’s one of those days when my chest gets tight when I think about leaving the cocoon of my room to dive into the current of the city but I have to go to work, make money, be an adult. I roll up and relax, hoping that if inside I’m easy, nothing outside can rock me.

I’ve been smoking regularly for over half of my life and I’m not in denial about the toll it takes on my lungs, my wallet, my mental health. I know that I’m much more productive without it, that I’m too quick to curl up with it as a way to avoid others, my desires, and my fears.

So once or twice a year I go stone-cold sober for two or three months. Then I’ll re-engage, but with boundaries: Only smoke at night. No more than two joints. No smoking before the gym. No buying weed twice in one week. No cereal in the house, ever.

These rules will last for a time, but soon I’m back to smoking multiple times a day. Going sober is an attempt to eliminate the problem without fixing it: It doesn’t make me a stronger or more balanced person. It doesn’t give me more control over my behavior.

For the past two months I’ve been doing consistent crunches. Before, if I had to do any exercise that involved balancing on one leg, I would fall out of it within seconds. But after taking months to build the muscles of my core, I can finally hold the position. I can hold myself up.

So what’s the crunch for my mind or my heart, to strengthen that core, so I can indulge sometimes, party and get trippy, eat my heart out, drink and sweat and spend, and still be able to return to my baseline? I want my vices to be vacations, wonderful and wild, but then I want to come back to balance. I don’t want to need weed. I also don’t want to need complete sobriety. I want a stronger core.

Quitting weed is something I think about a lot but I'm not a moderate person, and I have no desire to be. Maybe I can still achieve moderation.

Alcohol & Other Drugs

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Tips for Cutting Back

Rielle Capler, MHA

Reprinted from “Cannabis” issue of Visions Journal, 2009, 5 (4), p. 25
Six steps to changing your current cannabis-use patterns

Think about your current patterns of use: Think about how much, how often and when you use cannabis in a day, week or month. This will help you understand your cannabis use and will help you monitor your progress as you cut down.

Think about why you use cannabis: If you’re using cannabis regularly, chances are there are reasons why. Does it relax you? Does it help you sleep? Does it relieve physical pain or help you cope with difficult emotions?

Make a list of reasons why you want to cut down: Think about why you want to change your current pattern of use. Is it negatively affecting your health? Are you worried about the costs? Are you worried about legal consequences?

Be aware and prepare: It’s important to know that, for some people, this change may be difficult to create and sustain. You can prepare by jotting down the things you think may be difficult and noting resources for support, such as counselling or relaxation techniques.

Make a step-by-step plan to make change happen: First, decide which day you’re going to begin making the change. Then, write down what the change will look like and the things you can do on the first few days. Next, outline how you’ll deal with any withdrawal symptoms and cravings you may get. Finally, think about what you can do to make a healthy transition.*

Stay positive and stay active: Give yourself credit for the positive changes you make and fill your time with meaningful activities and healthy relationships in which your desired level of cannabis use is respected.

People develop patterns of cannabis use that fit their needs. As their needs change, people tend to change their patterns of use. For some this means stopping the use of cannabis completely. For others it means stopping temporarily or cutting back.

Often, patterns of use change quite naturally. For example, many people who use cannabis in their youth stop using it when they get older. Some use cannabis for medical purposes that may be temporary or change over time. Others use cannabis throughout their lives, with periods of non-use or less use.

There are different reasons why people decide to change their pattern of use. Some people may stop using cannabis temporarily to reduce their tolerance level. This means that they can use less cannabis to get the effect they want. By cutting down on the amount used, they can maintain the benefits, but minimize possible harms (e.g., respiratory problems such as bronchitis which can accompany heavy, long-term use). For other people, it may be a matter of cutting back on costs. Still others may be concerned about the potential legal consequences. And for some, their cannabis use may be a problem—due to misuse, stigma or legal status—for the people they care about.

Most people who want to cut down on or quit cannabis are able to do so easily; The way cannabis molecules work in the body typically leads to controlled use of low doses, rather than the compulsive use sometimes seen with drugs that are considered addictive.

Cannabis has a low risk for physical dependence. However, when someone uses cannabis a lot over a long period of time, they may develop a psychological or emotional dependence. This means they may have come to rely on the effects of cannabis and may have trouble functioning with less cannabis. People who do develop mild physical or psychological dependence may experience minor withdrawal symptoms. These can include irritability, anxiety, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. These symptoms are usually slight and last for about a week.

If you’ve decided to cut down on or quit using cannabis, consider the following guidelines and tips.

Related resources

For more information about cannabis and other substances, visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca or www.carbc.ca.

Tips to help you cut down on the amount of cannabis you use:

Take a break: You may have found that you need to use an increasing amount of cannabis to get the desired effects. This is called tolerance. If you want to reduce tolerance, stop using cannabis for a week or two, or take longer breaks than usual between use.

Use a variety of strains: You may build up tolerance to one strain of cannabis, but not to another. Instead of using the same strain continually, alternate between different strains.

Practise self-management: Instead of smoking a whole joint or taking a puff every time a joint comes around, take a puff or two and then wait a few minutes. You may find that a smaller amount is enough.

Use higher potency cannabis: Instead of smoking a lot of a weak strain of cannabis, smoke less of a more potent one.

Use a vaporizer: Because of the way they are designed, a good quality vaporizer will allow you to use less cannabis to get the effects you want.

Avoid adding tobacco to your joint: Tobacco contains nicotine, which can quickly create nicotine dependency. Rolling tobacco and cannabis together in a joint may make it harder for you to cut down on using cannabis.

Buy less, so you smoke less: Buying cannabis in bulk is cheaper, but you may end up smoking more than you want to just because it’s available.

People develop patterns of cannabis use that fit their needs. As their needs change, people tend to change their patterns of use. For some this means stopping the use of cannabis completely. For others it means stopping temporarily or cutting back.