How to Stop Cravings for Marijuana
Though it’s not often spoken of in the same tone as narcotics like opioids or cocaine, there’s no doubting marijuana’s popularity and status as a highly addictive drug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the country. In the year 2019, the CDC adds, nearly 20% of Americans used the drug — with some 30% of users battling a marijuana use disorder. To make matters worse, the likelihood of marijuana use disorder is higher in those who begin recreationally using the drug during their youth.
Given what we know about the prevalence of marijuana use and abuse, it should come as no surprise that much of what compels people to continue using is the intensity of the cravings for the drug. The good news is there are some tried-and-true methods that can help marijuana users curtail their cravings. But before we get there, let’s talk about what happens to the body during marijuana use and some circumstances surrounding marijuana cravings.
What Happens to the Body During Marijuana Use?
Derived from the cannabis plant, marijuana is a psychoactive drug featuring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whether vaped, eaten in the form of an edible, or smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints, the primary reason why someone uses marijuana is that its psychoactive properties can result in a euphoric high.
When consumed, THC attaches to receptors in the brain responsible for sensations like our mood, pain tolerance, memory processing, and motor control. Users can experience undesirable outcomes in the short term, including an altered sense of time, difficulty solving problems, hallucinations, delusions, and even psychosis. Depending on how the drug is consumed and the duration of use, marijuana may also cause breathing problems, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and developmental delays for children in utero.
Why Does Someone Get Cravings for Marijuana?
Cravings and addiction, also known as dependence, go hand in hand. Dependence on marijuana is caused by prolonged use and the build-up of a tolerance to the effect of the drug. That means the brain has become so accustomed to marijuana that a higher dose is required to achieve the same outcome. It’s also indicative of the brain reducing the production of and sensitivity to the receptors we mentioned earlier. To make up the difference and feel “normal” again, the body begins to crave marijuana. Another factor leading to an influx of marijuana use disorder cases is that marijuana is more potent today than ever before.
For most people, the strongest cravings tend to occur in situations where they’ve used marijuana in the past or when they are with people with whom they’ve used the drug together. An assortment of symptoms tends to accompany cravings, including poor sleep habits, vivid dreams, headaches, anxiety, depression, and restlessness.
How Can Someone Stop Craving Marijuana?
Preventing cravings from occurring and continuing one’s progress toward a life without marijuana is not easy — however, it is definitely doable. In many ways, handling cravings is about preparation and planning. For example, the first step should be removing temptation by not going to places where you frequently used the drug and avoiding spending time with others who may be inclined to use in front of you. If you happen to unexpectedly find yourself in an environment where someone is using marijuana, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation entirely.
Similarly, you must get rid of any paraphernalia that can intensify a craving or make it possible for you to use again, like lighters, pipes, rolling papers, bongs, and remnants. Tossing those items is just one part of a behavioral overhaul that can include everything from changing the route driven to school or work to when meals are eaten, and the times you go to bed and wake up.
Another important aspect of getting over cravings is learning better life habits and participating in healthier daily activities. For instance, exercise is an excellent distraction and an effective way to manage cravings because it releases natural endorphins.
A study completed by Vanderbilt University analyzing running’s effect on heavy users of marijuana found that the activity actually had a substantial impact. In that study, participants realized a “significant decrease in their cravings and daily use” after just a few sessions on a treadmill. It goes without saying, but regular exercise is an essential part of healthy living and can also be beneficial in one’s ability to control their weight, combat cardiovascular disease, find better sleep, receive a boost of energy, and more.
Of course, we all know you can only exercise so much each day, and cravings might strike at a time when being physically active is not possible. When this happens, look for other ways to occupy your time and ward off cravings. Cleaning and organizing your home, spending some time on a crossword puzzle, taking in a movie at the theater, picking up a good book, knitting or sewing, and building something with your hands are all smart (and healthy) ways to stay busy.
Sometimes, simply solving for the oral fixation associated with marijuana use can help to curb cravings. Many people find success by chewing sugarless gum or candy or chomping on a toothpick or straw. That said, always make sure whatever you substitute in isn’t another unhealthy vice like smoking cigarettes or eating snacks with little to no nutritional value.
We also can’t say enough about the power of a robust support system. Having a group of people to turn to when the cravings are the most intense is instrumental. A support system can be friends or family members you see in person or even online communities and message boards designed to bring people together who are all on the road to drug-free living.
The Best Way to Handle Cravings is By Addressing the Root Cause
Overcoming substance abuse and addiction is most effective when it’s completed with the help of professionals. The team at Midwest Recovery Centers offers marijuana addiction treatment programs tailored to clients’ individual needs. We work with clients to identify the root cause of their drug use through foundational recovery elements like talk therapy. In addition, we set clients up for long-term success by guiding them in the creation of a plan to stop their cravings.
If you or someone you love is struggling with marijuana cravings, we would like to help. Contact us today.