How can I stop being a pothead?
May 17, 2006 5:28 AM   Subscribe

How can I successfully transition out of being a pothead?

Due to a series of health problems, I've realized that I need to stop smoking weed for an extended period of time, possibly permanently. Health issues aside, I'm pretty tired of being a lazy, unmotivated, isolated stoner. I realize that smoking weed doesn't necessarily make you lazy, but I've been smoking for four years and have found that the longer I smoke, the more unmotivated (and anxious) I become. Ideally tapering off my usage would be best (I currently smoke 2-3x daily), but due to the health issues I pretty much need to go cold turkey.

What can I do to help myself through this transition? I've heard that quitting can cause depression, and I'm already kind of depressed. I've discussed this with a therapist, but they didn't have much to offer other than saying that quitting would ultimately improve my mood. Any and all resources on what I can do to take care of my body and mind would be appreciated, as well as ideas of how to fill up my free time. Endless TV and video games have left me rather daunted (stunted?) in exploring my own interests.

Finally, how can I go through this process without losing my connection with my friends? Though they are understanding and supportive of my reasons behind quitting, I know that a nonsmoker hanging out with a bunch of smokers is generally perceived as kinda weird.

If you want to get in touch with me privately, you can reach me at
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I don't smoke pot, although many of my friends and family do socially. I don't think it's weird at all. I just don't like pot, so I don't smoke it. I can still have fun times giggling with stoned people, although I have to admit that the super duper stoned can be sort of boring.

As to how to deal with the quitting, how about joining a gym or a sport? You'll release endorphins and feel great. Or, adopt a dog and take it for long walks. The nice thing about dogs is that they make it really hard to be too lazy.
posted by miss tea at 6:00 AM on May 17, 2006

I quit for health reasons a year ago, after smoking daily for almost 20 years. The biggest change for me was that I spent my evenings and weekends actually doing things instead of just sitting on the couch watching TV. I am also prone to depression and I agree with your therapist; my overall disposition is much better than it was a year ago.

I don't think you should be concerned about hanging out with your stoner friends at all. I can't recall a time when my friends or I ever judged somebody based on their inclination to get high and I think your friends will be just as reasonable. However, if your friends start griefing you for not smoking, it's time to ditch them.
posted by EiderDuck at 6:06 AM on May 17, 2006

Quitting is VERY hard.
I quit all drugs, as well as alcohol, two years ago. Even though it isnt physically addictive, I still miss pot the most.
Drying out from alcohol was more painful, but pot is something I think back on very nostalgically, and the desire to smoke is even higher than my desire to drink.

I recommend changing a lot more than just the smoking if you want to be successful. I got through by having a wholesale life-change. I think its a lot harder to just augment one small area of your life.

My band-aid solution was food, greasy, fatty, and sugary food. It was my layover vice.

Its a super-slow transition to get out of the stoner mindset. I was smoking an ounce a week and thats a lot of time spent stoned. The first couple days off weed werent so bad. It was like a different kind of high, experiencing reality through clear glasses again. It was the days and weeks after that I just wanted that stoned feeling back. Its like losing your blankey when you're a kid (or it was for me at least).

I wish you all the best, and feel free to contact me if you need someone to talk to.
posted by kevin_2864212 at 6:07 AM on May 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

I quit about 20 years ago after 5 years of steady smoking. It was hard at first, but after a week it became easier. I still hung out with my pot-smoking friends and they were cool about it. When the joint came my way, I just passed it along, without taking a puff or even faking it.

If your friends are cool, after the second time you say "No thanks, I've quit," they'll stop offering, except by habit. If somebody gives you shit for it, you should note that as an indication of their character. Those aren't people whose opinion you should value.

You may get depressed, but the pot's not helping that anyway, so you might as well stop now. It will pass.
posted by donpardo at 6:21 AM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

You can look forward to a few months of very vivid dreams.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2006

If you're lucky you live where Marijuana Anonymous has meetings. They'll be very helpful.

Once you quit (which has to be cold turkey) be aware of the period starting around two weeks later when you start having intense (and possible scary) dreams -- this is a very common detox reaction to the anesthesic wearing off.

Also, relations with your doper friends will become a lot less important.
posted by Rash at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2006

I was a daily pot smoker for years, through college and afterwards, and stopped because it was triggering some anxiety. I just stopped. Obviously it's not going to be the same for everyone, but in my case it wasn't that hard. My stoner friends (who, years later, are still important friends) understood and it was never really an issue.

I do still smoke very occasionally now, once every few months or so, so I haven't cut it out entirely.

I guess my real point is that until you actually try, you have no idea how hard it will (or won't) be. Go a night without smoking. Then go two. Then only smoke on weekends.

Also, don't expect to not be lazy and unmotivated. I got even lazier and less motivated for a while after I quit. You have to relearn how to perceive things, and how to appreciate how great things can be when you aren't stoned.
posted by cCranium at 6:52 AM on May 17, 2006

Also, relations with your doper friends will become a lot less important.

Only if these people are only people you smoke with and not genuine friends. In which case, no big loss.

If said doper friends are real friends, they won't seriously pressure you into smoking and they should understand if you spend less time with them during transition. They will offer it to you, possibly even repeatedly, but once they know you're serious they should be good about it. Short term memory not withstanding, of course.

I might also suggest reading (or watching) Requiem for a Dream for some reinforcement of your decision, it is not really about the pot but it sure did make me feel disgusting about drugs.
posted by utsutsu at 6:53 AM on May 17, 2006

You can look forward to a few months of very vivid dreams.

This is incredibly true. And in my experience, it was by far the most noticeable side effect.

I would've described it as similar to quitting french fries, or some other tasty but unhealthy food. There's no real withdrawal or anything, but man... sometimes you really want some fucking french fries.

Your stoner friends will still be your friends, if they were true. If not, they were going to go away sooner or later anyway.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:14 AM on May 17, 2006

I recommend taking the 50-100 dollars you would have spent on pot and buy a good pair of running shoes and some free weights.

Go running everyday with an ipod or whatever you have with some music that gets you amped up. Push yourself for a few weeks and you will really begin to enjoy the feeling you get.

Every 2-3 days, lift some weights after you're done running.

Be sure you eat a bit healthier when you're doing all this.

Believe me, this will help.

(If your health conditions make this recommendation impossible, please ignore.)
posted by milarepa at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2006

First couple nights you'll not be able to sleep well, or at least experience insomnia if your routine is to smoke before you go to bed. You'll have vivid dreams for a couple weeks as others mentioned and you'll probably lose your hunger at all. Again I attribute these all to conditioning of "Going out to eat? Oh man it'd be so much better high" or "I need to get to bed fast, better smoke." Keep in mind this will last 2-3 days tops. Also don't be afraid to just chill and watch TV you'll probably get all itchy not knowing what to do, I suggest getting Entourage or a good television series you can chill out to for at least a week as you disassociate daily activities with being high and suffer incredible bordeom.

Though I must say it's not hard to quit at all, two days of effects you'll only maybe notice followed by a couple weeks of actual dreaming.
posted by geoff. at 7:29 AM on May 17, 2006

When I was in college I smoked a lot of pot, and felt increasingly bad about it. I decided to try drying out at one point, and just stopped smoking for a month, cold turkey. I don't remember it being difficult.

I went back to smoking for a for more months after my one month break, but then quit cold turkey again. That time it was also not difficult.

For me cold turkey was much easier than cutting down. Once I smoked a little, I just kept smoking. So it was all or nothing, and I opted for the nothing.

Good luck with your transition. I think you'll be happy with it.
posted by alms at 7:33 AM on May 17, 2006

I know that a nonsmoker hanging out with a bunch of smokers is generally perceived as kinda weird.

I'll second everyone else. I don't smoke but half of my friends in high school and most of my friends now in college do, and it's not a problem. Sometimes it will get a little boring, but that's about it.
posted by puffin at 7:36 AM on May 17, 2006

I know that a nonsmoker hanging out with a bunch of smokers is generally perceived as kinda weird.

you need to step back and evaluate these people.. are they people that you would be around if there wasnt pot involved or is the main common interest getting stoned together? if it is they will most likely dwindle away.. and other new people will fill in the empty spots. if they are genuine friends they will stick by you no matter what.

also hanging out around the smoking friends will only make quitting harder at first.. you need to detox your system completely and sitting in the same room with them smoking isnt going to help.
posted by trishthedish at 7:56 AM on May 17, 2006

The only friends I really have where I am now are very rarely sober. I hang out with these guys all the time. They are either smoking buddies, in which case it may be odd, or they are friends. With friends, it doesn't matter.
posted by Loto at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2006

I've often had to quit involuntarily due to travel for work, and it's never been a big deal. I'm usually too busy to even think about pot, anyways.

Except for the vivid dreams and loss of appetite (which quickly subsides), it isn't _that_ tough. It's more a routine than anything, and after a couple of days the craving goes away.

This is coming from a rather *ahem* frequent (daily) user. I actually just quit again this week, after finding myself less motivated than I should be. No big deal (and crazy dreams last night).
posted by kableh at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2006

First couple nights you'll not be able to sleep well, or at least experience insomnia if your routine is to smoke before you go to bed.

I quit in 1985 after 16 years of serious pot and hash smoking and my sleep problems lasted for weeks (maybe even months). It was a long time before I could sleep peacefully all night long, but other than that, quitting was fairly easy for me. I had spent the last several years stoned to the gills 24/7, ending each day by smoking half a bowl of hash after climbing into bed and finishing the bowl in the morning before I got out of bed.

The one thing I remember vividly is after a few days without dope I began sobering up enough to realize how dingy I was. It was a semi-rough experience, but well worth it in the long run. Good luck.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2006

I go on and off, and something that helps me a lot is excercise. Working out a lot seems to get rid of the "Oh, I'd kinda like to get high..." feeling. Also, sex helps.
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2006

You can't keep your former friends. They will either bring you back into the pothead fold or reject you as not being one of them. The upside is that after a while you won't want to be around them, and their bullshit that will become more apparent to you, anyway.
posted by 517 at 8:27 AM on May 17, 2006

Even though it isnt physically addictive, I still miss pot the most.

Amen - I used to do a lot of drugs, of all kinds, and weed was (er, is) definitely the hardest to give up. Much harder than coke, in my experience. I suspect this is due to the relatively mild effects of weed and the fact that ones tolerance doesn't change after giving up as much as it does with hard drugs - do a few lines of coke after a year without and it'll knock your block off, have a joint in the same circumstances and you'll think 'Huh? What was all the fuss about, I might as well start smoking again'.

Not that I wish to put you off at all - quite the opposite! - just be aware that it could be more difficult to give up than you might imagine.

They will either bring you back into the pothead fold or reject you as not being one of them.

Er, no. If they do that, they're just people you do drugs with. Friends will respect your decision (and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two saw the benefits and followed suit).
posted by jack_mo at 8:42 AM on May 17, 2006

Oh, and good luck!
posted by jack_mo at 8:42 AM on May 17, 2006

You can keep your friends, unless your friendship is entirely based around weed. i.e. dealers or weed-parasites (moochers.)
My friends supported my decision and will smoke outside if visiting me. I'm a musician, so enviromentally, I'm constantly exposed to smoking. You must maintain a healthy state of mind and really believe that you do not want to smoke pot anymore. Only then, can you truly pass on smoking when it is offered. The more you say no the better it feels to not smoke it. Remember, it is only good for YOU not to smoke pot (if that is what you believe is right for yourself.) It is best not to become a preachy s.o.b. about your decision.
You'll feel great in about 30 days.
posted by bloodniece at 8:45 AM on May 17, 2006

I've discussed this with a therapist, but they didn't have much to offer other than saying that quitting would ultimately improve my mood.

I'm sure I'll torque someone off with this, but in my experience therapists (ie, psychologists) rarely have any real interest in directing their patients to pharmacology options. You may want to consider speaking to someone who has the ability to prescribe anti-depressants - zyban is just a rebranded wellbutrin and any anti-depressant is likely to be somewhat helpful in dealing with the physical and habitual issues you're going to confront coming off pot.
posted by phearlez at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2006

Sweet Jesus, you people are silly.

You can't keep your former friends; Marijuana Anonymous; detox. Seriously?

I'm a massive stoner--I spend every minute of every day stoned, regardless of what I'm doing and who I'm seeing. But, I also stop smoking for weeks on end when I'm broke, have a big project, can't get any, or whatever. No sweat. Sure, you wanna get stoned sometimes... just like, as a vegetarian, I sometimes really crave a cheesesteak.

Seriously. Just stop smoking, and don't worry about it.

As for your friends: they're your friends. They'll be just fine. I mean, they might give you a bit of ribbing over it, but that's what friends do, ya' know?
posted by Netzapper at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2006 [4 favorites]

I quit smoking pot about five years ago. It was less difficult than I imagined it would be. A few tips:

1) Get rid of all of your paraphenalia, even rolling papers and lighters.

2) If you have a regular "smoking night" with your friends, find another recurring activity that can take its place. For the nights when you would otherwise get stoned and watch TV, either get out of the house and do something social or physical, or work on hobby projects.

3) Don't make a big speech about quitting to all your friends. Just give a polite "no thanks" when offered, or just pass the joint to the next guy without comment. Even the most oblivious stoners will catch on after a while.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:09 AM on May 17, 2006

Dude, gone through this many times. Lots of advice here and you'll end up doing what makes sense for you, but seriously, I quit smoking weed when I was surrounded by potheads. Otherwise it's hard. I don't know if you need to dump your friends, but if you get a good social network not into drugs, it really really helps.
posted by BigBrownBear at 9:50 AM on May 17, 2006

It sounds like the therapist doesn't understand much about addiction. That's not unusual - most mental health therapists haven't been trained, or have been trained *very* poorly about substance use/addictions.

Try to find a therapist who understands addictions. 12-step programs can be great for some. Check out AA, NA, whatever. You don't say what part of the country you're in, but Hazelden is one of the premier treatment centers in the country - if you're around there, look them up. There are also many self-help books about overcoming addictions - go to your local bookstore and thumb through them til you find one that speaks to you.

Feel free to email me if you want more elaboration about any of this.
posted by jasper411 at 10:05 AM on May 17, 2006

You can keep your friends, unless your friendship is entirely based around weed. i.e. dealers or weed-parasites (moochers.)

I agree; when I quit taking drugs after about 7 years of heavy use I found that I had absolutely nothing in common with the people I called friends -- except drugs. Eventually I (and they) moved on.

Of course we were into a lot more than just weed....
posted by sic at 10:49 AM on May 17, 2006

Also maybe try meditation and / or yoga. If you're a list person, make one about what you'll do instead when a craving is strong. Sometimes this can help with depression too. Have a plan of action that reflects your best interest.

Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 10:49 AM on May 17, 2006

Keep smoking until you run out. Then throw out your gear. Don't buy any more weed.

Find something new that interests you. Unfortunately when you go off weed things get less interesting. That's OK, because of weed everything was 'artificially interesting' anyway.

Games and TV are OK passtimes but you will definitely feel better doing something productive, like learning or making something. Buy some books and read them. Learn to play an instrument. Get a puppy. Training it will consume a lot of your time. Try your hand at drawing, painting, writing, cooking, grow veggies or herbs, stuff like that. Definitely go outside for walks or bike rides.

You will begin to have clearer and more memories. Weed use tends to make memories blur together. This is a big plus to quitting.

The first week or two will be tough. If you can make it past this point without slipping it gets easier. As with anything worth doing, it will require some willpower. Good luck.
posted by jockc at 1:31 PM on May 17, 2006

I found what did it for me was the realization that smoking pot merely amplified whatever mood was in at the time; if I was in a bad mood (which was a regular occurence), pot would ultimately put me in a worse one, even though I had convinced myself it would do the opposite. Eventually I began asking myself before lighting up "is this really going to be worth it?" Usually, it wasn't. Now I reserve it for times when I'm in a great mood... which works well, because when I'm in a great mood I don't need or want to get high. Also, getting rid of all your paraphernalia is a great way to start.
posted by Succa at 1:38 PM on May 17, 2006

Netzapper, I think your response is uniquely off center--quitting for a few weeks (knowing you can and are going back) is very different than quitting,perhaps permanently, for health reasons. Also, I don't think friends are for ribbing when you are trying to something that maybe difficult. Down the road perhaps. There is lot of good advice in the responses. Quit and see where it takes you day by day--I bet you will soon find out what may be helpful as one persons "detox" is not anothers. Who knows what might help but don't discount any of them--exercise, good nutrition. keeping busy, or perhaps a short course on ssri's (antidepressants) AA meetings (you don't need to talk). One of my best friends--a very successful creative writer and executive smoked every day for over 30 years. At 50+ he came to realize that " shit "I am stoned all the time" and this just is not working. Interestingly the turning point was when he realized his children were coming for a surprise visit and it would interfer with his smoking. He and some friends formed their own group based on the AA pronciples but skipped the direct spirituality. If you are in the Cincinnati area I will put you in touch with him.. Take Care ( PS, his wife who is deeply devoted to him did not thinks were just fine for those 30 + years)
posted by rmhsinc at 1:55 PM on May 17, 2006

As this thread very clearly demonstrates, it is really, really variable.

A lot of people can quit pretty much cold turkey without a particularly arduous effort for any length of time - even if they've been fairly chronic smokers for a long period of time. You might be one of them. Let yourself run out, put all the gear in a box and put that up on the shelf, tell your friends you're taking potentially permanent vacation and see what happens. You'll find out pretty soon if you're one of the lucky ones.

Some people can manage total abstinence pretty well but cannot switch to infrequent smoking. Some people are fine as long as it's not around but can't say no to it when it is. Some people have developed an absolutely unhealthy relationship with it and have to go through treatment of some sort to get rid of it.

But it is best I think to see if you can have it not be so big of a deal. Just one of those, yeah, I'm doing this right now things and try to be okay about it.

One thing I always like if I can manage it is to make transitions like this concurrent with a change of venue, like a vacation or starting something new. It gives the lifestyle change a nice reference point to adhere to and I think allows you to view the alternative with fresh and less prejudiced eyes.

Seriously though, it sounds like you are not having a good time, feeling anxious, allowing it to facilitate lethargy. Combined with overloading the passive entertainments it sounds like simple avoidance. You're in therapy so you're obviously aware of issues and trying to deal with them. The issue you probably face is not really about weed per se but rather that you are working hard to avoid being left alone with yourself. You probably need to face that experience and you will probably find it challenging. What to do with all that time is what you're going through all of this to find out.
posted by nanojath at 7:33 PM on May 17, 2006

10 years of daily near-constant smoking, I came to Corea where it's terribly illegal and not available anyway (afaik).

No problem at all - the only thing was that after a few weeks my dreams started coming back, and many of them are unpleasant.

I smoke heavily once or twice a year when I'm in the US on tour or another puffy-friendly nation. Back to Seoul, it's never a problem to cold turkey.

Just stop smoking, you'll be fine.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:57 PM on May 17, 2006

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