Reprinted from the "Cannabis" issue of Visions Journal, 2009, 5 (4), p. 25
Six steps to changing your current cannabis-use patterns
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.
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.
* See the Managing Substance Use Workbook for more information
About the authorRielle worked eight years as a Policy Analyst and Research Coordinator with the BC Compassion Club Society. She was a Research Associate at the Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) and is currently an Associate Researcher at the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction at SFU