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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.

10 Reasons to Stay Away from Weed

People who support marijuana over other drugs often point to a number of different arguments that they believe prove it to be safe or at least less harmful. Many of these center on the fact that marijuana is a naturally occurring substance, hence its names including “herb,” “grass” or “weed.” While it may be true that cannabis can be found in nature, this does not by any means make it safe. There are many “natural” substances and plants that are also toxic. There are, in fact, many different reasons why you should avoid using marijuana:

1. Marijuana Smoke Contains Carcinogens

Smoking is not the only way in which marijuana users consume the drug, but it is certainly the most common. Whether it is in joints or a bong, the smoke released by marijuana contains many of the same carcinogens — chemical substances that cause cancer — as cigarette smoke.

2. Marijuana Can Cause Lung Damage

People who smoke weed are more at risk of suffering lung damage. In fact, a study conducted in New Zealand demonstrated that the respiratory system damage caused by smoking cannabis is actually equivalent to the damage associated with smoking as many as five cigarettes. There are also many other long-term effects of weed that a lot of people are not aware of:

3. You Might Get Hooked

The issue of addiction is one of the reasons that many advocates of marijuana argue that it is safer since it is not necessarily as addictive as certain other drugs like heroin. Many people, however, do get hooked on marijuana, with estimates commonly stating that the number is around one in six pot smokers ending up addicted to the drug.

4. Weed Can Destroy Your Ambition

Smoking pot one time tends to make a person feel “hazed” or “baked,” and the high associated with cannabis is typically described as being relaxing, rather than stimulating. People who consume marijuana on a regular basis naturally experience these sensations far more often, and with prolonged usage, most pot smokers end up failing to pursue their life goals.

5. Marijuana Destroys Your Body’s Natural Reserves

The human body naturally responds to the dietary mineral magnesium as though it were a tranquilizer, a nutrient that serves to help one stay relaxed and to avoid feeling frayed at the edges. Using marijuana tends to deplete the body’s stores of magnesium, with the result that the person feels more on-edge after coming down from the high. As is to be expected, most people turn back to the drug to feel good again, thereby locking themselves into a downward spiral of physical dependence in addition to any emotional addiction they may develop.

6. A Pot Habit Can Be Expensive

From a purely practical standpoint, you have to keep in mind the financial implications of using marijuana. According to a report from the United Nations, marijuana costs anywhere from $150 to $400 per ounce, with price variations based on the quality of the drug and the region where it is being purchased. In addition to the price tag for a joint, there are also the long-term costs associated with reduced earning power due to poor job performance and being passed over for promotions at work, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

7. Cannabis Is Still Illegal in Many States in the US and Countries Around the World

Marijuana is still illegal in the majority of states in the nation. Under federal law, cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is in the category of the most tightly regulated drugs on the market. Consequently, an arrest for marijuana possession and sales can result in driver’s license suspension, steep fines and time in jail or prison, as well as a criminal record that can destroy your career.

8. Using Weed Can Retard Your Development

Studies have demonstrated that people who begin engaging in heavy marijuana consumption during their teenage years tend to reach adulthood with lower levels of IQ than their peers. This has to do with the fact that the brain has not finished maturing until the mid-20s, and using a mind-altering substance such as THC can impair its growth and development.

9. Pot Smokers Tend to Become Reclusive

Because marijuana is illegal in most areas, people who use the drug on a regular basis will more often use it in the privacy of their own homes. The nature of the high tends to leave them looking inward rather than out in the environment so often results in a user sitting for hours not doing much of anything. As they start smoking on a daily basis, rather than only at parties or with friends on the weekend, they tend to spend more time alone in order to facilitate their habit. They stop spending as much time with friends and family who do not use drugs and will start making choices about new friends based on who does and doesn’t get high. They may feel self-conscious about their drug use, or may simply prefer the company of other stoners. Either way, they often end up living more reclusive lives.

10. Marijuana Can Change Your Personality

As mentioned above, regular consumption of marijuana tends to deplete the body’s stores of vital nutrients, thereby making one feel edgier without the drug. Cannabis is also notorious for causing users to suffer from conditions such as paranoia and anxiety, particularly with the high potency weed that is on the market today. Some of this anxiety is practical since you never know if the knock at the door might be a police officer who could arrest you for drug possession, while some of it is purely physiological given the ways that the drug affects the brain. Furthermore, the lack of motivation and fuzzy-headedness displayed by many marijuana users often represent significant alterations in the person’s behavior. The bottom line is that pot smokers often undergo personality changes, and they are usually not for the better.

While it may be true that cannabis can be found in nature, this does not by any means make it safe. There are many “natural” substances that are also toxic. There are, in fact, many different reasons why you should avoid using marijuana. ]]>