About Marijuana and How It Affects the Body

Cannabis is the general name given to a variety of preparations derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Some 400 other chemicals also are in the cannabis plant.

When a person smokes marijuana, THC enters the bloodstream through the walls of the lungs and is taken to the brain. THC is stored in fatty tissues and can be detected in urine for days, weeks, or sometimes months. The effects of marijuana depend on the person, the environment, the potency of the drug, and how long the person has been using the drug. It is possible to become addicted to marijuana and feel dependent on it to get through the day. Each year thousands of people seek help to stop using marijuana.

Why Do You Smoke Marijuana?

You may have many reasons for smoking marijuana: to relax, to help you sleep, to calm down. However, meditation or exercise often can accomplish these same results. You may smoke to improve social interactions, but many find that after years of smoking, relationships and social life in general have deteriorated. Or you may smoke to avoid life’s problems. However, the problems don’t go away by themselves.

Why Do You Want To Give Up Marijuana?

Researchers, health professionals, and people who smoke marijuana have identified health, social, legal, and financial reasons to quit.

Health Risks

• Respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis.

• Changes to cells in the body that may signal the development of cancer. Marijuana smoke contains substantially higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals than does tobacco smoke.

• Problems with attention, concentration, and memory that get worse with continued use of marijuana and only partially improve after quitting.

• An increased risk of developing cancers in the mouth, throat, and lungs.

• An increased risk of birth defects or leukemia in children exposed to marijuana during pregnancy. Using marijuana also may disrupt sperm production and ovulation.

• Poor educational achievement and difficulties in learning.

• An increase in symptoms for people who suffer from heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or schizophrenia.

Social Reasons for Quitting

Some people give up marijuana because they are tired of their lifestyle and feel they are stagnating. Are you

• Worried that your social life is restricted to people who smoke dope?

• Feeling low and avoiding people?

• Worried that some relationships are not going well?

• Arguing with your partner?

• Aware of your partner’s concerns about your smoking?

• Worried about smoking around children?

Many people use marijuana to avoid problems. Often their problems just continue to get worse. Your decision to quit might make some problems seem worse in the short term, but you will feel much better in the long run. You will be able to handle problems better, and the problems caused by your smoking will diminish. Remember: No pain, no gain.

Other Reasons for Quitting

What about other hassles? Do you

• Feel addicted to marijuana or unable to control your marijuana use?

• Feel anxious and paranoid?

• Feel as if your thoughts are racing except when you’re stoned?

• Have trouble sleeping?

• Feel you are not doing your job properly?

• Drive when stoned?

• Waste time trying to get marijuana?

• Risk getting arrested for growing your own marijuana?

• Worry about getting arrested for possession?

• Have arrests, fines, court hearings, a criminal record, or other legal issues to address?

• Fear going to jail?

How Do You Give Up Marijuana?

If you are serious about quitting, the best way is to stop “cold turkey.” You might be surprised that it’s easier than you think. Soon after quitting, you’ll find that your thinking becomes clearer.

To quit using marijuana, you have to confront your desire to get stoned. You will be going into battle against a part of yourself that you no longer wish to exist. Giving up marijuana, especially if you’ve been using for some time, is a bit like losing an old friend. Quitting may feel like a funeral, but it is also the beginning of a new life.

Think of quitting as a positive step. You must be well prepared and have a plan worked out in advance. If you follow the suggestions in this guide, you will find it easier to achieve your goal. If you are serious about stopping, it is time to decide when you are going to quit. Review the Quit Agreement (form 1C).

The Decision

Designate a day as Quit Day. Remember that the decision is yours, and the commitment you make to quit marijuana use is with yourself. Sign and date a contract with yourself now. You might want to consider making other changes at this time, such as quitting cigarettes as well.

Quit Strategies

The following strategies may prove useful in quitting:

• Set a date, and stick to it.

• Replace marijuana use with new activities and interests.

• Avoid situations where you used to get stoned.

• Ask a friend for support. You do not have to go it alone.

• Say to others, “I don’t get stoned anymore.”

Changing Old Habits

When you used marijuana, you established a link between the situation in which you used and getting stoned. Certain situations, people, and places that you subconsciously associated with smoking may trigger a desire to use.

Check Your Feelings

When you give up using, and for a week or more after, you may feel out of sorts. Several “withdrawal symptoms” are caused by stopping use of marijuana. You might experience

• Anxiety

• Moodiness

• Irritability

• Tremors

• Sweating

• Nausea

• Sleep disturbances

These experiences are normal. Your body is flushing out the toxins from the marijuana. Take it easy; stay with your determination to quit. These feelings and problems will go away soon.

How Do You Stay Off?

When you have taken the initial steps to quit, you will experience times when you want to break your contract. Resuming old habits is one reason people fail. Alter your lifestyle to accommodate the new you without marijuana. Reread and use the strategies listed on Learning New Coping Strategies (form 1A).


Sometimes you will be unable to fight the urge to use. If you slip, try not to think of it as a failure. Think of it as a lapse in concentration, and renew your commitment to quit. Remind yourself that you are capable of not smoking.

Reward Yourself

Now that you have given up marijuana, reward yourself in new ways. Give yourself a gift at the end of each week that you fulfill your contract. Try to match the cost of the gift with the average weekly cost of getting stoned. You may like to keep a record of this.