I’m 16, and smoke weed basically every day. It helps me relax. I don’t want to quit, but I do want to smoke less. It’s been harder than I thought it would. How can I cut down?
Great question! First, congratulations on taking steps to take control of your health. Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in eight states, and is becoming increasingly normalized. Even though marijuana has a reputation for being a relatively safe drug, it can still have serious health consequences—especially for teens, whose brains are still developing. Short-term, marijuana can impact your ability to learn and make decisions. Some research has shown that young people who use marijuana have long-term structural brain changes and slightly lower IQs, though it’s unclear exactly how much of this change can be attributed to marijuana.
It’s great that you’re thinking about why you like to smoke in the first place. Understanding where the desire comes from can help you figure out how to cut back. The next time you’re about to smoke, take a moment to check in with yourself. You say that weed relaxes you—do you often feel jittery, tense, or anxious? Do you have a hard time relaxing without the help of marijuana?
If you do, you might want to work on other ways to cope with how you’re feeling. Spend a minute taking slow, deep breaths. Try a relaxation exercise. Do something else that makes you happy, like watching your favorite TV show, journaling, or painting. Drink a calming, non-caffeinated drink like herbal tea or warm milk—If smoking has become a ritual for you, it can help to replace that ritual with another one.
Think about why you want to cut down. How would smoking less weed affect your life? Would you have more motivation for school work, sports, or hobbies? Are you concerned about your overall health, what would happen if you got caught, or how much money you spend? Write down these reasons in a journal. This can help you organize your thoughts, and gives you a list to refer back to when you’re having a hard time sticking with your goal.
Plan other activities for the times when you usually smoke. Exercise in particular is a great way to distract yourself, and it makes your body release feel-good endorphins that may reduce your cravings.
It might help you to create concrete goals, like only smoking a certain amount of weed or a certain number of times each week. Keep track of how much you smoke and how often. Give yourself a small reward each time you hit your goal.
If you mix your weed with tobacco, stop. The nicotine in the tobacco is addicting, so you may be craving the tobacco just as much as you crave weed. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so you may need to smoke less for the same effects.
Buy weed in smaller quantities, and try to not keep too much around—you’re less likely to smoke if you need to ask a friend or arrange a meeting with your dealer.
As you cut down, continue to pay attention to how you’re feeling. Be careful to not substitute alcohol or other drugs for weed. Some teens who frequently smoke use weed to self-medicate. If you find yourself avoiding activities you used to enjoy, have a hard time going about your daily routine, or feel especially on edge, consider going to therapy. Therapists can work with you to establish healthy coping mechanisms, and help you create a personalized plan for cutting down on weed in a way that works for you. Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center offers completely free, confidential, and judgment-free mental health and medical services, including help with substance use. If you live near NYC, stop by or make an appointment.
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