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Interview With a Long-Time User (Part 1)

May 4, 2021 3:00:00 PM

With medical marijuana being somewhat new in Missouri, there’s no doubt a lot of questions from new or inexperienced users. I recently talked with a friend of mine who has never used marijuana and is considering talking to a medical marijuana doctor to address some issues they are experiencing.

Have heard that MMJ might help, they are hopeful but still skeptical, especially since they - like a lot of people - are still under the land standing misconceptions about marijuana. Two of the most predominant themes they have asked many times about are: ‘isn’t marijuana a habit-forming drug’ and ‘what happens when you quit?’

To best answer their questions and to help others who might also have some of the same questions and concerns, I offered to have them interview me with their questions.  Here is the first of a two-part interview we had …

Young girl holding marijuana leaf with sunlight in back ground

Why would someone want to quit marijuana cold turkey?

The reason for quitting marijuana cold turkey would almost always be some sort of external factor. For instance, if somebody got a top-secret job with the government -- there can be a drug test with that type of job. Other obvious positions: an airline pilot, or a bus driver or someone who works in an operating room at a hospital. These are all situations that are not conducive to being high on marijuana, or even to being a marijuana user.

If someone were just a medical user, or a recreational user – the only reason you would want to quit cold turkey is if you wanted to have a cannabis break. Periodically, you need to reset your endocannabinoid system.

THC molecules binding to the cannabinoid receptorTHC molecules binding to the cannabinoid receptor

Some smokers or users get to a point where they don’t really feel the effect of the marijuana, even though they might use more and more. In that case, it’s always good just to stop and give yourself some time for that cannabis break.

But in comparison with quitting cold turkey for someone with a heroin addiction, where they might feel, “If I don’t quit this, I’m going to die from this drug addiction” – it is not at all like that with marijuana.

Are there withdrawal symptoms when quitting marijuana cold turkey, and if so what can you do about them?

There are no withdrawal symptoms. Again, this question is framed as a comparison with someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. In those instances, when you stop you've got to have a plan for that. When there's some stuff like that going to go down, you can get very sick. There's nothing like that with quitting marijuana.

It's almost like if you were to suddenly give up carbohydrates or suddenly give up coffee, your body is going to have some sort of reaction. Or if somebody gave up meat to be a vegetarian, there are going to be some changes in your body to adapt to that sudden change. That is more what it's like with marijuana.

I really didn't have any physical symptoms. I got very irritable, because I use marijuana for some very light pain issues, with some inflammation, bad knees, and had a couple of accidents with my feet that I didn't want to take pain medication for.

Marijuana medical choice dilemma health care concept as a person standing in front of two paths with one offering traditional medicine and the other option with cannabis

I'm also able to just let things roll off my back a lot more with marijuana. One, because it's marijuana and it makes you feel happy. But also, two, because it helps me to balance thoughts out to calm down. What some Tibetan Buddhist monks call “the monkey mind,” where your brain is full of chatter -- kind of balance some of that out.

What about the times you have quit or given yourself a break.  What were that like?

I'm actually more susceptible to anxiety and paranoia when I'm not smoking marijuana than when I am smoking marijuana. It’s not a huge amount -- I'm not like off the charts on any of these things. But I do believe that everybody has an imbalance somewhere, in their brain and in their body. My imbalance manifested that with ADD. Marijuana really helps me with that.

Withdrawal symptoms -- I don't really have any, but some people have reported getting headaches. Some people may sleep better or sleep not so well. Again, it's just sort of your body going through that adjustment.  Quitting coffee -- I get way more headaches than I do when I give myself a cannabis break.

Wouldn't it be more effective to quit gradually?

Yes, it definitely would be. I think it would help the person adjust. I've done both so I kind of know what to expect.

If somebody is deciding to quit, more likely it could be something like, “Well, I'm getting married, and my wife doesn’t smoke. I was kind of a partier in college and now I'm not so much anymore. Marijuana just doesn't fit into my life anymore.” In that case, then probably just quitting gradually is going to help you get adjusted from that recreational use of marijuana.

If you are using it for medical purposes, then first ask why are you quitting? What sort of condition do you have, and why is there no longer a need? If you're a medical user then definitely talk with your medical caregiver or your medical marijuana doctor.

Also, talk to the dispensary where you're getting your weed. They're going to give you some very good advice as to if you should quit, how you should quit.

I wouldn't just quit marijuana gradually or cold turkey if you are medical marijuana patient. You're obviously using it for something.  But, more seriously, if you're using it for a medical purpose then ask yourself that question -- why am I quitting?

How common is a marijuana addiction? Is it even a thing?

Marijuana addiction is exceedingly rare. I've never heard of anybody who's had one. A lot of people will say, “You have been smoking for so many decades and you say you're never going to quit, so aren't you addicted?”

I've given myself cannabis breaks and you can just choose to stop. I will say that people do feel better with marijuana and so why would you want to stop? It’s kind of like if you suddenly started to drink 100% fruit smoothies every morning, and started to realize that you were feeling better. And maybe some physical symptoms you were having started to go away -- why would you want to stop that? Is that really an addiction? Are you addicted to that fruit smoothie? No, you're probably just liking the way that your body feels, and you feel better having that smoothie every day.

fruit smoothies in a variety of colors with differnt fruits layed out in front of them

It would be something more like that in terms of a marijuana addiction. Why would you want to stop feeling relief from your pain? Why would you want to stop having more fluid thoughts and being able to keep your anxiety under control?
This is not in terms of a drug addiction. It's more -- I prefer the way that I feel and operate using marijuana. So why would I want to stop that?

I have been in situations where marijuana was not available - like the days before medical marijuana. I've gone weeks and months. For example, when I went on vacation to the Netherlands with a friend.  He doesn't partake and it just wasn't in our plans for our trip. And honestly, I didn't even really even think about it - even when walked by a coffeeshops!

picture of people walking and cycling by a coffeeshop in the Netherlands

Do your family members need to be informed?

Probably not.  If they do know you use marijuana but are going cold turkey, they will probably just say, “Hey, that's great for you.”

You're not going to be going through any kind of withdrawal symptoms or stopping an addiction, like you would if it was heroin or meth or alcohol, like you do see on those intervention shows.

If I give myself a cannabis break, the people around me – again, they already know, because I’m more irritable. I would tell my roommate if I wasn't smoking, so he would know that I was going to be a little bit more irritable.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of our interview, coming in our next blog post!

 

MK Thom
Written by MK Thom

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