Home » Guide to Quitting Weed » Week 3
You’ve come a long way
Welcome to Week 3!
You’ve come a long way. Be sure to celebrate these successes each step of the way.
Looking ahead to this week, the majority of the intense physical withdrawal symptoms should have subsided by now, and if not, will continue to dissipate over time. The symptoms that do persist, though, are usually related to mood and sleep. We’ll talk more about these in the coming weeks and what it means to adjust your life around the absence of weed in a sustainable way.
We hope that you’re feeling pretty good about yourself at this point and that these benchmarks serve as a reminder of your strength and resolve.
Withdrawal: Changes in Libido
Today, we’re going to touch on a topic that’s difficult to discuss: changes in your sex drive. Talking about this can be awkward or viewed as taboo, and for this reason, there is often a sense of shame surrounding the topic. But changes in libido are really quite common in those that quit. Some studies indicate that over a quarter of users experience this withdrawal symptom during the cessation period, and this is likely a vast underrepresentation of the true figure due to underreporting1. So, let’s talk about it.
Your libido, or sex drive, is influenced by both biologic and psychologic factors. On a biologic level, sex drive is modulated by several areas of your brain, most importantly the dopamine-driven reward center. The series of receptors that are modulated by marijuana, termed the endogenous cannabinoid system, are also important in modulating sexual arousal and sex drive2. After prolonged marijuana use, signaling through both these systems is altered. Dampened signals in the reward center, in particular, can make it difficult to achieve the same amount of sexual pleasure or even want to engage in sex at all. Though most individuals with altered libido do report a decrease in sexual desire, it is also possible to experience an increased sex drive. These differences are likely related to the unique biology of the individual as well as the duration and frequency of marijuana use2.
On a psychologic level, major changes in your life can lead to altered sex drive, especially if marijuana was part of your sex life. Emotions play a big role, too, and if you’re like most, the last few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. Don’t judge yourself during this time, whatever your symptoms may be. Know that you’re not alone in this.
Strategies: Stress Management
By the middle of week 3, you’ve probably had a few unexpected and stressful situations pop up that may have tempted you to use again. But you’ve managed. You’re still here, and something is clearly working for you. This is fantastic.
Think a little bit about what’s worked for you. Was it avoidance altogether or did you employ some other strategy? As time goes on, these stressful situations may become easier to manage. But sometimes major life events can make a craving appear even after long periods without any at all. This is because many individuals have found marijuana to be a stress reliever in some capacity—maybe it was the solitude it brought you, the ability to breathe deeply, or maybe it was the direct effect of the drug. Regardless, you can use your newfound sober strength to take a calming moment by yourself. Whether or not you buy into meditation (more on this later), pausing to take a deep breath can be immediately calming. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which opposes the fight-or-flight response that is over-activated in stressful situations. Think about other back up strategies that may work going forward and keep up the good work.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving. We get stronger and more resilient.” – Steve Maraboli
Withdrawal: Brain Fog
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, brain fog is a “usually temporary state of diminished mental capacity marked by inability to concentrate or to think or reason clearly”. Brain fog is associated with a variety of medical conditions, including substance abuse and addiction.
The feeling you may experience is in the name, a fog or haze that drifts over your ability to think or concentrate. You may be frustrated that your brain doesn’t seem to work as fast as you want. People sometimes say their brain and body feel out of sync with each other. Alternatively, brain fog may manifest as forgetting things easily or having difficulty concentrating. These feelings may come and go and likely represents your brain recalibrating from extended use of marijuana.
The ultimate cure for brain fog is time, but in the interim, you can optimize your actions to improve everyday functioning. First, modify other aspects of your life that may be contributing. Get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and try various relaxation techniques. If memory is a problem, make lists, write things down, and create alarm reminders.
Although brain fog can be frustrating and a little scary, it will ultimately go away. Don’t start thinking that your brain will never go back to normal, as that’s not the case. It’s just one of those pesky symptoms that sticks around for a while.
If you were a frequent user, a large portion of your day may have been spent smoking weed. This means that your days may feel somewhat empty, and many people actually cite boredom as one of the hardest things to combat during the early cessation period. You may efficiently work throughout the day without a problem, and then when your free time hits, you’re left with nothing to do.
Boredom, though, really stems from a lack of fulfillment. Maybe you already have hobbies you know you love, but it’s not uncommon to have a hard time coming up with ways to meaningfully fill your time. Being high may have obscured what was truly fulfilling to you. You can use this time now to find activities you really love. Variety is good, especially in the beginning. If you can find something from which can derive internal pleasure—whether it’s a solitary activity or spending time with friends—that will go a long way in keeping you away from weed.
“Nobody stays recovered unless the life they have created is more rewarding and satisfying than the one they left behind.” – Anne Fletcher
Strategies: Benefits of Mindfulness
There are a lot of different strategies out there to help with withdrawal and substance abuse. You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about mindfulness and meditation or maybe you already practice. Mindfulness-based interventions have demonstrated great success in a variety of addictions, and a few of the basic principles are discussed below.
The current teachings of mindfulness originate from ancient Zen Buddhist meditation techniques that have since been secularized. In practice, it involves actively paying attention to the present moment. It involves acceptance of the current reality with the recognition that situations ebb and flow. This practice is also inherently non-judgmental: no sensation is either good or bad, but just is1.
There are many ways to implement mindfulness that can be of service during this cessation period and beyond. If you feel your heart racing or you experience a craving, take a moment for a short deep breathing exercise. During this time try to focus your attention only on the sensation in your body with each breath. If you mind wanders, bring it back. Or you could try a mindfulness walk, where you focus on experiencing the sensations of being in nature.
In general, the basic tenets of intentionality, acceptance, and avoiding judgment coincide with the beneficial sentiments surrounding substance cessation. In fact, implementing mindfulness techniques have been shown to enhance brain activity in regions impacted by addiction. This in turn leads to improved cognitive processing and emotional regulation that results in reduced cravings, distress, and overall substance use2. It may not be for everyone but may be worth a try.
Positive Benefits: Relationships
As you round out week 3, it’s time for more positive reflection. Today, the emphasis will be on relationships.
When your life was about getting high, many relationships can form around this shared activity. Now that you’ve stopped, you may have found that you’ve had to re-evaluate some of these relationships. Going through a hard time can really put things in perspective. It separates out those that step up for you and those that are unable to. What relationships have changed for you for the better? Have you strengthened old bonds or made any new connections? Did someone step up that you weren’t expecting? Sometimes when we reach out for help, it can be a reminder of the good in humanity around us.
More importantly, though, hard times can also teach you a lot about yourself. How has your relationship with yourself changed? In other words, have you been surprised by the things you’ve been able to accomplish? How has your confidence and self-concept evolved? Internalize all these newfound strengths and remember to call on them in difficult times. These skills are well-earned.
You’ve come a long way
Are you a regular marijuana user that has recently stopped using?
Currently, little data exists on heavy marijuana use and withdrawal. Weedless.org is collaborating with researchers to explore this topic and others. We have created a short, completely anonymous questionnaire which we will use to focus our future research efforts. You may skip any questions that make you feel uncomfortable and you are free to withdraw at any time. At the end of the survey, you will be given the option to anonymously share your responses with the Weedless.org community.