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Marijuana tapering to reduce cravings and withdrawal...

If you’ve never quit before, you may want to try stopping cold-turkey; many people who quit marijuana experience few or no withdrawal symptoms.

However, if you’ve tried before and you couldn't get past the withdrawal symptoms and cravings, you may want to try gradually tapering down the amount you smoke before trying for complete abstinence.

  1. Your long-term use history, and also your recent use history, both influence the severity of withdrawals.
  2. Though you can’t do much about the number of years you’ve smoked for, you can alter the quantity smoked in the month or so leading up to your quit attempt, and this can reduce the severity of your marijuana withdrawal symptoms.

Here are some ideas and strategies for tapering down before you quit.

Marijuana Tapering Ideas

  • It’s too easy, when carrying around a big bag, to smoke more than you’d planned on. To avoid this, make a gradual reduction plan, decide how much you’ll smoke each day and how much you’ll reduce by to get to your jumping off point, and then weigh and portion your marijuana into daily bags or daily joints. You can smoke your whole bag but you can’t dip into the next bag and you can’t smoke from anyone else’s supply.1
  • Ask a person you trust to hold your marijuana and supply it to you at prearranged times in prearranged amounts.
  • Start smoking later in the day. Every few days, add another half hour to your first smoke of the day time. With fewer hours each day to get high, you may have less difficulty reducing your daily intake. You can also start going home or even going to bed earlier as another way to shorten the hours you normally smoke in.2
  • If you currently smoke many joints a day (of a similar strength), gradually cut down the number of joints you smoke. If you currently smoke 8 a day, smoke 8 for 3 days, then 7 for 3 days, then 6 for 3 days, and so on.
  • Only smoke your own. It may feel a little antisocial, but the whole idea of tapering is to help your body and mind acclimatize to less marijuana, and this only works when you follow a gradual steady program of reduction. When you share with friends it’s hard to control how much you consume. Any day you smoke more than you did on previous days undoes all your past hard work!

Want more ideas? See: 20 ways to cut-down your marijuana habit.

Managing Cravings

The idea of tapering makes a lot of sense, but for many, the practice of tapering is another thing all together!

Unfortunately, no matter how gradually you taper, you’re going to have days when you crave more than your allotted amount. So unless you know how to cope with cravings, tapering probably won’t work for you.

  • Some people find that excessive cravings make tapering a prolonged unpleasant experience. If you struggle to manage very strong cravings while tapering, then you may find a cold-turkey quit an easier method.

If you decide to taper, you will have to deal with cravings. You increase your odds of overcoming craving by getting prepared and by learning a few cravings management strategies. To learn more, read:

Rewarding Yourself for Meeting Goals

When stopping something like marijuana, you feel the quitting negatives right away but you don’t enjoy the rewards until much later. Nobody likes upfront cost for delayed benefits, and when immediate gratification is as easy as lighting a joint, it takes discipline to stay focused on your plan.

One thing you can do to offset the pains of delayed gratification is to create artificial rewards that you earn for meeting your tapering goals. For example:

  • At the end of the first week of tapering, take a day off work and go do something active.
  • At the end of the second week, take the money you’ve saved from smoking less, add in a little more, and buy yourself a small luxury item.

This idea behind this is known as contingency management, and it’s a research proven addiction treatment technique!

Planning and Resolve

Informally trying to 'cut down a bit' before your quit date rarely works out well. For the best chances of success and easier withdrawal symptoms down the road, you have to take it seriously, make a plan of action, and stick to it.

Issues to consider before starting:

  • Decide on how you'll manage your reductions. How long will you taper for before quitting? How often will you reduce and by how much? Write it down and make a schedule.
  • Think about the logistics - how will you handle your reductions? Do you have a scale or another way to measure your quantities? 
  • How will you handle cravings and temptation? 
  • Who will know about your tapering plan? Getting supportive people involved can increase your odds of success; plus, telling someone about your plan makes it more real. Can a friend or loved-one help you manage cravings, perhaps as a person you can call when you need distraction?

Major life changes, like quitting a heavy marijuana habit, take a little effort, but if you're motivated and if you take it seriously, you can achieve lasting change.


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Page last updated 02/09/2015

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