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Ask an Expert: How Do I Quit Pot Without A Program?

Today's question is on how to quit weed addiction without having to go to a program. Send your questions to editor@thefix.com with the subject "Ask an Expert."

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By The Fix staff

06/23/14

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Send your anonymous questions to the expert panel at editor@thefix.com with the subject "Ask an Expert."  Click here for full bios of our Experts. And click here for earlier Q&A.

Question of the Day (Scroll down for previous Q & A).  

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Ask An Expert" is guidance for the general public. Responses from our experts are not to be construed as doctor/patient relationships, which require private and extensive consultation.


I think I am becoming a weed addict and don't want to go into any kind of program. I don't like how it feels not to be stoned but am starting not to like being stoned as much, and the comedowns are harder. My head is like non--working in the mornings so I am getting up earlier to exercise, a good thing, before I go to work (believe it or not I am an accountant and handle certain business affairs for a large company that does not drug test because it is in the entertainment industry).  Point is I am between a rock and hard place and if you just tell me to go to some program, it's not going to work.  What else you got for me?  -- Roger (not my real name)

Jay Westbrook:  You remind me of a friend who suffered with an intermittent toothache. He went to the dentist and said, “my tooth hurts, not all the time, but enough to interfere with my functioning and sleep.  I don’t want any x-rays or drilling; what can you do for me?” – to which the dentist replied, “not much.”

In the first sentence of your question, you said, “don’t want to go into any kind of program.” I’m really not sure what you mean by that, but I’m hoping you meant that you’re uninterested in a residential treatment program where you actually go to a facility and stay for 30 or more days to treat your substance abuse – whatever the actual substance might be, and the issues underlying it. 

If that’s what you meant, then there are alternatives to that kind of program. If, instead, you meant you’re unwilling to open to any kind of treatment, then we are probably at an impasse until your situation worsens, and your misery and/or desperation increase.

One of the options I would strongly suggest is a 12-Step Program called Marijuana Anonymous (MA) - https://www.marijuana-anonymous.org. It is modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, but is specific for those who have a problem with marijuana. You can read a great deal about it at their website, and can also find meetings to attend, to see if this seems like a viable solution for you. It is suggested that you commit to trying six meetings, so that you can really get a feel for their Program and the people in it.

Of course, another option is to see a counselor or therapist to explore issues like 1) why you smoke weed, 2) why you don’t just stop if it’s causing you problems, 3) why you’re willing to jeopardize your career and happiness for the weed, and 4) how you might be able to quit (residential treatment program, Marijuana Anonymous, hypnosis, acupuncture, therapy, etc.).

It’s interesting, people who have a problem with peanuts (a peanut allergy, teeth that crack when they bite a hard peanut, choking on the peanuts, etc.) usually just stop eating them. The same seems to go for people who have a problem with strawberries, or shellfish. It might be well-worth exploring why you seem unwilling to completely stop the weed, now that it’s causing problems in your life. That insight might well be the key to you finding a way to stop. I hope this helps – let us know.

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G Jay Westbrook, M.S-Gerontology., R.N, is a multiple award-winning clinician (Nurse of the Year), Visiting Faculty Scholar at Harvard Medical School, speaker and author who specializes in both substance abuse recovery and End-of-Life care and is an expert in Grief Recovery©. He has both consulted to and served as a clinician in multiple treatment centers and hospitals, guiding clients through their grief, and working with them and their families on healing broken relationships. His lectures to physicians and nurses include trainings in When Your Patient is a Substance Abuser: Currently or Historically. He can be reached at CompassionateJourney@hotmail.com.    Full Bio.

 


I’m 22 and have had anxiety issues for most of my life and my parents sent me to shrinks. When I was 17 I started using pot heavily, went off to college, didn’t do well, got into drinking a lot, dropped out. The one persistent thing since 17 has been shrinks, pot and alcohol, with occasional speed and ecstasy. The shrinks have been useless against both the anxiety and my tendency to medicate it. AA didn’t work as I couldn’t get into the higher power thing though I liked some of the people I met. I’ve tried some meds for anxiety but don’t like how they make me feel. I’m not a good meditator. I guess I am a hard case but I am willing to try other things and see what works. Please give me some suggestions – Doreen

Janice Dorn:  Hello, Doreen. Thanks for having the courage to reach out for help. You are not alone in suffering from anxiety and not being able to get help. There are at least 40 million adults in the U.S. who suffer from anxiety. Yet, only about a third of these people try to get help. Congratulations on being one of those who are attempting to get help.

The fact that you have had anxiety for most of your life and have not been able to get relief is of considerable concern. Nothing is working and you are using drugs that are going o end up making your anxiety a lot worse.

You may find it of great interest to read one of the best sagas of the search for anxiety relief that has been published in some time. It is written by the editor of The Atlantic magazine, Scott Stossel, and is called “My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and The Search for Peace of Mind.” The author describes himself as “a living repository of all the pharmacological trends in anxiety treatment of the last half century.” In addition, he has undergone multiple types of talking therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, rational emotive therapy, eye movement desensitization plus biofeedback, hypnosis, acupuncture and a virtual panoply of treatments for anxiety.

My approach to treating you would be to first rule out that there is a true physical condition that is causing the anxiety. I would first do a complete physical examination as well as blood tests. There are a number of physical conditions that can manifest as anxiety, including thyroid disorders, migraine or other headaches, cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, endocrine abnormalities and some neurological conditions. It is critical for you to rule out any underlying physical condition that is causing or making your anxiety worse. If there is a physical basis for your anxiety, that should be treated.

If no physical basis can be found, then we must look to the possibility that your body has been under an enormous amount of stress for many years. Unable to find a healthy outlet for the stress, you are probably making unhealthy decisions about your lifestyle. By this I mean that you are most likely in a state of chronic inflammation (both of your brain and your body) that has been brought on by poor eating habits, lack of exercise, use of legal and illegal drugs, poor sleep habits and thoughts or worries that are causing you to be toxic. I would not be surprised to learn that you are having issues with digestion, food allergies, skin eruptions, headaches, joint pains, and that you feel tired a lot of the time with very low energy.

If you are unable to get an answer from a doctor who is trained in Western medicine (M.D., D.O.), you may possibly be helped by finding a really good naturopathic doctor who has extensive experience with nutritional healing and detoxification. If you decide to go this route, make sure you do your research and find someone who is board certified and has a good reputation. You are long overdue for relief and for finding someone who is willing to look at the entire Doreen from a holistic perspective. The goal would be to reduce your anxiety by 50%. I wish you much success with this and would love to hear back from you. There is hope!

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Janice Dorn, MD, PhD, specializes in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. She holds a PhD in Anatomy and has done extensive research and teaching in brain anatomy and physiology. She is also an expert on addiction to stock trading and on stock trading itself. Her second book, Mind, Money and Markets, with co-author Dave Harder, is scheduled for publication in the fall.    Full Bio.

 

I am 17 and found your website by google.  There’s a lot of drugs at my school and, because I like dancing, especially at all the dance parties and teen clubs. White lightening is very popular for example. I feel under a lot of pressure to take it but haven’t given in so far. But I feel myself slipping. I am not sure what the best response is how to tell people to back off, and I also have to deal with my own temptation to try it. How do I get through this? – Victoria

Rita Milios: First, let me commend you for having the wisdom and insight to do some investigation and to engage in some mindful deliberation before you make a possibly life-altering decision. I know it is difficult to stand up against peer pressure, but consider why peer pressure exists in the first place. Those who pressure others to join them in a risky proposition are really just attempting to validate their own choices by getting others to join in. If they were certain of their choices, they would not seek a “stamp of approval” via others’ joint participation.

Your choice so far shows that you are in touch with your “wise self,” your intuition, which always has your best interest at heart. You need to be your own best friend, and follow your inner guidance, rather than giving in to outside pressures from others who have their own agenda, not yours, as their motivation.

As far as the drug you mention, I am not sure if you are speaking of LSD or the “bath salt” named White Lightening, as the slang name can refer to either. Regardless, the biggest reason for avoiding either of these (or other drugs) is that you really can’t know for sure what effects these chemicals will have in your body. The White Lightening “bath salt” product is actually an insect repellant, and street-level LSD is known to be highly impure and significantly altered prior to distribution so that it is a mystery what you are actually taking. It is wise to seriously consider whether there is enough short-term gain to be found in taking any drug that could possibly be worth the risks….both immediately and in the future. Choosing to start experimenting with drugs is one of those decisions that can change the trajectory of your life, altering your future for years to come.

As far as how to resist:

1) For your own “temptation,” continue doing what you are doing…investigate. I’m sure that in reading some of the stories and articles on this website, you will see that many people who are recovering from drug addiction would give almost anything to be able to turn back time and make a different decision about going down that path. If you need support in gaining self-confidence and self-esteem so that you can speak honestly with your peers, please seek assistance from your school counselor or another counselor.

2) As far as what to say to others regarding their “pressure” to try to convince you to join them, create a simple, clear, concise message that you can deliver consistently, over and over, like a parrot (but in a kind, non-judgmental tone). Say something like, ”I have decided that this is not for me. I respect you in having made a different choice, and I expect that you will respect my choice as well.” If they continue to pressure you or taunt you, add: “Again, I have decided that this is not for me. I am not going to discuss it further.” Then smile and change the subject or walk away.

I wish you all the best.

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Rita Milios, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice, author of more than 30 books, and frequent professional lecturer and on-camera expert. She also facilitates workshops and training for clinicians, therapists, writers, holistic practitioners, businesses and associations. She is known as "The Mind Mentor" because of her unique approach to “mind tools training.”  RitaMilios.linktoexpert.com    Full Bio.

 

I am in the process of trying to find a residential treatment facility for my 18-year-old daughter who is a heroin addict and 11 weeks pregnant. She went through treatment at Right Step in Euless, TX, discharged on 7-15, for less than the original plan of 30 days (because she had no desire to be there and thought she could do it on her own). It was definitely less than adequate, and she relapsed within two weeks. I have read through your ultimate guide but I can't find any info on accreditation. Several of the facilities have said JCAHO is the gold standard, and we should not consider a facility without that. Can you direct me to some info on that topic. Thank you! BP

Lance Dodes: Step one is that your daughter should be under the care of an obstetrician as well as another physician who will evaluate and monitor the current status of her drug use. If she is using heroin currently, she should be evaluated for maintenance on either buprenorphine or methadone. Both are safer alternatives to heroin during pregnancy. If she is not currently taking heroin, the fetus is best protected by her being placed in a facility away from all illicit drugs for the duration of the pregnancy. A JCAHO facility is required if she needs medical care during her pregnancy.

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Lance Dodes, MD, has been Director of the substance abuse treatment unit of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, Director of the alcoholism treatment unit at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Director of the Boston Center for Problem Gambling. His books, The Heart of Addiction, Breaking Addiction: A 7-Step Handbook for Ending Any Addiction and The Sober Truth, have been described as revolutionary advances in understanding how addictions work.   Full Bio.

 

Click to read our Previously Asked Questions. Your anonymous questions can be submitted to editor@thefix.com

 


Our panel of experts. Click for full bios. 

Patrick J. Carnes, PhD, CAS, is the best-known sexual addiction expert in the country. An expert in all addictions, he is the founder of the therapist-training International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) in Arizona, of Gentle Path Press and of the 12-step based Twelve Principles Online Recovery program. He also created the Gentle Path Program, a residential treatment program for sexual addiction. 
Tessie Castillo is the Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a leading public health and drug policy reform organization in the Southern United States. She is an expert on harm reduction, overdose prevention and response, naloxone, the drug war, and policy reform.  
Lance Dodes, MD, has been Director of the substance abuse treatment unit of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, Director of the alcoholism treatment unit at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Director of the Boston Center for Problem Gambling. His books, The Heart of AddictionBreaking Addiction: A 7-Step Handbook for Ending Any Addiction and The Sober Truth, have been described as revolutionary advances in understanding how addictions work.
Brian Donohue has an MA degree from Long Island University in clinical psychology, and has worked in private practice as a therapist with a loosely Jungian perspective and as a meditation teacher. He has worked with depressed people, anxious people, and people undergoing major life changes, challenges, and crises. See briandonohue.org.
Janice Dorn, MD, PhD, specializes in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. She holds a PhD in Anatomy and has done extensive research and teaching in brain anatomy and physiology. She is also an expert on addiction to stock trading and on stock trading itself. Her second book, Mind, Money and Markets, with co-author Dave Harder, is scheduled for publication in the fall. 
Doreen Maller, MFT, PhD, began her practice in community mental health with a specialty in high-risk children and their families, including numerous families coping with addiction issues. Dr. Maller is the series editor of the three-volume Praeger Handbook of Community Mental Health Practice. See  www.doreenmaller.com
Rita Milios, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice, author of more than 30 books, and frequent professional lecturer and on-camera expert. She also facilitates workshops and training for clinicians, therapists, writers, holistic practitioners, businesses and associations. She is known as "The Mind Mentor" because of her unique approach to “mind tools training.”  RitaMilios.linktoexpert.com
Larissa Mooney, MD, is the Director of the Addiction Medicine Clinic at University of California, Los Angeles, and is a board certified addiction psychiatrist with expertise in the treatment of substance use disorders and psychiatric co-occurring disorders. She is also Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA. www.LarissaMooneyMD.com 
John C. Norcross, PhD, is the author of the critically acclaimed book Changeology  as well as co-writer or editor of 19 other books. He is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University. His ideas have been incorporated into addiction treatment by many therapists. 
Harold Owens is Senior Director of the MusiCares/MAP FUND, the charity arm of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (the GRAMMY organization). He is responsible for the implementation of all aspects of the MusiCares addiction recovery program for artists. Earlier, for three years, he was Program Director of The Exodus Recovery Center. He can be reached at harold@grammy.com.

Stanton Peele, PhD and attorney, is an innovator in the field of addiction, beginning with his breakthrough 1975 book, Love and Addiction (written with Archie Brodsky) and followed by 11 others, most recently Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. He has created his own rehab program (The Life Process Program) for individual substance abusers. See www.peele.net and his Facebook and Twitter.

Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who treats patients with eating disorders, anxiety/depression, substance use issues, and relationship difficulties. A certified group psychotherapist, she has worked at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC and at UCLA in Los Angeles and is a member of three eating disorder associations. The author of the highly- praised Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight, she is often interviewed by media outlets as an expert in the field. www.staceyrosenfeld.com

G Jay Westbrook, M.S-Gerontology., R.N, is a multiple award-winning clinician (Nurse of the Year), Visiting Faculty Scholar at Harvard Medical School, speaker and author who specializes in both substance abuse recovery and End-of-Life care and is an expert in Grief Recovery©. He has both consulted to and served as a clinician in multiple treatment centers and hospitals, guiding clients through their grief, and working with them and their families on healing broken relationships. His lectures to physicians and nurses include trainings in When Your Patient is a Substance Abuser: Currently or Historically. He can be reached at CompassionateJourney@hotmail.com.

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