The tobacco industry is lucrative and thriving. In fact, the global tobacco market grosses more than US$680 billion yearly from the sale of conventional cigarettes alone.
If you’ve found yourself surrounded by ads that urge you to quit smoking and yet have little to no effect, it’s not you; many of these anti-smoking campaigns are run by tobacco companies, such as the recent Hold My Light campaign driven by Philip Morris, the company that provides the world with the ever-popular Marlboro tobacco products.
Not surprisingly, the industry that aims to help people quit smoking is just as profitable as the tobacco products themselves. And it’s full of options to help you stop smoking, including:
- Nicotine replacements
- Medication aimed at reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- Therapy and smoke cessation plans
Most smokers will at some stage turn to these methods in an attempt to stop smoking. Few of these prove helpful, and most people find it difficult to stay nicotine-free.
As research surrounding cannabis and its many potential benefits moves forward, an important question comes to mind: Can cannabis help me quit smoking?
While co-use of tobacco and marijuana is common, especially in younger smokers, the relationship between the two needs to be better defined to understand just how marijuana could help with kicking the habit.
Cannabis & Nicotine Addiction Disruption
All strains of cannabis contain compounds called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids bind with cannabinoid receptors found throughout your body; this network of receptors is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Depending on the type of cannabinoid, different areas of the body are affected in various ways.
For example, someone can take the major marijuana cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) to influence a lot of different processes like:
- Stress response
Since cannabis is able to interrupt and change neural pathways, it may be effective in changing the relationship between nicotine and the release of serotonin and dopamine connected to smoking tobacco. Researchers are now looking at how cannabis rich in CBD could lower the vulnerability of smokers to external cues and environments that encourage tobacco use.
One research study found that tobacco smokers who regularly use cannabis were just as successful in a seven-day smoking cessation program as those who solely use tobacco. So, cannabis use in smoking cessation attempts may lead to greater success, especially for highly dependent tobacco users.
Interestingly enough, a survey in the U.S. showed that young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 were more likely to try to quit smoking cigarettes when compared with attempts to reduce marijuana use. Further research on the relationship between marijuana and tobacco co-use could help form more targeted preventions for those who want to stop using tobacco.
Limitations on Marijuana’s Ability to Help Quit Smoking
There are some noteworthy limitations to just how much cannabis can help smokers quit tobacco use. After all, if smoking cessation was as easy as replacing tobacco with cannabis, it wouldn’t be quite so hard to cut out tobacco use.
One major limitation is the environmental circumstances in which substance use and abuse take place. Frequent alcohol consumption (especially binge drinking) is often paired with tobacco and marijuana use. Environmental factors that could encourage high levels of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use—often at the same time—include:
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Excessive stress levels
- A history of traumatic experiences
Assess Why You Smoke & Pick the Right Cannabis Strain to Help
A potential way to see if marijuana can actually help you stop smoking, is to smoke—cannabis. But how do you know which kind of cannabis will be most helpful to eliminate nicotine cravings? Looking to the root cause of your tobacco smoking habits is a good place to start:
- Is it from stress, depression or restlessness?
- Maybe it’s a social habit picked up over the years?
- Perhaps you have trouble sleeping?
- Is it because you’re trying to lose weight?
- Maybe you just saw one too many tobacco ads that made it look like the cool thing to do?
To help alleviate stress, try:
If you struggle with insomnia and use tobacco to calm down before getting to bed, both indicas and hybrid marijuana strains with a high-CBD content could help induce better quality sleep.
Marijuana could help manage depression and therefore lower the need for tobacco dependency. Research suggests marijuana strains low in THC are more successfully able to manage depression symptoms. Some cannabis strains to try include:
Keen to try smoking cessation without the help of cannabis? The Canadian government has a few programs to help you quit smoking now.
Whatever method you try, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it in the end. Good luck.
Photo credit: Mikail Duran