84.2% of chronic cannabis users break habit

Aversion vs Marijuana

Marijuana — It’s your choice, but in case you want to quit…

This article is not intended to lecture people on whether they should smoke marijuana or not.

Rather, it is aimed at those who are chronic marijuana users, who would like to quit, but are finding it difficult to break the habit.

It describes the results of an experiment where researchers used small, harmless, electric jolts to help chronic marijuana users quit their habit.

If you — or anyone you know — are struggling with a marijuana-smoking habit and are looking to quit, this article will point you in the right direction.

Guess what… Marijuana is addictive too

It is estimated that 9 percent of people who use marijuana become dependent on it.[1][7]

For daily users the number jumps up to anywhere between 25 and 50 percent.[5][6]

Additionally, chronic marijuana users who are trying to quit, often experience withdrawal symptoms. These include irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort.

These symptoms peak within the first week after quitting, and last up to 2 weeks.[3][4]

If you’ve ever tried quitting even the tiniest habit, you know how difficult it can be, even if you’re not suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

Clinical trial — Small electric jolts help chronic marijuana users quit habit

In a clinical trial (Smith, Schmeling, Knowles, 1988), a group of volunteer, adult, chronic marijuana users, underwent five sessions of conditioning, utilizing THC-free marijuana.

The 5 sessions took place over five days and were followed by three weekly sessions in self-management counseling.

The participants had been users for an average of 13.7 years and smoked an average of 3.4 marijuana cigarettes daily.

During the session, participants were asked to smoke a THC-free marijuana joint normally. During the process, they were randomly given small, electric jolts which they described as “uncomfortable but not painful”.

Additionally, participants were given a device to wear around the wrist outside treatment sessions. Every time marijuana smoking came to mind, they were to use the device to create discomfort and further condition themselves to stay away from the habit.

The five sessions were followed up by three weekly sessions of group therapy.

100% of participants quit marijuana within just 5 days — 84.2% of participants still clean 1 year later

Aversion vs Marijuana
By the end of the sessions, all participants had quit marijuana completely.

Participants were given follow-up interviews 6 months and 12 months following the treatment. Those who had relapsed were given additional aversion sessions.

As a result, at the 12 month follow-up interview, a stunning 84.2% were still completely clean of their marijuana-smoking habit.


  1. Anthony, J. C., Warner, L. A., & Kessler, R. C. (1994, 12). Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2(3), 244-268. doi: 10.1037//1064-1297.2.3.244
  2. Budney, A., Roffman, R., Stephens, R., & Walker, D. (2007, 12). Marijuana Dependence and Its Treatment. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 4(1), 4-16. doi: 10.1151/ASCP07414
  3. Budney, A. J., & Hughes, J. R. (2006, 12). The cannabis withdrawal syndrome. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19(3), 233-238. doi: 10.1097/01.yco.0000218592.00689.e5
  4. Gorelick, D. A., Levin, K. H., Copersino, M. L., Heishman, S. J., Liu, F., Boggs, D. L., & Kelly, D. L. (2012, 12). Diagnostic criteria for cannabis withdrawal syndrome. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 123(1-3), 141-147. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.11.007
  5. Hall, W., & Degenhardt, L. (2009, 12). Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use. The Lancet, 374(9698), 1383-1391. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61037-0
  6. Hall, W. (2009, 12). The adverse health effects of cannabis use: What are they, and what are their implications for policy? International Journal of Drug Policy, 20(6), 458-466. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.02.013
  7. Lopez-Quintero, C., Cobos, J. P., Hasin, D. S., Okuda, M., Wang, S., Grant, B. F., & Blanco, C. (2011, 12). Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115(1-2), 120-130. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.11.004
  8. Smith, J. W., Schmeling, G., & Knowles, P. L. (1988, 12). A marijuana smoking cessation clinical trial utilizing THC-free marijuana, aversion therapy, and self-management counselling. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 5(2), 89-98. doi: 10.1016/0740-5472(88)90018-9

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