Why Aren't There More Products to Help People Quit Pot?

There are tons of businesses profiting off of cigarette smokers who want to quit, but almost nobody is trying to make money from weaning people off weed.

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Jun 5 2015, 3:50pm

Photo by Flickr user Katheirne Hitt.

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

During one of my biweekly attempts to quit smoking pot, my naturopath suggested I read Allen Carr's The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I did and it worked! But not in the way I had intended.

After reading the book, my mostly indifferent attitudes towards cigarettes shifted drastically. They were suddenly revolting to me. While I'd been a social smoker as a teen (read: I'd mooch off people and never bought my own pack), I'd only smoke cigarettes as an adult when visiting Paris.

I was seriously impressed that the book had done such a number on me, though it did precious little to influence my dependency on the devil's lettuce. It also left me wondering why something equally as effective and lucrative (Carr's book has sold more than 13 million copies) hadn't yet happened for marijuana. As pot becomes more entrenched in the mainstream, with entrepreneurs scrambling to get in on this growing market, the number of people who become dependent on it will likely increase. So, why aren't more savvy businesspeople jumping on the quit smoking pot market?

Depending on whom you talk to, it can go either way. Some say a market for quitting pot will be as likely to exist as a market for quitting coffee—in that it will never happen. Others see a huge potential based on all the new potheads that will be cropping up in the years to come, as legalization ever so slowly sweeps across North America.

According to researchers at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, there is evidence that shows marijuana can create physical and psychological dependency. While quitting pot is nothing comparable to heroin or even prescription pills, the challenge to quit will depend on things like your genetic makeup, predisposition to addiction, and how young you were when you started toking. It's said that up to 10 percent of pot smokers are dependent on the substance.

While perusing through Amazon for resources that might help, I found a few dozen mostly self-published books, along with guided hypnosis tracks, and tank tops that say "Fuck It I Quit" with a fist bursting through a pot leaf.

Dr. Tony DeRamus, a Texas-based chiropractor, self-published a book called The Secret Addiction: Overcoming Your Marijuana Dependency in 2011. It's sold, on average, 150 copies a month since then and has an accompanying website.

As a former pot smoker, he felt his habit was incongruent with regularly telling his patients to take care of themselves. He started writing the book in 2007, but only pushed himself to complete it, and kick his habit for good, after facing some bad business decisions. DeRamus felt he needed to take on his hardship with a clear mind—and eventually succeeded.

"Some people can make the decision and walk away from it," he says. "That's not the norm for someone who's smoked daily for several years."

He admits it's a small market at this point, and that the people who are putting out books and products are doing it from an altruistic standpoint. But, based on the rapid growth of the marijuana industry, DeRamus expects that to change within the next five years, which he says is the amount of time it takes for someone to realize they have a problem

"It never allows you to hit rock bottom like another drug would," he says. "That's a problem. Marijuana allows you to float through life. It takes a while for someone to realize they're missing out on certain aspects of their life."

While he's not opposed to marijuana use for medicinal purposes, he's against legalization since he feels it gives people another substance to become attached to.

"Anything that can stimulate dopamine can be addictive," DeRamus says. "We really have to be ready to meet the demand of the people wanting to get away from the addiction."

There are currently no prescriptive drugs on the market to help with kicking the pot habit, like Zyban does for cigarettes, but that's likely to change.

A 2014 study titled "Pharmacotherapies for cannabis dependence" found that "antidepressants, bupropion, buspirone, and atomoxetine are probably of little value in the treatment of cannabis dependence" but "preparations containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)... are of potential value in the treatment of cannabis dependence, but limitations in the evidence are such that this application of THC preparations should be considered still experimental."

The study also found that gabapentin, an anti-epileptic medication, and N-acetylcysteine, an amino-acid derivative, had potential but needed further research.

A professor of pharmacology with the University of Maryland School of Medicine that I reached out to mentioned working with the National Institute for Drug Research to develop ideas about new pharmacological interventions to help quit pot. He said it was too early to talk about it though, and to try him again in a few months.

Zach Walsh, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, focuses much of his research on medical marijuana. He predicts that there won't be much of a market for those looking to cash in on helping potheads with dependency, because it's simply not that problematic.

"It would be a lifestyle switch," he says. "It's not the kind of thing that if they wanted to do it, they'd need to engage in intensive psycho-behavioral reorganization of their lives to conquer the addiction. There is a modest dependence profile of cannabis, less profound than with caffeine."

He adds that if you want to make money off pot somehow, "You're better off just starting a vaporizer company."

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