Timing Is Everything When It Comes to Marijuana Cravings

People who drink coffee usually crave it first think in the morning. Similarly, individuals who enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail after a long day of work may have physiological cravings during peak happy hour times. And according to a new study conducted by Lydia A. Shrier of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital, young adults who crave marijuana also do so at specific times of the day. Persistent cravings are associated with high levels of relapse, regardless of the substance. People who crave sweets, alcohol, cocaine, or other substances tend to report that obsessions of cravings for their substance are what preceded their most recent relapse. Some reports suggest that the majority of individuals who receive treatment for drug addiction have cravings when they abstain. This is a primary symptom of withdrawal in drug and alcohol addiction and can lead to eventual relapse. To better understand what causes or increases cravings, Shrier gathered information from 41 young adult marijuana users over a period of 2 weeks.

The participants were cued six times a day, and they recorded where they were, who they were with, their level of desire to use, the availability of marijuana, and mood. Shrier discovered that even though the participants had all been selected because of their current drug use, just over half of them reported any desire or craving for marijuana during the study period. Of those who did, location, companionship, and time were critical triggers. For instance, the participants had more cravings when they were with friends than when they were with parents. Additionally, cravings were more common in the evening than in the morning. The participants in this study may have been engaging in more social activities in the evening and more academic or job-related activities in the morning. This would explain the increase in reported cravings during evening hours, a time that is often viewed as more social. Shrier said, “The association between times of day and increased desire suggests that intervention strategies recommending alternative activities be focused on vulnerable times.” She believes that marijuana use may decrease if individuals are able to reduce their desire for marijuana, especially in situations when cravings are strongest.

Shrier, L. A., Walls, C. E., Kendall, A. D. , Blood, E. A. (2012). The context of desire to use marijuana: Momentary assessment of young people who frequently use marijuana. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029197

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  • Calista


    August 10th, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    If people who smoke pot are craving it, even though it has been said time and again that it is not addictive, don’t you think that the fact that they are experiencing cravings shows that it is?

  • alice


    August 10th, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    “just over half of them reported any desire or craving for marijuana during the study period.”

    Very true and i attest to this. I smoked MJ every single day for months and two weeks ago I had to stopped because i am looking for a new job. I feel no urge to light up.

    @Calista:Marijuana is NOT addictive. You see, all the ‘addiction’ that is associated with drugs in medical terms is PHYSICAL addiction, that is, your body craves for it. No such thing happens with MJ. Some people may have a mental thing going that makes them crave but it is dependent on the individual(in my case, that is absent). It is not a property of MJ, unlike many other LEGAL substances!

  • Eve


    August 11th, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    Big lesson here: as parents we Have to know who our kids are hanging out with and who their friends are. This is such a big predictor of the things that our children are going to get involved with and how much they could potentially wish to abuse them. While I am happy to see that the desires to smoke marijuana did diminish during the times that they were with their parents, the reality is that as parents you can’t be with them all the time. That’s why we have to step up our game a little when we are with them so that when they are not with us they will still be strong against the decisions that flood them.

  • Margaret


    August 11th, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    In most instances with anything that you induldge in, there will be these little triggers that make you want to do that thing. For me the sales papaers always make me want to go shop so when those land in the mailbox I throw them away before I start spending the money I have!

  • Kevin


    August 11th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Although people crave such things as marijuana and rocky road ice cream, marijuana has been rated less addictive than coffee in studies: Source:
    Jack E. Henningfield, PhD for NIDA, Reported by Philip J. Hilts, New York Times, Aug. 2, 1994 “Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use.”

  • sleuthiez


    August 11th, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    this just shows how much you listen. time and time again pot activists state that its not “non-addictive” but that it’s “as addictive as coffee” “AS ADDICTIVE AS COFFEE” AAAASSSSS CCCCCOOOOOOFFFFFFFFEEEEEEE. pay attention, omg. and then when people go through the whole argument of people in rehab facilities (despite a lot of them being under court order), we tell them (as much as they don’t listen) that it still is psychologically addicting. RECAP (so all you worthless prohibitionists pay attention): addictive as coffe, still psychologically addictive (like video games), many under court order.

  • sleuthiez


    August 11th, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    typical, always the other kids fault. who says it isn’t your kid influencing the other kids. maybe their the ones who have to watch out for you and yours.

  • sleuthiez


    August 11th, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    “they’re” i don’t know why i always do that. im not a fast typist and when i try to be i mix my words.

  • tudor


    August 11th, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    to all the great people who believe marijuana is dangerous and is addiction,kudos!you have proven your intelligence and your undying belief in the system and establishment that you were worked upon for so much.please continue the same and the world will soon have more people like yourselves.
    //end rant

  • Eve


    August 12th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    @ sleuthiez: I am not saying that my child would never be at fault. I don’t think that that was a line in my words at all. But what I am saying is that if you don’t want your child to even BEGIN this kind of behavior, you have to know who they are with and what they are doing. It might be my child influencing others and it may not, but I don’t want him in the situation where he is doing wither one.

  • Mike


    August 12th, 2012 at 11:23 PM

    Keeping yourself busy is the best way to stay away from cravings and addictions, no matter what substance is in question.Stay involved in fun and productive activities and you can build a healthy list of hobbies to avoid falling into addictions.This holds good for all age groups and for all substances.

  • Theotherguy


    June 13th, 2017 at 12:57 PM

    Mike has the best answer. Gotta keep yourself busy.

  • SueEllen


    August 13th, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    Just like with any other addiction, the more things that you can do to occupy your mind and become involved in something else any time you experience a desire to engage in that abusive behavior, the better things will be for you. If you know that you want to smoke after you eat, then go for a walk instead. If you experience that craving around a certain group of friends, well then it may be time to get a new friend set. There are some hard things that you will have to do to beat this type of addiction, but it can be done with perserverance on your part.

  • nicholas


    August 13th, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    mike:easier said than done buddy! the fact that addictive substances are addictive is what makes the person unable to ignore the craving,unable to get away from the substance and eventually leads to him seeking more and more of it.Ive been through that struggle and just wish nobody else has to walk down that road.

  • Helen


    August 14th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Nicholas- you make such a good point. Too many people just say stop using, get away from the drug. But when it has taken over your life it’s hard to walk away from that addiction.

  • Emery


    August 14th, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Ah, the wonders of marijuana and the things that we do that prevent us from breaking free of the cycle.

    For most users it begins early enough in life, probably high school, and once there is that eastablished pattern of behavior after all those years it becomes one that is very much affected by the people you are with and the things that surround that activity in general.

    For anyone who is wishing to break free of that behavior there are some things in life that will be ebst left behind. Unfortunately you can’t take all of those bad influences with you through treatment and recovery.

  • Hey calista

    Hey calista

    August 14th, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    Has it ever occurred to you that maybe some people like pot?

  • will


    August 14th, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    this is somewhat true.used to smoking marijuana everyday for several months because my job didn’t require drug tests,I had trouble coping once I changed my job and needed to abstain.I would feel the urge for several weeks and the urge was strongest in the evenings because that is when I was used to smoking it.I overcame all of that with some determination and a lot of other activities.

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