I.Q. Reversal: Marijuana induced depersonalization

Photo by Petr Brož

Smoking cannabis is often advertised as a relaxing and insightful experience, yet some of the more vulnerable and predisposed individuals will have the unfortunate honor to explore the other side of the spectrum. Not only can smoking of marijuana lead to the commonly worshiped euphoria and increase in appetite, but it can equally elicit macabre states of consciousness such as prolonged feelings of ego-devouring dissociation accompanied by intense sensations of anxiety. This complex of perception and affect are commonly referred to as depersonalization, derealization or simply dissociation. Whilst some seek and take delight in this dissociative state, others find it so uncanny and repulsive that they would be willing to give anything for it to stop; ironically, it is this strong emotional imprint that prevents you from immediate recovery, as you are constantly focusing on the negativity it conveys, and so give the anxiety ridden state no space to recede to. How can one put a halt to such a vicious loop of agony? The following will, for the sake of helping one resolve this dissociative dilemma, address common inquires and elucidate the imperative steps for breaking the apparently never-ending cycle:

Is depersonalization permanent? Will it ever end or do I have live like this for the rest of my life?Drug induced depersonalization is rarely permanent and will usually completely recede given enough time and care. Do not expect an over-night recovery though, as this is not likely going to happen. The recovery happens gradually, in small increments. You need time to consciously make sense of the whole confusion, and so does your unconscious need time to assimilate the changes and slowly revert to a more serene mode of operation. If you trust in recovery and are willing to make some changes in your life, then you are on your way to resurrection.Have I inflicted some form of brain damage or irreversibly doomed my emotions?

No, you do not need to worry, the feelings or the lack of them are not due to brain damage, but, at most, rather functional anomalies of brain regions implicated in emotion and cognition. It is nothing irreversible; the intensity will slowly drop until you reach natural calmness. Nevertheless, you will need to abstain from drug use in order to give way for recovery.

Why does it affect me while others can enjoy weed/psychedelics without having to go through this nightmare?

A predisposition is prerequisite to eliciting panic attacks and depersonalization. Those with latent anxiety disorders and similar forms of psychiatric distress are high at risk. Because cannabis is a psychedelic, it amplifies your internal states; in other words set (emotion) and setting (environment) play a major role in the use of any drugs. If you are a jittery, shy, anxious person then these traits are likely to be surfaced and further exploited by the use of psychedelics. This makes analysis and resolution of internal problems easier on the one hand, but, on the other hand, can confuse and overwhelm those unprepared for such revelations.

How do I overcome depersonalization, and what should I do to speed up the recovery by as much as possible?

There is a legion of healthy habits one may and is advised to adapt in order to mitigate the acute distress as well as shorten the total duration of suffering.

Exercise, especially aerobic, is one of such approaches. Not only does exercise facilitate the release of mood elating neurochemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, but it also promotes the growth of new neuronal connections in a brain region, known as hippocampus, responsible for cognitive processes. Funnily enough, the very same region is often the victim of depression. Therefore, by exercising, you can even correct what might potentially have been eroded.

Supplements, such as magnesium, GABA, L-theanine, and many more, may provide an acute relief and even a long-term benefit.

Meditation is another great implement for gaining relief. During meditation you may learn to breathe more deeply and rhythmically, analyze the very sources of your struggles, and enhance your focus; all of which add to resources required for a complete recovery.There are many more approaches, both conventional and extraordinary, you might want to consider and try out for yourself. Many of the techniques psychologists/psychiatrists advertise for recovery purposes tend to be ubiquitous in action and will address both physical and mental well-being, so do not be afraid to experiment!

I cannot get rid of catastrophic thoughts and am tempted to think of the worst case scenarios.

These thoughts are the fuel to panic attacks, and it is these thoughts to which you will need to immunize yourself in order to abate the panic attacks. Thinking along the lines: “I feel like I am turning crazy!” is a natural concomitant of intense anxiety and is to be expected. Paradoxically, if you were indeed turning insane, you wouldn’t be aware of it. Every time these thoughts assail you, take a step back and engage your logical thinking into the equation. Tell yourself that these are just harmless thoughts, intangible creations of your aroused mind, which present you with exaggerated and unlikely possibilities. Gradually, you will learn to replace the fearful associations with neutral or logical ones and so strip the panic attacks off their noxiousness.

Remember, time is the critical factor and the most powerful healer, and so do not underestimate its power. Even though you might feel like you are doing no immediate progress after implementing some of the above-mentioned techniques, give them a chance to take their full effect; after enough time has elapsed you will grow to appreciate what they did for your anxiety and depersonalization.gical ones and so strip the panic attacks off their noxiousness.

Article by Patrick Andersen

16 Responses to "I.Q. Reversal: Marijuana induced depersonalization"

  1. Mn   July 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I got out of this state in 3 months. Running, going to the gym, and meditating got me out. It can be horrible, you become very existential and self-aware, you feel automatic or in a movie, you feel your senses “separated”, the world/universe feels strange, like some random thing out of nowhere (isn’t it?), society stops making sense, and you feel very worried about realizing all of it and want to be “normal” again. Don’t worry people, you will get to your normal state again, it takes time, for some people it can take weeks, some months. Just exercise, try not to think too much about it and force yourself to socialize, it will be over eventually.

    Reply
    • Marc   July 26, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Wow, I’ve had a very similar experience.
      I went through 3 months of hell as well, with intense dissociation which made every single thing I did, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, to a living nightmare. I could not enjoy a single thing for 3 months. I often thought I would never smile again but I was not depressed, I just had such intense sensations if dissociation that I was almost constantly shaking on my feet and hands from pure terror and fear of never leaving that state. This was about 5 years ago. I’ve learned SO much these past years and especially the last two years. I’m amazed that NON of the mental health care workers I’ve talked to have mentioned a dissociative disorder. I’ve always had an idea that it was indeed that I experienced. I’ve grown a whole LOT and I’ve gained so much insight which I probably wouldn’t have gained at all if it hadn’t been for my struggle. I do not feel like I’m totally alone with these symptoms anymore, thank you for that post 🙂

      Reply
  2. Drew   February 23, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Matthew, you are not alone, take a deep breath. Everything will even itself out. The world will return to its natural vibrations in time. I am fighting it myself and even hearing other people say this makes me feel better.

    Reply
  3. Matthew   January 7, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    It feels like I’m not even in my body or that someone else is controlling my every move while I just watch it happen. Every once in awhile I get the feeling that I can’t breath or I’m gonna stop breathing but in reality it’s perfectly fine. My hands and feet get all sweaty like cold flashea and sometimes I shake.

    Reply
  4. StashCat   May 24, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Thank you for this post, the tips really helped me out. Just after 5 minutes of meditation, the second I opened my eyes back up, I instantly felt positive emotions 🙂

    Reply
  5. Shshjz   October 27, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I feel like im in a dream or im gonna fall asleep

    Reply
  6. Kenneth Pierson   August 17, 2014 at 7:17 am

    I did the same with my ex fiance a few years ago and have never been the same

    Reply
  7. cjw151   May 4, 2014 at 6:04 am

    i smoked cannabis for over 15 yrs and it was only when something horrendous happened i started with my panic attacks ( been going on for 13yrs now ) , i havnt smoked weed for over 8 yrs now and i see no change in my circumstances i am now agoraphobic with health anxiety so in fact things have got a lot worse , i do however believe that drugs DO have an adverse effect most definately !! i however believe that it is down to each individual as to the length of the healing process if indeed there is one !

    Reply
  8. nick flores   April 16, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I have been suffering from this for 2 years now. I got high on mothersday with my wife. And it feels like it never went away.

    Reply
  9. Joel   March 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I dunno, it’s been 5 months since my panic attack and I am still in a pretty bad way – depression is more intense, destructive thoughts, fear…..social anxiety was probably the preexisting problem that was exacerbated and led to the panic, and it’s possibly worse than it was before. There needs to be WAY more information out there about the dangers of smoking marijuana when you have existing anxiety issues, I wish I had known the risks. I had watched the movie “Numb” but I guess I didn’t really take it seriously, or think that could happen to me. Didn’t help that many friends around me smoked it often with no problem, and I had even gotten high a couple times and had a great time :/

    I still have hope that I can get better (I like to think I’ve been very slightly, slowly improving in the last 5 months…maybe), but I’m not really sure what to do. Perhaps I should see a new therapist (can’t see my old one due to health care & he didn’t really help much anyway) and perhaps see about medication. I started trying to meditate awhile back but I don’t have a lot of patience and I feel like I really have to fight the panicked feelings while I’m doing it. It would probably help me become more patient, I suppose.

    Reply
  10. David Ortega   January 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I smoked a large amount of marijuana 1 day back in 1984 when I was 14 yrs old. I remember feeling fine the next day, but about 1 week later I went to bed and had horrific nightmares all night and I awoke in the the morning in a state of Derealization. Im now 43 yrs old and Im still in a state of Derealization. For the last 30 years panic and anxiety have been an unwanted part of my life, as well as the numbness of Derealization. Im doing alot better now in my life, I hold down a job, ride dirt bikes, travel, mountain bike (etc) but Im in no way the person I was before the D.R. I honestly can say that I believe 100% that smoking marijuana, especially at such a young age caused my disorder.

    Reply
  11. Reece N   October 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Ive only smoked cannabis around 10 times ever and only smoked it properly 2 times where ive taken the smoke down properly. The first time I had a bad trip and a panic attack, i became anxious/scared etc. The last time I did not have a panic attack, but felt a bit anxious whilst high, but no where near as anxious as the first time. I had smoked way too much and must have taken at least 30 tokes on several joints over a 8 hour period with some friends. The first time after I got high I had mild deprsonalization for around 2 days and virtually no anxiety. It has been nearly 4 weeks and I have severe depersonalization and anxiety, someone please give me some advice or help

    Reply
  12. GM   August 28, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Gustavo, You don’t make mention if you are a marijuana or any other type of drug user yourself. Fact of the matter is, when you are medicating your brain, your overall thinking becomes skewed. You can convince your own brain of any reality. And it’s obvious even to a layman that you are lashing out at what you perceive as an insult to your intelligence in regards to your decline in I.Q. as a result of long term drug abuse. This is the problem with drug abuse of any type. But fear not, if you get sober and put more and more days behind your last usage, your brain will heal and your thought processes will return. And then you will say to yourself “What the hell was I thinking.” Trust me. Enjoy!

    Reply
    • Gustavo   August 28, 2012 at 3:44 am

      If I sound like I’m lashing out it’s at the authors very persistent way of making sure that whoever reads his article knows he’s smarter than they are regardless if they are drug addict or not (I have never been nor ever will be a drug addict FYI); you can read the smug between the lines. The author could have used more inviting language that’s all I’m saying, it sounds like he was trying to impress the publisher or something.

      Reply
  13. dayone   August 28, 2012 at 12:03 am

    This article is excellent, it helps me really make sense of what I’m going through while trying to quit smoking weed describes me perfectly. I have been a smoker for over 10 years using it daily for about 9 years, I been trying to give for 3 years failing time and time again the longest I went was 3 days. I simply just don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working, I become restless cant sleep and of late been really anxious. I do think I’m going crazy sometimes but like the article said I wouldn’t be aware reading that alone puts me at ease. Smoking is a fun but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because you end up smoking more and more thinking its easy to stop but when you want to quit its next to impossible. I also think because of the social stigma smoking weed brings you can become quite isolated and not to mention the stupid amount of money you spend on it and the time trying to find it ugh this is why I want to quit. Its day 2 for me right now and hopefully forever and as weird as it sounds reading the article has calmed me down considerably

    Reply
  14. Gustavo   August 27, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    What you just described with your big words is nothing more than a panic attack, or freaking out as normal people call it. This mostly occurs with people who either have never tried the drug and have very little tolerance for it or have an underlining mental disorder which in that case they shouldn’t have tried it in the first place, obviously. It’s like having a person with a liver disease drink alcohol, of course it’s going to cause problems. In my years being around the drug I’ve seen this panic attack happen but it subdues in as little as two hours and it’s never permanent and I’ve also seen the same person that had the panic attack try it again with no ill effects that second time around. More studies need to be done to accurately portray this drug and all it’s fine print.

    Reply

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