17 months and my experience with PAWS (long)

Postby Jalakee » Thu Jul 23, 2020 2:53 pm


I found this forum via Reddit, and it seems to be the web haven for cannabis PAWS sufferers. Well I feel duty-bound to tell my story here since it has been so impactful and there is so little information out there about it. I hope my experience can help others, by the grace of God.

A little about me, I am a 38 year old professional living in the US. I smoked for 12 cumulative years with a 2 year break in the middle during graduate/medical school. I quit when I was 37.

I was a daily smoker but not a high-volume smoker. On a typical day I would smoke 1-2 bowls of high-potency weed, always at home. But I seldom missed more than a day of smoking.

What led me to quit was a progressive loss of enjoyment of the drug that culminated in a series of severe panic attacks. What used to be the 'love of my life' now mostly made me paranoid, irritable, and extremely anti-social. I knew I needed to quit, but deep down in my soul I didnt want to quit. I had a bit of an ego about it too; I thought well I made all the way through a difficult college program, graduate school, and now a professional career with my habit so screw everyone else. I felt I was a bit of a rebel for my age and profession and just wasnt willing to let it go.

The panic attacks were the last straw and forced me to quit cold turkey. These were unprovoked, prolonged and severe. I had had panic attacks before, but not for a long, long time and it was something that happened in specific situations. Once it happened with edibles and another time with a normal smoke.

This started the cascade of acute and post-acute withdrawal symptoms that listed the better part of a year, with still some recovery happening to this day. I'll give you a timeline so you dont have to read a novel.

Weeks 0-3: Severe, pervasive anxiety. I was never previously an anxious person in daily life. I had no history of disorders. Physically, I was a mess. I would have urgent diarrhea instantly upon opening my eyes, very little appetite, sweats, panic, constant runny nose, headaches, and fitful sleep. I was barely functional.

Months 1-3: Continued daily anxiety, now perforated with random episodes of severe, existential depression. My physical symptoms began to normalize a bit. During this time I tried a few doses of an antidepressant prescribed by my doctor as I was desperate to feel normal again. This was a HUGE mistake, and sent me into a tailspin of suicidal thoughts and severe depression I never even thought possible. I stopped immediately, but would get echoes of this feeling for a year to come.

Months 4-6: Around month 5 is when things began to turn the corner a bit. Having more good days than bad, but still not processing stress or emotions very well. I would have good days and stretches of bad days seemingly out of nowhere. Travel or stressful events would send my anxiety sky high. Depressive echoes continued randomly. Sleep was of variable quality. Anhedonia in almost all my old hobbies and pastimes. Very little if any joy.

Months 7-12: Improvements, but still ups and downs. The crippling anxiety was more or less gone, but during this time I was going through some fertility treatments to start a family. These hormones made me very anxious and uncomfortable and my PAWS brain was just not well-equipped to deal with the ups and downs. I felt as I was going backwards, which was disheartening. I also experienced some depersonalization/derealization a few times during anxiety spells. Very bizarre feeling, as if you are piloting a robot body. I began to have some joy again with hobbies.

Months 12-14: Once I got the fertility thing sorted out I experienced marked PAWS improvements. Mostly normal on a day to day basis. My interest and passion for my hobbies returned. Sleep was consistent. Anxiety was only episodic with stressful events. Depressive echoes would still occur but to a much milder degree; and easier to snap out of.

Months 15-17 (now): I would say 90-95% of my "normal mind" has returned. My ability to experience joy, contentment, interest, and also better process the negative feelings which every person sometimes has. This is the new frontier for me; as I avoided dealing with my emotions for so many years with weed as my crutch. Certain activities can still provoke undue anxiety and I deal with these on a case-by-case basis.

In summary the process is still ongoing, but I have a level of normalcy and peace that is now my baseline. I never thought this would take as long as it has, and I never in a million years imagined this happening as a result of my weed habit. I think there is a certain subset of people this will happen to, and two risk factors seem to be length of use and high potency use. While I have nothing against it on principle, it is not the benign panacea people think it is. Extended and intense use can have serious mental consequences and I think we will see more and more of this in young people.

It's funny, because the weed of my youth was nothing like the weed of today. I remember it being warm, hazy, and fun. You could smoke a truckload and only get a headache. The weed of today has been adulterated over so many generations that I think it's become something we never intended it to be. There is a darkness to it and 'spirit', if you will, of anxiety. That could just be my view of it but I suspect I'm not alone.

I can promise you all that you WILL get your normal mind back. You just have to have faith, give it time, and be proactive. While no one thing is curative, the things that helped me the most were my spiritual faith, regular therapy sessions, reading and watching positive material, exercise, and not putting anything mind-altering into your body. The one exception might be caffeine; but even that I could not touch for a long time. Avoid alcohol for at least 1 year. And never touch weed again!!

Hang in there, it will get better and you will be restored. Tell yourself it could take up to 2 years, even though it may not. This will set your expectations to a realistic level, so you arent steamrolled by a bad wave when you thought it was gone. It is a very non-linear, truncated process, but just have faith.

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Postby Chap_85 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:14 pm

Great post.
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Postby Smokeyzen » Thu Jan 28, 2021 1:13 am

Thanks for sharing this!

Your story of pot smoking, how long and how much a day is similar to mine (though I would often smoke 4 - 5 bowls a day.) you and I are also the same age.

I am in week one of stopping cold turkey. It was betraying me - giving me severe anxious feelings and being up all the time - began to wonder why the hell I was even smoking if this is now how it made me feel. I realized within the last year that I was and have been addicted.

I also have had a lot of personal stress over the last 4 years - trauma level stress that actually had me develop a weird heart rhythm that lasted for a year straight - and has now reduced to just random extra/skipped beats.

But man - the withdrawal sucks - body tension, irritable, head fog, headaches, anxiety, depression, so much stuff.

On top of that I’m currently dealing with high blood pressure - which I’m sure was not helped by the constant anxious state marijuana kept me in for years. I’m hoping this all goes away.

I’m seeing a doctor for certain things (like the blood pressure) but I’ve heard even high BP can be caused by marijuana and it’s withdrawal.

Hard to believe something I thought I could enjoy my entire life - has become something that might be responsible for all the things that was making my life miserable.

Glad to have read your story. Thanks for sharing!!
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