What to expect when quitting marijuana - PAWS timeline


Postby john5:6 » Wed May 26, 2021 5:29 am

stars9r9in9the9past wrote:This is a post I felt like sharing a bit to, I've been looking more into different accounts of PAWS, timelines, and anecdotal experiences to get different insight. A lot of things said by people in this thread are totally on point. I appreciate how OP admitted from the beginning that there isn't a strict set of conditions as it's very different for everyone, plenty of people don't get symptoms as bad as others which can lead people to thinking it's really just nothing or that those who do get bad symptoms are simply being dramatic or sensitive:

BruceLeeroy wrote:The exact timelines and symptoms may differ from person to person. Some people may go through a longer and tougher time, and some may experience quite the opposite.

Funny enough, I have this one friend who I've known for many years and have always considered like my primary stoner friend. He had to quit smoking marijuana for work a few years back, though since has since resumed consumption in the past couple years. We still keep in touch and I consider him a great friend, so when recently over the past couple months I had really bad symptoms that seems on par with what a lot of PAWS stories were mentioning, I was able to confide what I was going through to him. I asked about when he had to quit for his job, if he had any withdrawal symptoms or if the cessation was problematic for him, he replied semi-jokingly that he didn't think withdrawals were really a thing all that much and could only really associate some headaches to it. I then told him what I had been going through, how it seems consistent with what some people experience, and after that he actually admitted in realization that he technically did get some of the rougher symptoms like palpitations, but he thought it was just unrelated and coincidental to like stress and life. So point to that tale being, even though he did possibly have some of the related symptoms, he never made the connection but may have still felt it. So I can sorta see why there would be people who deny believing that, or perhaps even lack that information to identify it, because as far as I know I haven't seen too much regarding like research or formal studies that really highlight withdrawal timelines beyond just that of the immediate quitting period. A lot of these accounts are primarily just stories I read that seem genuinely true and genuinely written from a darker place where those feelings, episodes, moments, etc hit really hard. How much of that is solely due to suddenly stopping marijuana use and therefore changing whatever internal chemical homeostasis in the brain had been in place, and how much really is just life and possibly other medical and/or mental health factors, that's where the line is fuzzy as it really is just case-by-case and different. I imagine it's a blend of both to certain degrees but, still, that makes it harder to establish a generally accepted consensus among users and quitters alike. It probably would also be wise to mention that I write all that I'm writing here simply to discuss and share, not to judge by any means. I can see why one might be resistant to listening when it sounds like someone else is simply trying to bash the lifestyle or marijuana in general, or to paint it as bad or something. I have and always will have a fond appreciation for marijuana, it helped me get through a lot and I gained so much self-discovery from my time smoking, I 100% respect it. I wouldn't want to stop that for anyone else, or get in the way of whatever the reason another may have to use or continue any such use, but I would support at least being aware of what potential outcomes may be, and getting the facts, even if a lot of them are subjective or prone to debate, and being capable of making such decisions for themselves.

Anyways, a couple months ago I suddenly stopping smoking marijuana. I went from something like a few chilled bowls a day everyday for a few months, preceded by slowly build to that point going back several more months, to just having to stop altogether. Basically, I started with a low tolerance and smoked on occasion for fun and personal relaxation, and gradually got more comfortable with the idea of smoking more regularly as plenty of people seem to do it and function alright, and to my knowledge the stakes weren't as high as something where if you just had to quit from more habitual use, it could potentially outright kill you, like say chronic alcohol or benzo use. It was a mostly fine time, aside from the occasional paranoia that would randomly hit during some sessions, but other than that it was good vibes. A couple months ago though, I did have a pretty intense episode of paranoia in a smoke session, it was closer to that of a panic attack because there were a lot of worrying thoughts that I had trouble thinking myself out of while actively stoned, my 420 paranoias tend to be more of an existential nature so this particular session I felt like I needed to get out of the house, so I did and went for a walk around the city, but still this odd feeling as if i was contained in something lingered, despite being outside and not really having any trigger that being outside might influence that, say maybe like agoraphobia or something. More like a mind-in-a-body type of containment, if that makes sense. But it felt vivid and intense, actually scary, so the next morning I just told myself I needed some kind of break because it didn't seem like I could actively talk myself out of that worry while high, so perhaps a more clear mind would be helpful for re-establishing a grip on myself, and then eventually resume smoking sometime soon or so.

So that day was 57 days ago which was the last day I smoked/consumed/partook in the tree in any capacity, and it was just an abrupt stop that I felt I needed for the moment, honestly I didn't even think I would continue stopping past more than like maybe a couple weeks, it was more like just I'll take each day as I take it and resume when I feel like it. The first couple of weeks, it was kinda fine, I was expecting more headaches and maybe scary nightmares as those seem to be common withdrawal symptoms, but there weren't really any headaches aside from a slight one that would come and go. My dreams were definitely there, as in I could witness and recall my dreams in greater detail, longer length, and feel myself in parts of the dream, as if like I was naturally involved in it. Nothing lucid, I've rarely ever had lucid dreams in my life, but just slightly more vivid dreams. Nothing I would consider very vivid or even scary/nightmare-ish, it was actually really nice being able to dream in detail again, which was more of a rarity when I was actively smoking. So, a couple weeks in, and I felt like things were progressing fine. Unfortunately, that's when the worse of the symptoms began to take place, and as this was all before I ever looked into it, I had no idea what I was going through, I thought it was purely medical initially and all unrelated to going cold turkey.

Some symptoms I experienced that seem on par with what this thread has mentioned are things like heart palpitations, derealization, anxiety, panic attacks, increased blood pressure, depression, and affected sleep. Some things to add to this were loss of appetite, feeling dread or like I'm going to die, tunnel vision, and shivers. Some time around a couple weeks in, I had a panic attack hit me from nowhere, I'm pretty sure I was just at home sitting in a chair browsing the web, and then suddenly things just kinda felt off, like a long pause in heartbeat sensation along with an intense awareness in that moment, immediately followed by sudden racing of my heart, feeling scared, and the feeling of urgently needing to reach out to somebody in the house in case something like me passing out or my heart failing were to occur, so that at least maybe there would be help, and it felt like I only had a few seconds to even notify someone, so I just got up right away and told a housemate like "Hey, I don't know what's going on, but something feels wrong with me". I knew that might come off with zero context or like maybe I'm crazy or something, so I asked for his hand and had him feel my chest, which I knew might be weird because it's like why am I forcing him to reach near my breast area after just randomly appearing out of my room, but I asked if he felt like anything was off, to which he replied something like "Oh yeah, your heart is really pounding fast". It seemed like he could sense my worry in that moment too, he asked if I needed to have 911 called, to which I said no for now, and just asked him to keep an eye on me in case I passed out or something. Several minutes later the feeling subsided a bit, or at least it felt like a more manageable sensation. It felt like a heart event, even though I don't have a history of heart disease and I'm 27, which is considered young for most heart-related conditions. It was scary, but the primary worry was simply just not knowing why that was happening. By the same token that I don't have history of heart disease, I don't have any history of panic attacks, so what was taking place just came out of nowhere and I couldn't make sense of it, and it was very new to me, but also a lot more real than most of my day-to-day worries or fears I might have felt in the past. It was also very, very exhausting, it was like I had just gotten done fighting someone off me. After, it was the only thing really on my mind, because I still carried that feeling like maybe I was about to die, and like these were the last few moments my mind was experiencing and thus the sudden intensity. Hard to really explain that one, but if someone else has felt that, it's just way scary. I don't think I'd ever wish that feeling upon someone else.

Unfortunately, that was just the first panic attack in a series of events. The next day, something similar happened, less sudden, but it grew to the same intensity and I was shivering, having some tunnel vision this time, and felt derealization in the sense that even though I wasn't actively high, I still felt that same existential paranoia feeling I occasionally felt when I was high, except now like I had full clarity of mind where I wasn't just feeling it, but like it made true sense in my brain almost logically so, which was even scarier. It felt like me and the world around me were just fictitious or something, almost pointlessly so, in a very defeating way. Plus, it was also incredibly exhausting too, and I felt super drained just from the previous panic attack the day before. I had trouble sleeping that night too because I felt like I might never wake up. This was still when I thought perhaps it was heart related or something, so the excessive worry of like dying in my sleep kept me from sleeping comfortably, despite knowing I needed proper sleep.

The next day, another panic attack when I was out doing laundry publicly. I almost couldn't even finish and I felt lucky practically nobody was there at the laundromat because I was walking in and out multiple times just due to feeling like I needed to get out of the building, but then needing to calm down and get back to my duties, repeat, repeat. Heart palpitations, derealization, tunnel vision, a tingling feeling like I was almost going to pass out but may have just been adrenaline rushing through me, and just worry of impending death. I texted a few friends to help ground me, because I at least knew logically that whatever I was feeling, since it was persisting for a few days by this point, it probably wasn't going to actually do anything in that moment besides scare me, because if it was a true emergency then something big likely might have already happened one of the first couple times. But this attack felt scarier still, and just the fact these were coming out of nowhere for seemingly no reason just sucked. I was totally exhausted by this point, and wasn't sure if whatever was taking place would keep recurring, get worse, or maybe just go away.

That night, I randomly woke up in the middle of the night, and same thing happened right out of my sleep. It was at that point I said screw it and took myself to an ER, because if there was any medical cause for whatever this was, it seemed like it needed to be addressed immediately. At the least, I wasn't really able to function well so it was getting in the way of my life by now. Made it to a hospital, did an intake, I knew what it looked like for someone to just walk themself in and say they felt something heart-related but with no major symptoms, but they respected my presentation and did appropriate tests which at least made me feel more assured that at least someone was listening to that concern. They ruled out all the major stuff and some things they said I might be at greater risk for, ultimately I was pretty healthy in their words, but said it might just be anxiety that I need to get checked. I told them about any drug use when they asked about my prior medical history, which was just the recently abstained marijuana and like an occasional beer, they said I might just be withdrawing which was news to me that it would persist more than just a couple weeks, especially given how my first couple weeks seemed tame and it was practically out of mind. As far as anxiety, I was willfully ready to accept that it could be anxiety-related but this was much more intense than anything I would consider anxiety alone to be, at the worst all anxiety has ever been for me was just overworrying about something which I knew was silly to think about, but no other symptoms. After all of this, I was understanding that people with ongoing anxiety do genuinely experience this all the time, and knowing that really hit hard because I can't imagine struggling like that every day of my life, I guess I had always taken normal functioning for granted.

Following the ER visit, it felt nice at least ruling out more tangible medical scenario, at the very least I felt more confidence in telling myself that if another attack took place, it just needed time to pass. But for the next couple weeks, I did still randomly get these attacks, almost every day, some days multiple times. I was losing sleep, and it was ultimately so exhausting that I was losing my appetite to eat, lost a little bit of weight just from not eating well for several days, and felt like I was living in fear. After some episodes, I felt defeated to the point I would just break down and cry just to get all that worry out and feel relatively better. It was around this time I looked to the internet to see if anything close to this was something others went through, and surely enough some people did mention PAWS and their experiences, and even though everyone went through something a little different, the similarities in having stopped smoking weed and then undergoing these events soon after yet not immediately after, that seemed pretty consistent to what I was going through.

I got a journal to act as a little diary to write down each time I was feeling a panic attack or any other relevant worry that seemed related, and to write down in that moment or a bit afterwards what I felt, or if there were changes, any mood in my mind, and also to just talk to myself in my own internal dialogue on paper. It felt comforting, and it also felt like it was a good source to ground myself from an otherwise scary moment. A lot of stuff I wrote was/is very dark, very private, perhaps even very human. To this day I'm still writing some things on occasion. I first wrote something on Day 20, which was two days after my ER visit, but thankfully haven't really needed to write all that much more recently. My last entry was Day 53, four days ago, and it was just a tiny blurb about feeling some mindful discomfort earlier in the day, but nothing major or scary, just reminiscent of those previous panic attacks.

An interesting thing I've noticed which is way different than what a lot of people have mentioned, and something I'm still uncertain on, is that I'm 57 days having last smoked, and for the most part all the big scary symptoms have subsided. Yet a lot of the time, people say they feel things persist for several months, possibly even a year or longer. Usually it seems like a lot of the symptoms are greatly diminished around a few months in, but so far for me it feels like my "greatly diminishing" point was around 4-5 weeks in, I haven't felt anything as close to scary as those episodes closer to my ER visit, very thankfully so, but my timeline felt a bit more sped up than the average story I read from someone else. I don't really know if that correlates to length of marijuana use, because many times I'd read up on someone's experience and it followed like years of habitual use, sometimes even decades, whereas for me my habitual frequent use was closer to a few-to-several months essentially. Maybe the timeline is proportional, or perhaps I fall under the category of someone who has a quicker timeline, but still had intense symptoms. Or maybe the worst hasn't even hit and the timeline is still building (hopefully not though :!: ).

I'm not too sure if this post will be useful for anyone, it's just my account and it's by no means something to expect if someone else wanted to pause or quit use, or have an idea of what to expect, as again it's likely different for anyone, and I'm still not even 100% sure if it's all due to taking an extended break or maybe that's just coincidence and it's just stress or something. Or a mix of it all. Or even my age as it's known that mental health issues do commonly come to surface around one's 20s in a lot of cases. But perhaps someone has had something a bit more similar to my experience, or some parts of it, and just wants to feel less alone in that feeling. If it provides anyone any comfort though, regardless of what you're going through, and if say it is something that can ultimately pass on its own despite begin scary and uncertain, then surely that requires some patience and some strength, even when it feels like you're depleted of that. So to any reader who may need it, I wish you the best.

And thanks so much to OP for beginning this thread, I felt a lot of reassurance just getting to read your experience in detail

I hope you are doing better since this post. I can perfectly relate with the panic experiences and how you described them in perfect detail. I was using concentrates, and during my last couple of months smoking, I had early warning signs that sometimes was wrong, but I didn’t pay attention. I remember getting zapped back awake while still smoking. When I was on the verge of falling sleep, it felt like if I went to sleep and took the wrong path to it, like if I was driving down this road to sleep but took a wrong turn and had to back up as quickly as possible because something really bad would happen if I kept going down that path… Sounds weird but its the only way I can describe it.

I didn’t quit until I had a huge brain zap while smoking which sent me into a full blown panic attack that ended me up in an ambulance trip to the ER. I’ve had all imaginable symptoms so far, stuff that not everyone experiences. I’ve had 24/7 constant panic attacks shaking without being able to stop for days, enormous migraines that shut my eyes closed, extreme malaise and muscle/bone pain like coming down with the biggest flu ever, extreme memory issues, and the list goes on. I’m at 6 months in now, and its been slowly getting much tolerable these last couple of weeks. I was sure I wasn’t gonna make it this far in the early days. My worse symptoms started 4 weeks after quitting, and progressed to full time doom death. I had a small break during day 50-60 that made me think it was all over, but it quickly came back 10 times worse, and ended up in the hospital again after not being able to sleep for 17 days. I was sincere with the doctor that time, and he sent a lot of tests done which all came back negative. He said he was sure I was experiencing withdrawal and a panic disorder. They put me on 2mg of Ativan IV and that got me to sleep for 22 hours straight. After that its been a nightmare until recently.

Thank God I found this forum and reddit. If not, I think I would have ended up on anxiety meds for the rest of my life.
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