14 Months with cannabis PAWS

Postby NateTGreat » Wed Aug 05, 2015 1:41 am

Hello again,

I was having a rough week and just wanted to post my update. It will be 14 months complete next Friday that I have been free of cannabis. I am also alcohol free and all pharmaceutical drugs free. I don't drink caffeine except in green tea. And I try to avoid processed sugar, gluten, and dairy as much as possible. Essentially I've tried everything to just feel normal and happy again. I just wanted to post to get any feedback on others who have made it this far and what they felt like at this point.

For new readers, my use was for about 18 years total, and about 10 years straight prior to my quit. The last 2 years I vaporized multiple times daily bubble hash, dabs, and flowers mixed.

SO, here is what I am currently dealing with.

I am still getting head pressure, head burning, head buzzing. and head aches pretty much on the daily. It doesn't last ALL day, but mostly the morning until late after noon in which it lets up before bed time.

I still get periods of dizziness, lightheadedness, and spaced out feeling; almost like my head is no longer on my body. They come and go throughout the day, but usually are more intense during the morning and early afternoon hours. The DP/DR also goes along with this in which I am questioning if I really exist, and if I'm really here and now, etc.

I am experiencing regular skipped heart beats and frequent episodes of atrial fibrillation. I experience any where from 10 to 100 skipped heartbeats a day, and in 2015 alone, I have had about 11 episodes of atrial fibrillation. These episodes always come at night while sleeping, and last about 2 to 4 hours. They completely prevent me from sleeping and make me feel like a zombie the next day. I take a Rythmol pill when they happen and it usually terminates the episode, I have seen a cardiologist about all of this, and they think it is either anxiety related or still part of the cannabis withdrawal. I found this article that has found a strong correlation between cannabis use and A fib: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/570583

I have developed some sort of exercise intolerance. Running and aerobic exercise is not so bad if I keep the intensity moderate. But intense exercise and weightlifting sends me into a surge of panic or anxiety in which I feel like I'm going to almost faint and my limbs start tingling. My doctor diagnosed this as exercise induced anxiety. It comes in waves. Some days I can exercise pretty hard without any symptoms, while others a can barely move around the house without feeling a rush of pressure in my head by simply bending over.

The overall anxiety has lessened, but I still get surges of panic, especially driving my car, or going out around a lot of people. It get so bad at times that I feel like I may faint or get severely dizzy. Again, the anxiety is not as bad as early in the quit, but it is still there.

Depression still comes in waves and is pretty bad at times. When its bad I feel no motivation or pleasure to do anything. It is almost like any mundane chore literally makes my head tight and I just want to go on the couch and stare at my iPad for some relief. I wouldn't say that I am physically fatigued or even tired from the depression, but I almost get this feeling of being sleepy though I don't feel like I can sleep. My eyes can tend to ache and feel sunken, even though I slept well the night before.

I am starting to believe that I have severely damaged my endocannabinoid system, and am wondering if it will ever return to normal. For the most part these are the main symptoms plaguing me currently, and I am seriously on the verge of either going back to trying CBD oil as an experimental cure or getting on an anti depressant. I actually felt decent or even good for about 3 weeks straight in July only to go back to feeling like someone hit me over the head with a frying pan. I've tried to be fairly descriptive regarding these symptoms. My question to anyone is, could this still be PAWS? Have I screwed up my brain permanently?? It certainly comes in waves, so I feel like it will eventually go away, but after 14 months it is still unbearable some days.

Thanks for reading and Peace be with you.
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Postby Sourone » Wed Aug 05, 2015 6:46 pm

Hey Nate, I am exactly where you are at and I have a history of about 8 years of strong cannabis usage. I too have a lot of these symptoms still, but to my relief at a much lower degree. Anxiety and depression are pretty much my main symptoms, which I accredit to the physical symptoms, dp/dr was INCREDIBLY intense in the beginning but just kind of comes and goes now. This past month I've actually had a few days where I felt semi normal, but sure enough the paws roller coaster came back again. I talk to a therapist who has basically been a life saver and assures me that this is all normal and that yes, slowly but surely, your brain will reach a equilibrium at some point. Basically long story short your brain has adapted to cannabis and you have basically tricked your reward system in to relying on it to be happy. With out it, in lamest terms, your brain is "pissed off" and will throw all types of symptoms at you to use again, because it thinks that you can't survive without it. Imagine a child that gets there lollipop taken away from them and they scream and cry trying to get it back. Eventually it will forget about the lollipop, but it takes a long donkey time in our case. I have to remind myself that 14 months isn't sh** compared to 8 years. Remember, these symptoms are a sign of healing, and if you had brain damage you wouldn't know it. Take care bud.
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Postby jonnyj » Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:01 pm

wow14 months clean is a massive achievement nice one NateTGreat,

I couldnt comment on the physical symptoms you describe after exercise and the parts of your brain you may think are damaged as I wouldn't have a clue.

A simple point is you had an 18 year habit where you smoked weed, took pharmaceutical drugs, drank caffeine, drank alcohol, ate processed sugar, gluten and dairy and then all of a sudden you stop all that....its a massive reprogram of the mind you are undertaking and you are well on the way mate, congratulations! it takes as long as it takes.

hope I get to read more of your progress
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Postby NateTGreat » Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:21 pm

Thank you kindly for the responses, Sourone and JonnyJ. I still have faith that things will get better. And, indeed 14 months is nothing compared to 18 years. I guess even if I eventually feel well in another 1-2 years I should be happy about that. Glad to hear you are doing better, Sourone, as we are virtually identical in quit duration. I also agree that things have gotten much better slowly over time, though I still feel downright miserable and dysfunctional some days. The take-home message is to cherish each moment, good or bad. Thanks and be well!
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Postby Sourone » Thu Aug 06, 2015 2:09 am

I think the most frustrating part of recovery is the SLOW process that it is. Don't let it stop you dude, push through it and do whatever you want to do. You'll thank yourself for doing so.
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Postby johnrlivingston » Fri Aug 07, 2015 7:01 am

Hey Nate ;)

So sorry to hear you're still going through this. I've kind of been a stranger lately because things remain hard for me as well and I no longer have the confidence to say I'm necessarily on the right path.

I'm at ~11 months right now, and I've been diagnosed with intractable (transformed) migraine... basically a migraine that never goes away. If there's a silver lining it's that the chronic migraine is not nearly as intense as episodic migraine - except you still do get episodic migraines from time to time. I also get waves of anxiety (usually feels like an adrenaline rush that just keeps building) that usually have absolutely no discernible cause. I can be sitting here feeling relatively fine (stress on the 'relative' part), and the next thing I know here comes the wave. Absolutely miserable feeling. The anxiety makes the migraines seem to be a pleasure.

Still have tinnitus, still have eye issues, still have muscle spasms all over & lots of muscle tension. And I still have pretty prominent mood shifts from time to time. Basically - I'm just f*cked (lol). The pattern of my symptoms is actually much less predictable now. I like to think it's all just a part of the healing process, and it probably is, but it's scary at times none-the-less.

The one thing I can say is that - despite all the suffering I've gone through & continue to endure - I'm much more emotionally stable than ever before. In this past year I've grown more as a person than I did in the 10 years prior. If I could overcome the constant plague of physical, mental, & emotional symptoms, I'd be unstoppable. As it is I continue to get more done than ever before, but I'm starting to wonder if the price I'm paying is worth it.

At this point, I'm personally quite certain a damaged endocannabinoid system is at the root of my problems, as you believe. But based on the fact I had problems with migraines & fibro-like symptoms before this dance with weed began (I've had migraines from the time I was a child), I can't help but wonder if people like us might not have always had an endocannabinoid deficiency to begin with - only made worse by desensitizing it further smoking (way) too much.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do. I promised myself a year, and I'm giving myself that, but if things keep staying the same I think I might get my card back and experiment with very-low-doses of a low-THC, high CBD strain. This time not for fun, but actually as medicine, just enough to see if things improve. I'm considering this not as a means of giving up, but as a potential tool to healing. If my beliefs are true, CBD and very low doses of CBD apparently show some promise in actually up-regulating the endocannabinoid system. Plus the chronic stress of dealing with these symptoms is working against healing. I've also strongly considered AD's... my neuro wants me on them for the migraines... but I think a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system is the actual cause here. So targetting it makes the most sense to me. Of course no doctor's going to agree - but I really believe we're on the forefront of a problem they simply don't have a reasonable understanding of yet.

Until then, my method of healing continues to be the following: reduce stress as much as possible, take time for myself, abstain from alcohol (or any other drug outside the occasional pain-killer), daily (moderate) aerobic exercise, meditation (when I can, impossible when anxiety is present), losing weight, nutritious diet, magnesium & fish oil (high DHA) supplements. Had full blood panel done to rule out any obvious problems. Pretty messed up when you're hoping to find out you've got thyroid disease. No such luck :lol:

Here's a link I think you'll find informative. Much of my 'plan' is based on the studies referenced and conclusions drawn from it: http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2093607

Best wishes, my friend. My heart goes out to you. Keep your chin up. If nothing else we're stronger for the experience.
Still not sure if I'm going to experiment as suggested above or not, but if I do I'll definitely post on my progress.
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Postby NateTGreat » Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:54 pm

Thanks for the great post, John.

I have skimmed through the article you posted and must say it is very revealing. I too suffered from migraines as a teenager. They vanished after I started using cannabis. Not surprisingly, I have had all sorts of headaches, including the tell-tale migraine, since I stopped using.

I had actually enrolled in a neurotransmitter therapy, which balanced out my dopamine and serotonin levels through urine testing and oral supplementation of amino acids. I wanted to believe that it was working, but after I was tested to be in normal ranges and still had PAWS, I knew that something else had to be going on. I firmly believe it has to do with the endocannabinoid system being dysfunctional.

Originally, I too had given myself a year before I decided on anti depressants or CBD oil, but after seeing notable improvements, I decided on two years instead. As the rollercoaster of PAWS goes, those improvements certainly seem lost when you go back into the doldrums of physical and mental struggle. Being 14 months in however, it is so much more easier to recognize and cope with PAWS, so that is a major improvement in it of itself. Especially now since I've pretty much been to every specialist and have ruled out every other possibility for illness.

I am sorry that you are still struggling with your symptoms, John. As you stated about the pattern of symptoms, I couldn't agree more. It now seems like things can change from minute to minute for me. I may be riding a wave of bliss only to feel like I've been robbed of my joy with severe head pressure and or some other random symptom of mood. I agree that the healing process is taking place through all these ugly symptoms, and that 'tomorrow' will generally be a better day with patience and gratitude.

I know that we and many others will make it out of all of this with a clear and happy mind if we stay the course. That was part of the reason I decided to stay away from antidepressants, simply because I did not want to prolong the process of healing to a chemical free existence, Without a doubt, this has been the hardest thing I have ever dealt with. And, 14 months clean isn't sh*t compared to 18 years high. So, I will continue my patience, and recommend that all PAWS sufferers do the same. And, all the things you recommended for healing, John, are right on i.e. stress reduction, moderate exercise, meditation, clean diet, no more mind altering substances (including caffeine and processed sugar), magnesium supplementation, etc.

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Postby ashthewarrior7 » Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:43 am

Hi Nate,

Could you please let us know how you are now? Its been a while and would love to hear how your recovery has been
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