If your depersonalization is a result of consuming weed, using psychedelics, or any prescription or recreational drug withdrawal, don’t worry. Thousands of people have gone through this illness and come out on the other end.
What is the relationship between depersonalization (DP) & derealization (DR) and drugs? I’m talking about both recreational and prescription ones.
One can sometimes consume a drug (like marijuana/weed), have an adverse reaction to it, and develop DP after that. On the other hand, people who withdraw from certain drugs (both prescription and non-prescription) can also develop depersonalization. Let’s go into more detail.
Depersonalization from Weed
With even a little bit of research, one can come to the conclusion that this is the most common way that many become depersonalized in the first place. What we see in the media and culture these days is that weed, or marijuana, is portrayed as a chill party drug. These days, consuming marijuana has become well accepted in the mainstream. It’s often portrayed as making people mellow (or docile), or even creative.
While all of that is true, what we often don’t hear about are the stories of thousands of people who experience an adverse reaction to consuming pot and becoming depersonalized after that.
Many young people (and even a few adults) smoke their first marijuana joint or eat a pot brownie without knowing how it is going to affect them.
Suddenly, they may feel disconnected from reality, feel that everything has become alien to them. The world seems bizarre and unreal. They realize they have no way to control or stop these effects. These effects get stronger and stronger as more and more of the THC molecules bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This leads to experiencing bouts of anxiety. Anxiety experienced while high on weed is felt way more intensely than at normal times.
Within a few minutes, the anxiety can turn into panic as they try desperately to calm themselves down. Without proper guidance, people can then try to fight their way out of the fear that’s building up. They don’t realize that such fighting only creates more fear. This ultimately culminates in a panic attack.
What then happens is that the person becomes traumatized. One starts to feel dissociated and disconnected from themselves. This is a normal reaction to a panic attack. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA), which publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the “bible of psychology,” states that dissociation (depersonalization and derealization) is a common side effect of a panic attack.
People who experience this after consuming weed try to sleep it off, hoping that when they wake up, they will feel normal again. But when they wake up, they find that the effects still linger.
They wonder if marijuana caused the depersonalization. Then, the worrying starts. This leads to more confusion and fear, which causes more stress to the body and the mind. This continuous stress sustains the DP/DR.
What needs to be done at this point is to stop worrying and let the DP/DR gradually dissipate. But due to lack of knowledge, they can aggravate the situation by constantly fighting the DP and treating it as a threat.
They, then, enter a state of hypervigilance. In this stage, people are always on the lookout for threats. People tend to feel unsafe at all times and can become hypersensitive to even small changes in the way they feel. The body and the mind enter into a survival mode. In this mode, people unconsciously feel that their survival is under threat. This leads to constant worry, anxiety, dread, and dissociation (depersonalization and derealization).
Want to know what to do if you’ve found yourself in this situation? Keep on reading.
Depersonalization from Psychedelics
Psychedelics (also known as hallucinogens) are compounds that produce non-ordinary states of consciousness. These may include alterations in mood, disconnection from normal reality, enhanced audiovisual perception, and at times, even mystical experiences.
A vast growing body of research suggests that psychedelics can indeed be used to treat disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinical depression, migraines, and end-of-life anxiety.
Psychedelics also have the potential to produce long-lasting alterations in personality and thinking. These can sometimes be positive. Someone who is troubled by depression their whole adult life can sometimes be free of it after just one therapeutic session with LSD.
But at times, their use can also bring up challenging material from their unconscious. This is what is known colloquially as a “bad trip.” If a person who experiences them is a novice and is not supported properly, such “bad trips” have the potential to negatively affect one’s well-being for days or even months after the initial consumption.
This can result in the same trauma that the person who has an adverse reaction to weed experiences. Here, too, a person becomes dissociated and can’t seem to shake it off.
Not only that. There are reports of people who do not experience any such “bad trips,” but nonetheless, do find that their relationship to reality has been altered after their psychedelic session. In some cases, the effects don’t show up until after a few days or weeks have gone by.
Such drug-induced spiritual emergencies are common and have been documented by the work done by the transpersonal psychologist Stan Grof and his wife, Christina Grof. These states, though not often psychotic in nature, are characterized by a break with reality. People may feel like they are in a dream. Often, they encounter thoughts about existence, time, the universe, life, and death, and may start to lose interest in everyday, mundane activities like going to work or making small talk.
Withdrawal from Prescription Drugs
One of the most common types of prescription drugs used to treat anxiety disorder is benzodiazepine, or benzos, as they are informally known. Popular brand names such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan are all benzos.
Though people who use them report some relief from anxiety and related symptoms, they also report experiencing intense anxiety and dissociation when tapering off them or quitting cold turkey. These benzo-withdrawals can sometimes result in mood swings, brain fog, and depersonalization and derealization.
If the person keeps fighting this experience or tries to suppress the withdrawal symptoms, it can result in a stress-depersonalization feedback cycle. The constant stress and worrying can bring about depersonalization, which can create more stress and worry, thus keeping the cycle going.
Withdrawal from Recreational Drugs
I’ve even had a case with one of my clients, who was abusing recreational drugs, becoming depersonalized after deciding to get clean by himself. In a very unfortunate scenario, this person developed DP/DR after trying to quit drugs cold turkey. I must say that this is just an anecdotal experience and I wasn’t able to find more cases like this in a scientific study.
It’s always a good decision to not abuse any drug (prescription or recreational), and adequate precautionary steps should be taken while tapering off. It’s best to check yourself into a rehab clinic while trying to get off of drugs or consult a trained psychiatrist before trying to quit cold turkey.
Here’s What You Can Do
If your depersonalization is a result of consuming weed, using psychedelics, or any prescription or recreational drug withdrawal, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Thousands of people have gone through this illness and come out on the other end.
Know that whatever you are experiencing is a normal reaction to the trauma and stress that you’ve been going through. The best thing to do would be to not fight DP and its related symptoms.
Learn more about acceptance and how it can help. It’s what I recommend to find your natural way towards recovery. This whole website is chock-full of information about how to work your way out of depersonalization and anxiety without the use of any drug.
At this point, stay away from abusing any medication or recreational drug. It’s not going to help you. It’s ok to consume medication as prescribed by a psychiatrist or a doctor, but do not go over the recommended dosage.
To achieve recovery, you must also be ready to face these feelings, however unpleasant they are. The way to recovery is through these feelings and not around them. It’s by repeatedly exposing ourselves to these fearful feelings that we tell our body and mind that there is no real underlying threat.
Once the body and mind understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of, they will slowly get back into balance. Your DP will start to dissipate. But this happens gradually, so practice patience and be willing to give the time it takes for DP to weaken.
If you feel you’d like some help with this, check out DP No More: A complete DP/DR recovery program.
Hope whatever you have learned in this article has been helpful. Leave a comment and let us know if your DP/DR was drug induced. I wish you the very best in your journey towards recovery.
Images are from Pixabay.com, and from Artist Alex Grey.