Bad Trip on Marijuana?
December 1, 2008 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I smoked marijuana early this morning and had terrifying experiences. What happened, why, and what should I do now? I could use some reassurance.

I'm 20 years old, male, a college student.

It's presently 4pm Monday in my timezone. I didn't sleep at all Saturday night because my sleep schedule is out of whack and I had a flight to catch Sunday morning. I took an 18mg (minimal dose) Concerta (for which I have a prescription, and take regularly) at 4:30am. Sunday afternoon I think I slept a bit, though I don't recall how much. I mention this because I think I was somewhat sleep deprived. I'm also somewhat stressed about school, I've never been a great student and while things are going better than normal I'm concerned about messing up.

I have taken ADD medications of various kinds from an early age. I drink very rarely (maybe two or three evenings a year, never to excess). Other than alcohol and marijuana I have never done any recreational drugs. I've smoked weed less than 8 times, and only felt anything 3 of those times (the three most recent times... in retrospect I suppose I've been getting used to it).

This morning several of my friends (we all live in the same hall) went to get high, and I decided to accompany them. We left around 2am and drove around while a blunt was rolled. I took maybe 5 drags (some fairly deep) off it. There were four of us in a fairly small car, and the windows were generally rolled up. I remember thinking I was fairly stoned.

I was particularly loquacious and having a good time cracking jokes with my friends, enjoying the very calming weather. After making some particularly long comment to my friend I felt as though waking up from a dream - I hadn't actually said that, my dream-self had and I was "waking up" to realize that. This was shortly followed by the realization that I must have said that, and a similar feeling that my previous cognizance was dreamed. My body was tingling and I felt as though I was inadvertently freezing and tensing up my body (causing limbs to fall asleep). I was paranoid that my friends had slipped me something, especially because our conversation was about psychedelics (that doesn't seem likely to me now). I had strange visual halluciations that were like ghosting on a phosphor screen.

I would say something (or not) and endlesslu analyze what others would think (something I don't normally do at all). I had these recurring pangs of "waking up" from these paranoid reveries - a jolt of realization that I was disconnected from reality in some way - which were so strange I of course panicked more. I remember thinking that the paranoia was explicable, a somewhat common side effect of marijuana use, but the disconnectedness scared me, I thought I had lost my mind.

I managed to ask my friends to take me home ("I'm suddenly feeling really bad"), and they did, seemingly concerned, but not terribly worried. I think to an observer I was acting pretty normal. It was as though I had a doppleganger, a perfectly normal version of myself, in control of my actions - my perspective was that of freaking out co-pilot. I was wobbled to my dorm room (my sense of balance is always impaired on weed) and had no problem using my keys or walking up stairs.

When I got to my room I tried to sleep, but the visual hallucinations were worse when I closed my eyes. I had strange feelings of vertigo. I think I may have actually fallen asleep a few times, I remember "waking" with a start several times, but I'm not sure if that was simply the same sensation as earlier or really waking. The line between dreaming and wakefulness had blurred beyond recognition.

At this point I am freaking out. I'm aware that I need to figure out what's going on, and I keep reassuring myself that this will pass as the drug wears off. I started googling "marijuana side effects" and "marijuana psychosis" and found the terms derealization" and "depersonalization" which calmed me down somewhat. I wrote the following:
i am suffering acute depersonalization. came to this conclusion after mildly freaking out, asking for a ride home, trying to sleep, and googling "marijuana side effects". strange tingle, moves around body. i'm aware that these sentences are less than coherent, and that the letters are lowercase. I'm analyzing my thoughts over and over again, paranoid about how my future (saner?) self will interpret this. lightheaded. full body tingling sensation. feeling that perceptions are hallucinatory, or that I'm "looking back" on the present instead of in it. shaking. anxiety. pangs of derealization. pangs of realizing the strange disconnection. wonder if this came from thinking about self so much! perhaps this is satori... if so, it's somewhat terrifying. I'm pretty sure I'll be okay tomorrow, just need to sleep. could be from marijuana or sleep deprivation. feeling on auto pilot. otherwise strangely functional, like looking in on a conscious being. occasional moments of lucidity. anti-meditation, exact opposite of that kind of focus. rocking shaking feeling. keep wanting to reassure myself by typing. feel like I should be sad, or "should" be many feelings. paranoid looping! thinking about nietschze going nuts. feel like I'm going nuts, occasionally calm down. probably mostly anxiety. going to sleep.
I went to sleep around 4am and woke up around 3pm. I think those terms describe very well what I felt, and still feel to a much lesser extent.

I almost called the emergency room last night, though I'm glad I didn't. I have access to some sort of university psychiatric care, I'm sure, but I'm debating whether it makes sense to go - the plan now is to wait until tomorrow and see if things clear up (even since I started writing this I feel more with it).

To clarify something else, I am not from a ultra-conservative family. I have never thought that marijuana was a dangerous drug (I always scoffed at the demonization of it), so I don't think this is just psychosomatic.

It goes without saying I will never get high again.
posted by elektrotechnicus to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Uh, sorry for the "AskMeFi Trip Question" snippets at the beginning, I wrote this in Tomboy and accidently copy and pasted the headers. Here is the correct derealization link. I found a lot of questions on (of all places) yahoo answers that sounded a lot like my experience, but I can't seem to google them again.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2008

Stop freaking out. You'll be fine. It will wear off. We've all been there.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:59 PM on December 1, 2008 [11 favorites]

Pot causes anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks in a lot of people. It looks like you got a decent dose of this side-effect. You may want to curb your usage some.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:01 PM on December 1, 2008

You should find some friends to be with. Yeah, it's probably no big deal, but that's the best move no matter what, in the short term.
posted by chinston at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2008

I think my clinical description of the symptoms you experienced would be, "Just totally high."

Seriously, you just described exactly, in incredibly pain staking detail, what it's like to have a plain old bummer night on the pot.
posted by The Straightener at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2008 [9 favorites]

No permanent damage. You're new to the pot, got some fat hits off the blunt - more than you're used too, maybe the weed was stronger, and you bugged out a little. It happens to some people. Should you end up smoking again, limit yourself.
posted by Sockpuppet For Naughty Things at 2:05 PM on December 1, 2008

What happened was you got really blunted. Pot can really fuck with your mind sometimes.
posted by milarepa at 2:07 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your reaction probably has a lot more to do with being sleep deprived and stoned, rather than just stoned.

Next time you wake up, take a dose of 1000mg or more of Vit C, and some B complex vitamins.

If stoned (and unpleasant thoughts/feelings) persist, see your doctor. You may be one of the unlucky ones for whom pot triggers psychosis.

BTW, what sort of pot was it? If it was hydro it could be an extra strong strain (thinking 50x stronger than what we smoked in the 70s). Hydro could also have many chemicals used in the growing which may not have been removed from the pot before smoking.

Good luck.
posted by Kerasia at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Get off the internet, get into a social environment with people you like and trust (and who won't give you crap about quote-unquote not being able to handle your weed). Sounds like the weed may have been particularly potent, and cigarettes during or just after smoking weed can really accentuate the high, often in bad ways. Pot doesn't affect everyone the same way, and different strains can mess with you in very different ways. Don't let the 'pro' pot smokers tell you differently -- pot isn't right for everyone. It's not 100% benign.
posted by incessant at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think those terms describe very well what I felt, and still feel to a much lesser extent.

This is a very good sign. See someone if you think you are going to behave in a way that will hurt you (that is, inflict injury on yourself, apart from having taken the drug) or if you are experiencing physical symptoms that are the cause for great concern (e.g., rashes).

Otherwise, ease out of it. Get sleep, drink water, try to be with friends. I am not in a good position to advise you about the other medication you are on, but I would suppose - IANAD -- that you are worse off if you suddenly stop taking something on which you depend.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2008

... nothing to worry about. That's how I always feel when I take more than 2 hits.

It's cool at first, but, after the first few hours I'll want it to end... but it doesn't.
The longest it lasted was for a good 12 hours (don't remember if I smoked in between) and I absolutely hated it. It made me angry that I couldn't get un-high.
I don't like not being in full control of my body and thoughts for extended periods of time.
posted by simplethings at 2:11 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nothing much to add. Been there a couple of times and it was pretty much as you've described it. Usually the best thing to do is go and find somewhere quiet and reassuring and wait it out (or better still, sleep it off). All that happened is that you got a bit too stoned a bit too quickly and the intense effects caused a panic attack.

The good news is that if it ever happens again you'll know what it is and that you're not going to go crazy or have a heart attack or any of the other things that people think when these things happen. When it happened to me, I took a couple of years off the stuff; I use it occasionally now, but I'm careful with the dosage.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:12 PM on December 1, 2008

This happened to me once, when I still smoked (I no longer do so). I was an experienced smoker, but took too much, combined with 1) yup, sleep deprivation and 2) a come-down from a stimulant. Bam, depersonlization and panic attack. It sucked, but it went away and has recurred since. You'll be fine. Pot is not that dangerous compared to most substances, but yeah, sometimes you can have a bad time with it.
posted by Knicke at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

That's has NOT recurred since.
posted by Knicke at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2008

Yeah, no one tells you about this side of pot before you try it. But it happens.

Either I don't feel different at all, or I get an extended panic attack mode. Whatever the appeal is in smoking pot, it just doesn't work for me. So I've stopped trying; I'll just get drunk instead.
posted by The Supreme Dominar at 2:19 PM on December 1, 2008

2nding getting off the internet. Paranoia and google do not go well together. You are going to be ok.

Is there someone in your dorm that you feel comfortable just being in the same room with and not talking? Maybe someone's trying to get through Gears of War 2 and you can just lie on the other bed?
posted by spec80 at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2008

or hell, at worst, watch a stupid family guy episode or something.

Yeah, it does suck, but it'll be over within a few hours and then you can never do that again.
posted by OrangeDrink at 2:23 PM on December 1, 2008

What everyone else said. You had 5 hits off a blunt and it was too much/ too strong for you. What you are describing happened to me every time I smoked too much- when I still smoked.

You will be fine after a good night's rest. In the future, take one good hit and wait and see where that gets you before you do much more. I've been completely destroyed off of just two hits of good weed.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2008

what everyone else said...

plus a quote from Withnail and I:

"Sit down man, take control. You have a rush. It will pass."
posted by FunGus at 2:32 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

One time, in college, someone I know started coughing and puking. He came to me convinced that he was coughing his lungs out. To make a long story short, he ate some bad pasta, smoked some strong weed, and freaked out over the chunks of noodle.

In other words, weed makes people overanalyze things. Weed makes bad situations worse. Just find some friends who'll sit and watch The Simpsons or Family Guy or whatever, drink lots of water, and you'll feel better after the afterglow wears off.
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pot does different things to different people, and what it does to you can change over time. I used to have a blast smoking and now I get incredibly paranoid and tense from it, so I've stopped.
Or, like others said, you might have just gotten too high (which IS possible, contrary to what many people may say). It's not harmful, but it can be unpleasant, as you probably know now.
posted by god particle at 2:49 PM on December 1, 2008

A couple of months ago, Pseudology asked a question that began:

My doctor just complained to me that every weekend one of his patients whom he prescribes concerta has a psychotic episode from smoking marijuana. What would cause this to happen? Are some people more vulnerable to this side effect than others?

To condense the answer I gave then, you had a waking dream complete with dream-like hallucinations and dream paralysis, as well as typical dream feelings of depersonalization. The hallucinations were probably caused by an endogenous hallucinogen, DMT, which your Concerta probably caused your body to produce a lot more of than it would have if you weren't taking it. I'd guess the closest thing to your experience among people who haven't used marijuana is to be found in the cataplexy of narcoleptics.

I am convinced you'll be fine.
posted by jamjam at 2:51 PM on December 1, 2008

Yeah. Welcome to the reason some people don't like to smoke weed.

Time for you to explore the beauty of alcohol, methinks. ;-)
posted by artemisia at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2008

Oh, and sometimes weed messes with my balance (at least I think so, sometimes I'm not sure if I'm walking normally or not). I've never had visual hallucinations, but I sometimes feel twitchy and go through some similar thought processes you went through, so it could just be weed's not your thing. I've heard that as some people age, weed's effects change, which is very possible in your case (I myself am 19 and started having unpleasant experiences a year ago, and one of my friends who is 20 recently quit because he started getting really paranoid after smoking).
posted by god particle at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2008

In college we called this "too high". Relax. Eat something. You'll be fine.
posted by Wolfie at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2008

Everything you described is normal for someone who smoked more pot than they wanted to. I'm sure it's a moot point now, but the best way to come down is to eat something. I know it's tough to think about food when you're convinced you're going insane, but a slice of pizza will go a long way towards mitigating a lot of the effects you just experienced. Also, remember this mantra (it's helped me many times): "I feel this way because I've taken a drug. I will come down soon." Repeat as necessary.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:07 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

You'll be fine. Eat some pleasant foods and get sunlight/some fresh air/exercise if you have the ability.

THC at high doses (i.e. hash or many deep hits) is definitely a psychedelic.

And Nthing that many people experience anxiety and panic with this herb and discontinue smoking.
posted by bradly at 3:11 PM on December 1, 2008

You are not alone. In the mid-1970's this was a fairly common phenomena with people that smoked fairly consistently. You're very comfortable and competent with being high and then, with little warning, odd anxiety and paranoiac issues arise whenever you smoke. There is a very good essay, if you can find it, about this phenomena by Marcelle Clements, called The Dog Is Us. (Amazon has used copies for as little as $1.00.)

One thing for you to be aware of that has not already been mentioned is that THC has a fairly long half-life; about 20 hours. So as others have advised, get a good night sleep and see how you feel after a day or so. If you are still having feelings of depersonalization then, you probably should consider seeking professional help. if not, chalk it up to bad side effects and think twice about smoking in the future.
posted by rtimmel at 3:12 PM on December 1, 2008

Wow, rtimmel, I was going to reference Marcelle Clements, too. "You smoke a joint and think the dog is funny because of its four legs, its paws its fur. But, you get paranoid, because you realize the dog is us." It's all part of turning thirty.

See: "Will you shut up, for God's sake - you're giving me the Fear!", from Withnail & I.

I think part of the problem is that pot today is so potent that taking five hits off a blunt is waaaay more than you need. I remember the first time I got seriously stoned I thought I was going to have a heart attack, and I spent about an hour walking up and down the stairs of a five-story apartment building.

I learned to smoke *just a little* in order to avoid the Fear.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:36 PM on December 1, 2008

Just another person saying "I've been there and you'll be ok." This describes almost exactly what happened to me the last time I ate a pot brownie, and pretty much explains why I don't smoke anymore. But you'll be ok. Weirdly enough, the paranoia that you're permanently damaged tends to be part of the general bad experience.
posted by lunasol at 3:37 PM on December 1, 2008

If you have a history of serious mental illness which includes psychosis, or if any of your blood relatives does, consider stopping use. One of the few risks attributed to marijuana which has stood up to meta-analysis is its rare precipitation of continued psychosis. It's been hypothesized that this occurs as part of a multi-hit process, where it might push a person with pre-existing vulnerabilities over the edge. In people with overt schizophrenia it's additionally known to exacerbate disease.

That said, this does not sound like that. Chill out and cut back.

JamJam: That's an interesting hypothesis but you should probably have pointed out that it's almost entirely speculative, as you did in your previous post. You make it seem really cut and dried here. I would be interested to see any clinical or basic evidence you are aware of supporting the Concerta-cannabis hallucination observation or your DMT-melatonin competition mechanism.
posted by monocyte at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2008

Admonition accepted, monocyte; yes, highly speculative.
posted by jamjam at 4:21 PM on December 1, 2008

Nth most of this. Sometimes a beer or two helps with this sort of thing (sometimes it just leaves you even more of a mess, so drink slowly). Pot is not a dangerous drug -- just go very lightly next time. I notice a lot of people ignored your last sentence; maybe you will too when you're a little more removed from this particular bummer. That sort of anxiety does happen when you've had too much and the advice here -- repeat 'it's the drug,' find a nice place and some pizza -- is very sound. Hello too-high Google users of the future. You probably did look fairly normal and if not were just 'very stoned' to your friends, not nuts, so don't worry about that.
posted by kmennie at 5:20 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just another data point - some of us (even some of us who are current/former tobacco users) can have horribly unpleasant reactions to "blunts", "eurojoints" or any mixture of tobacco and pot smoked simultaneously. All over body-tingling, near-blackouts, vomiting, etc. Something to consider.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:24 PM on December 1, 2008

This has happened to me. Never made me want to stop smoking, but if you choose to do that, good for you. Really, being alone when you're high is not that fun. I've realized that if I decide to hole myself up alone in my room after smoking, I tend to start freaking out more and more.
posted by azarbayejani at 5:34 PM on December 1, 2008

reading these response makes me glow with love for MeFi.
You will be fine. I have had a couple of bad weed experiences, and depending on how fast your body processes things, there might be 24 hours or so of lingering weirdness, but it will work its way out. Drink lots of water!
posted by tarantula at 5:56 PM on December 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, as absurd as this is all beginning to seem in retrospect, being able to look at them has been calming. I've been feeling better, no where near as zonked as before. Talked to friends, they all felt a bit sick, so this was likely some unusual weed. Still feeling mentally sluggish and a bit odd but overall... sane.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 6:13 PM on December 1, 2008

any mixture of tobacco and pot smoked simultaneously

Seconding that in spades. Tobacco has always had a very weird effect on me, pot not so much. Yes, powerful pot sprung on me unawares has had me going "wow, maybe a little too much" but tobacco is more like "man, I don't feel so good". Synergy can be a bitch, if you are inclined to try cannabis again (and I don't blame you if you are not), maybe leave off the tobacco that time.
posted by telstar at 6:23 PM on December 1, 2008

fear is the mind killer?
posted by refractal at 6:35 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Could been laced with PCP, that stuff in NOT nice.
posted by Max Power at 6:37 PM on December 1, 2008

THC versus cannabinoid

I've smoked an awful lot of pot and never had any of the symptoms you describe, so I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of some weird interaction with the Concerta, as jamjam suggests.

And I'm also inclined to agree with telstar and others who name tobacco, or nicotine, as another contributing factor. Too much nicotine, in my experience, can induce the very symptoms you describe.
posted by Restless Day at 6:55 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

It makes a bad situation worse. Depression becomes despair, anxiety panic. I have already mentioned my horrible experience with marijuana during acute morphine withdrawal. I once gave marijuana to a guest who was mildly anxious about something ("On bum kicks" as he put it). After smoking half a cigarette he suddenly leapt to his feet screaming, "I got the fear!" and rushed out of the house."

William S. Burroughs
posted by dirtdirt at 7:08 PM on December 1, 2008

Discounting the PCP theory, since everyone in the car would have been gonged out in that case.
posted by telstar at 7:22 PM on December 1, 2008

i had The Fear really bad once. it's not fun.

i have managed to smoke happily after that over the years, but wow, it took me a few days before i managed to totally shake off the existential nihilistic paranoia of The Fear.

sorry you went through that.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:57 PM on December 1, 2008

I'm glad you're feeling better and I feel much more free to say my first thought was, after a giggle, "Good weed".

The mixture and amount did you in.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:25 PM on December 1, 2008

I had this once. I'd only smoked pot a couple of times, and had no idea that I wasn't actually getting stoned at the time (small amounts, crappy weed). The very first time I really felt anything was the time I smoked Way Too Much, and it was high quality.

I was 16 and not on any medications. My mind got stuck in this thought loop: Oh my god, this is so weird. This is what it feels like to be stoned. Oh no, I can't stop thinking this thought. Oh my god, this is so weird . . . " Dozens of times I thought that repeating sentence. I was sure I was going to die, but at the same time I felt paralyzed to do anything about it. My parents were out, and at 16 I would rather accept death than call 911 or something, so I just rode out the panic.

The thought that the weed was laced did pop into my mind, but even as a novice smoker I knew that was such a cliche: "dude, I think this weed is LACED with something!"

I was still feeling pretty fucked up but more mellow when I started to fall asleep, and I was listening to the Screaming Trees' Sweet Oblivion as I drifted off. I was experiencing really vivid mental images, and suddenly realized I was actually SEEING the things I was imagining. I pondered how cool this was and wondered if anyone else had ever experienced it, and wondered how I would explain it to my best friend when I talked to her the next day. Ever so slowly, it occurred to me: oh. I'm hallucinating. There was a brief renewal of the panic, but I fell asleep shortly after.

I went on to smoke a hell of a lot of pot during high school, having only rare panic attacks, usually when I wasn't smoking super regularly. The weirdest thing: At 18 I got mono, and after that I never enjoyed smoking. Every single time gave me major panic. I do miss it sometimes. Every now and then I'll have a beer to take the edge off, then a couple of tiny hits.
posted by peep at 8:53 PM on December 1, 2008

Blunts are the devil. Unless you are a heavy smoker, they should be avoided at all costs. First off, they are FULL of weed - there's more weed in a blunt than in any joint you'd care to roll - and then there's the tobacco - a full rolled leaf, not some bitty shredded shit. It's a hell of a combo, and unless you are a heavy pot smoker, should be avoided at all costs. I've smoked pot for over 20 years, and smoked cigarettes for over a decade, and a blunt will make me puke. Beware!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:22 AM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

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