Trying To Stop "Needing" Marijuana To Unwind At Night
March 31, 2018 6:49 AM   Subscribe

I have extreme anxiety/OCD/depression. I went from using pot as needed to calm down and sleep. I now start using it the second that I get home. I want to change this. Details inside

I have extreme OCD/anxiety/Depression. I have tried EVERYTHING over the years to cope. I am currently seeing a specialist for therapy and a psychiatrist. I am up front with both of them about everything. The therapist thinks that I should keep smoking, but cut back (smoke a third less) to see if it helps. The psychiatrist doesn't like the idea of smoking at all. I haven't smoked in 15 years. I was worried that I was drinking too much (a glass of wine a night) to calm down, so I started smoking some nights instead. I started to prefer the weed to the wine. Next thing I know, I am smoking every night and "need" it. I don't care about societies view of pot, but I do worry about my lungs and getting drug tested if I want to get a new job.

I have been off meds for years. I started taking luvox a couple of months ago and feel very foggy, tired and dumb. My memory is awful. I don't know if this is the pot or the luvox or both. I took luvox years ago and had problems with the fatigue. I also had an awful diet and lifestyle. I now eat healthy and exercise almost daily. I don't know what to attribute the cognitive problems to. I am also concerned that if I stop the pot and get withdrawal, I won't be able to know whether that I am feeling ill due to med side effects or weed withdrawal. I also tried edibles to ease my fear of vaping the weed, but it is too intense and lasts too long.

I had awful withdrawal coming off of meds years ago. I was also taking xanax multiple times daily as my dr suggested. When I got off meds I had such severe withdrawal that I was sobbing and shaking for months. I suspect that it was more the benzo withdrawal than the SSRI withdrawal. I am not terrified of benzos.

I need to calm myself down enough to use meditation and reading and tea etc to calm down at night. What other tools do I have? Alcohol is a depressant and a little counterproductive to the SSRI. It has been suggested to me by my DRs to take benzos some nights, drink some nights and pot on other nights.

The appeal of the benzos is that I wouldn't be doing damage to my lungs. I'd also be cognitively a bit sharper. I do find that I don't like the aspect of pot that makes reading difficult or understanding the plot and subtleties of narratives hard to follow.

The other aspect of my self medicating that I hate is that I feel like I am either exhausted but can't sleep or awake and can't relax. Never calm and awake.


Obviously I am discussing these things with my healthcare providers. I know that none of you are my doctor. I am just looking for thoughts and observations.

Thank you in advance
posted by kbbbo to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
kbbbo...I, too, dislike smoking...Have you considered trying CBD oils? I find it helps a lot with my anxiety, and isn't all that hard to get, even if you live in a state where it isn't legal. The great thing about CBD is that it contains most of the compounds that can help calm you down, without any of the stoned effects. YMMV, of course. MeMail me if you need help.

FWIW, I've also gone down the benzo path over the years and, while they definitely do an amazing job, the withdrawal (even if you're trying to taper-down) can be pretty rough-going.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:05 AM on March 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was also going to suggest CBD oil.
posted by matildaben at 7:37 AM on March 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also came in to suggest CBD oils, which have been life-changing for a lot of people I know. Bluebird Botanicals is the name that most often comes up in my circles, both for having quality product and because they have several assistance programs to reduce the price for people who are receiving various benefits, as well as veterans and people on long-term disability.
posted by mishafletch at 7:41 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have tried CBD vaping and orally. Perhaps I am not taking enough or using the correct brand. Advice would be appreciated. Unless I misunderstand, CBD could still screw me up on a drug test if I switch jobs in the future
posted by kbbbo at 7:42 AM on March 31, 2018


This largely depends on the person. I have taken benzos regularly for large stretches of time and suffer few negative effects when I have stopped. Other people have more withdrawal symptoms. Small amounts (.25mg) of benzos taken regularly can form some level of dependence, but how that dependence applies to you is difficult to impossible to predict. Going off benzos is easier to taper properly than cannabis, because it’s a controllable dose that isn’t from an agricultural product. Even if you live in a state where cannabis is legal and well tested for its active ingredients, it’s hard to accurately predict dosing down to the mg in each dose within a tested batch.

Tapering off benzos under the guidance of a doctor is pretty easy, and is doable.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:17 AM on March 31, 2018

It kind of depends on the source of the CBD and the fallibility of the test involved. Even the best CBD products will have a minute trace of THC, but it is such that it should not normally show-up in a drug screen. Most CBD products are derived from industrial hemp, which already has a vanishingly-low THC content.

The chances of you failing a workplace drug screen is very low. Again, depending on where you live (i.e. CBD use is legal) the law might includes safeguards for employees who might trip a drug screen. Here in Indiana, we just legalized CBD products, and the bill includes just such a provision.

Bluebird is a great source, as mishafletch suggests. I've been using the 1000mg tincture from Hemp-Direct and have been very happy with the results. Many people swear by Charlotte's Web, but they also tend to be some of the priciest products available, too. I would find a brand that provides lab results that show the quantities of compounds in that particular batch, so you can be assured what you're using is low in THC. Indiana requires no higher than .3% THC by volume.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you’re concerned about your need for weed, switching to benzos is not the first direction I’d go, myself, unless my doctor recommended it.

I think the big thing in your ask isn’t will weed harm my lungs and will I fail a test, it’s more how do I relax and sleep, and how do I regulate my use of whatever I’m using.

I don’t have the answers for regulation and tests, but for my own part I’d prioritize finding weed that worked for me and my insomnia, vaping for dosage control and speed of onset, and doing a hit or two at bedtime on nights where I had insomnia.
posted by zippy at 8:53 AM on March 31, 2018

Also it’s unclear to me if you’re concerned about future job requiring that you pass a test for marijuana, or if that’s your current job. If it was not my current job, I would prioritize the thing that lets me sleep over the potential future job with a test.
posted by zippy at 8:58 AM on March 31, 2018

Oh! If you’re worried about dependence issues, I would also ask your doctor about hydroxizine as an alternative to benzos. It’s kind of like Benadryl (same type of medication, it’s an anti histamine), but for some people doesn’t necessarily include the morning drowsies associated with Benadryl. It had anti-anxiety properties, helps with sleep, and does not form a chemical dependence. It might tick off some of the boxes you’re looking for for sleep, but you’ll probably need to find some different coping strategies for “winding down” as it doesn’t really function that way.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:04 AM on March 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Melatonin? It puts me to sleep. What worries me is that it seems like you think you’re dependent on marijuana and you don’t like that, apart from any lung problems. Is the problem the marijuana, or being dependent on any chemical, or maybe both? Maybe Ativan? Hydroxizine is a good idea. Maybe cognitive behavioral therapy? Good luck. There was a time you didn’t vape every night and you can be that person again.
posted by kerf at 9:45 AM on March 31, 2018

I’d go back and work the pharmacy angle again. The Luvox is not cutting it.

Here are some non benzo options:
- since side effects of Luvox are a problem, replace this drug with something else
- add beta blocker (eg propranolol) for anxiety
- add trazodone for sleep

Benzos are habit forming and have cognitive side effects. They’re not meant to be a long term daily treatment.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:29 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Move to a legal weed state. Changed my life, seriously. No more paranoia, way more ingestion options.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2018

The therapist thinks that I should keep smoking, but cut back (smoke a third less) to see if it helps.

Honestly, this seems like really sound advice to me. Gradual changes are sometimes the easiest, especially if you're dealing with a lot of anxiety.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:11 PM on March 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I want to emphasize that your experience with CBD depends completely on its quality (potency). You may well have tried some that was not lab tested for quality and those brands, despite their makers’ best intentions, can be duds. Please consider trying some that is tested – there’s a reason so many people are coming in to say that, because good quality CBD may be precisely what will help here (very low or no cognitive effects, but deep physical and mental relaxation).

There are a few companies that provide public 3rd party testing; of those, the only one that also offers substantial discounts for those who are poor, vets, and/or on disability is Bluebird. I love supporting them because of that.

CBD IS LEGAL IN ALL 50 U.S. STATES (when hemp plant-derived, not cannabis plant-derived, and when its THC content is tested to be under a certain minuscule %). You can go ahead and order from any company that provides 3rd party lab testing.
posted by kalapierson at 2:40 PM on March 31, 2018

I'm a medical cannabis patient in a state where that was attainable for me, and I have a job that doesn't drug test me or care if I smoke pot, so my situation is a bit different, but I've been using cannabis in the form of RSO to relax at night.

I sometimes joke that it's Nature's Xanax; something I can take at night to relax me and chill me out without worrying about grogginess in the morning* or addiction. It also does no lung damage.

Just throwing it out there, it likely is not accessible to you, but most people don't know RSO exists so maybe this will help inform someone of their options.

*If I take a small dose. Like any drug, it's possible to take too much. I worked with my dispensary budtender to find the correct dose for me.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:36 PM on March 31, 2018

I am so not your doctor. But I too have OCD/anxiety and I’m doing well. For reference, i tried Luvox first but it made me too drugged. I’ve also tried Zoloft, Wellbutrin (increased my anxiety), and now take Effexor and a tiny dose of Abilify 2x/ week. Oh, I used to take Klonopin too (see the awful job period of my life). But, but, but - I take Ritalin 4x a day to keep me awake. The Effexor and everything else I’ve tried makes me so sleepy. Also, i use one of those fancy dawn alarm clocks to help me get up in the morning. So, I can’t speak to your anxiety per se except to say you are not the only one. Point being, everything I’ve used has made me sleepy but the Ritalin has been majorly life changing. Also, my psychiatrist wants me to stay on the abilify even at a low dose 2x week - he seems to think it has magic powers lol. I trust him so I do what he says...

I had no difficulty getting off klonopin - with my doctors permission. I took up to 4 x0.5/ day. I hope you feel better soon - suffering is awful!
posted by ticketmaster10 at 4:40 PM on March 31, 2018

If you have access to different strains of MJ, try a few different kinds. Some people find some kinds anxiety inducing. If you aren't smoking a large amount, the effects on your lungs should be minimal unless you have asthma or some other preexisting condition or are smoking waaay more than you should unless you're trying to get stoned. Vape cartridges are readily available these days even where they aren't legal if you are that concerned. And it you can't find something that helps your anxiety, stop.

Also, benzos are fantastic for acute anxiety, but as you've found, withdrawal can be rough if you take them daily, so try not to do that if you can avoid it. Hydroxyzine (and plain Benadryl, to a lesser degree) is milder and so is better if you do need to take it daily or more often, but at least for me, that entire class of drugs cause mild rebound anxiety.

You may find CBT to be very helpful in controlling anxiety well enough that you only need drugs on the particularly bad days. If not, and daily benzos are required, that's fine as long as you treat it with the seriousness it deserves and make sure you taper off if your supply is uncertain for whatever reason rather than quitting cold turkey. Unless you're on a high dose it shouldn't be life threatening or anything, but it can still be quite unpleasant in more ways than you've previously experienced..
posted by wierdo at 8:58 PM on March 31, 2018

I use CBD oil for migraines, but I also find that it relaxes me somewhat in general.

Topical application does nothing for me, and it's difficult to dose liquid oil accurately, so I take edible CBD -- between 20 and 50 mgs. I think I started at 10 but didn't feel anything until I hit 20.

If you are taking pure CBD oil, it shouldn't show up in drug tests, which generally look for THC. But if testing negative is important for you, I would do a lot of research to find a formulation from a very reliable, very rigorous company, because it would not at all surprise me if people are making and selling supposedly "pure" CBD products that have residual THC.

Also it can be difficult to find CBD edibles that have zero THC. I am not your lab technician, but I am pretty sensitive to THC and feel fairly sure these vanilla cookies which claim to be pure CBD don't have any THC. They're 15 mg of CBD per cookie, and they also taste surprisingly good.

Because I don't have drug-test worries, my favorite product are these sensicaps in a ratio of 25 mg CBD to 1 mg THC. I have read that you "need" a little bit of THC to activate CBD for pain relief purposes, but honestly who knows. As sensitive as I am to THC, I can take 2 of those and because it's only 2mgs of THC, I feel sleepy but not stoned.

I don't think there are any large-scale, double-blind, long-term studies on the effects of ingesting CBD oil. People make all kinds of claims for it, but because of the legality issues it's not really well studied. I worry sometimes that it might mess with my REM sleep, but I've been taking it for a year and in general feel fairly confident that it's not doing me harm.
posted by mrmurbles at 11:47 PM on April 1, 2018

I can't give you any advice regarding drug test concerns...

But you may want to try acquiring 3-4 strains of pot, and switch between them every couple of days. People can get a tolerance for a single strain, and switching will make the new strain more effective. Then you may try reducing your usage; maybe by 1/3rd at first. Then 1/3rd after that (after a week or so). Also, try to give some time between doses; after taking a couple of hits, wait 10 minutes for it to kick in.

If you are able to get access to vape pens, this is much less harsh on your lungs, but reducing your usage will also reduce the impact on your lungs. I would suggest however, that the side effects (addiction, others) from some of the alternatives (benzos) may be significantly worse than from the smoke inhalation. If you don't already use it, a small bubbler (tiny bong/pipe) will help cool the smoke and reduce irritation.

Regarding the drug test issue; if you can stop smoking for a couple of weeks prior to the test, that should help you (do some research on the internet to get better info on this).

Good luck.
posted by el io at 2:06 AM on April 2, 2018

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