Weed made my crazy!
May 15, 2007 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I smoked marijuana as a 15 year old. Since then, I've had this very weird feeling as if I'm not really me. As if I'm not really here! It has been 10 years now.

Before I smoked that joint, I had never been drunk, I had never smoked a cigarette. It was my first taste of a mind altering substance.

Before I smoked that joint, I always had a certain clarity about me. I can't explain it, but my mind was very clear compared to other people. I knew it since I was about 10, because I could always understand what other people meant even when nobody else understood it. It's difficult to explain, I just had a very clear mind as a child. I was also constantly in the first position in my class.

When I smoked that joint, it was the hugest shock I ever had in my life. I had never been high or drunk, and it was like I suddenly lost control of everything. I was in a huge panic, and I had to stay in bed for almost a day.

The next day, I felt like I was still partially high. A bit like the residue was still left over. I expected it to go, but it never went. It was like there was a cloud covering my mind. Like my thinking part was no longer connected to my sense of being in the world. Also difficult to explain. Let me try:

Before I smoked, when I tried to solve a math problem, I would actually think about the problem, consider the different possibilities, then come up with an answer. After I smoked the joint, it was more like I would send a command to my brain - hey, what's the answer to this math problem, and I'd get an answer. I'm still that way now.

In the next semester after that joint, my ranking in class dropped to 28 out of 33. It may not have been related, because I was thrust into a very stressful situation at the time. However, I was terribly worried that I had lost my intelligence because of the joint.

However, in the following semester, I recovered to the 5th position, and though I was a lot lazier than before, hardly every studying, I managed to stay in the top 4. So I do not think that there was any real effect on my intelligence.

The effect seems to be some sort of disconnect in my brain. It's a bit like I'm not really dealing with what is coming in through my eyes, but like it's passing through a sort of filter. It's like blurry vision. It's like the real world is not so important anymore, but the internal world in my head is more important.

I've entertained several theories about this over the years such as:

1. The shock of getting high for the first time traumatised my brain in a way that made it disconnect a bit from reality to protect itself

2. I was always like how I am now, but getting high allowed me see it from an outside perspective just once, so when I came back, I could no longer live in the reality like before

3. The weed physically damaged a small part of my brain, and I am the only one to realise it because most people who smoke weed are not aware that they are _clear_ before they smoke, are not young, and have never been drunk/high on anything else. It's a bit like the weed smokers who get slow, I am the only one who actually was able to feel the difference before and after smoking the joint.

I'm used to it, and I function quite well, I still learn fast, I have ideas and all but sometimes I miss that clarity I had back then.

Am I really the only one who has had this experience? What could be the cause?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
SSRIs make that feeling go away.
posted by 517 at 3:40 PM on May 15, 2007

Also, don't discount that this occurred at the same time you were going through some pretty serious biological changes what with that pesky puberty and all. There are other things going on, and in retrospect, you're assigning this value to one specific incident, when in fact, there could have been a lot of things building up to this, and it could have been happening for months if not years already, and you just didn't have an occasion to self-examine or run a comparison with your memory of your younger self prior to that.

I think you are imagining things.
posted by mckenney at 3:44 PM on May 15, 2007

So wait, you've only smoked that one joint ever? I don't think weed can mess you up for that long. My non-medical gut feeling is that this is something psychological (maybe psychosomatic is a more apt term) and maybe therapy might help you realize that what you're feeling cannot possibly be a physiological issue.
posted by SuperNova at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

IANAD, but the joint you smoked had nothing to do with anything that happened to you more than a few days after the fact.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2007

Whatever it is, it's not the weed.
posted by Roach at 3:46 PM on May 15, 2007

Marijuana doesn't have the ability to do this to you.

Honestly, as people get older, they tend to change in terms of how they think. Stress and busy schedules dull the way people think and make them less able to take the time to contemplate all possible solutions to problems.

Also, going from 28th in your class to 33rd is small potatoes. I think you might be overthinking this. It sounds like you put a lot of pressure on yourself in general and that you expect to be as fresh & sharp as a 15 year old for your whole life. Ain't gonna happen.
posted by tastybrains at 3:48 PM on May 15, 2007

At the risk of inviting flames from the pro-weed crowd, of which I am totally a member, though at a price, let me say this: Marijuana is a dissociative, and there is a fair chance that using it in a formative time could impact your brain's tendency to dissociate, which is a neurological phenomenon related to anxiety disorder. The legion of people who have experienced the inception of anxiety disorders alongside marijuana use is growing in visibility thanks to the internet. I tentatively count myself among these. I have had great success using CBT and talk therapy as well as lifestyle management to be able to occasionally use weed, which I enjoy doing, often now with the assistance of a sedative.

Here's one article
to get you started. Google "Anxiety Marijuana Dissociative" etc for more info.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:49 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ive had a few friends where smoking weed for the first time, or one of the first times, triggered pretty intense anxiety attacks. Personally, I see that as something that was going to be triggered sooner or later, the drug just did it for them.
posted by fillsthepews at 3:50 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had a similar experience when I was 15 and later when I got my wisdom teeth out (general anesthesia). So, no, you're not the only overachiever to feel stupid for an extended period of time after drugs.

I'm going to go with theory 2 on this one with the caveat that 517's suggestion is one worth looking into.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:52 PM on May 15, 2007

The dope has nothing to do with anything. This really sounds like something the ONDCP would love to hear, though.

THC is a fat-soluable substance which is flushed out of your body in 3 to 30 days after you use it. Can't prove a negative, but there are no real long term side effects of one-time use . There are folks out there who will undoubtable say otherwise, but let them blow smoke up your behind.

Everyone can put up their personal anecdotal evidence about dope use, but one more or less consistent things you'll hear is that when used for the first time, one does not get high, as your body does not know how to react to it and therefore, there is no way for your brain to know it's high.

It could be, though, that your dope was soaked in formaldehyde, which, in that case, it may have done some damage. That is bad stuff. There are a number of other things that could have been done to it (PCP, LSD, Ether, glue) which could have the toxic nerurological effects you describe.

If you seriously think there are issues, go see your doctor. If your doctor agrees, you may be referred to a neurologist who can test you in a million ways till Sunday to find out what may be wrong.

But in any case, it almost certainly weren't the dope.
posted by valentinepig at 3:54 PM on May 15, 2007

If you would like to email me, I can expound on my statement.
posted by 517 at 3:56 PM on May 15, 2007

You say that the period right around when you smoked this joint was pretty stressful. Did you ever consider that it was this stressful situation that altered you, and not the one-time experience of smoking weed? It sounds to me like you're focusing on this one transgressive act and attributing all sorts of things to it, when a look at the bigger picture might actually be more revelatory for you.

As others have said, you smoked weed at a tumultuous time in most people's physical and mental development. Puberty probably had more to do with the changes you perceive than the pot did.
posted by me3dia at 4:00 PM on May 15, 2007

Also: Bear in mind that your belief that you had a clear mind as a child is just as subjective as your belief that you were foggier after the pot. Without an objective outside assessment (such as by a psychologist) there's no way to prove your feeling that you were sharper than your peers.
posted by me3dia at 4:06 PM on May 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

It's not insignificant that the experience you describe is very much like what people who have smoked weed habitually for extended periods cite as their reason to lighten up or quit. It's what "getting faded" means. I completely disagree with people who think there are no long term effects of pot. Perhaps there aren't for most people, but in my case, there really seemed to be, and I know because I fought that conclusion tooth and nail!

However, given that your experience was only one encounter, I would say it's important to liken your experience to one you could have from another drug, say MDMA or Psilocybin, wherin revelations about yourself or the world seem to be "revealed as truth," during or after the encounter, but are really just the offshoot of experiencing chemically altered realty.

In any case, think of it this way: it's far more likely that the change which has been made is in your brain's software rather than its hardware, and is something you can recontextualize in a larger view of consciousness. Tell yourself it's under your control, and address this as a mental clarity issue you can cure with attentive practice, and I wager you'll find some success.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:10 PM on May 15, 2007

Interesting line of reasoning, but I think anyone would be very hard press to find any research even any other anecdotes that remotely apply.

I say this with as much kindness as I can but, please stop blaming the past and a substance. You sound either like someone who never got over his first panic attack or someone going through depression. Was whatever drug you did a catalyst? Who knows, but it didnt spoil your pristine mind. It sounds like youre a normal person with issues and perhaps its time to see a therapist instead of engaging over conspiracy theories over pot.

No offense, but youre 25 now. At 15 you were in high school and life is easy because high school is easy. Youre in the adult world now and you'll find that you're not the superstar your teachers told you you were. It happens to the best of us. Good luck!
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:11 PM on May 15, 2007

Hey, Tastybrains: the poster says s/he dropped TO 28 out of 33, not FROM 28 to 33.
posted by dirtdirt at 4:22 PM on May 15, 2007

Marijuana can cause a person to have similar experiences in the short term (and potentially in the long term in the case of habitual, heavy, sustained use), but it cannot have the sustained physical/neurological effect you're describing from one use.

As valentinepig suggested, are you sure that what you smoked was simply marijuana? There are any number of lacing substances that can have unpredictable physical/neurological effects, from the first ingestion on. All of things he listed (and more) can fall into this unpredictable category.

Barring that, I'd say that your option 2 is the most likely possibility, along with the possibility that you developed an immediate psychological anxiety from your experience, which also seems highly likely, given the amount of anxiety you expressed in your description of your experience. I still get nauseous to this day when smelling some things that made me physically sick years before. Anxiety in the subconscious can be long-lived.
posted by Brak at 4:23 PM on May 15, 2007

I'm partially agreeing with Ambrosia Voyeur. That feeling that you're not you could definitely be a symptom of panic or other anxiety-related disorders. So FWIW, here's my theory: the pot gave you a panic attack, and the strange feelings since then are a result of the ongoing anxiety that having the initial panic attack produced. But I don't think it's possible that the marijuana did some sort of neurological damage. The initial panic attack could have been caused by something else (some people experience them out of the blue, with no clear trigger whatsoever), and it would have most likely had the same or similar result.

Dissociation/depersonalization has, at times, been a major component of my own anxiety. Some people advocate classifying this set symptoms as its own set of disorders, i.e., Depersonalization/Drealization disorders. If you browse the forums, you'll find that some (but not all) of the advocates for recognizing these as an independent set of disorders first experienced the symptoms under the influence of hallucinogenic substances, including marijuana.

From that site:
Patients must strive for experiences that allow them to re-engage as actors in the drama of their own lives rather than clutching fearfully to the role of observer. [ . . .] It is important to remember that the frightening experience of being lost inside one's own mind is purely a feeling state and (once any neurological or systemic dysfunction has been ruled out) there is no reason to believe any permanent change has occurred within the brain itself.
posted by treepour at 4:24 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know, but perhaps the pot was laced with roach spray.
posted by milarepa at 4:38 PM on May 15, 2007

I keyed in on your transition from feelings of certainty to less certainty. Could it be that your world simply got a lot bigger all the sudden? I mean, before you even knew that other ways of perceiving things existed, you had no distractions from them because you weren't listening to them. It was a lot easier to focus and be clear. Now that the possibility exists to you that what you're experiencing right now might or might not be "reality" or "the truth", you must inevitably question the validity of your inputs, whereas before you just accepted them without question.

That's why you lost clarity. You gained awareness.

Go ahead and mess around with psychiatry or antidepressants, they won't change that fact.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:42 PM on May 15, 2007

Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

I'm all about the experimental use of mind-altering substances, but I don't think it's a good idea to mix them with puberty; my own personal unscientific anecdotal epidemiological study of all the dope smokers I know says that the ones who have trouble are the ones who started early.

That said, I also find it hard to believe that the effect you've experienced is due to physiological damage. Of course, what with the brain being so plastic and all, it may well be impossible to draw a hard and fast line between physical and mental alterations to the way it works.

Be all that as it may: the joint was ten years ago. As far as I am aware, there is no specific "undo ten year old single exposure to cannabis" treatment available. If the way your mind works now is not the way you want it to work now, you should seek help from competent professionals (therapist? neurologist?) to change it.

Do keep in mind, though, that the "clarity" you had "compared to other people" was entirely your subjective judgement at the time. I imagine you would have felt certain about all kinds of things, including your own clarity, before you smoked your joint. Be open to the possibility that this certainty was unjustified and illusory, and that your direct experience of a scrambled state simply got rid of that illusion for you, and that the real world actually is more complicated and harder to understand than you had previously imagined.

I have a distinct memory of realizing, when I was in about Grade 3, that I now knew everything and that there was absolutely no need - in fact, not even any possibility - of learning anything more. Maybe this comes with the territory, to a certain extent, for smart kids; maybe it's a stage we all go through, I don't know. But it was an exceedingly pleasant feeling, and for a while there it felt really really true.

This wasn't to be the last time I believed something that was absolutely and completely wrong, and I can tell you now that nothing I've believed in without justification has ended up doing me the least bit of good. Believing in crap has caused me intellectual, emotional, spiritual and financial pain. These days I do my best to avoid it.

Maybe it would do you good to embrace the process of identifying and casting aside illusions, rather than nursing any kind of lifelong zomg I broke my pristine genius brain with drugs regret into your old age.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 PM on May 15, 2007 [10 favorites]

That's why you lost clarity. You gained awareness.

Perhaps not how I would put it, but I agree. It's not that you lost clarity. There's just an extra layer of abstraction in your consciousness now. You are no longer inside your mind, unaware that you even have one. You're now connected to it, able to use it, able to enter it but not completely constrained by it either. Think of it like looking into a mirror for the first time ever at the same age: it would really change your outlook on yourself in a way you couldn't easily undo. Not to evangelize drugs, but they do change your thought patterns and the connection between thoughts and emotions. Things you took for granted come into question. You realize that your default way of thinking and being is, to some degree, arbitrary and not just "the way things are."

So yeah, once the foundation of consciousness is rattled, you have to second guess everything your senses tell you for the rest of your life. You no longer blindly accept what you see and think of your mind as completely synonymous with your self. You realize that, like your body, it is a very useful device that carries you through the world but one that can be injured, improved, changed, etc.

There is something simple about the innocent state one is in before going through some of these transformations. But don't confuse that simplicity with clarity. It's like saying that you lose clarity by finding out soylent green is people because suddenly it undercuts your entire moral foundation and consumes your thoughts frequently. Sure, you didn't worry about what soylent green was before, but is that the same as "clarity?"
posted by scarabic at 4:55 PM on May 15, 2007 [4 favorites]

While a proponent of and willing self-experimenter with drugs of many kinds, I don't agree with the tendency in this thread to equate your situation with drug-related expanded or abstracted consciousness. There's a difference between doing a hallucinogenic to expand the corridors of your mind (and being able to hold onto the realization that this possibility exists) and the feeling while sober that you are detached from the reality of your life and self. If you haven't already, please read the link above about depersonalization/derealization. The conditions outlined there aren't failed attempts by science to describe drug-enlightenment; they are very real conditions that are experienced by real people, including people who've never touched a mind-expanding drug in their life. IANAP, though I have a degree in psychology and live with a therapist, and my entirely uncertified opinion is that your current state is only tangentially related to that joint ten years ago. It's a coping mechanism that may not be working for you anymore, a condition that is curable.
posted by ga$money at 5:12 PM on May 15, 2007

It's not insignificant that the experience you describe is very much like what people who have smoked weed habitually for extended periods cite as their reason to lighten up or quit. It's what "getting faded" means. I completely disagree with people who think there are no long term effects of pot. Perhaps there aren't for most people, but in my case, there really seemed to be, and I know because I fought that conclusion tooth and nail!

This is an excellent observation and a deep insight, and I trust your ability to grasp and report what your brain is doing, anonymous. There is a chance you could have suffered a significant degree of brain damage from a single dose of marijuana, comparable to the damage other people experience from long term use, especially if you were at the same time suffering from an auto-immune disease such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or psoriasis.

However, I think it's much more likely your brain was damaged only slightly, even if you did have an auto-immune condition, but changed its mode of functioning permanently in defensive response to the marijuana.

In any case, I think there is a very good chance drugs can dramatically improve your condition (as 517 suggests). Recent reports have shown that zolpidem (Ambien) can sharply improve the condition of some severely brain damaged individuals by reactivating the damaged areas of their brains:

A severely brain damaged woman has shown dramatic improvement in mental function after taking an insomnia drug, doctors say. The result may offer hope to millions of people living with serious brain damage.

It is the first reported case of the drug zolpidem helping an alert, non-comatose patient in this way.

The woman, from the south of France, was left unable to eat, speak or move unaided - although she did understand single words - after her brain was deprived of oxygen (hypoxia) during an attempted suicide by hanging.

After two years in this condition, she was given zolpidem (marketed as Ambien) following a bout of insomnia. Just 20 minutes later, as the drug hit her bloodstream, she was suddenly communicating with her family, eating and moving. Three hours later, as the drug waned, she returned to her usual state. ...

I also think there is an excellent chance that you might not need drugs indefinitely if they do help, because once your brain sees that the coast is clear, it might drop its defensive stance and continue to function with its former clarity even without drugs.

Good luck!
posted by jamjam at 5:19 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've known two people who developed serious mental health problems which have been attributed to cannabis use. There's no exact science to say they wouldn't have gone that way anyway (just the subjective opinions of friends, family and acquaintances) and I'm not saying this in the spirit of propaganda. I have smoked, and will smoke in the future.

On a personal level, I pretty much stopped smoking when my concentration started going to pot (pun intended). That was the effect it had on me. Now, when I smoke feelings of paranoia are more likely to occur and they take longer to wear off.

My feeling is that cannabis just isn't for everyone. You may be one of these people. In answer to your question, I don't think you're the only one to suffer long term effects from smoking weed. (I'm also not entirely convinced the weed is to blame in your particular situation.)

As to what has happened to your brain. It really is impossible to say.
posted by seanyboy at 5:30 PM on May 15, 2007

There is a chance you could have suffered a significant degree of brain damage from a single dose of marijuana, comparable to the damage other people experience from long term use.

No there isn't. There's no evidence that marijuana causes brain damage whatsoever.

The OP may well have an anxiety disorder. That anxiety disorder may or may not be related to his one-time use of marijuana. (My suspicion is that the two events coincided, but are not related.) However, suggesting marijuana can cause brain damage is likely to make that anxiety disorder worse, not better.

OP, flabdablet nails it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:37 PM on May 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

You're making weed the scapegoat to an unrelated problem. Or you've made the weed a problem by allowing yourself certain behaviours because you can blame the weed.

Pot doesn't do any of the things you seem to think it does. Marijuana smoke wouldn't stay in your body for ten years. One joint wouldn't have any meaningful physiological effect.

You should possibly consider talking to your doctor, though. They may help you think this through in a rational manner, help you see that there may be other issues at play, and perhaps then you could actually address whatever your real issue is.
posted by Kololo at 5:54 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

valentinepig: Several of those proposed adulterants are pretty unlikely: ether is a [very flammable] solvent that evaporates pretty quickly and has a very noticeable odor. Plus, given its anaesthetic history, it's unlikely to be the cause of permanent brain damage. There's no proof that LSD causes "toxic neurological brain damage" either, and being fairly heat-sensitive, it's unlikely it would've survived being in a lit joint. Really, even beyond the practicality of those substances as adulterants, unwittingly running into a joint adulterated with any other drug is somewhat unlikely: dumping acid or PCP would be _more_ expensive than a plain joint. It's really, really unlikely that the one joint anonymous smoked was adulterated with something that caused "toxic neurological brain damage", and suggesting it is unlikely to do anything but cause him/her more anxiety.

fladablet sounds closest to right to me. If the weed had any effect on your current philosophical difficulties with your perception of things, it might have been to weaken a certain certainty you had about the world and the Way Things Are. However, we change as we grow up, and people can change particularly quickly during certain times of life [including puberty/etc.] and during times of stress, both of which you were undergoing. It's easy to point to something and decide that it's the cause, but generally if you really examine things you'll realize you've been changing all along, and simply hadn't noticed. If these issues are still bothering you after ten years, maybe it would be worth it to go see a therapist to try to put them to rest.
posted by ubersturm at 6:06 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't blame it on dust. Ubersturm is correct, if the joint was dusted, dipped in embalming fluid, etc. a chemical stink would have filled the room when you busted the bag open that is completely unmistakable and I highly doubt that you would have proceeded as it's that worrisome an odor. Even a total noober would know something was off.
posted by The Straightener at 6:39 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

ga$money: "There's a difference between doing a hallucinogenic to expand the corridors of your mind (and being able to hold onto the realization that this possibility exists) and the feeling while sober that you are detached from the reality of your life and self."

I've always had weird existential moments, even as a small child, and I didn't use acid until I was 18 or smoke pot until I was 19. In fact once in a long while I still have them -- like when I'm sitting on the toilet or looking in the mirror or something and suddenly go, "Am I real?" Then I'll feel trippy for a minute or two. I've talked to others about this and it seems it's not that uncommon.
posted by loiseau at 6:58 PM on May 15, 2007

Wow dude, that sucks. Not that you smoked weed, but that you spent all this time accepting less than your potential and using weed as a scapegoat instead of owning up to any difficulties you had and trying to overcome them.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 7:00 PM on May 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

I don't think anonymous is really looking to cast blame here or is even taking it all that seriously. I'm skeptical that he would consider seeing a neurologist. The question seems a bit more light hearted than that. Anonymous, if I'm wrong about this and you are serious about it, I'd suggest you focus your energy elsewhere and to be very cautious about consulting with any doctor over this vague symptom going back ten years. But, if you're just curious about it and are putting it out there, read on.

I think this sort of thing is possible, very rare, but possible. Not so much as a change on a biological level, that is material damage, but more of a permanent shift in thinking styles. So put quotes around 'traumatized' and I would go with theory one. I like Mr. Gunn's and scarabic's description of the shift, but I think 'awareness' is the wrong word to call it, and I don't think it was a positive change. There is a clarity and vividness that many of us associate with childhood, that in my experience is distinct from innocence. Clarity in the sense I'm thinking of doesn't rule out doubt, it just means clearer sensory input and more transparent thought. Doubt and abstraction enter into the thought stream more easily now. Mental states are tough to talk about with any precision. Mild dissociation is right along the lines of what I'm thinking about. Scarabic's analogy of the child with the mirror is very good. Again, though I would argue that the change is not a positive and perhaps in some sense, even less 'true'. Have you moved or traveled, or really any big change, since then and had a feeling of 'slow time' where everything is extra vivid for the first few hours or days after you arrive? If that's similar to how it was for you before smoking the joint then I think that change would have come about inevitably, just from getting older.
posted by BigSky at 7:19 PM on May 15, 2007

Major Motoko Kusanagi: You talk about redefining my identity. I want a guarantee that I can still be myself.

Puppet Master: There isn't one. Why would you wish to? All things change in a dynamic environment. Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you.

posted by SPrintF at 7:33 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Marijuana, LSD, and other drugs can reveal mental illness - especially in young adults with schizophrenia. I am not suggesting that the drugs gave you a mental illness - but they may have helped to flip a switch within your head.

I would suggest visiting a neuropsychotherapist and having some tests done.
posted by cinemafiend at 8:04 PM on May 15, 2007

weed didn't make you crazy, dna made you crazy
posted by caddis at 8:24 PM on May 15, 2007

It may be instructive to compare your experience to a prior poster's.

I spent some time thinking about your question.

my mind was very clear compared to other people. I knew it since I was about 10, because I could always understand what other people meant even when nobody else understood it.

I can't take this at face value. I'm quite certain you have never shared the inner experience of others, so you cannot make the comparison you're trying to make on rational grounds. I understand that by saying this, though, you are trying to explain something about changes you went through, so that we can understand them. Something fundamental about the way you looked at the world changed.

I know that this kind of thing has happened to me more than once in my life - not related to drug use, but related to periods of different experiences that I was having. As your brain and your personality matures, your way of approaching the world can change drastically. The process is completely involuntary and the careful observer-from-within can often be aghast at what is happening. I know I was, often.

I suspect that none of your three hypotheses is fully accurate. Rather, I think that you changed over time, maturing from a child into an adult. You are probably someone blessed with an unusually good memory, able to recall with some detail the experience of perceiving and acting as a younger, more immature version of yourself. I think that had you never smoked that joint, you might have evolved in largely the same way; but you would not have had a life-changing event to point to, to say, "here is BEFORE, and here is AFTER." Sometimes we can get stuck on ideas like that so firmly that they can distort our recall in extremely vivid and sometimes inaccurate ways.

Finally, based on stories like the one of the previous poster I linked, and based on stories I've heard and read over the years, my best guess is that your marijuana was laced with something, possibly LSD, possibly something else, that made you have a rather unusual experience for a first try of marijuana.

I think you're OK now, and I don't think you harmed yourself when you were 15. Further, I think you should probably not worry too much about these troubling past events, their memories, and their meaning. I would encourage you to try to understand yourself instead, less as a unitary entity shaped by explosive, singular life events; and more as a person in a constant process of evolving and changing and growing, which is how we all live.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:07 PM on May 15, 2007 [6 favorites]

I went through a similar phase after my first romantic breakup. I lost will and clarity, which I regained, but never quite to completely to its previous level. My marks dropped for one semester, and I failed one class, something I had never done before. I never was able to focus to the insane extend that I was able to before.

Due to the nature of the event that affected me, nobody ever suggested my brain might have been damaged. You don't need brain damage to explain a transformative experience like the one you went thought. Life touches everyone. Time changes you.
posted by gmarceau at 9:46 PM on May 15, 2007

Finally, based on stories like the one of the previous poster I linked, and based on stories I've heard and read over the years, my best guess is that your marijuana was laced with something, possibly LSD, possibly something else, that made you have a rather unusual experience for a first try of marijuana.

Very, very doubtful. Laced weed is almost unheard of 'in the wild' and especially in ditchweed high school joints. Not only do the economics not work out (unless the kid spent $100 for the joint), LSD is destroyed by high temperatures and cannot be smoked. Unexpectedly laced weed is the definition of an urban legend.

What he/she experienced is the typical response of a rookie smoker who has too much. Panic attacks, 'fuzziness' for a day after - these are typical symptoms of someone really sucking down a joint when they're not prepared, nor taking any sort of normal precautions.

Furthermore this whole question stinks not only of the Demon Weed, but also of falsification. It just doesn't ring true.
posted by unixrat at 11:16 PM on May 15, 2007

ikkyu2: it's really pretty unlikely that LSD or similar psychedelic drugs were in the joint. The handful of them that can be smoked tend to be very intense but very short-lasting [and the scent/feel of smoking them is supposed to be particularly harsh]; the rest are generally ingested or snorted, and are mostly heat-sensitive, making it unlikely they'd survive intact in a lit joint. PCP, which is smoked, is a possibility, since it can come in a liquid form in which joints can be dipped, but the description in the question doesn't sound much like recorded descriptions of a PCP experience either. If there was anything psychoactive in that joint other than pot, it doesn't sound like there was much of it - or, at least, the poster doesn't mention any of the effects that are hallmarks of various types of psychedelic drugs. And all that's aside from the rarity [and expense] of pot laced with other stuff...

Pot can have very different effects on different people at different doses - a friend made the mistake of eating a brownie left in the kitchen once, for example, and found himself having a very strong reaction. Apparently only pot was in the brownie, but he said that his reaction was still very strong and unlike reactions he'd previously had from the drug [smoked]. His description actually sorta resembled that of the original poster. Which is to say that it doesn't seem implausible that pot could have caused a relatively extreme experience, as described in the question, although it also seems pretty plausible that someone who'd never had a single experience with any drug, legal or not, might freak out at even a pretty normal experience.

I say this stuff partly because I'm a biochemistry nerd who reads too much about things that affect the brain, but mostly because it doesn't really seem to me that finding another drug to blame the experience on will really help anonymous. As you say, greater help might be found in the reconsideration of one's understanding of oneself and the realization that there's a constant evolution of attitudes and beliefs and experiences in life - whatever the nature of the experience described in the question really was, it seems to me that that's the best way to go forward from here.

posted by ubersturm at 11:54 PM on May 15, 2007

I had the exact same experience. I smoked pot, I lost who I had known myself to be.

I thought I had 'broken my brain.'

But because what I just said is not the whole story at all, I continued to smoke pot even after I recognized it was not good for me. As time went on I threw in some hallucinogens. And then all hallucinogens and, of course, alcohol. And cocaine too. This pointless work lasted for the better part of seven, eight years.

I'm older than you by about 15 years (I think), so I've had time to look at my experiences a little more and talk about it ad nauseam with therapists and psychotherapists.

The greatest part of the changes I experienced had to do with my external life, stressors that had nothing to do with drugs. For a number of years after I quit most all of my bad habits I still engaged in the behaviors I developed in that time. It was a fucking mess, but behavioral, not biological.

Now, lots and lots of years later I've sort of 're-built' but also come to recognize that the rebuilding I've done had less to do with drugs (thankfully) than all the other things going on in my life.

Hopefully, you'll be fine. There's a lot of good advice upstream. But just so you know. The brain is too plastic to be harmed by a one-time experiment or even (as in my case), a many years-long experiment.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:55 AM on May 16, 2007

Don't trust yourself. The You that remembers the You that you think you might have been is an unknown You.

Accept the unknown. Look into the face of You. Discover who You are now, and acknowledge that any memories you have of who you were are the memories of a foriegner.

The pot is moot at this point. Don't do drugs.
posted by ewkpates at 3:26 AM on May 16, 2007

I turned retarded in the same way you did at about the same time in my life as you did. But I didn't smoke my first joint until much, much later.

So, yeah, it's probably unrelated.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:01 AM on May 16, 2007

If I lost my wallet in the theater, I wouldn't go looking for it in the restaurant. Perhaps you need a return trip to the place you lost something, to regain what you lost. But this time, you have a different perspective. Or not.

I am curious whether you use any caffeine. If not, I'd say it's time you gave it a chance. It can really promote clarity, for sure. Consider also whether you get enough exercise for your body's happiness. Both these things can aid your clarity, for much the same reason: they both promote circulation to your brain.

It is most unusual, in my experience (all rather old, when weed was much less potent), for anyone to experience a reaction to their first joint. Did you actually get high, or did something else happen?

Life is indeed dynamic. I experienced the exact opposite of what you did, when I was 18. Something kicked big-time into an 'on' position in my brain, to a point of being a bit scary. I've no idea how I lived prior to that change. It's been 32 years since, and I still have the ability to summon that powerful focus (although I have better control now).

I go with those pointing out the rarity of weed laced with weird things. I've smoked for decades, in many varied venues. Only time it was ever laced, I knew it was laced. (Nasty PCP! I hate drugs that don't stop affecting me after the fun is gone.)
posted by Goofyy at 5:03 AM on May 16, 2007

Sorry I don't have time to read everyone's replies, so I'm sure someone has already mentioned, but I have heard accounts of weed setting off depersonalization/derealization disorders -- it can act as a dissociative. Maybe look here. Also, however, as I'm sure others have already said, you were in a period of rapid emotional/physical changes and perhaps the pot just crystallized for you changes that were already taking place. Though, I have to say, while I've been well acquainted with bob hope for years now, i'll still occasionally have experiences at unexpected times that i perceive as really changing the way i feel, at my essence, going forward.
posted by Soulbee at 6:20 AM on May 16, 2007

FWIW I had something like this happen. I smoked pot the first time when I was 16, really no alcohol before then, but smoked cigarettes. I'm pretty sure what I smoked was weakish hippie weed and honestly I felt like it had almost no effect on me when I smoked it. I felt a little dizzy and slow, that's it.

But over the next couple days I noticed my mind wasn't as sharp as it had been before - and I was always quite sharp with an excellent memory - I couldn't remember things and I couldn't process things as well. I brainfarted a lot. I can trace directly to that time when I started blanking out on what I was saying if I wasn't entirely focused on it... I'd say "Can you hand me the.... thing? You know, the thing, the round plastic thing" grasping for the word in my head, which I'd never done before. And I've never gotten that mental sharpness back.

I didn't smoke pot again for at least a year or so; my use is quite occasional. In my experience that first time was incredibly mild so I could never figure out why my brain felt sort of cloudier from then on out. But it did. It wasn't a big trauma or anything though, a panic attack, a stress, nothing. I never thought about it too deeply. Just one of those "huh" things to me, that's all.
posted by Melinika at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2007

I had sort of the same experience myself, except that my habit lasted for years and went considerably further. Nonetheless, I went from star student to a workaday schlub and ended up with the feeling that I had lost something of immense importance--surely it was my immense intellect! And you bet I could find something or someone else to blame it on.

In retrospect, I can see that I simply went from being stimulated by learning on a daily basis and having an unknown future in front of me to being the lazy slob my parents wouldn't let me be when I lived at home (and living the miserable routine of having a regular, lousy job when you've never had one before). That can do things to your mind.

I'd also like to say that I've done the thing before where you don't like the way one drug makes you feel so you take a different one, and I feel like in general it's a very bad idea, whether the drugs are legal or not. No drug is perfect, and if you fix one problem, there's gonna be a new one to take its place. Just stop.

And Nthing the absolute preposterousness that the OP's joint was laced with psychedelics. Beyond the economic and chemical aspects which have already been mentioned, whoever got him high surely would have bragged if he'd splurged on it, and complained if he found out it was stepped on. He'd know already.

Number 2 is the answer.
posted by zebra3 at 9:03 AM on May 16, 2007

FWIW, this question, as far-fetched and slightly paranoid as it is, does resonate with me somewhat.

I too have experienced a subjective gradual dulling or "vaguening" from the onset of puberty onwards, as if over the years my senses became less sharp, as if my, pardon the term, Dasein has developed into simply Sein over time.

Given the fact that this perceived process was largely concomitant with the heyday of my marijuana use, I have long attributed it to the beautiful green plant. Then again, I was never a heavy user, and I have long since decided I should probably just attribute it to living.

To me, blaming this or a similar sensation on a single incident of marijuana use is outright preposterous.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:38 AM on May 16, 2007

Wordsworth has something to say about this too, of course.
posted by tangerine at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Forgot how great Wordsworth could be 'til you reminded me, tangerine.
posted by jamjam at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2007

Beautiful, tangerine.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:55 PM on May 16, 2007

I'd be interested to read 517's elaboration on SSRIs. Post in-thread, or would you rather I e-mailed?

I have never felt detached from my mind as you describe it, OP, but I have lost clarity for sure. Logical/mathematical adroitness, ability to structure difficult pieces of rhetoric in my head, ability to see the solution to certain problems at one leap, ability to remember cut-offs and dynamics and other performance details of a song so as to perform it exactly as requested. I never used to mix up right and left, either. And based on the freshman-level classes that I took when I was a senior in college, I'm pretty sure college made me dumber.

The difference is, I never smoked any weed. My mind-alteration experience is limited, by choice, to what comes of fatigue, exertion, education, or contemplation. About once a year I get more caffeine than what's in chocolate, and I wind up regretting it every time: It costs me mental sensitivity and messes up my sleep hours later. And I've been accidentally high on inhaled ammonium chloride vapors (lesson learned: don't take the lab bench right next to the fume hood), once.

Partly, I think I'm kidding myself about being duller than I was. I've learned a couple languages since this all started, and short texts in many more, discovered why it is worth knowing classic literature, become literate in ancient Middle Eastern temple motifs, memorized a heck of a lot of poetry and prose, learned a bunch of physiology and acoustics, discovered political views I didn't have before, and all kinds of stuff. Some of this, particularly the languages, can be expected to push other, unexercised mental skills out of their comfy spacious cortical homes.

Partly, I'm pretty sure I've lost some edge. High school, if you took serious classes, did provide an all-day ration of mental engagement on a disciplined plan. I read a lot more now than I did then, but I don't do math problems for an hour a day. And tabbed browsing has let me indulge my ADD-esque mindstyle to an appalling degree.

Partly, I think every form of thinking started getting harder when my sex drive woke up and said howdy. Probably happens to most people: It's easier to study a landscape painting on its own in a quiet museum than to study one right next to a TV set with SpongeBob SquarePants bouncing around, and I reckon the same is true of examining what's on your mindscape. Extrapolating my neuroses, based on the fact that I just characterized my sexuality as SpongeBob SquarePants, is left as an exercise to the reader. Socrates was once asked if age did diminish one's sex drive. He said yes, and that it was like being emancipated from a terrible, mad master. I sometimes know what he meant: 'Will you boys down there shut up and let me think! Sergeant Willie, if you can't keep the Enlisted Lads in line, I'm'a bust you down to Private.'

And partly, I know I tend to be gloomy, and I know that depression runs in my family. Thus my interest in any relevance of SSRIs to this thing.

But yeah. It's not the weed.
posted by eritain at 5:15 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Socrates was once asked if age did diminish one's sex drive. He said yes, and that it was like being emancipated from a terrible, mad master.

Just for pedantry's sake, it was Cephalus quoting Sophocles in Book I of Plato's Republic.
How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in answer to the question, How does love suit with age, Sophocles, --are you still the man you were? Peace, he replied; most gladly have I escaped the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from a mad and furious master.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:42 PM on May 17, 2007

Just for pedantrycompletely appropriate, helpful accuracy's sake

Fixed that for you. Thanks, Ludwig Van.
posted by eritain at 7:52 PM on May 20, 2007

Alice in Acidland had more sex. I prefer my anti-drug propaganda heavy on the porn. This thread disappoints me in many ways.
posted by meehawl at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2007

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