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Can Marijuana Psychologically Affect Who You Are?

Depersonalization-derealization disorder occurs when you persistently or repeatedly have the feeling that you’re observing yourself from outside your body. Can cannabis be a trigger?

This article originally appeared on Cannabis.net and has been reposted with permission.

Over the years, we have been led to believe that smoking cannabis, or doing drugs for that matter, will fundamentally change your psychology. In other words, “You” would become different due to the drugs you take.

Recently I read a Reddit post from a 15-year old regarding his two-year stint with cannabis. Here’s a snippet of that post:

Vaping In Teens Continues To Increase And Could Have Long Lasting Impact
Photo by Toan Nguyen via Unsplash

“After a while I started getting these weirddd feelings that were very strong, hit me like a brick randomly when i was sober, later came to learn that this was DR, when I got it I just couldn’t concentrate at all on anything while it happened, and got some small memory loss of what was happening. This spooked the s*** out of me so I did more research decided imma quit. I had some “mishaps” a couple times ofc but eventually stopped.

I feel dumber, I feel like i’m not as articulate as I used to be, not as sharp. I’m frustrated by it but I think it is slowly getting better, and i’m trying to use my mind more to speed this up.” 

(Please ignore the spelling — the kid is 15-years old.)

What was interesting is that this wasn’t the first time I saw someone talk about “depersonalization” as a result of smoking cannabis. It prompted me to write this article. Does cannabis psychologically alter you to the point where you become depersonalized First, let’s take a look at depersonalization.

What Is Depersonalization?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Depersonalization-derealization disorder occurs when you persistently or repeatedly have the feeling that you’re observing yourself from outside your body or you have a sense that things around you aren’t real, or both. Feelings of depersonalization and derealization can be very disturbing and may feel like you’re living in a dream.

Many people have a passing experience of depersonalization or derealization at some point. But when these feelings keep occurring or never completely go away and interfere with your ability to function, it’s considered depersonalization-derealization disorder. This disorder is more common in people who’ve had traumatic experiences.  

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In other words, you feel like “you” aren’t in control. You are an observer to this thing called life. This can cause stress, anxiety and depression.

However, it’s important to point out that the exact cause of depersonalization isn’t known and that mostly it is associated with trauma.

This brings us back to the original post.

Was It Cannabis Or The Trauma Of Cancer?

The original poster wrote about how they started smoking, and then got cancer.

“It was pretty good so I did it more often, then after a time I got some serious health issues (not related to the cannabis if you’re abt to type a comment, i got a tumor near my optic disk) after I had to undergo treatment I struggled heavily with anticipatory nausea, constipation to the point that I got hemorrhoids, constant pain not because of the tumor but the chemo. Started smoking way more, I used to smoke like every night so my parent’s wouldn’t know, to some people that’s normal for them and they can handle it but i would get to a point where I couldn’t get any higher most times.”

This sounds like a pretty traumatic event for a teenager to face. He consequently smoked more cannabis to cope with the effects of chemo and it was shortly after all of this that he began to feel “sluggish” and “not himself”.

schizophrenia
Photo by Rafael Elias/Getty Images

Perhaps, the cannabis did play a role in this, however, it’s far more likely that the idea of a tumor on the optic disk of your being could generate a lot more stress and anxiety. Coupled with teenage angst, you may have a perfect recipe for depersonalization.

However, this wasn’t the only case; I also saw a tweet from a girl who spoke about the same condition. Similarly, the girl was in her teens.

What is it about the fickleness of identity of newer generations that this is the mental conditions that are manifesting within society? When I was growing up, this was not the main issue.

Can Cannabis Depersonalize You?

According to Psychiatry Online:

Some individuals who use cannabis will never experience depersonalization or derealization during or after cannabis use (5). However, depersonalization and derealization remain potential side effects of cannabis (12), of which many clinicians are unaware (5). In general, cannabis-induced symptoms of depersonalization and derealization are time-locked to the period of intoxication, peaking approximately 30 minutes after ingestion and subsiding within 120 minutes of exposure to the drug (12, 13). However, among a subgroup of persons who use cannabis, symptoms of depersonalization or derealization persist for weeks, months, or years (3, 5), even after discontinuation of the substance (2, 11). Those who experience prolonged symptoms may have cannabis-induced depersonalization-derealization disorder (2, 10).  

RELATED: Study Finds Marijuana Use At Any Age Can Ruin People’s Lives

In other words, there is some evidence to suggest that to a subgroup of people — those who are already suffering from certain psychological disorders — it is possible.

I have never fully experienced depersonalization from a drug (within the world of psychonautics, we call it “ego death”), however, I do see how it can be possible — especially from edibles.

psychedelics
Photo by wildpixel/Getty Images

The time I was truly “depersonalized” and not in the driver’s seat, I was tripping on too many Klonopins mixed with booze, also roughly at the age of 15-16.

During this stint, I was tripping for about three days, going in and out of consciousness while “someone else” was in the driver’s seat. I would come into consciousness for a few moments, interact with people, black out, and come back online a few hours later in a completely different situation.

Fortunately, by that time I had already had my fair share of psychedelics and I knew how to ride out the trip. Three days later, the substances left my body and I finally regained control.

I also learned not to mess with Pharma drugs — that stuff is dangerous!

Sticky Bottom Line

I know that there are some cannabis consumers that don’t like any negative press on cannabis and for good reason. However, I also think it’s important that we have an accurate assessment of all drugs and we need to realize that drugs affect people differently.

The fact that YOU are safe from consuming as much cannabis as possible, doesn’t mean that there are other people who could not have adverse reactions to the plant. Eat enough edibles on a fragile mind and you could send them down a spiral of darkness they aren’t prepared for.

I was fortunate when I went overboard with my youthful experiences, but I also saw my fair share of people who were negatively affected by drugs.

Therefore, yes, it is possible to undergo depersonalization with cannabis, however, it’s not a common occurrence. If you have underlying psychological issues, it’s preferable you consume lower THC strains.

Don’t dab like a dumbass — you have to be responsible for your own consumption.

This article originally appeared on Cannabis.net and has been reposted with permission.

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