Monthly Archives May 2013

Anxiety and Panic Attacks from Marijuana Withdrawal

Posted by QWAS Admin on May 07, 2013  /   Posted in QWAS News

I received a question today from a visitor to asking for help with anxiety. I am used to questions about withdrawal symptoms (anxiety is common) but his mention of heart palpitations inspired me to share my experience and offer some real advice and experience from the battlefield. First, here is the comment from Kaveh:

“This is a great site , I quit a few months ago and it’s been hell obsessing over my heart palpitations and thinking I’m going to explode. I wish I had quit a lot sooner. Please, if anyone has experienced this email me at… (etc)”

Followed shortly by:

Hey bro. I have been smoking for almost 14 years… just wanted to ask if you’ve had any anxiety problems.

This comment struck a chord with me because yes, I have had anxiety problems and still do. And yes, I’ve done plenty of obsessing over heart palpitations. What follows is my response to the comments above, but applies to anyone who suffers from anxiety attacks.

Dear Kaveh

First of all, Don’t panic. You probably aren’t having a heart attack (I must add that I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice). Anxiety is a very common withdrawal symptom that can persist long after quitting weed. I’ve been through what you’re describing, and even now – 10+ years after quitting, I still have to manage my anxiety and panic attacks.

How I Named and Tamed My Monster

A couple of years ago my panic attacks became devastating. I was convinced I was going to die from a heart attack in the middle of the night. While my wife slept, I would creep into the kitchen and chew hand fulls of Aspirin in an attempt to prevent “my heart from exploding” as you described it. One night, I had a particularly bad panic attack and my whole body went numb. I thought it was game over. We almost called an ambulance, but eventually I recovered and was able to sleep. The next day my wife did some research for me and found a particularly good website that described exactly what I was going through. From the heart palpitations and fear of heart attack to the profuse sweating, numbness, and feelings of impending doom, it described my condition. In fact, it was the first time I had a label from what I felt – “panic attack” or “anxiety attack”.

Before that day a couple years ago, my anxiety was something that I had endured without any knowledge or support. My wife also found an exercise that became my savior. I’ll share it with you at the end of this post. The other thing I did was to make a doctors appointment for a general checkup, but with the express purpose of having my heart examined. In the checkup I described what I was going through and asked the doctor to listen to my heart, and then asked him to listen again to be sure, and then again one more time. His diagnosis? Nothing was wrong with my heart. I needed to hear it even if I still doubted my doctors assessment, expertise, and credentials. Based on advice from a friend who also endured panic attacks, I asked for .25mg Xanax. Xanax is a very common anti-anxiety medication you can take at the time of an ‘event’, when you feel the snowball of anxiety building. I barely used the Xanax, but I carried it with me everywhere and over time, having it in my pocket became a sort of safety blanket. I knew that if I needed help it was there. That feeling of security was priceless, it allowed me to go out into the world and function. So, the Xanex, the exercise I will share with you in a moment, and learning about my anxiety enabled me to escape a nightmarish condition I had lived with for years. Here is the exercise:

Anti-Panic Exercise

Start with your left arm. Inhale deeply. As you inhale, flex all of the muscles in your arm as hard as you can. Hold your breath for 5 seconds. Then release your breath very slowly. Purse your lips to let the air out of your lungs in a controlled manner. As your lungs empty, allow your arm to relax at the same rate. The whole process should take about 15-20 seconds. Now, move to your left leg. Repeat the steps described for your left arm. Then, move to your right leg, and finally your right arm. You’ve completed one cycle of the exercise. How do you feel? Somewhat calmer? Repeat the exercise again as many times as you need to.

Anxiety Cannot Kill You

Lastly, remember this – no one has ever died from anxiety. So, your “heart palpitations” cannot kill you. Debilitating sure, but you won’t explode. You have anxiety. You are probably experiencing panic attacks, just as I did and still do. Again, I urge you to go to your doctor for a checkup. Have your heart checked and put your mind at ease. Ask about Xanax if it is something you feel comfortable with. Research panic attacks online and get familiar with your condition.

Once you learn to manage your anxiety, you’ll be back in control. You may find that you’ll be able to greatly reduce the frequency of your anxiety over time but that it will return 6 months or a year later. When it does, you’ll be prepared.

I hope this helps, and again, I am relaying my experience to you, this is not medical advice!

Steven Axtell Tells All

Posted by QWAS Admin on May 01, 2013  /   Posted in QWAS News

stephen axtell

Name: Steven Axtell

Location: Essexville, Michigan

I met Steven on Twitter after seeing a post he wrote about quitting weed. I chose him for the interview because he’s at the beginning, a place many of us remember. At 15 years old, it’s pretty common to start experimenting with pot, alcohol, and other drugs. The question is, who will experiment, and who will become consumed by their habit? Steven seems to be in control and recently decided to quit smoking weed for reasons I will let him explain in the interview. His take on the whole experience is super mellow. It’s interesting to me, since my run as a chronic was so much longer and quitting was so much more difficult. What if I had quit at 15? – QWAS Admin

QWAS: Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from? Where do you live now? How old are you? Do you go to school? Work? What are your interests/hobbies?

Steven: I was born in Dallas, Texas. I currently reside in Michigan with my Father and older Brother. I’m 15 years old. I am currently enrolled at Garber High School. I have no job. I’m extremely passionate when it comes to Acting, Film Making, Photography, Writing, and Music. I’m a fine arts kinda guy.

QWAS: How long have you smoked weed for?

Steven: About a year.

QWAS: Tell us about the first time you smoked weed, and describe the days, weeks and months directly after…

Steven: Well. It was February 2012, about a week after my birthday. I was really curious about the whole entire concept of Marijuana experimentation, I knew I was going to try it eventually, considering the fact that my Sister is a huge stoner. Lovable nonetheless. Anyway, she was at work, I went into her room, found her bowl, found a jar of weed, and I just smoked by myself for the first time ever. It was quite nice, I took a shower afterwards. I felt amazing. There was no feeling quite like it. Shortly after that episode of being stoned out of my mind, I began to smoke it about once every other week, and then it happened every other day. Summer 2012 was probably the climactic experience of my experimentation, everyday I got high. Every. Single. Day.

QWAS: Did you have fun getting high when you first started? What kinds of activities did you enjoy while high?

Steven: Oh, of course. I mostly enjoyed just fucking around on my guitar and playing video games. Whip up a bowl of ramen noodles and watch movies until I passed out.

QWAS: What was your preferred method of smoking weed?

Steven: Bowls. I loved bowls. I like to smoke joints by myself at times, it makes me feel somewhat sophisticated and “hip” for some indecipherable reason.

QWAS: Did you use tobacco in your joints? Do or did you smoke cigarettes?

Steven: Never. I can’t stand cigarettes.

QWAS: How many of your friends smoked weed? Family?

Steven: In the time range of summer 2012, not many of my friends smoked weed as much as I did. The only known family member that I knew smoked/smoked with was my sister. I love her so much.

QWAS: Who knew about your pot habit? Close friends? Your family? Everyone? No one?

Steven: My Sister, of course. And a handful of close friends. My grandmother eventually caught on and she told my Dad. I told him that “I quit a month ago.” and he believed me. I was in the clear, then I got arrested.

QWAS: Describe your habit. Did you smoke every day? In the mornings? Before bed? During the day? At work?

Steven: After Summer Vacation, I rarely smoked. It was still a common thing for me to do, just not as much.

QWAS: In addition to weed, did you also use other drugs like coke, ecstasy, alcohol?

Steven: The most hardcore substance I’ve experimented with was shrooms. It was lovely.

QWAS: Did your pot habit ever interfere with your relationships? School? Work? Goals in life?

Steven: A couple friendships were destroyed, other than that, it really didn’t effect anything else.

QWAS: When and why did your feelings about weed start to change? Was there a particular event?

Steven: It never crossed my mind to quit until I got arrested.

QWAS: When you made the decision to quit smoking weed, did you think it would be a permanent choice?

Steven: Getting arrested made up my mind for me. I’m not really sure if it’s going to be permanent. I’ll more than likely start again when I’m old enough to hold my own.

QWAS: Had you made previous attempts to quit, and if so, why were they not successful?

Steven: Yes, I’ve tried many times. I just couldn’t, I had so much fun doing it.

QWAS: Describe your reasons for quitting, and how you felt on your quit day.

Steven: Like I said before, I got arrested. I felt kinda confused, it feels like it didn’t even happen. Either way, I’ll be alright.

QWAS: Who did you tell once you made the decision to quit?

Steven: My best friend, Austin.

QWAS: Were your friends and family supportive of your decision?

Steven: Somewhat, yeah.

QWAS: What changes in your life were necessary in order to give yourself the best chance at quitting successfully?

Steven: The way my family perceives me now, they’ve lost A LOT of respect when it comes to my self being. That’s more than enough.

QWAS: Describe your first day without weed.

Steven: Didn’t really feel anything.

QWAS: Describe your first week without weed.

Steven: Starting to miss it, I’ll be fine though.

QWAS: Describe your first month without weed.

Steven: Hasn’t been a month yet.

QWAS: Did you experience withdrawal symptoms?

Steven: Not that I know of.

QWAS: Did you have any relapses on your path to quit weed?

Steven: Not that I can think of.

QWAS: What was the hardest part about quitting for you personally?

Steven: Nothing really, I’ve been really mellow lately. I like it.

QWAS: How has your life changed since quitting?

Steven: I’ve been somewhat more “chill” and “calm”. It feels nice.

QWAS: Do you still have the same friends? New friends?

Steven: Same friends yeah, I love them and they love me.

QWAS: Do you plan to stay quit going forward?

Steven: No idea. I guess I’ll see in the years to come.

QWAS: What do you do now to unwind, relax, and reward yourself?

Steven: Play some guitar. Read a book or something.

QWAS: What advice do you have for other people who are planning to quit?

Steven: Quitting isn’t as bad as you think. You start to feel the change after a couple days, and it feels pretty damn good.

QWAS: If you have a funny story about smoking weed, now’s the time. Let’s hear it.

Steven: There really isn’t one I can think of. Other than the fact that I get knocked the hell out easily when it comes to bong rips.

Thanks, man. It was nice to have someone to tell my story to.

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