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 QWAS.com 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!

6 Comments

  1. Kaveh May 8, 2013 12:23 am Reply

    QWAS – Thanks for the advice. I wanted to let you know more about my story. About 3 months ago I almost lost my job of 10 years and had a lot of family and personal issues and had been exercising for over 2 hours a day. Then, after about one month of this one day I smoked a joint a little bigger than I usually do and all of a sudden it hit me and what has followed has taken me to the limits. I quit smoking that night and went to the ER they did a EKG on my heart and said that everything was fine. I followed that up with another visit a few days later to the same ER and again the doctor told me I’m fine. Then I went to my doctor to get blood work and urine done and that came back clean. In a few weeks I will be going for a stress test on my heart to finally put the palpitations behind me. I also have been seeing a shrink and after a few visits he told me that these thing happen to people in their late 20′s that are not were they want to be, and that mixed with the quitting of a 14 year thc addition was a perfect storm. My vision went blurry and I could not exercise due to thinking I’m going to have a heart attack and that was real hard for me because I loved the gym and it made a lot of sense> The last year I have started to really believe that I will not be able to change my life and I now know that the long term use of pot made me like this. Anyway, thanks a lot for the advise and this is a awesome site… really helped me. Thank you. As soon as I read the top 15 reasons to quit and saw your comment on Anxiety and heart issues, my palpitations have gone way down. GOD BLESS U

  2. Kaveh June 30, 2013 2:59 am Reply

    Qwas. I wanted to ask u how long did ur palputaions last Tnx

    • QWAS Admin June 30, 2013 4:50 am Reply

      Hey Kaveh, thanks for asking that. Actually, the answer is – my anxiety returned for a spell about a month ago. I found myself chewing aspirins in the kitchen at 3am again, and fearing everything from my heart exploding to brain tumors to lazy eyes to fused spinal columns. Yes.. I’m a little crazy when my anxiety ramps up. So, I went to the doctor and had my heart checked, including an EKG, and asked for prescription for Xanax. Since then I’ve had two small panic attacks, and taken Xanax for both. I suggest that you seek medical advice. Explain what is going on with you. Get your heart checked out, and put your mind to rest. I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. That said, I hope you’ll get checked out so you can relax and enjoy life a bit better.

  3. Anthony December 18, 2016 11:42 pm Reply

    How long do the rapid heart beat last palpation s

  4. Ben Greenwald April 1, 2017 6:21 am Reply

    Man oh man I’m struggling. Thanks for being here with your story. I’m 39 and recently moved my family into our first home. Probably not the best time to kick a twenty year habit. But nevertheless I responded to what felt like the final curtain call on the herb and I’m not looking back. No pressure in or on my chest. No pain. No tingling in the extremities, but I nevertheless convince myself hourly that this is probably a good indicator that I should make an attempt to mend some of those valuable yet bygone relationships with family and friends. The palpitations are absolutely brutalizing my Peace of Mind. I have them ALL the time. I’m clean two weeks now and with each new day they seem to increase just a bit in frequency. I’ve read this same piece you’ve published.. you James Joyce you.. You Hemingway to the forlorn, recovering stoner… every day to remind myself that what I am experiencing, though not “normal” is not completely abnormal. And you’re alive, so I have a shot right? Anyway thanks! Grace and Peace to you and yours. I owe you a debt of gratitude for your willingness to share your story.

    • QWAS Admin April 1, 2017 6:41 am Reply

      Yeah, I am alive! And you know, everyone is going to handle stress differently. There’s are exercises you can do to relieve anxiety that might help you. Recently I have been making a concerted effort to take five deep breaths and slowly exhale at least a few times a day. I also keep a .25 mg prescription of Xanax close by. Didn’t see that coming did you! It’s the lowest dose you can get and it’s a sort of security blanket for me. If I start ‘snowballing’ towards an anxiety event, I can take one and it knocks it right down. I rarely do this. Most of the time I can coach myself down from an anxiety attack now. I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what works for me. Congrats on the house. And take some comfort in the fact that you will feel better. You will navigate through this awkward time and you won’t always have palpitations. Go see a doctor and get a resting EKG – then you can relax about the heart stuff. I did this twice when I was going through something similar. Knowing my heart was fine allowed me to stay grounded and not get all spun out over heart attacks. I hope this helps!! QWAS Admin

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