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The Effects Of Pot Can Linger A Long Time After Getting Clean

February 01, 2020

I get a lot of letters on a personal site regarding an article I wrote about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). It’s one of the primary causes of relapse and a subject that is poorly covered in a lot of treatment facilities. Because there’s also very little about it on the Internet, the article gets a lot of traffic.

PAWS refers to a collection of symptoms, related to the use of alcohol and other drugs, that continue for quite some time after we get clean and sober. It’s too complex to go into in detail here, but suffice it to say that it can be the cause of a lot of discomforts and — if not dealt with constructively — can often lead to circumstances where it seems as though we might as well use since we’re so miserable anyway.

I bring this up because I ran across another article, rhapsodizing about the benefits of smoking marijuana, that totally ignored the downside. I find that extremely annoying. While it may be true that it is no more harmful than alcohol, that’s begging the issue since alcohol can be horribly destructive. So I offer the following letter for your consideration, along with my reply.

Hey Bill,

It’s been about 4 months since I wrote to you last. I’ve been clean for a total of 7 months. I’m nervous because I’m still having some symptoms of post-acute withdrawal.

I’m having a hard time convincing myself that pot can cause such a thing. I can feel really foggy from time to time, overreactions still take place, my memory is completely shot, I have trouble solving problems that I know damn well are simple, and I’m just feeling really crappy. I haven’t felt horrible the whole time by any means, it’s just this last week. I feel like this craziness is never going to fade away. I just feel so dumb and insane.

I hope to god this is just all PAW. I just never thought off marijuana being harmful. I still have dopey dreams, and cravings at times can be thick. The thought of smoking some dank is mouth watering. I feel CRAZY!


Hi Josh!

Congratulations on your seven months. Don’t stop now — imagine having to go through all that stuff again!

What you are experiencing is not unusual at all in recovering heavy smokers, and the symptoms are typical. If you are suddenly feeling urges, and it hasn’t been the usual thing, then there is probably some immediate reason: stress, failure to go to meetings and/or work a program, a new romance, a broken up romance — you get the idea. How did we deal with stress “back when?” We turned off our brains with drugs. An important part of recovery is learning new coping skills so that we don’t feel as though we need to do that.

There is a lot of mythology floating around about pot. Some is due to ignorance and some, I believe, is purposeful in that it advances certain related agendas. The people who claim it’s “no worse than alcohol” are missing or ignoring the point. Being skinned alive is “no worse than” being boiled to death slowly — it’s just different. That’s exactly the comparison that applies. No one is talking about replacing booze with weed, they want it to be legal in addition to marijuana. You are living proof that it’s a lousy idea.

You can look at this two ways. 1) You are miserable, you want to blow some boo, and life sucks, or 2) you are learning an extremely valuable lesson about what cannabis can do to folks’ heads, regardless of all the propaganda about it being relatively harmless.

Go to a meeting. Talk to another addict. Help a newcomer. Do something to get outside your own head. This is all occurring in your brain because of chemical imbalances. Don’t, for cripes sake, start the process all over again. You will just get more messed up, and it will take longer the next time.

Stay in touch, and “keep on keepin’ on!” Call today! 888-443-3869