Depersonalization From Marijuana (Weed)
Chronic marijuana use can be harmful to a person’s health, leading to various unwanted effects on the mind and body. This article will cover a specific risk of marijuana use known as depersonalization and how to get help if you or someone you know is experiencing this condition.
What Is Depersonalization?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), depersonalization/derealization disorder is a dissociative disorder that consists of either feelings of depersonalization or derealization (thoughts that other things are not real), but the person’s reality testing remains intact.
The symptoms the disorder cause significant distress or dysfunction, and the symptoms are not attributable to the effects of drug abuse, being on a medication (or an illicit drug), or a result of some other medical condition.
In addition, this disorder cannot be better explained by the presence of some other psychological/psychiatric disorder, such as another dissociative disorder, psychotic disorder, personality disorder, etc.
The dissociative effects that occur from drug use are typically diagnosed as the effects of being intoxicated, drug withdrawal, or side effects associated with using certain illicit drugs or medications.
Symptoms of Depersonalization
The symptoms of depersonalization include:
- Experiences of unreality or detachment.
- Feelings of being an outside observer with respect to one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, or actions (e.g., perceptual alterations, distorted sense of time, unreal or absent self, emotional and/or physical numbing).
The symptoms of derealization include:
- Experiences of unreality or detachment with respect to surroundings (e.g., individuals or objects are experienced as unreal, dreamlike, foggy, lifeless, or visually distorted).
Marijuana (Weed) and Depersonalization
There are reports of marijuana producing depersonalization in some individuals. Most often, this can occur when the person mixes marijuana with some other substance, such as alcohol, cocaine, an opioid drug, etc. The depersonalization that occurs as a result of marijuana use typically resolves rapidly once the effects of the drug wear off.
It may or may not result in significant distress, depending on the circumstances and the individual’s emotional makeup. However, there appear to be no lasting dissociative or psychotic effects that were not present prior to the use of marijuana in individuals who use the drug.
The actual personal experience associated with cannabis use can be quite variable, dose-dependent, and also dependent on the environmental circumstances under which the drug is used.
In addition, the levels of the cannabinoids or psychoactive substances in cannabis products can vary between different types of cannabis products and even from different strains of marijuana.
Using marijuana with a higher THC content may be more likely to produce perceptual effects like dissociation.
Hallucinogens and Depersonalization
Hallucinogens and hallucinogenic drugs are substances that significantly alter perceptual experiences to the point of the person’s experience of reality being significantly distorted. The primary distortion of reality that occurs with hallucinogen use is the person’s perception of hearing or seeing things that really do not exist.
Drugs classified as hallucinogenic drugs are considered to have this quality as their primary effect, and not as a secondary effect that occurs in some people who overdose on the drug or who may be having idiosyncratic reactions to the drug. Using enough of many different types of substances can result in a significant distortion of reality, even though the substances are not thought of as hallucinogenic drugs.
Hallucinogens are typically divided into two basic categories: classic hallucinogens and dissociative hallucinogens. The classic hallucinogens, such as LSD, mescaline (peyote), and magic mushrooms (psilocybin), primarily produce hallucinations (most often visual hallucinations, although hallucinations in any sensory modality may occur as a result of taking these drugs).
Dissociative hallucinogens can also produce hallucinations but very commonly produce dissociative effects as well, such as depersonalization or derealization. The major substances that are classified as dissociative hallucinogens include ketamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine).
The classification of drugs is often based on the main effects that most people experience when they take the drug, but these experiences may vary from person to person.
Other effects of hallucinogenic drugs include heightened perceptual experiences (e.g., sounds may seem more acute, colors brighter, etc.), significant distortions of time (most often, experienced as moving far more slowly), and a significant loss of reality testing. Individuals under the influence of these drugs are unable to make judgments or rational decisions, and they are often fully disconnected from reality, whereas a person with a depersonalization/derealization disorder often still understands who they are, where they are, etc.
For some individuals, the “mind-expanding effects” of the drug may be a sense of detachment from their own ego (often referred to as “ego death”), which is a very subjective philosophical notion that the person has expanded their consciousness.
This may present itself in some cases as the person believing that they are detached from their own self and are now more aware and in tune with other aspects of reality. This is not a form of psychosis, and it is not a dissociative disorder, but some lay sources may consider this experience to be a form of depersonalization.
A person’s actual experience while under the influence of many hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD is often heavily influenced by the context in which the drug is taken. For example, “bad trips” more often occur in individuals who use LSD when they are stressed or emotionally upset (or expect to have a bad experience) than they do in individuals who are expecting to have a positive experience.
Anyone experiencing depersonalization could conceivably also experience “a bad trip” and extreme emotional distress. However, most people who have bad trips do not appear to develop significant lasting psychological damage once the effects of the drugs wear off.
Is Marijuana (Weed) a Hallucinogen?
No, marijuana (cannabis) is not technically classified as a hallucinogenic drug, although there is some inconsistency regarding its classification, and there are certainly numerous sources that do consider marijuana a hallucinogen.
The most authoritative sources, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the American Society of Addiction Medicine(ASAM), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA), etc., do not classify marijuana or cannabis products as hallucinogens and do not place them in the same category as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, etc., which are known hallucinogenic drugs.
This is not to infer that the use of cannabis products cannot result in the experience of hallucinations or dissociative effects like depersonalization, but for most people and for classification purposes, cannabis is not considered to be a hallucinogen such that its primary effects result in hallucinations or dissociative effects.
Just because a drug can produce hallucinations in some individuals, that does not necessarily classify it as a hallucinogenic drug. For instance, people under the influence of central nervous system depressant drugs like alcohol and benzodiazepines, and even under the influence of stimulant drugs like cocaine, may experience hallucinations, but these drugs are not classified as hallucinogens.
Individuals diagnosed with dissociative disorders often need to undergo comprehensive psychotherapy, as there are no formal medications that can address these conditions. Medications may help with some of the reactive symptoms associated with these disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
Individuals under the influence of drugs often need to be isolated or kept quiet if the effects of the drugs are disturbing to them, and time for the drug to metabolize in their system is the best form of treatment. The use of support, calming techniques, and reduction of environmental stimulation can be quite useful in people who have experienced severe distress.
Repeated bad trips on hallucinogenic drugs or having allergic reactions to these drugs should be a sign that the person should stop using the drugs; however, individuals who develop substance use disorders need professional intervention, such as involvement in therapy, peer support groups, etc.
According to professional sources, such as the APA, the risk factors for developing a depersonalization/derealization disorder include having some sort of interpersonal trauma (e.g., sexual or emotional abuse, particularly as a child), having immature defenses against stressful events, and having other personality variables, such as being disconnected or overly connected to others or events.
The use of numerous types of drugs, including marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs, may exacerbate symptoms of a dissociative disorder like a depersonalization/derealization disorder.
Misuse of marijuana or hallucinogens can cause disruptions to the user’s life and livelihood. If you’re worried that you or a loved one is abusing drugs and would like to stop, give us a call at .
At Oxford Treatment Center, we have helped countless individuals find meaningful recovery from substance use disorders and get back to living the lives they deserve. Contact us to learn more about our Southern U.S. addiction treatment programs at our inpatient rehab near Oxford, MS and start the admissions process.
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