After 5 months, I've completely recovered from marijuana induced DP/DR. My post in the Introductions section of this site tells the story of how it happened. Basically, I overdosed on edible marijuana while I was home alone for a weekend and had an intense and prolonged panic episode that seemed to last forever. After about 20 hours of intense tripping and constant panic, I was left with extreme anxiety and constant sensations of adrenaline surging through my body. Within a few days the DP/DR started. I stopped recognizing places I went everyday and had frequent episodes where I didn't feel real or the world didn't look real. Colors were odd and cartoonish and I had strange and disturbing existential thoughts. I had compulsive ruminations and I felt like I was coming out of my skin. Basically, I felt like I got high and never came down. My biggest fear was that the condition was permanent and I had somehow damaged by brain.
I got up the courage to see my doctor and I told him the whole story. He gave me a script for Xanax, which I think was a key to making a quick recovery. He also referred me to a psychologist that had experience with DP/DR and knew a lot about anxiety. A big realization was learning that DP/DR is caused by anxiety and is really a maladaptive coping mechanism the brain uses. I thought the DP/DR symptoms were caused by the marijuana, but thankfully, I was wrong. The marijuana caused the intense and prolonged panic, and the intense and prolonged panic switched my brain into a state of heightened anxiety, which included DP/DR symptoms. That state of heightened anxiety lasted a long time (about three months) and would have lasted longer, had I not worked hard to treat it.
The main things are did to treat it are as follows:
1. I learned what was really happening to me and why - seeing a doctor and a psychologist and reading this forum all gave me a great deal of insight and helped me understand how and why this was happening, and that it was temporary.
2. I kick started my recovery with an anti-anxiety med....Xanax in my case. I desperately needed some relief from my anxiety and DP/DR symptoms, particularly in the first month after the OD. The key to recovery is slowly getting your brain out of the state of heightened anxiety. The less time you spend in an anxious state, the more your brain recovers. For me, taking a .25 mg Xanax when I started to panic broke the cycle of fear and dread that kept me in a state of heighted anxiety. Like many, I quickly developed a dread of the DP/DR symptoms such that the dread of them actually caused them. Knowing that I had a way to do self-rescue and stop the symptoms by taking a pill really stopped the cycle of dread and rumination and allowed me to get some relief. Xanax always worked to make me feel grounded and back in sync with reality, if only for a few hours. I gradually used it less and less and I haven't used any in about a month.
3. Sleeping enough - I had to be very conscious of getting enough sleep. When I was tired, I found that the anxiety was much worse. I had to sleep regular hours and get 8 hours of sleep each night. I can't emphasize this enough. It made a big difference, as it seemed to push the neuro-chemical reset button in my brain.
4. Exercise - One of the things my doctor told me is that the state of heightened anxiety that my brain was stuck in, was causing my body to produce extra adrenaline. My blood pressure was up, my pulse was up and I had constant anxiety pangs and nausea at first. Exercise burns adrenaline and I quickly found that if I exercised daily, it had a big effect in decreasing my DP/DR and my anxiety. I was more relaxed afterward, I slept better and I felt much more grounded. It also improved my health dramatically, as I lost weight and am now in much better shape.
5. Better diet - I didn't eat poorly before my experience, but in order to recover, I had to stop eating foods that were hard to digest or unhealthy. I basically cut my calorie intake in half, stopped using any caffiene and stopped drinking any alcohol. I started eating whole foods and I had to avoid foods high in sugar, as they triggered anxiety. Alcohol, in particular, had an odd effect. I could drink and get a buzz and felt fine, but after it wore off, I would have serious anxiety and it would magnify my DP/DR symptoms. I stayed away from alcohol and caffiene during my entire recovery and ate a lot of raw fruits and vegetables and nuts. I was very sensitive to caffiene for about 4 months. Even a little coffee would immediately kick in serious DP/DR symptoms. I had to stay away from it, but it was a good indicator for when my brain returned to normal. I can now drink all the coffee I want without any ill effects.
6. Dietary supplements - I did a few things here that were recommended by my doctor and psychologist. I started taking B family supplements, magnesium taurate, high potency fish oil, vitamin E and other "brain vitamins". I also started taking a multivitamin. I sometimes used herbal teas with a calming effect, such as passion flower, valerian root and chamomile, but these didn't help much once I was already anxious or in the midst of panic. I think the vitamins definitely helped, as I felt much more physically and psychologically comfortable.
7. Counseling - I saw a psychologist who specialized in anxiety disorders. He knew all about DP/DR and he had me buy a book on Amazon for about $15 called the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. This was very helpful in recognizing and intervening in my anxiety. It also taught me a lot of cognitive behavioral techniques for relaxing myself and breaking cycles of rumination. I see a lot of people on this site who see psychiatrists and end up with multiple diagnoses and lots of different meds. It seems to me that a lot of psychiatrists aren't familiar with anxiety and DP/DR, and often make inaccurate diagnoses, label people and push pills. My psychologist was very reassuring, didn't label me with diagnoses and gave me excellent tools to recover. In particular, I learned some relaxation techniques that helped me calm myself.
8. Get out and do stuff - this was very hard for me, as I didn't feel like leaving the house or going anywhere. I joined a sports league and kept up a pretty busy social schedule as soon as the initial crisis ended (about two weeks into it). I did a lot of walking outside, hiking, fishing, jogging and activities with other people. I particularly enjoyed playing sports because it was a social activity as well as exercise. It helped me to go to work because I was able to focus and while at work and this kept my mind from wandering.
9. Keep occupied - My worst times were when I was alone with nothing to do. My mind would wander to dark places and would enter cycles of rumination and dread. I found that listening to audio books helped a lot, as did playing video games. I had to be proactive about structuring my time so I was either with someone else or I had something to do. Driving in the car was particularly difficult without audio books.
10. Tell people about it and tell them how to help - I told my family, my boss, my doctor, my kids, etc. about my anxiety and DP/DR. I explained what it was (although not necessarily how I got it) and what I was doing to recover. They were very supportive and this helped me feel more secure. Once I knew that the people around me had my back, I wasn't so worried that I would freak out or have a panic attack where the people around me wouldn't know how to help.
11. Don't poke the bear - I had to avoid needless stress and anxiety. I had a habit of doing online research about DP/DR and reading DP/DR horror stories. I also liked to do thought experiments to see if I was thinking clearly. I had to stop this and keep my mind focused. One of my worst compulsions was "reality checking," in which I'd stop and look around to see if things looked "real enough." Of course, they never did and I would start an anxiety cycle that would usually result in DP/DR episodes. Now, I knew better than to do any of these things, but I kept doing them, even though they served no purpose and caused me anxiety. I had to stop this sort of self-sabotage.
12. Act your way into better thinking - I had to just put one foot in front of the other and do things even if I felt anxious and had DP/DR symptoms. In the case of anxiety, over-thinking can be the problem....analysis paralysis. I needed to keep my mind focused and keep busy by proactively structuring my time and planning things to do and to look forward to. I often had anhedonia where I just didn't feel like doing anything and felt pretty hopeless but I went through the motions until the feelings passed....and they did pass. By taking the correct actions, my brain healed and my thoughts became normal again.
It has now been 5 months. The first 2 months were the worst and the third month was tough. I had to quit worrying about how long it would take me to recover. Everyone recovers at a different rate based on their life circumstances. If you already had anxiety issues, you might need to get a handle on them before you can experience permanent recovery, but you can definitely improve and reduce your anxiety and head off symptoms of DP/DR. I made recovery the number one priority in my life because I was so miserable and it paid off. I now feel completely grounded and no longer have any DP/DR symptoms. My generalized anxiety is gone and I'm recovered. However, I'm not the same as I was. I'm now much healthier and happier. I'm much more aware of my feelings and I am more enthusiastic about life and about the people in my life. I think that having had the experience of entering that nether-world where your conciousness is alienated from reality really gives you an appreciation for reality once you get back in phase with it. I've seen that dark world and I'm glad to back on the other side. I feel like I need to live the rest of my life to the fullest extent possible and I now see a lot of the things that were holding me back before I had the overdose. So, in closing, I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy and I still wouldn't want to go through it again for a million dollars, but I'm not sad that I did, because it lifted a veil from my eyes and opened the door to new possibiities that my mind had been closed to before.