Can smoking weed lead to temporary personality loss? Here's what you should know

What are the signs to look for?

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"The picture of him when I arrived is something I will probably never forget. He sat there, eyes wide open and his body like frozen, his head seemingly turning green and not reacting to us in any way," wrote a Reddit user recently. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

Ever been on a bad cannabis trip?

Cannabis affects people differently. Some get anxious, others feel calm, but few unfortunate ones go on a very bad trip. One Reddit user recently posted about a friend’s bad trip and how it resulted in temporary personality loss.

Is there such a thing as temporary personality loss and what are the signs to look for?

What really went wrong?

“Your friend probably has psychosis that was triggered when he got high,” Reddit user theredditofjessica commented.

Rather than calling it a temporary personality loss or even psychosis, “I would reference this episode as depersonalization and disassociation,” says Thomas Folan, MD, CEO and founder of SolaceMD, an emerging online medical cannabis information, recommendation and consultation platform. “Psychosis is a very broad diagnosis,” he adds.

Depersonalization and disassociation refer to a “dreamlike state when a person feels disconnected from their surroundings. Things may seem ‘less real’ than they should be,” reports Medical News Today.

Some of the triggers for this condition, as per The American Journal of Psychiatry, include:

  1. Prior history of anxiety disorder;
  2. Biological predisposing factors;
  3. Cannabis use under acute distress;
  4. High-potency cannabis use;
  5. Sudden withdrawal from regular cannabis use.

Meanwhile, people experiencing psychosis “lose touch with reality and may hear voices, see things that are not actually there or have delusional, confused thoughts. It is a recognized medical condition and different to getting high on a drug,” BBC reports, further highlighting a 2019 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, where cannabis was linked to the varying incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe.

“If you have anything going on in your life, or are in bad mood… those things may come to light and can be magnified—if you are paranoid about something prior to using cannabis, then that experience can be magnified after use,” adds Folan.

Treat cannabis like a medicine

The dose makes the poison,” Folan says. “Anything can be toxic depending on what the dose is. You could give someone so much water that they get rid of all the sodium in the body—cannabis is the same,” he adds.

That’s why the rule of thumb whether a person is a first-time or a long-time user is to start low, go slow. “Cannabis affects everyone differently and they metabolize these products differently and require lower dosing. The idea of going slow and dosing low should apply to everyone,” says Lucas C. McCann, PhD, chief scientific officer for CannDelta Inc.

The effects of an overdose of cannabis are “usually not life-threatening (and they almost never are), but they can be very uncomfortable to anyone experiencing them. It can cause symptoms such as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, even though its an anti-emetic (or anti-nauseant),” adds McCann.

Most people wouldn’t pop a prescription pill without prior consultation, Folan maintains cannabis should be treated the same way. “Cannabis is medicine,” he says.

One that’s much easier to purchase from a verified source now that a regulated framework is in place.

“During the black market, even the evidence of what strains were actually being sold and consumed was also not consistent. This is why Health Canada has restricted recommended dosing on the cannabis-infused edible products (beverages included) indicating that each discrete unit can only contain 10 mg (of THC), which is quite low,” says McCann. “As the public becomes generally more cannabis savvy, and society more ‘comfortable’ with these products, how to use them and their effects, these limits on dosing (and packaging of the discrete units) could change,” he adds.

 

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