Bryan answers an email from a paranoiac in Ohio who’s suffered a personal loss
Published with permission:
My name is Allyson. I’m 18, and I’ve been trying to find someone who can help me make sense of what happened on the night I first tried to smoke. I was out with my boyfriend, and we were going to go chill with some of his friends (I’d never smoked or done any sort of drug before this night). I was pretty far from home, and nervous before we even got to the place where his friends were. It was dark, slightly in the woods and cold. It was me and 5 other guys. They rolled one up and asked if I wanted a hit, I said no. Because I didn’t want to do it, I was wayyyy to nervous. But, my boyfriend wanted me to, so I tired it. I had about 3 hits?? I think, and a shotgun hit. And they were REALLY good hits.
I remember when it hit me, it just felt funny things looked a bit different, I started freaking out from that point forward and couldn’t get it to stop. It felt tingly all over my body, my boyfriend got mad that I was freaking out and told me I needed to stop. And for some weird reason in my head I thought he was going to try to hurt me (even though he really wasn’t) so I started freaking out even more. I calmed down a little and my boyfriend took me to his car and put me in the drivers seat and told me to just lay down and try to relax. And that he’d be back to check on me, immediately I started to freak out even more. I was scared, cold, and confused on what was happening and he was going to leave. But, I agreed and he shut the door and left. I sat in the car for awhile, and I constantly was thinking they were talking about me and making fun of me. Then I felt like I was having flash backs, of things I knew when I was little but forgot about now that I’m older, like how to write. I just kept thinking about how to write letters (not scary just weird) and then I started to feel my heart beat, I thought I was dying. I was convinced I was going to die. My boyfriend came back and asked how I was and I told him I was dying and needed to go to the hospital. I was shivering and felt cold. And my heart was pounding super fast. He got me a blanket and told me that I wasn’t dying and to try to sleep. He left and I sat in the car awhile longer going through the same stuff, but then I had a thought, that one of his friends there was going to rape me if we didn’t leave. He told me no one was going to and left again. That’s when I prayed to God that is be okay. I also at one point wanted to call the police, but ended up calling my mom and told her to remember me (because I thought I was going to die), my boyfriend took away my phone at that point.
We left there and on the way back to my friends house I was still tripping (started smoking at about 3 in the morning?? It’s probably 4-5ish at this point) I made him pull over on the side of the highway because I felt like I was going to puke (I didn’t) and then I wouldn’t let him drive because I thought we were going to get in a wreck. We left and went to another friend’s house, and when we got there I thought I shit my pants, I could feel it. I swear it was so weird, but I got to the bathroom and nothing was there. (I laughed obviously because it was hilarious) but went back out to the car with my boyfriend and friend and sat out there for awhile longer. I continued to shiver as if I was cold. I ended up falling asleep and waking up hazy but not bad anymore. The next few days after it felt really hazy too. Overall the paranoia lasted about 4-5 hours, do people even stay high that long?
I tried smoking again with my boyfriend a few months after this and tried only taking 2 hits. Still got the cold shivers and bad thoughts. But went away very quickly. Wasn’t too bad.
So I tried a few months later with two of my friends and everything was going good. I had a hit every few hours throughout the day. I went out in public went shopping went to a restaurant, all was good. But we went back to the house and my friend filled another bowl of a different type of weed then we had been smoking earlier and I had 4 hits off the bowl. And that’s when it hit me again, cold shivers paranoid thoughts. I handled it much better then the first time I’d had it. But it was as if I trust no one. It didn’t matter who it was I didn’t believe anything they’d tell me. I went to sleep and was hazy for a few days after that again.
My boyfriend and his friends and my friends as well, can’t tell me what happened. They say that no one they know has ever tripped out on weed only. But, I can’t be the only one to experience such a bad time with it. I haven’t smoked since and don’t want to, but some clarity would be so nice to have. If you could, please get back to me, I would appreciate it SOO much.
Wow! I get a lot of emails, but it’s rare to get one so well written and well expressed. And that’s important, because the nature of these experiences are often subtle and somewhat difficult to put into words. A few of the things you report however are common, and, fortunately, easy to put into words. They come up again and again with people who have this type of reaction to cannabis:
– persistent negative thoughts
– unusual distrust of people
– feelings of pending doom, death
The coldness you report, I’ve felt before, but can’t really recall it being reported by anyone but perhaps one person that I worked with a couple years ago in Vancouver. Now in the third year of this enterprise, I’ve interviewed, heard from, corresponded with close to a thousand individuals on the subject of difficult reactions to cannabis. So, I can easily assure you that you’re not the only one who experiences these types of reactions. However, I can also assure you that you are in a minority group, likely defined by a particular genetic disposition. In my book, which I will attach here for you, is a chapter called “The Paranoia Gene,” which is a summary of a very basic inquiry into the subject matter. There’s still a lot we don’t know.
I advise everyone, especially those who get these harsh reactions, to wait until at least the age of 19 to begin experimenting with cannabis, and only if you want to. I know there’s often a strong social pressure, but it’s easy to tell people: “I don’t get the same type of high that other people get.”
There’s also that magnetic curiosity that draws you to cannabis, the smell. I get it. Check out the chapter in my book called “What Extreme Paranoia Looks Like.”
In case you do decide to pursue cannabis as a social/recreational outlet, please have a look at the attached strain guide and antidote catalog. I know it may not be practical to only smoke these strains, especially when you’re being passed a random joint at a party, but it is possible to carry around some activated carbon pills (which you can order online) that will quickly absorb the THC if you start to have a bad reaction.
I really hope this helps. And every time I get a letter like yours, my heart goes out to you, because I know this is a really difficult experience, that very few understand or really appreciate.
Thanks to the design and production talents at SuccessfulStoners.Com for their part in creating this video:
Bryan answers an email from a paranoiac in Ohio who’s suffered a personal loss
What is an “Awakening”?
Within the context of the MPMC (Marijuana Paranoia Management Coaching) practice, “Awakening” refers to the activation of a new, powerful and occasionally darker/difficult/distressing dimension of consciousness that may in some individuals become illuminated through the use of cannabis. Many fail to appreciate the growth opportunity that can come from learning to manage and interpret this new dimension of psychological exposure and decide instead to essentially dismiss cannabis from their lives as it “makes them paranoid.”
Our society and media nurtures and promotes a sadly distorted and shallow reputation for cannabis. As children, we are told that this plant is in fact an illicit drug with no medical value or purpose. Like any other street drug, marijuana will make you feel good for a short period of time but will ultimately lead to addiction and destruction. This odd vantage point on cannabis helps to form the prevailing expectation of many adolescent and young-adult cannabis users— when they partake of cannabis they expect their experience to be one of furtive pleasure. Their expectations are realized in a light and dream-like state that they recognize as being “fun” and “impaired (fucked up)” rather than “altered yet purposeful.” Their vision is that of a forbidden psychedelic playground (kind of a weird and unnatural concept when you think about it, are we to feel guilty on face for exploring alternate forms of consciousness) free of all responsibility and worry, a vision of temporary escape into a magical world without consequence.
Cannabis is a temporal hallucinogen which slows down time and thus magnifies our perception of our own consciousness. While unconsciously committed to the illusion that mind alteration is automatically synonymous with escape and care-free pleasure, we are prone to experience years or even a lifetime of light-hearted, albeit shallow, experiences with cannabis.
Awakening is usually spurred by a trigger: an uncommon source of stress or trauma, a major life change, or even the profound and formative changes in the brain which occur naturally during adolescence. The trigger initiates a process which substantially changes the way we see the world. When our newly refined perception becomes magnified by cannabis, we are forced to confront certain realities that feel sudden, raw and uncomfortable, even horrifying. Such are the realities that we’d rather not look at in any great depth, but dismiss as illusion, some punitive consequence for our unsanctioned altering of consciousness. We become our own Gods and we judge and punish and abandon ourselves, thus fulfilling the state-sponsored prophecies we were inundated with as children. We had our hour of pleasure, and now it’s time to pay the price.
How MPMC (Marijuana Paranoia Management Coaching) helps:
When cannabis is used in the MPMC environment, the aesthetic is neither social (in a traditional sense) nor secluded. MPMC clients are given a space in which their anxieties and psycho-spiritual stressors can be shared with a dedicated, knowledgeable and empathic human support system at the ready. The client enjoys assurance of confidentiality and countenance for the ideas shared/discussed. MPMC assists clients in the development and confrontation of their unique Psychological Distress Narratives that follow from their “triggers” downward (see flow chart below). The MPMC coach then attempts to help the client intervene upon the paranoia/anxiety development chain by providing a dedicated space for the “Search for Meaning” (see flow chart), thus forestalling the development of unhealthy, erroneous belief systems, while promoting productive and balanced insights of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual significance.
From a 2008 study of paranoia in the general population. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18378984
A thorough explanation for the common adolescent-to-adulthood awakening progression can be found in Handbook for the High-Functioning Paranoiac under the Age sub-header in the Limits and Precautions section. If you’re interested in becoming an MPMC client, you may inquire at email@example.com.
It keeps coming up over and over again– 15,16, and 17-year-olds sending me emails after having rough experiences with pot. Above and beyond the normal “weed paranoia,” theirs is a vivid, overwhelming and often disturbing psychedelic reckoning, an experience more similar to that produced by psilocybin or LSD. These teens email me looking for help, but my advice is not always what they want to hear.
Scientists are investigating a genetically based component that may hold the answers as to why certain adolescents (and adults) are so dramatically affected by this nominally mild psychedelic. Meanwhile, due to an abundance of evidence pointing to the unique dangers of cannabis use during formative brain development, my organization, MPMC, does not work with individuals younger than 19 years of age. When teens ask me for help, I recommend two things:
1) Lay off the weed for a few years– at least until the age of 19. If the plant comes up at a party, just pass it up. If you feel like explaining, explain that you’ve got a genetically determined reaction to pot that often leads to experiences that are more distressing than pleasurable. At MPMC we call this vulnerability, COMT Polymorphism.
2) Do other stuff! Consider your aversion to the enigmatic herb to be a kind of call to action. Focus on developing and improving other areas of your life. For adult COMT polymorphs, marijuana is used to illuminate, accelerate and refine one’s greater life purpose, mission etc. If you’re still in high school, still living at home, still in your teens, take some sober time to zero in on the hopes and dreams you have for this life. Think of the COMT Polymorph as a uniquely dynamic personality type. Once you establish the necessary anchors needed to root that unruly psyche of yours, your capacity to enrich your universe will be beyond measure. Practice meditation, jiu jitsu, calligraphy, learn to play the mandalin, work out. Trust me, there will be plenty of time to experiment with cannabis.
Last year I gave this advice to a young man (17 at the time) who had found my channel on youtube. I followed up with him a few weeks ago, and he had this to say:
I’m doing alright now pushing myself to get out of school. I haven’t smoked in a while and it feels good. If there’s one thing I can tell you it’s that being productive helps a lot, because i feel like when your mind is occupied with your life and bettering your current situation all you can do is focus. I’m in the gym and by luck it turns out i have a unique body type that gains muscles fast i have maybe put up 13lbs of pure muscle in the past 3 months and that helps a lot. I’ve been finding beneficial traits in myself that I would’ve never found while siting on the couch all day. I’m faster smarter more healthier and most importantly more focused. I just want to say if i never found your youtube channel who knows how fucked i would’ve been, and the best part is i’m only 18 and i have the rest of my life ahead of me and i feel like this situation has me more prepared for life then anyone else my age. Also i don’t have a problem telling people that i just don’t get the same high everyone else does. Sorry for the long message but so much has changed since the last time we talked.
So if you’re a teen having a tough time with pot, please know that you’re not alone, nor are you weak. You just ended up with a different roll of the genetic dice. You just don’t get the same high everyone else does (as elegantly phrased by my correspondent above). Let your brain harden up a bit (seriously). If you’re still interested in cannabis when you’re 19, get a green card and give me a call.
Marijuana Paranoia Management Coach, Bryan Basamanowicz, answers an email from a conscientious former stoner whose recent weed-induced panic attack has him worried.
Read full text of the email below video:
I am 37 yrs old. Been smoking regularly for about 10 years. Once I
started working from home about 18 months ago, I started using
more regularly. I would smoke every day. Maybe 4 times a day. I
had a good tolerance to getting high. Never had a problem.
Always made me feel great. I have a bad back, arthritis from
playing sports and marijuana has helped out tremendously with
this. I started to gain weight last year due to being inactive
because I was working from home. I got up to 250 lbs. I quit
working out on a regular basis. Usually when active I was around
So I got some new stuff the first week in March. The smell was
really strong. Really strong. I use mason jars and I could even
smell it outside of the jar. I tried it, and after only two
tokes from my volcano vape bag, I knew I was good. It stayed
with me for the remainder of the night. I went out with a friend
to a comedy club and had a great time. When I got back before I
went to sleep, I decided to have a few more drags off a bag
before I laid down to watch TV. My heart took off. Racing like
crazy. Probably got up to around 120 bpm. I have had this happen
before but this time it was way different. I freaked out for a
second.I called a friend and they came and sat with me. I do
Yoga so I just took some deep breaths. I also took an aspirin.
After an hour, I was sleeping pretty well. My heart was up but I
A few days later I had a volcano sesh off of that batch. I had
nothing to eat since lunch. My heart started racing like crazy.
I got really sketchy all over. I laid down in the kitchen floor
and a tingling sensation started to rise all over my body. A
super bad trip. My mom got so worried that she called the
paramedics. They came in and did a full EKG. My pulse was up at
100. My EKG was normal. Blood pressure was okay. Blood sugar was
way low. I told them nothing about the weed. They suggested that
I eat something. I went back to the barbeque. Had a meal. Went
to lay down and the same thing started happening again. Heart
beating really fast. Tingling. I went to the emergency room to
be safe. Told them nothing about the weed. They ran all the
tests. I came back the same as in the paramedic truck. The
doctor at the emergency room said that it was a panic attack.
Gave me a prescription for xanax and sent me on my way. I didn’t
take one at the hospital because I have heard bad things about
I decided to go home sleep it off and call my regular doc. I saw
my regular doctor days later. When I weighed at the doctors
office I was 214. So I had lost about 35 pounds in three months
to my surprise. My regular doc agreed that it was panic attack
and gave me a lesser dose prescription and recommended me to a
cardiologist. My cardio doctor gave me all the same tests. My
heart rate was still up around 100. My EKG was normal but this
time my blood pressure was slightly higher. I was also having
some heart palpitations from the stress of all of this. He did
full bloodwork. All normal. He did an echo of my heart. All
normal. I wore a heart monitor for a month. He said that I
needed to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, etc. and quit
stressing. Take a half a milligram of xanax when I needed to but
that I was fine.
I went to the doctor to get checked out since then. They say its
just anxiety but they are of no help really. I have been taking
Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Omega 3 supplements and I’ve been
feeling extremely better. I have been working out regularly even
running and getting my pulse up to 165 with no problems. My
resting rate is around 75 so I am getting in pretty good shape.
I used to be pretty active when I started. Not sure if that is
the reason the rapid heart rate never bothered me.
My question is I want to be able to enjoy cannabis again. My
batteries are recharged. It was beneficial to my bad back, joint
pain, etc. I am just not sure what I should do to approach it
after a 12 month break. Plus, I have no idea if I will have the
same kind of bad trip again. Just need some advice.
There remains a great deal of mystery surrounding both the origins and the tenacity of “420” as the universal stoner rallying cry. In the latest video from MPMC, Marijuana Paranoia Management Coach, Bryan Basamanowicz, presents a new theory on the cultural significance of 420 that may be as equally disturbing as it is compelling. What do you think?
image from: sptimes.com
Certain cannabis users have been known to experience a perceived acceleration of heart-rate when they get high. This can be explained physiologically (see the video), and knowing what’s actually happening in the body may also reduce the impulse to panic. In the latest video from Vancouver’s Marijuana Paranoia Management Coaching (MPMC), Bryan Basamanowicz addresses an email from a cannabis user concerned about his cannabis-accelerated heart rate. Check it out:
When the show you’re watching on television seems custom built to reflect your life, and the walls of reality start to feel paper thin, that’s when you know it was really good weed!
Check out the latest installment of MPMC’s Paranoid Marijuana Video Diary series.