Author Topic: Marijuana and Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome  (Read 7555 times)


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Marijuana and Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
« on: May 11, 2011, 06:47:16 AM »
I posted this in my Member Journal, but I wanted to post it here as well for those who don't read my Journal.

I came across an IMMENSELY helpful piece of information yesterday that was extremely helpful to me, and maybe it will be for you as well. This post is a little lengthy, but it is immeasurably helpful to anyone seeking recovery from ANY substance.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). I consider being aware of PAWS to be essential in understanding what our bodies and minds are going through once we give up a drug. I will post an excellent link at the bottom of this post that provides more information.

I had primarily been concerned about my PAWS in relation to alcohol, which I gave up on January 31st. I was less concerned about my marijuana addiction, because I considered it to be much less harmful to me, and I simply wasn't as ready to give it up as I was with booze.

I did not want to compromise my recovery from PAWS by using marijuana. That was probably my biggest motivation to stay away from it. However, I noticed that many people who quit using alcohol are also heavy smokers and coffee drinkers.

This seemed somewhat contradictory to me because, according to the "rules" of PAWS, "PAWS symptoms reach a peak from three to six months after we get clean. Any use of drugs or alcohol, even in small quantities or for a short time, will effectively eliminate any improvement gained over that time, as it will keep the brain from healing."

I posted this question on another forum I visit:

"Is there a reason why caffeine/nicotine are exempt from the "any use of drugs" rule? I mean, this article says even SMALL quantities eliminate ANY improvement. Where does that leave a pack a day smoker? What about two or three packs/day? Doesn't that mire them in an eternal state of PAWS, until they are able to give up nicotine too?

Wouldn't this "loophole" allow a heroin addict to have a couple beers every month? A crack addict to smoke a couple joints? An alcoholic do a line? Do you see what I'm getting at?

Sure, you could say that an addict seriously involved in recovery wouldn't and shouldn't use these mind-altering substances. I would absolutely agree. But, if we are strictly adhering to the "rules" of PAWS, isn't it necessary to remove caffeine and nicotine from our lives as well?"

The actual author of the PAWS article that I have referenced responded with this:

"I am the author of the PAWS article.

I agree 100% with the premise that, as they say in NA, a drug is a drug is a drug, and my personal opinion is that we are not fully in recovery until we have eliminated all addictive substances (and perhaps behaviors, when it comes to that). However, I would point out that even NA does not extend that to nicotine and caffeine. If they did, I imagine that the other 12-step groups would have a sudden jump in membership.

The attitude of the treatment centers I've worked in, and of most of the addiction professionals I know, is that it is far easier to "kick" drugs and alcohol with the calming effects of nicotine and caffeine. It is true that they also have their withdrawal syndromes, and also true that they prolong PAWS to a degree. We use other drugs to ameliorate withdrawal, both acute and post-acute, and the feeling is that caffeine and nicotine fall into the same category.

It is also true that, while they are two of the most addictive drugs, the next cigarette is not likely to be the one that kills you and caffeine is largely harmless (if we ignore sleep disturbances that may be avoided with reasonable restraint). Conversely, for people in recovery, the next drink or hit can easily be the one that leads to a fatality. Remember, too, that relapse occurs before the first drink or drug, which simply makes it "official."

So, even though I believe as stated in the second paragraph, I do not counsel my sponsees nor others to quit smoking and drinking coffee. I didn't quit smoking myself until I was three years sober, and I still use caffeine. However, I have been sober now for 21 years, and it doesn't seem to have been much of a hindrance.

There is also another issue, rather more subtle. One is constantly exposed to cigarette smoke at practically any gathering of recovering people, either outside the hall or -- in many cases -- inside, or both. That is rather like hanging out in a bar, and can easily lead to relapse. One relapse, one failure, can easily lead a newcomer to a feeling of futility about recovery in general."

I decided to press further, with a question specifically inquiring about marijuana:

"Wouldn't marijuana function in a similar fashion as cigarettes, with its "calming effects"? Also, the next joint is "not likely to be the one that kills you", and many would argue that it is "largely harmless".

The author responded with this:

"[Marijuana] scrambles your brain chemistry and because of the extremely long half-life can cause major discomfort in both acute and especially post-acute withdrawal. And it can cause cravings and trigger relapse. Don't believe everything you read on the "pro" sites."

Man, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I know that many of you don't need all this mumbo jumbo to stay clean. Or maybe you're like me, and you're trying to quit one substance, and would like to kick marijuana as well. Regardless, this really put me over the top.

I've been clean for over four months, and within the next couple months, my psychological addiction is going to continue to fade away. I would be compromising all the progress I made with just one joint -- mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, you name it-ally.

Anyway, I wanted to share that with those of you who read my journal. Cheers if you made it to the end, I found it to be very enlightening. Here is the link if anyone is interested in learning more:


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Re: Marijuana and Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2011, 08:37:38 AM »
Very interesting Bill - thanks for posting this. It seems like there are so many substances and behaviors to fall back on. My other one besides pot is sugar. My addictive behavior also shows up in watching too much TV and chewing too much gum.

It sounds like you are on the right track - keep going strong!


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Re: Marijuana and Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2011, 08:19:57 AM »
have had tough time complying with cout order to quit


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Re: Marijuana and Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2011, 11:33:41 AM »
Hello drowningboy, I suggest you make your posts on the "member journals" section instead. No one really checks this one unfortunately, but you should get plenty of support if you start up a journal of your own in that section. You are not alone.