Using cannabis to wean off Lexapro

Tyler HurstBlog12 Comments

Featured image is me from June 11, 2016 (my first full day without psych medication, particularly Lexapro) and today (I weigh ten lbs less, while also jettisoning 5% of my body fat).

From 2000 until mid 2016, I was prescribed 16 different medications designed to treat the following diagnosed disorders in my head: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and clinical depression with anxiety. I saw a series of different doctors, rarely did I have the same doctor prescribe me more than two meds until I moved on.

In mid 2009, I tried to stop taking both Adderall and Lexapro cold turkey, but the withdrawal symptoms from Lexapro (Adderall withdrawals feel similar to smoking, a seven-year habit of mine I’d ended 18 months prior, so I knew what I was in for) became too severe.

In 2013, I started to have rage blackouts. I studied how and why they were happening, and started to use cannabis intentionally to ward off some of that anger. It worked, most of the time, but I’d miss dosages because I’d hate myself too much or not have enough money to get the correct kind and amount.

In late 2015, I started to have what I understand as repressed memories and emotional flashbacks. I’d be in negative situations full of verbal and physical violence, and I’d get just as mad as I was then, but in an adult’s body sans my higher reasoning skills.

I often blacked out at times during these disassociative (usually depersonalization, where I’d yell and scream, but sometimes derealization, where I’d have to hurt myself in some way to make sure my world wasn’t evaporating) episodes, adding to my fear and confusion in the moment. In early 2016, after multiple devastating arguments with my family and wife, I started to question if my psych medication was working for me.

In April of that year, I was given 99 grams of organically grown cannabis from living soil to sample as a judge of sorts for Willamette Week’s first Cultivation Classic. I sampled 3-5 strains a day, and then made infused coconut oil with the vaped leftovers.

In May, I started to have visual memories that associated with my previous highly emotional reactions. Near daily, I’d have some sort of negative feeling in the present, and then was able to connect that memory with at least two other negative experiences, usually from back when I was 4-6 years old and again in my later teen years and early 20s.

I lost 12 pounds that month, after losing three per in the previous two months, while reducing my exercise load and increasing my food intake.

In June, I knew it was time to get off Lexapro for good, as I felt the chemicals were limiting my emotional range, which prevented me from feeling and remembering all that my brain was trying to tell me. I also knew that it would take time for my brain to heal, as it had been depending on outside sources of chemicals for nearly half my life.

With a 60-mile round trip bike ride partially alongside a state highway on my schedule, I waited until that had been completed, and woke up June 10, 2016, without Lexapro in my system and no backup prescription.

The brain fog was immediate. The brain zaps took a day to start, then were constant. My emotional range expanded to the point of not being able to handle even off-screen TV violence, and I started to love shows like The Muppets that I’d watched as a kid.

A couple of days into my recovery, I met the Hermetic Botanicals team, who supplied me Mind Joules Nootropic and Calming Frequency with Hemp Infused Gummies. These helped me establish a sleep/wake pattern, as I typically couldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time without help.

In addition to that as a complement on tougher days and nights, I used infused coconut oil made from 84 grams worth of already vaped bud from my vaporizer. This mix, consisting of a half gram of the 99 competition strains and sample cannabis straight from near-legendary grower John Bodhi, was 10% CBD and 70% indica strains. I took the oil three times a day, with a dosage ratio of about 1.5:1:3 starting at 5mg (this eventually went up to 30:30:90).

For midday runs or when I could feel myself getting agitated, I used a 7:1 Earth mix from Luminous Botanicals. Its instant, when taken sublingually, relief helped me overcome two specific situations in which my body had frozen in fear during a morning flashback…like the Tin Man getting oiled.

In addition, I smoked/vaped/dabbed as much THCv as I could find, usually in the form of Durban Poison, Girl Scout Cookie, and Cherry Pie flower. The high THCv helped me stay in the present when my body reacted with spasms connected to emotional flashbacks, and allowed me to sort of lucid dream visual flashbacks as they happened.

Like surfing, this was a skill that felt like both art and science, as I never had pure THCv to work with so I could get a better handle on dosing. But oh man, did nights with THCv feel a lot better than all the other ones.

I couldn’t afford to replace all the hemp and CBD products I’d been using (it’s far easier/cheaper to obtain THC-laden cannabis than high CBD options, typically) and my recovery slowed down from the first few months.

Nearly five months later, in early November, I felt my brain start to turn back on again. I became aware of an emotional range and sensitivity I hadn’t known about previously, and started to feel like I was living in the “real” world.

After that, my recovery slowed until I started yoga in March 2017, tried ayahuasca in May, and then reconfigured my CBD:THC ratio this month to help better support my healing brain.

I have a lot more work to go, but goddamn, has it been one helluva positive experience over time.

To follow along, check out the Burning Bush podcast, which documents my recovery from May 2016 on, check out some reviews at DOPE Magazine, and see some of my earlier cannabis work with Willamette Week.

Tyler HurstUsing cannabis to wean off Lexapro

12 Comments on “Using cannabis to wean off Lexapro”

  1. Meredith Verberkmoes

    I could learn so much from you. I take both CBD and THC in its various forms, have been on an obscene amount of psychiatric meds, and my experiences have some similarities with yours although depersonalization/derealization, rage blackouts, and the other things you said like the muppets, have not been in my arsenal of symptoms. I have bipolar type 2, ADHD, PTSD, and pre/menstrual dysphoric disorder (don’t date me). Many men have fallen for the trickery of my brain that is beyond my control, due to my seemingly infinite desirability. Anyway, I was also going to mention that John Bodhi is a friend of mine. Not from his job but from a social circle that I’m not to in touch with before. I’ve trimmed for him too, we’ve partied, went to Mexico with him and friends, and my most memorable experience with him was on a night where we were at a show where our musician friends were playing. I used to be a stoner in my early twenties but Cannabis, or I should say my mind, suddenly turned on me at one point and has ever since had a paradoxical effect on me. I’ve tried and retried over the years, worked on building up a tolerance, so on and so forth. So this night was one of those “retry” nights. If I’ve had a few drinks, and I don’t drink anymore but this was quite a few years ago, thc doesn’t give me anxiety, it makes me feel friggen awesome. So I had had a couple drinks, John had a tincture that he’d been working on, and I thought, I’ll try this. I’ve never ingested via tincture SPRAY, so maybe I’ll do fine. And I felt great ?. A few hours went by and I continued to feel fine so I had John spritz another dose in my mouth. I made sure to not take more than one spray every two hours because, well, two hours is the longest activation time I had ever heard of. So I felt normal, not even really buzzed from any alcohol, actually quite sober, so I drove home and went to bed (you know where this is going)…I woke up maybe eight hours later stoned absolutely out of my mind. Couldn’t really move, couldn’t really speak, it was terrible. I was the supervisor in my department of the DAC (I assume you’re familiar with either/both Eugene and Portland (Willamette), and I had a staff of thirty people that depended on me daily. Not only could I not go to work for four days, but I couldn’t even answer phone calls from employees who needed me for four/five days. I got super depressed after that and it took a couple of weeks to recover. I don’t blame John, my philosophy is that every individual is solely responsibility for what they decide to take. So anyway, the legendary part of him, I really relate to that. It’s somethinv I’ll never forget. But I know what you’re saying, he is incredibly good at what he does, and he makes shit happen as fast as he talks. So I just thought Id share my funny (now I think it’s hilarious) story with you ??. My greatest challenge in front of me right now is that I was a silly stupid person who for four days couldn’t remember to get my Paxil refilled…I’m on six meds and my memory is shot from the benzo I’ve been taking as prescribed for maybe seven years now, and I’ve recently started the Ashton method of withdrawal for this medical disaster where people’s bodies become there own internal torture chamber…but because im transitioning to Valium, a benzo that lets me avoid liquid titration and ridiculous things like science and math, I haven’t actually stepped down in dosage yet so I’m cool in only phase two. The whole entire point of everything I’ve written here equal in volume to War and Peace, is that I don’t know what the wth to do about fukn Paxil right now. The reason is that Ive felt better every day that I I very irresponsibly and inadvisably quit cold turkey I think one week ago now. I buy local organic products where I live. I’m taking an 8:1 cbd tincture that’s an indica dominate hybrid and a FECO, PHK is the strain, only about 5-7mg and with very little cbd, every night. I was doing searches on anything I could find about people with an SSRI cold turkey experience that was a success story as a result of supplementing cannabis. The temptation to keep going (cannabis turns off my tremors, brain zaps, and other withdrawal symptoms and I seem totally ok. I’m in for it, aren’t I. I’m frightened that I’ll be paying for it in three weeks or something but so encouraged and full of hope that I’ve gone this long withdrawal symptom free.

  2. Bianca

    This definitely gives me hope! I weaned off of lexapro (told by a psychiatrist to do so) and 5 days ago stop taking it and the withdrawals are painful and I hate the zaps! All of this makes me want to take the pill again but reading this gives me hope it will get better! Also makes me feel less guilty for using thc to help! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  3. Tiffany Lees

    I’m currently going through this and dear God I’ve been so agitated lately. I’m so hopeful after reading your story but medicinal marijuana is barely passed the vote so it feels as even decent cbd is hard to find. I’m struggling

  4. Ozgal

    Any advice for those of us still living in the dark ages (i.e., Australia) where we can’t access all those amazing CBD products to assist with discontinuation symptoms?

  5. Shay

    This is a great write up.
    I’m very similar in health issues, experience, and meds prescribed
    11 years on Celexa after 15 years of alcoholism. I am clean from alcohol 11 years.
    I also had been on Lexapro, trazadone, serolquel, adderall, and tegretol. Same diagnosis as you have.
    About 2 years ago, I started getting drug cravings bad. I began to develop a shameful addiction to Robitusin. DXM.
    Doc upped my tegretol, and that helped. I still wanted an outlet badly. Started cannabis, and got hooked on nicotine from blunts. (I’m only on half dose Celexa, tegretol, reduces nicotine,and hydroxyzine to ease anxiety during withdrawal now.)
    A year later (after beginning to smoke), the panic attacks started up. Bad ones. Manifesting into very real physical symptoms, including dangerous heart fluctuations, sweating, paralyzing me to a cold floor until passing out or going to the er.
    During this time, a very similar thing happened to me that you describe. I would smoke, then I would have feelings and memories rush in. I would break down crying, then remember a buried string of events.
    During one extreme panic attack, I went to the er. They gave me an anti-psychotic for headache after stabilizing me. This caused extreme akathashia, and I was seconds from ripping out the IV. If not for passing out, I believe I would have died that day. PTSD was the result. This was 2 years ago. They put me on klonopin.
    I am still out of work, unable to meet a schedule. I have tapered off the klonopin (which is hell), and am now half way off the Celexa
    I hope that I can get healthy after this, and would like to treat my ailments with only specific strains for anxiety, depression, and sleep. Right now, I am unable to smoke at all, as it makes the health anxiety worse. It is really really bad. For 18 months or so I thought I was going to die within the hour at all times.
    Any advice would be great, I had to write this up as I’ve never seen a case more mirroring to mine than yourself. I worry though, as it seems the cannabis triggered a severe worsening. My hopes is that I was taking two medications at high doses both perfectly capable of helping me, but the amounts and duality worked me into that hellish conundrum. Great work, be very proud. It isn’t easy to turn back and make it through healthy to the previous side.

  6. Ariel

    I was prescribed lexapro 20mg about 11 days ago now. I was in a bad relationship and now it causes me to experience anxiety/heightened awareness/distrust of most people. Anyways, I’ve been on it before and quit cold turkey about 1 year ago exactly. Finances have been pretty bad and we also moved quite a bit which has been triggering the F out of me. Lol My therapist decided to prescribe the same dose of lex I was on previously, 20mg. WELL After only 2 days on it again I started hallucinating, I heard auditory hallucinations, I also experienced extreme panic attacks on it, stayed up for 3 days in a row, vomited 3 days, and had diarrhea for like a week. They had me stop it after 2 days because I guess I experienced seritonin syndrom. So, now my brain is currently trying to get back to normal. Instead of buying a big thing of wine I’m going to try some mary, not much as it triggers my anxiety but a tiny bit. It helped with my adhd in the past and I’m hoping it helps with these crazy ass highs and lows I’ve been experiencing coming off of the lexapro. The worst part of it all is the panick attacks at night. I’ve never had issues going to sleep till starting this again. I guess this is just my bodies way of saying go natural now. Lol so I’ll come back and let you know how it goes if it improved things or not. I did try cbd the other day and it made me nauseous so not doing that.

    1. Tyler Hurst

      That’s a pretty high dose.
      What CBD did you use, I’ve never heard of it inducing nausea in people.
      Indica strains have been much more helpful that hybrids or sativa.

  7. Evelyn

    All of the above comments are so helpful. My story is pretty plain vanilla by comparison. I’ve been on tons of different meds for over 2 decades and want to stop. I am down to 20mg. of lexapro and 150 wellbutrin. Yes, I still can get blue and down and anxious but feel much better since seeing a therapist who also advocates for meditation. I also take weed which mellows me out, and makes me feel happy. (a little goes a long way) The last time I went cold turkey was with Effexor. (side effexor) Horrible experience!! Anyway, I know this withdrawal journey is gonna take a while. Has anyone every stopped Wellbutrin without the brain zaps and the rest of it.

    1. Tyler Hurst

      I appreciate you sharing your story.
      Effexor was a tough one for me too, I honestly don’t remember the week after I stopped using…and I was vacationing in Mexico!

      It took four months off Lexapro, and two years of weaning, for me to start to feel “normal.”

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