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Huge Mistake Leading to Panic
Paroxetine & Cannabis
by electronic KID A
Citation:   electronic KID A. "Huge Mistake Leading to Panic: An Experience with Paroxetine & Cannabis (exp19522)". Sep 26, 2005.

15 mg oral Pharms - Paroxetine (pill / tablet)
    smoked Cannabis (plant material)


I'm hoping this bit of information I have on my experience with coming off Paxil will help others with similar problems. I've been reading many reports that seem to end up with someone developing some sort of anxiety or panic disorder, and if you don't know what these problems are, I suggest you do some research online or talk to a doctor.

Paxil is a pharmiceutical drug used in the treatment of the following:
- Depression
- Panic Disorder
- Mid to Severe Anxiety
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder [OCD]

I was prescribed Paxil a few weeks before the summer of 2000, after an incident on a plane left me mentally, and as a result, physically crippled [jittery, wobbly, etc.] with something I knew nothing about. After making sure that I had no inner ear problems or neurological disorders involving the eyes and other senses, I saw an M.D. who quickly and easily diagnosed me with Panic Disorder.

Believe it or not, this did NOT come as a surprise. I had been dealing with this problem for years, but had no idea what it was. I would sit in crowded bleachers during high school assemblies and worry about throwing up, to the point that I'd begin to shake and feel dizzy, and my heart rate would rise higher than normal. I'd freak out at work, worrying that I'd either pass out, throw up, or fall into a fit of craziness that I wouldn't be able to control. Eventually, I lost interest in my job for this reason and quit. Schoolwork was just as difficult. I took the SATs twice, and each time I did, I experienced a full panic attack for almost the complete duration of the test. It was hell - I was imprisoned in the chair - if I got up during the test, I'd become the center of attention, and this is not something I wanted. To calm myself, I had been carrying water bottles with me. Sipping water helped me calm down a bit, but definitely not as much as I hoped. [Somehow I ended up scoring above a 1000 on both SAT tests]

So, this M.D. I had been talking to prescribed me with an initial dose of 5mg Paxil, and I gradually increased from 5mg to 10mg, then up to 20mg. I was comfortable at that level, but a small level of anxiety was still present. After talking to my doctor again, he upped the dose to 30mg - which was perfect. I remained on that dose until last month, almost a year and a half later.

Being on Paxil changed my life for the better. As much as I hated taking something for my mental health, I realized that I wasn't getting anywhere without some sort of helping hand, and Paxil was right there. As for side effects - In the beginning, I had trouble keeping an erection, and this was quite annoying, considering I had to explain this whole thing to my girlfriend at the time. Luckily, it was easy for her to understand Paxil's effects - she had been on it too, and was now off of it, but on large doses of other medicines for mental health. That small sexual side effect eventually tapered off and went away [thank god], and the only other side effects I experienced were the frequency of yawning, and being a bit jittery - neither of which affected me greatly. Besides - my anxiety and panic attacks were gone!

During all this, I had been smoking cannabis. As a side note, I'd like to mention that smoking marijuana did not interfere with the taking of Paxil. If anything, I needed to smoke a bit more [another hit or two] to feel Mary Jane's effects. Also note that my use of cannabis, although partially recreational, was also a bit spiritual for me. I saw of it as a healing herb - a plant that could open my eyes to things unseen in everyday life.

Until about a month ago, I was still on Paxil. However, Paxil in combination with my sleeping habits [falling asleep around 3am and waking up around noon] caused me to encounter some problems my first year in college. Into my second year, it got worse. According to my doctor, Paxil was at the beginning of the anti-depression medicine spectrum in terms of sleepiness. It was common for people to be tired or take naps during the day while on Paxil. This, I felt, could ruin my college career, as it was already beginning to do. I was missing classes all the time, mostly due to the fact that I just couldn't get up in the morning. I made the mistake of hoping it would go away and not contacting my doctor to tell him about my sleep habits - until recently.

I was home for Thanksgiving break, and decided it was time to do something about this sleep problem. I had already failed three out of five semester classes because I couldn't wake up for them, and the other two were almost gone as well. My doctor was confident that making a switch from 30mg of Paxil to 100mg of Zoloft would be successful. I would be switching meds instead of simply coming off Paxil because my family history of anxiety would almost guarantee a relapse for me. My schedule for switching meds was as follows:

- Taper off Paxil from 30mg down to 20mg for a week, then taper off 20mg to 10mg for another week.
- The day after my last 10mg Paxil pill, begin taking 25mg Zoloft.
- Take 25mg Zoloft for 7 days, then up the dose to 50mg for 14 days. After that, begin taking 100mg as a steady dose.

However, I made a huge mistake. I was a bit worried about coming off Paxil, as I'm sure anyone would be. I thought my panic symptoms could return until the Zoloft began to kick in. So I stayed at 20mg of Paxil for almost twice as long as I was supposed to, which was a mistake because it began to lead to some feelings of anxiety. The blockers that Paxil sets up in the brain were diminishing because of the lower dose, and I wasn't getting the seratonin communication between brain cells that I was used to having. After about 17 or so days on 20mg, I went down to 15mg, which lasted about 3 days. On the second day, I made the mistake of smoking cannabis.

The panic attack that followed took me completely by surprise. I had been smoking every other day up until that point [sometimes more often] and was completely fine. However, I had forgotton the respect that both my body and the herb deserved, and I landed myself into one of the worst panic attacks I've had. I was at home, and as the THC entered my body, the panic started up - my heart beat increased, I felt dizzy, sick, and worried. I would get hot and cold flashes along with dizzying head rushes. I decided to go downstairs and sit in the small bathroom down there so I wouldn't disturb my sleeping parents if I threw up. By this time, I was reaching my peak, and I knew the levels of THC in my body were beginning to go down. Still, this did little to calm me. In the middle of a panic attack, there's nothing I can do. Nothing. I was so close to stumbling into my parents room to tell them I was freaking out and to take me to the hospital, but I suddenly decided against that. I didn't want to become a statistic - I support marijuana and don't believe it to be a harmful substance if used correctly. Throwing myself into the hospital would ensure that all the anti-cannabis officials had something more to write about. So I went back to my room and talked to my chinchilla in his cage for a while, slowly beginning to calm down as I patted him.

At about 4 in the morning, I laid down and went to sleep. The whole experience had worn me out. The next week and a half, I experienced almost constant nausea and random dizziness as I finally dropped Paxil and began taking Zoloft. I am now on my third day of taking 50mg Zoloft, which means that I've successfully introduced the drug to my body, and I've been on it for 10 days. My nausea went away a few days ago along with the dizziness and strange episodes of depression that lasted about an hour at a time, going away as quickly as they came.

I feel better with every day that goes by. I plan on doing much better next semester, seeing as how Zoloft isn't known to cause sleepiness. This should help my sleeping habits, and allow me to swing back into the routine of art school work, spending time with my girlfriend of nearly a year, and taking care of my chinchilla.

Exp Year: 2002ExpID: 19522
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: Not Given 
Published: Sep 26, 2005Views: 40,302
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Pharms - Paroxetine (148) : Combinations (3), Difficult Experiences (5), Medical Use (47), Not Applicable (38)

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