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HPPD with minimal drug use


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Hello everyone,

I've seen this forum for a few weeks now and I think it is finally time for me to share my story and my experience with HPPD. For ~20 years I was a teetotaler and I wouldn't do any illicit drugs, and I didn't particularly like caffeine either. Part of this was because I was horrendously, suicidally depressed when I was in highschool, from 2013-2017. I was afraid to take any intoxicating substances because of my fragile mental state, and a family history of addiction. I was also on a large cocktail of mental-health medications that included Celexa, Hydroxyzine, Gabapentin and Lamotrigine. When I started college in 2017, I decided to wean myself off of those drugs; eventually I was just on amitriptyline, a tri-cyclic antidepressant I take to help with migraine disorder, which also serves as a sleep aid.

When I turned 21 I decided to try alcohol and I actually liked it, and I was in a much better place mentally so I felt like I could handle it. Then I started smoking weed, which is legal in the state in which I reside. I liked that even more than alcohol, and didn't find it to be addictive. I could easily abstain from taking it for a few weeks if I ran out and couldn't afford more. I did increase how much I smoked during the pandemic to the point where I was hitting a dab pen daily, but I would usually just take one or two puffs a day in the evening to help me wind down. A friend of mine is a psychonaut and since my experience with intoxicating substances had been theretofore positive, I decided to do LSD with her. The experience was actually great and enlightening and I had a wonderful time. It was definitely my favorite drug I had taken. Two weeks later I decided to take some more, this time on my own because of how positive my first trip was, and I felt like I was in a pretty good mental state.  Both times I took acid, I tested it to make sure it was genuine, and both were 100 ug tabs off of blotters. It was the same blotter for both of them. That trip was also good, maybe even better than the first one. But then I experienced something that it seems like many people on this forum have experienced: it just wouldn't end. I was still tripping balls like 14-16 hours after onset and couldn't sleep. I looked it up and saw that those things were known to happen, and I somewhat stupidly took a bunch of Benadryl and amitriptyline to help me fall asleep, which I did. I also decided to pop an oxy because I figured it would enhance this experience. This is where I went wrong. 


When I woke up, I still felt as though my headspace was altered and strange, and I was still seeing symmetrical texture repetition. I also had, tracers, halos, shifting and breathing in my peripheral vision, usually when I stared at something for a bit, and very light visual snow. The symmetrical texture repetition was by far the most difficult symptom to deal with, and is the primary culprit for my high levels of anxiety right now. Luckily, the repetition stopped in the following day. I also decided to stop smoking weed. The symptoms began to ameliorate as time went on until there were just tracers and the occasional drifting, neither of which were particularly distressing symptoms to me. I decided that I could probably live with those symptoms for a while. I also had only been doing drugs for about 9 months at that time, and felt like I didn't want to have to live the rest of my life sober because there was still so much to experience drug-wise. So I made the terrible decision to start smoking again. I didn't smoke a ton, just taking a single puff and seeing what would happen. I didn't notice many changes in perception, so I figured that weed wouldn't actually exacerbate anything. It's crazy how quickly you can go to living in fear of drugs to wanting to do them again when symptoms subside. 


I am underweight and one of my applications of cannibas has been to help with hunger cues, and one night I realized I had hardly eaten anything that day, so I smoked the most weed I had in weeks. I took 3 beefy rips from my dab pen, and waited for me to feel hungry. What happened instead was something that had never happened before on cannibas. My heart rate was through the roof and I felt like I was going to explode, even though I was smoking indica. I became very shaky and I had mental fog. I tried to sit down and do some breathing exercises to help me calm down. When I opened my eyes the textures were back. Stupid. I was eventually able to go to sleep around 4:00 AM, because luckily that happened on a day when I didn't have school. The next day I woke up and the patterns were gone, and none of my other symptoms seemed like they were exacerbated. This lead me to make the even more bone-headed decision to smoke weed again that night, although less. They came back again. I also experienced a new symptom, where white text on a back background appeared as though it had highlights in blue and red, like old 3-D glasses. Fuck. Okay, at that point I realized I was going to have to cold turkey psychoactive substances. I stopped taking my Adderall (which I had literally only been taking for 2 days). I stopped taking Oxy, which I had been a regular user of although in low doses. Oxy was also present each time the symmetrical textures happened. It seems as though I did not have a particularly strong dependence on it, which is good, because I'm 4 days sober as of now and not experiencing much withdrawal symptoms. I am currently living with my family because the college I go to didn't open this semester and is online. I confessed to them about the oxy, and they were supportive of me and offered to help in anyway they can. I'm nervous to tell them about HPPD because I don't know what they'll think and I don't want to hurt them or make them be disappointed in me. That said, if they know, I'm sure it will be easier to stay clean. 


So I did go to the doctor yesterday and got prescriptions for Hydroxyzine and Sertraline, the former of which to manage my anxiety over the condition, and the latter of which I have heard has helped some people. I also thought the Sertraline might help with the anxiety/depression/ocd experienced because of HPPD. I probably should have done more thorough research, because it seems like the Sertraline is exacerbating the condition rather than helping it in that I have more intense visual snow, and some colors don't look right to me. That being said, the red/blue highlights around white text stopped almost immediately upon taking it. I did not tell my doctor about my HPPD. Now I'm feeling like I have to come clean to him and my family. This is probably the hardest part for me. Do ya'll have any tips on how to tell doctors about HPPD in a way that doesn't make you look like a schizophrenic? It's the weekend, so I won't be able to book an appointment until Monday anyway, but I would really appreciate to hear how ya'll told your doctor/psychiatrist/loved ones about the condition. I am trying to find a psychiatrist to work with, but because of covid and just the general state of the world, many psychiatrists are booked for months. I can usually get into my GP within a day or two of calling, but I feel like we don't have a super strong rapport or anything, and I'm seriously worried about him misdiagnosing me or being unwilling to prescribe medicine for a condition he doesn't know about. I've liked him as a doctor but he is definitely conservative when it comes to medications. From what I've read, it seems like Lamotrigine has a strong chance of helping abate symptoms, and it's a medication I took in the past as a mood stabilizer, so I'm wondering if he would be willing to try that. 


Again, I would appreciate any advise on how to approach my doctor about having this condition. Thanks for reading!

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Hi, welcome to the forum.

My advice would be to try and stay away from meds for a while and get to fully understand your symptoms and baseline. Unless you are in a desperate situation, I think this is the best way to begin to tackle the issue... Jumping from med to med trying to find a cure can do more harm than good. Just stay sober, eat healthy exercise and destress in every way you can... Once you feel like you are in a place where you understand your baseline, then move towards meds. 

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Thanks Jay. That is very sensible advice. I''ll try to stretch/work out more recently and actually try to devote some time each day to a destressing activity like meditating or a bubble bath or lying on a massage pad. That is a really good point about establishing what my baseline is, and something I hadn't previously considered. 

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