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Between the ages of 15-17 I experimented with various hallucinogens. I think that I took LSD and mescaline, because that's what people said they were giving me. I probably only took these drugs on 10 or fewer occasions. The last drug I took was most likely LSD and I took a very large dose. The experience was intense and I had difficulty managing it after 2-3 hours. At that time I thought that I was going to die, so I reached out for help. Someone helped by making me a strong  drink which helped me to calm down. Then I continued to drink wine through the trip. As one can imagine, I became violently sick that night. After that experience, I withdrew from friends and any mention of hallucinogenic drugs made me extremely anxious. I wanted nothing to do with these drugs anymore, they scared the shit out of me after that. At this point I remained well, except for my instinct to  avoid hallucinogens and the experience of anxiety when I was around people who wanted to use them with me. After about six months, I was at work washing dishes in a restaurant when I suddenly noticed the snow phenomena and then immediately afterward I had my first flashback. This represented the onset of my experience with HPPD.. Other symptoms included intense anxiety, enhanced color intensity, trails, melting walls, visual snow and feelings of unreality. It was difficult in 1973 to get help because so little was known about the disorder. Initially I was given Valium and that allowed me to complete my high school education, college and graduate school. Basically, Valium only addressed the anxiety, it did nothing to ease the flashbacks and other HPPD symptoms. After a few years I was under pressure to stop taking Valium which I was unable to do completely.  In 1985, a psychiatrist gave me Xanax and Doxepin which helped me to sleep at night and alleviated some the the anxiety that I experienced.  While this treatment did not address my flashbacks and other symptoms, I at least felt as thought that I could deal with having HPPD. My next break came around 1998 when I started taking Prozac. This med eliminated the need for any other meds. It helped me to sleep at night and almost eliminated my anxiety, but it didn't prevent the flashbacks, snow, etc. Finally in the year 2000, I stopped having flashbacks. I haven't had one in 22 years. I still have some other effects like visual snow but at a much more tolerable level.

For many years I have been intrigued by the apparent similarity of HPPD to PTSD flashbacks and I have wondered if my experience represents a form of post traumatic stress. I'm in the process of reading the book "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. The book details how traumatic experiences can cause visual flashbacks and other neurological symptoms which are a consequence of past traumatic experiences. Certainly my last trip was traumatic, and just as in PTSD cases, I withdrew from friends and began experiencing anxiety over the perceived source of my traumatic experience. Although Dr. Van Der Kolk (from  what I have read so far) does not make a connection to HPPD I'm thinking that maybe it is possible. 

Also, one of the problems that I overcame in my ordeal with HPPD was agoraphobia. I overcame this problem after reading the book "Hope and Help for Your Nerves" by Dr. Claire Weekes. This book introduced me to a behavior based model which describes agoraphobia as resulting from the avoidance of places that we associate with anxiety. Basically, if we avoid a place because we experience anxiety there, we begin to experience greater anxiety when we do visit that place. This leads to more places that cause anxiety and more avoidance until we get to the point that we are home bound. Dr. Weekes explains that the anxiety can be controlled by gradually exposing ourselves to the places that produce anxiety. In my case, because I was afraid of having having a flashback in public places, I started avoiding places and my world grew smaller and smaller until I couldn't leave home. This technique worked for me to recover from agoraphobia and from panic attacks. Furthermore, when I began to apply this technique to flashbacks, they went away as well. At that time I was taking Prozac which greatly assisted me in this effort. Today, I no longer experience anxiety and no longer take Prozac. Of course, I don't know if this would work for anyone else but I thought that my experience was worth sharing.

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I haven't had a flashback in over 20 years. I still have a slight snow effect, but I don't notice it unless I focus on it. So, I would say that I really have no bothersome symptoms anymore. 

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