Real Cases

When I Was a Xanax Addict500xNxdrugabuse_istock-597600-young-man-on-table-with-head-in-hands.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Cah77V0Ra7

Between the ages of 18 to 22 years old, I was a benzodiazepine addict.  Doctor shopping was my thing and I would acquire such medicines like Valium (diazepam), Serepax (oxazepam), Rivotril (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam).  Any were good but my favorite was always Valium because for me it produced the desired feeling and lasted a long time.  Ativan does but it used to give me an uneasy feeling too and for some reason I was scared I would fit, probably a subconsciously reactional disliking to Ativan as epileptics use that particular benzodiazepine.

Then one day my foggy minded life changed.  I was generously given a bottle of a much sought after drug for me, Alprazolam or better known as Xanax.  The very sight of a 2mg Xannibar makes my mouth water almost and I still crave it although I am no longer addicted to or dependent on any benzodiazepine now.

I do not remember most of the year I was heavily abusing Xanax.  I had a fairly regular supply and if I ran out, I would get a diazepam or lorazepam to substitute.  Thinking about them days now, I can’t believe how I kept a full time job on 6-10mg Xanax a day.  I would only take one during the weekdays at work to avoid being doped up but as soon as I got home I’d gulp 3 or 4 bars.   By the end when I sought help for my addiction I was at a point where I couldn’t string a proper sentence of words together.  I had NO memory and also false memories and to this day I still have short term memory problems.

I withdrew from Xanax over a 8 month period with the help of my drug nurse, I will never forget how much she helped me, I really love her for helping me to step away from benzo addiction.  With her help by creating a slow dose reduction regimen, a prescribing doctor and a caring pharmacist who dispensed my Xanax and Valium to me 3 times a week as per the regime.  I was on both Xanax and Valium at the beginning of the program, the dose of xanax being lower and over the first 4 months, I was weaned off of Xanax and was solely on diazepam.  Then on a xmas day that year by which that time I had withdrawn from the original amount of 4mg Xanax and 15mg Valium to only being on 2.5mg Valium.  I jumped off at 2.5 that xmas day and didn’t suffer any withdrawal effect.  I was over the moon but concerned because a new demon had emerged, replacing the benzo addiction with an opiate addiction, which is far worse…

I am still an opioid dependent and on 12mg daily of Suboxone/Buprenorphine and I don’t see myself beating this dependence any time soon.  Xanax withdrawal was nothing compared to opiate withdrawal…

That’s my story in part, I have so much more to say but readers are allways welcome to ask questions of me!

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630-1-nso-Ambulance-BW_628_427_c1Xanax Related ER Visits Double in Six Years

Alprazolam, the prescription sedative more commonly known by its brand name, Xanax, is being implicated in a spiraling number of emergency room visits, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Over the past few years, the number of ER visits associated with misuse of the drug more than doubled. In 2005, the number of patient cases involving Xanax was 57,419, and by 2011 (the last year for which there is data), there were 123,744.

“It’s not even a little surprising,” he said of the new figures. “I wish it was.”

In 2011, 1.2 million visits to the emergency room involved prescription drug misuse and abuse. And, according the report, alprazolam was involved in 10% of those visits.

Part of alprazolam’s fast rise: It is a go-to anti-anxiety drug for psychiatrists and primary care physicians. According to recent studies, Xanax was the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medication in 2011.

And with its addictive qualities, abuse is common, said Mell, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The most common drug combinations he encounters in ER patients are Xanax and alcohol, and Xanax combined with prescription opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone.

According to the SAMHSA report, in 81% of cases, alprazolam was mixed with another drug (including alcohol).

“Alprazolam…has been shown to be significantly more toxic than other benzodiazepines,” a class of anxiety medications that includes Valium, “if more than the prescribed amount is taken,” according to the report.

The impact – what leads patients to the emergency room – is the sedating effect of each of these drugs. When one sedative (Xanax) is added to another (alcohol or painkillers) there is what is called a synergistic effect, with each drug amplifying the other.

To use a mathematical analogy – instead of 1+1 equaling 2, 1+1 equals 5. The worst case scenario for a patient is that he or she stops breathing.

“If you’re someone taking Xanax and you take an extra before going out Saturday night, then have a couple of mixed drinks, it’s going to hit you much faster,” said Mell. “It’s going to cause an interaction that could be deadly.”

Mell says his typical patient is not the “pimply-faced” kid you might expect to be abusing drugs. His overdose patients, he says, are soccer moms, local politicians and business leaders.

“They think because the drugs (are) given out by doctors that they can handle it,” he said. “They figure ‘I wouldn’t put anything in my medicine cabinet that’s unsafe to take,’ and that’s just not true.”

Between 2005 and 2011, according to the SAMHSA report, the age group most likely to show up in the ER as a result of alprazolam was 25 to 34 year olds. In 2005, about 12,731 visits were among that age group, but by 2011 that number had risen to 39,651.

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My life in Xanax

I didn’t tell anyone I was addicted to pills. For a long time, I didn’t even tell myself


I never thought I’d be writing a “just say no” essay. All my life I’ve just said yes. I said yes to open marriages, to once-a-month benders in exotic locales, to peeing onstage, all of which I celebrated in writing that was unapologetic and uncensored: My life was an open book, and my books were an open life. I never felt shame, like an addict, or hid things like one. But I never told anyone about my addiction to pills — until this very moment, telling you.

For a long time, I didn’t even tell myself. There’s nothing glamorous about prescription medication. No outrageous weekends, no crazy hallucinations. Pills are done alone. Pills are private. Maybe that’s why addicts from Elvis to Eminem to Rush Limbaugh to Michael Jackson to Paula Abdul to Jamie Lee Curtis have never bragged about their addictions at the time, even when it was obvious. Their debauch is not fascinating and gritty like that of Lady Day or Edith Piaf or Keith Richards, with their back alley needles and spoons and jail time. To tell my friends about my growing reliance on anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills would be like dominating a dinner party with the gory minutiae of hip replacement surgery: “I’m old. I give up.”

But mostly I didn’t talk about my addiction because I didn’t see myself as an addict. It wasn’t the plan for who I was supposed to be. Addicts are numb. Addicts are predictable. How could I possibly be that?

I was supposed to be like my father, the thrill seeker who had escaped from a Mexican prison and told stories about what it felt like to shoot people. An international drug dealer, he was impervious to addiction. For him, drugs were all about the game. Of course his chosen lifestyle meant he spent the majority of my childhood in various prisons, leaving me with a stressed-out mother and no child support. But all I knew was how glamorous he looked on visits, with his speed-freak hangers-on and his eternal lack of restraint. He was my hero, this literal outlaw, and a template for my life. (Being female, however, my adventures were more with sex, less with violence.)

Meanwhile, my mother was a pill popper, a life-duller with no friends and no money. Drugs were not a way to live for her; they were a way to avoid living entirely. She was a “doctor-shopper” — firing the ones who advised her to change her attitude and diet, keeping ones who prescribed pills or surgeries to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying problem. Over the years she acquired about 30 addictions, including one to the steroid Prednisone, which made her mean and her bones so brittle that toward the end of her life they broke anytime she fell down (which, considering all she was gulping down, was often).

Leaving home at 16, I wanted life — in all its curious pain, chaos, uncertainty, wonder. I didn’t want to be like my mother, of course, but I also didn’t want to be like my peers, so many of them numbed out — on booze, pot, “Twilight Zone” TV marathons, booty calls. It was like a vision of the future from “A Clockwork Orange”: everyone dulling their consciousness with illicit substances, brainwashed by ads, eating frozen dinners in front of the TV, disconnected and alone.

I refused to take even an aspirin for a headache; I never had a cup of coffee till I was 19. When I worked in a brothel, I was the only one not doing downers or trading a blow job for a line of coke. I enjoyed the job — the atmosphere, the clients, the girls. When it became a drag, I didn’t numb myself out to keep doing it; I quit. Years later, after a boob job, I threw away my doctor-prescribed Percocets and lay there on the couch thinking, “So this is what wanting to die just so the pain will stop feels like.” But wanting to die is part of life, too, and I had no desire to miss out on that.

I do believe in drugs — for fun and enlightenment. I’ve tried PCP, LSD, speed, poppers, mushrooms. (I even wrote a book called “Drugs Are Nice.”) If it weren’t for a one-time use of Ecstasy — which I believe opened up intimacy passages blocked by childhood trauma — I may have gone an entire lifetime without understanding why anyone would want to kiss anyone. E unlocked a door for me. But I didn’t understand taking something over and over, walking back and forth through a door already opened wide. That’s like watching reruns all day. I’ve occasionally drunk to black out, only to discover what I was capable of when inhibitions were deactivated. (The answer? A lot!) But I would no more smoke or drink as a daily habit than I would throw darts at my eyes. I was against stupefication in any form — doing computer blackjack at work till you’re fired, having compulsive sex with exes who don’t care about you. Why would you want to escape life? Life is everything! Nor did I want to escape who I was, no matter how fucked up. I was infinitely interested in strange me, in strange life.

So how did I go from 35 clean, bright years to becoming exactly what I detested? I fell into a trap, and there was no longer strange me and strange life to be interested in. During a several-year custody battle, my ex used my writing against me in court and with Protective Services to try to prove neglect and abuse of my daughter. Not one time, but five. Approximately every six months it would start again, with them in my home, in my stuff, in my words; workers had stacks of printouts of my articles given to them by my ex. At his request, I was tested for mental instability; a chunk of my hair was cut off and tested for drugs. Even the contents of my refrigerator were examined. For the first time in my life, I was more scared than I could handle. I couldn’t write my way out. I also couldn’t hoof my way out of it. The judge ordered me not to relocate from my home in Dover. If I were truly like my father, I would have bolted anyway, even though it would have meant abandoning my daughter. Instead, I understood for the first time the pressure my mother felt — to bend down to rules you don’t like and stay bent because it’s the only way to protect somebody. No one says thank you. No one admires you. They feel scorn for you, because you become miserable and lose all your zest.

Eventually, I was cleared of all child abuse charges and even won sole custody, but I lost the ability to write. Without that, what did my life mean? And how would I earn money? Writing is who I was, ever since I was a child. I had no other professional skills. (I hadn’t needed any others.) Writing was something I could always cling to, no matter how emotionally, spiritually, financially bereft I was. And while I had always suffered from insomnia, now that I was unable to scribble my way through the lonesomest hour of the night, my suffering began to seem senseless to me. I could understand, for the first time, the appeal of finding a nice, warm hole and lying down in it.

My primary care physician, recently divorced herself, knew what I was going through. She thought she was helping when she put me on Xanax at the beginning of my divorce when I was 35, not telling me it was addictive, encouraging me to do more when, a year later, the old strength didn’t work anymore. Xanax didn’t get me high. It didn’t do anything except pull a shade over the terror. At first I only took it at night. I’d tap out a pill or two while my new beau was brushing his teeth, and I’d swallow fast so he wouldn’t know.

After three years, I started needing occasional daytime usage — Valium from a different doctor, supplemented with alcohol. Never enough to make me drunk or pill-stupid. Just enough to get through the day. I stuck it out in Dover. I stuck it out through a relationship that went bad. And I did this by exiting my body, my life, my situation for a few hours; when I came back, things didn’t look so bad. I’d had a vacation. And I started to take those vacations more frequently. I watched a lot of TV. I became a dishonest person. Once, in an interview, I pretended I’d never seen “L.A. Law” when, in fact, I’d watched every episode!

I was pathetic. Dependent, half-alive, secretive, accepting of the unacceptable. I didn’t see it that way, because I was in too much of a haze to see much of anything. That’s the problem with anti-anxiety medication: Its purpose is to help you ignore internal danger signals that aren’t real. Once in its velvety thrall, however, how are you supposed to recognize the warning signs that are real?

Then one day I did see.

There was nothing special leading up to this epiphany. I remember staring at the unattractive old-person vines-and-flowers wallpaper in my bathroom and suddenly realizing I didn’t have to keep staring at it every day, immobile, waiting to move so that I could stare at another wall in some nice, new life. I remember thinking that my ex-husband and the legal system had invaded my privacy, rifled through my writing, and curtailed my movements and what thoughts I could express in almost exactly the way my mother did when I was a child, using my diary and my opinions against me, grounding me when I didn’t agree with her reality — but I hadn’t been half-dead as a child. My imagination was everything back then. There was nothing to escape; I was already free. I could be now, too.

I bought some paint for the hideous bathroom and made the decision to cure both my insomnia and my writer’s block instantly, by force. I dumped the pills and alcohol, all of it.

The first substance-free day, I was excited to get back to life, but I was distracted by a nagging headache and flu-like joint pain. That night things got bad. The second day, I hallucinated that I was an ant trapped in a pit deep inside myself and the window to escape was closing, closing, closed. And then I didn’t care anymore. I could have killed someone or been killed; it didn’t matter. (Luckily there was this whole “unable to move” thing, so no murder occurred.) Apparently that is depression, one of the withdrawal symptoms. But I didn’t understand what was happening — that I was an addict, that this was withdrawal — until a friend told me that after throwing away her Xanax, she ended up in the mental hospital.

How could someone whose career depended on acute self-awareness and extreme self-disclosure not have realized something so obvious? But my dependency had developed incrementally. It moved softly, slowly. It felt legitimate. Treating anxiety with pills was a normal, everyday thing — more and more so in this recession. (Which creates a certain irony, I suspect: Button-down financiers, fearing bankruptcy, medicate themselves to the point where they start slipping and bring on the disaster faster, just like hipsters fearing aging and the accompanying irrelevancy do more and more drugs until they and their art get more bloated and irrelevant than nature alone would have made them.)

My father was a machine who gnashed his way through life. Nothing trapped him; everything (including drugs) and everyone (even me) was an experience to master and then leave behind. I thought I was just like him, flying above the feeble mortals, although I told myself I was a slightly better person, capable of some emotion or, at least, loyalty. And it was loyalty that brought me down.

My mother looked like the weak one: She was sensitive, and she fell under the wheels. But she was also the one who stayed. Only now do I understand what she did for me when she buried her head from what was cornering her into her sad life rather than spit in its face and run. And now I know I can be like her, too.

I am humbled by my addiction. And, in a way, I suppose I am proud, too.


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I took xanax for 18 years, and this is how I quitPillsGun

Hi folks, I just wanted to come and offer some positive words about life after xanax addiction. I have successfully managed to pull myself out of 18 years of xanax use. I have taken myself down from 3-4 mgs a day to nothing. I am sharing because when I started my journey into ridding myself of xanax, I could not find any stories of people taking xanax for any serious length of time, let alone 18 years and successfully quitting. Also when I asked for advice, all anyone ever told me was that I would never be able to quit. I had just taken it for too long.

I was diagnosed with panic disorder when I was 13 years old, and the fix from the psychologist I saw was xanax, 1mg 3-4 times a day. My panic disorder was pretty bad, I didn’t sleep for 4 days when I started my episode….so the xanax was a huge help and made learning to cope with it much easier.

But over over the next 16 years or so, I had up and down battles with xanax addiction, and other drugs that had a complete grip on my life. Some periods of my life I was taking up to 6 mgs of xanax a day. A few periods of my life I took it for anxiety, but mostly I took it cause I liked the way it made me feel, went great with other drugs I was using, and my Dr wrote me continuous scrips for it.

I had some experiences a couple years ago that made me rethink xanax. I wanted to stop taking it. I felt like I wasn’t a man, l felt like I had been hiding behind this pill because I was to scared of real life. Its funny it took me almost 16 years before I realized I was actually addicted. It had just become such a huge part of my life.

I finally made the strong commitment to quit taking the xanax September of last year. I talked to my Dr, told him that I really wanted to stop taking the xanax, and basically told him to stop coddling me start pushing me. He had faithfully written me prescriptions for xanax for 16 years, and I told him I needed him to tell me no.

I took one large leap at first, going from 3 1MG pills a day to three .5mg tabs a day, and after a month on that. I started really weening myself down, a step at a time. a little time on .5mg, then I would take one .5 and split that (so 2 full .5mg tabs and one 1/2 tab), then split 2 a day, and then eventually split all three tabs. After 6 months I was down to 3 .25 mgs a day. So I went back to my Dr, and told him I wanted a prescription for .25MG tabs, so that I could start splitting those. Same pattern, a few weeks splitting one dose, then 2, then three.

Of course, a few times during this I fell and scraped my knee. I had a few relapses. I am human. But I just kept at it. I had some realy bad days, some really bad nights.

Once I got to splitting my my .25 tabs in half three times a day, I had to start cutting one dose a day out. I did a couple months on 2 tabs, then I finally got myself down to one single .25 MG tab at night. It felt great! Honestly, I was happy taking the 1 half of a .25mg a night, I was proud that I got myself down so far. I wasn’t sure if I was going to push myself anymore…..I mean, damn, could I really go a full day without any xanax at all?

Last appt I had with my new Dr, he told me I should just go ahead and stop taking them now, that I was ready. I was seriously skeptical, but he told me that that last small little dose i was taking was nothing, barely any in my bloodstream, barely any cells were getting affected by them, so basically, it was like I had already stopped taking them.

So…..that night, I decided OK, I’ll skip taking my dose tonight. and see how well I do. I thought for sure i was going to be awake all night. I was presently surprised, to wake up the following morning, refreshed, and feeling absolutely no craving, no anxiety, no nothing. I felt the same as I did the day before. I thought…..WOW! This is really cool! So, I did the same thing the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that…..feeling no side effects whatsoever.

So now, this is me on day five. Day five with no xanax! I cant believe I did it!

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