*****DISCLAIMER: Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is dangerous without medical supervision.*****
Short list of Benzodiazepines: Xanax, Valium, Paxor, Klonopin, Serax, Restoril, Lorazepam.
I have been working on this post all week. I expected it to be a scientific listing of the symptoms of withdrawal that I personally experienced when I quit taking Xanax (Alprazolam). However, first I felt I needed to explain why I was taking an anti-anxiety medication, and then I found that there were parts of the story that I didn’t want to talk about. Next I thought I had more journal entries. Maybe I do have more on another drive… In the end, I decided to stop being such a perfectionist and just let it go. Release the post!
In 1994 (?), I had a panic attack. First I was hyperventilating, got really dizzy, and felt nauseous. Then I had severe pain in my chest (mid-center). The people I was with at the time, thought I was having a heart attack
and called for an ambulance which took me to the Emergency Room. In the ER, nobody helped me. The staff left me alone on a gurney for several hours and the whole time I thought I was having a heart attack! After three hours, they finally gave me some news. The doctor said it was anxiety and that I should see my family physician as soon as possible. That cost me $1000.
I went to my family doctor. (We used to have those in small towns.) He told me that since both my brother and my mother were on Xanax, that I should be, too. The doctor also stated that “Once a person has one panic attack, they never stop. You will have them for the rest of your life.” Well, I didn’t believe him. I saw that there was a clear and definite trigger for my attack, so therefore, I believed that there had to be a clear and definite cure. It’s pure Cause & Effect. He prescribed me 0.25mg twice a day, every day, for the rest of my life, as an initial dose to see if maybe I would need more. I did not take the Xanax as prescribed, rather I used it sparingly and sporadically as needed.
From 1994 to 2000, I did not use Xanax often, if ever. Instead, I avoided my trigger.
In 2000 CE, I married the narcissist known as Driftwood. In short, I was in an abusive marriage. I started having panic attacks daily and began to take the Xanax twice a day, every day, because I couldn’t survive the anxiety without medication. Certainly, I was afraid of $1000 trips to the ER where I expected to be neglected; and I was also afraid of losing my Merchant Mariner’s License and my job. I escaped Driftwood after six years of narcissistic abuse, but I was psychologically damaged. I distinctly remember than even five years after I had left him, I still needed Xanax every day as I was still having panic attacks every day. I did not want this man to have so much influence over my life, so I tried five times to quit the Xanax. Each time, by the third day, I would start having hallucinations, get frightened, and take my meds as prescribed.
From 2000 to 2013, I took my Xanax daily as prescribed.
Chronicle of my drug withdrawal incidents from emails, March 2013:
Day 3. I wrote: “I stopped taking my Xanax and I will be totally clean of Xanax by Monday, so I’m okay now.”
(Haha. So clueless.)
Day 9. Drug withdrawal. Not so pleasant. The last 5 times I tried to quit Xanax, on day 3 I started having hallucinations, got really scared, and took my meds. So what’s different this time? I have no idea. I quit 9 days ago. The first 5 days I had so much adrenaline in my cells from Lag B’omer lunar influence that I didn’t have any hallucinations. Several times I felt severe panic coming on and I submerged it with breathing exercises. Now, in the 2nd week, I still have Restless Leg Syndrome, pins and needles, shooters, tinnitus, metal mouth, bouts of panic, slight sleep disturbances, crying episodes.
About my sleep, of course I didn’t tell you. Maybe you noticed that every time you e-mailed me I was right there? Hello? Not sleeping. lol – Currently I wake at 1am, 2am, 230am, and 3am, then I sleep another 3 hours. I need to finish the drug withdrawal to really understand what’s going on in my body.
Back to the Xanax. Something scary about both of our meds: withdrawal causes the same symptoms as what we experience normally from our anxiety disorders, only amplified. Many people suggest these meds actually increase anxiety. Could this be? Could we be better off clean? I am very confused about this. I quit because I want to go camping. I can’t be relaxed in the woods, wondering if I have my meds with me, did I bring enough, how long until the next dose, etc. I think I can quit now because it has been 9 days. I shall see how working changes the picture.
Summary: Nine days after quitting Xanax, I had a compulsion to jiggle my legs because I felt wired with excess energy; I couldn’t sleep for more than 3 hours at a time (but that was truly due to extreme grief); I had pains shoot randomly up my legs all day and night; I had severe headaches; I would have a sudden urge to sob; I had a metallic taste in my mouth and food tasted strange, and of course, I felt panicky a lot.
Day 23. Xanax – I was in such a hurry to get to Jerusalem that I forgot my xanax. when I have it with me, I don’t use it; but I need that prophylactic effect. so when I realized I didn’t have ANY, I got very worried. I do still have the underlying medical condition that requires xanax. I’m still having headaches in my brain stem and the occasional shooter in my nerves, but for the most part, my only other symptom now is the original underlying anxiety. I try to control it with breathing but I will need a better system if some trauma actually does happen. G-d forbid. I feel like this is borrowed time and it seems inevitable that I’ll be taking the xanax again in the future. what do you think? can I live without xanax?
also i have not been drinking more than one shot of arak per week. of course i never ever had an alcohol problem, but i dont want to cover the xanax withdrawal with some other addiction. replacement is good for coming off of heroine, i hear, but not for me!
That’s all the journal entries that I could find, but I distinctly remember that I had deep brainstem headaches and random shooting nerve pain for EIGHT weeks. That’s right. Eight weeks.
A year later, incidents continued to occur where I chose to take an occasional Xanax. The main reason was the fear of another $1000 visit to the Emergency Room. For example:
19 Feb 2014. Man, this divorce business is so complicated. I got a letter from my attorney that if I dont appear in court, I get nothing! And Driftwood knew this. He got the letter on January 3rd. Now I know why he wont take my calls. Apparently we were supposed to work out the money settlement between ourselves and simply present it to the judge for approval. If he contests, I may have to stay in Indiana while I wait for more court dates! I am already bankrupt. How will I afford to hang out in Indiana?!
I am anxious to get settled somewhere and start therapy and a job. I am starting to understand how Driftwood broke me down over 6 years and made me the mess I am today. I think I could work out with a therapist where I went wrong and restore myself to my former independence. I feel so desperate to give love to people. That’s the window that you snuck in. I am freaking out. I just took a Xanax. If I eat one every day until court, I’ll be addicted again.
Being constantly worried about becoming addicted again comes with quitting. My panic only responds to Xanax and it responds beautifully. Everyone’s psych meds should work as textbook as mine; but I don’t want to be watching the clock, wondering if it’s too early for my next dose. Nor do I want to worry about where and how to fill my prescription. Currently, I always carry some Xanax with me as if it were an Epi-Pen or an asthma inhaler; but I am finding that I can distract myself from whatever trigger is arousing my panic. This is an inexact science and I need a permanent solution. I hope this modge-podge of information helps you if you are considering quitting your panic medication. –Rivka
“My Xanax Withdrawal Story.” is copyright © 2014 by 18mitzvot. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Wikipedia list of Benzodiazepines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_benzodiazepines
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