Is There Ever a Good Time to Use Benzos?
Carol had a severe panic disorder. It started when she was assaulted at age 34. She’d tried many medications, but only Xanax helped. She worked closely with her doctor and never abused them, but over time she felt the negative cognitive effects of benzos making her less sharp and productive.
Some experts feel that people in recovery should avoid all mind-altering substances, while others say medications can be very helpful. But for people who have struggled with other substances, benzos are considered especially dangerous. When people start taking them to get high instead of to manage severe anxiety, they’re highly addictive and easily abused.
Tapering Off Xanax…Slowly
Carol wanted to stop taking them with her doctor’s help, but every time something triggered the panic and she found herself nailed to the bed unable to stop shaking, she instinctively reached for a Xanax. And at the time, her doctor felt that was the best option – certainly better than reaching for a drink.
Carol eventually worked with her doctor to make a plan. She stayed strictly off of alcohol, used meditation and exercise to calm her anxiety, and decreased her Xanax dosage on a taper schedule to avoid withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to remember that, like alcohol, benzo withdrawal can be dangerous and can cause seizures. Carol’s doctor monitored her closely.
Sometimes it was hard not to reach for a pill when life seemed too difficult to manage. But as she came off the medication, she gradually felt her brain coming back. She was sharper at work, more present with her family, and the world seemed clearer.
Still, when the panic came back with a vengeance or memories of the assault consumed her mind, she would reach for a pill. Immediately afterward, she would reach for her phone to call a friend or crisis hotline, then let the Xanax work until she could find other ways to manage her panic.
Finding New Ways to Deal With Anxiety
The most important factors in Carol’s taper process included working with her doctor, being completely honest with him, and engaging in therapy to learn non-medical ways to manage anxiety.
Within a year, Carole was Xanax-free. She is maintaining her sobriety, and practicing yoga, meditation, and therapy to keep the panic at bay. She still has a tiny “emergency” bottle of Xanax – just in case – but so far, she hasn’t needed to use it.
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