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The only thing making me feel I need to keep taking my xanax is this site - questions
  1. #1
    shelzmike is offline New Member
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    Default The only thing making me feel I need to keep taking my xanax is this site - questions

    I know the title is weird, but allow me to explain. I have had GAD and panic disorder for at least 14 years now. In the beginning it sucked, in the middle I was OK, and for the past couple of years it has sucked as well. Initially, I was prescribed Effexor XR, tofranil, and .5 mg Xanax to take 3 times a day, not as needed - exactly like that. Well, the Effexor was too expensive and made me feel like dirt, the tofranil was just weird and the combo of the 2 were too expensive to keep taking. I had no insurance and no knowledge of SSRI withdrawal, so I stopped the effexor and tofranil cold turkey. I probably dont need to say that THAT sucked big time - brain zaps and dizziness were the worst symptoms.

    I continued to take Xanax as prescribed for no less than 2 years (thinking it was maybe 3 or even 4 years). Then I decided that I didn't want to keep taking it all the time, so I slowly started going down to taking it as needed, which was pretty regularly but not the 3 times a day as I had been in the past. I would also only take 1/2 a pill (.25mg). Eventually it got to where I would carry them around, but a prescription of 90 I could hold on to for a year or more. I then went through a period of about 3 or 4 years where I became worried to take them, so I just dealt with the horrible anxiety and panic attacks without taking anything. Then I was OK for several years, only having minor to moderate anxiety, dealing with it drug-free.

    I want to point out that at no time did I ever experience any of these crazy withdrawals everyone is talking about. I honestly never even knew they existed. Now, don't get me wrong, I DO realize that benzo withdrawal, especially at high doses can be terrible and it affects everyone differently; however, I am at a loss in finding what the top of the bell curve is for the "worry zone". Most stories I have read are folks taking much more, more often, and for longer periods of time. It is hard to get past all the hype and benzo-bashing to sometimes get some honest information.

    Fast-forward to about 2 years ago and out of nowhere my panic disorder came roaring back - just as bad as when I first started having panic attacks. It sucked, but I was still resolved to not take any xanax, though it was getting harder to not during the particularly bad attacks. Then one day, after a significantly horrible day, I was having anxiety and panic attacks non-stop and felt like I was going to die. Refusing to take a xanax, my wife looked at me and basically said "Why are you doing this to yourself when you have something to help you, that used to help you plenty" This was in reference to me being scared to take them in general bc I still at this point had never really heard of this demon called benzo-withdrawal. So I caved and took a half and it was freaking heaven, seriously. Within 20-30 minutes I felt better than I had in several years.

    Now, I did not jump immediately back on the bandwagon, but went back to taking half a pill as needed - never ever needed/took more than 1/2 a pill on any given day.

    However, I ended up going through a lot of stress, losing my job, daily panic/anxiety, etc. I did get a new job - the best job I have ever had, but it comes with significant responsibility and also happens to be for a chemical company (ironically enough one thing that sets off my panic is chemically smells, lol). The anxiety, daily anxiety, and near daily panic attacks were significanly impairing my ability to function as I needed to. So I found that either I was super anxious in the morning, or in the afternoon and if I took 1/2 a pill either in the morning or evening, depending. This regimen actually started to work enough for me to function very well. I am seeing a therapist and doing what I can to manage my anxiety in other ways. However, I have now fallen into a behavior of taking .25 mg once a day about 5 days a week on average (some days I take it every day if I happen to be doing activities where I will have panic on the weekend).

    I am not sure if it is important or not, but I never feel like i HAVE to take it - like on Saturdays when I am just chilling at home, it doesn't bother me at all - sometimes I go all weekend, no problems. I only take it, not necessarily after panic strikes, but pre-emtively before situations I know will be panic inducing. This method works fantastically for me. However, as it so happens, I have come across all the waterfalls of info on xanax withdrawal and now I am scared to take it, but scared not to take it. These feeling only happen when I read about it, mainly links on this site in particular.

    Now, I am not blaming the site. I am not that idiotic. However, it does raise concerns I had never even considered before. So, on that note, are there any good references as it pertains to when withdrawal is most likely to happen? Based on my previous history with it and my current usage, do I really have anything to worry about other than the responsible careful attention required of taking anything (even advil, tylenol, etc.)?

    I feel like the main part of my worry is just me reading about the stuff and my anxiety disorder starting into the what-if cycle. I feel there might be many people who are on low doses like me, though regularly using, who will continue taking them and never say anything simply because they are now terrified of this potentiality without really knowing the real risk at such usage levels. I do plan on now talking to my doc about this because he knows me and my patterns and can usually set my mind at ease, but still...

    Mike

  2. #2
    Thisweekforsure is offline Advanced Member
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    Being prone to anxiety is a curse but it may also be your salvation, because you have an anxiety about being on the meds. That's good in that I don't ever see you getting out of control with usage but it can be bad if it stops you from utilizing meds reasonably to treat severe symptoms. You are naturally cautious and you seem to prefer not to be dependent on medications if at all possible, in the long run, this will serve you very well.

    What you did with the Xanax after you had been on for several years was a slow taper, which is exactly the right way to get off them. The key to your painless taper was that you were in complete control. You had the prescription with no fear of being cut off, or the doctor forcing you to taper faster than you were comfortable. You let your feelings be your guide and had them available to use if need be.

    But the other thing is that I believe withdrawals can be cumulative. The more you have taken medications that cause withdrawal symptoms such as brain zaps (which Effexor and benzos do) the more your brain is "primed" to have that symptom the next time, even if you didn't the last time. Therefore I would be cautious. Because Effexor gave you those symptoms, even if reducing the xanax the last time did not, that doesn't necessarily mean they won't next time.

    Along with this comes age. Younger folk may bounce back more easily, but as you age, you may find unpleasant withdrawals from use that did not bother you when you were younger.

    But there are people who just have no trouble getting off benzos. The horror stories you read are because people in trouble come to post. People who have no trouble don't come and post, so while it LOOKS like everyone has a horrible time getting off benzos, that's because it's only the ones who have a hard time that come and tell their story here. We really do not know the true percentage of people who have a hard time.

    Unless you have a history of addiction and therefore need to stay completely away from addictive substances, my philosophy about these drugs is they should be used for symptoms severe enough to interfere with your function. If you cannot go to your job for example, and earn a living, then you might be better off taking an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication. You have to balance the risk of the bad effects of these meds with the risk of the bad effects of for example, if you have too much anxiety or depression to get out of bed. The bad health effects of being non-functional are enormous. Lack of exercise, lack of socialization, lack of earning money, lack of sunshine and vitamin D. Or even if you make it out of the house if anxiety causes chronic high blood pressure, racing heart, lots of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), these things are not good for you when they go on for hours, day after day, week after week. So you weigh and make your decision, and you re-weigh and re-decide all the time. Your life stress changes, you change, situations change, so you adjust. Being flexible is necessary dealing with anxiety disorders. At times of your life you may need to be on medications, at other times, you don't. I believe it's best to minimize the time you are on them because all of them tend to become less effective with time, then you are faced with increasing the dose or just getting off and "resetting" your system. I believe people do best if they stay at low doses, use them only when disease is severe, and take long breaks for resets. Benzos will in the long run CAUSE these anxiety symptoms they treat, if used too consistently for too long.

    All legally prescribed medications when used properly have their benefits. And all have their risks and down sides. Some more than others. Each individual person needs to look at their particular situation and, with their doctor, weigh the pros and cons. I would say for you, that your caution is well placed and likely to keep you safe from the worst horrors of these drugs, because you have a tendency to use them minimally rather than max them out and beyond. For example if you end up taking one every day for a few months, then skip a day and notice brain zaps, you will probably recoil in horror and immediately begin tapering down again, as opposed to a different type of person who would up the dose again and again, until they had a huge habit. Those are the ones that end up in true H-E double toothpicks. I just don't see you letting yourself go there. But do be vigilant.

  3. #3
    shelzmike is offline New Member
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    I appreciate the thoughtful and thorough response. For the most part, you have me pegged. Another interesting thing is that I went through some periods of partying in my younger days (decades ago) including long stints of "normally" addictive substances; however, I never really had a so called "problem" with them (meaning inability to stop despite all consequences..that was never me). In every instance, including alcohol, I was able to stop pretty much cold turkey and never had any withdrawal that I recollect. Isn't it intersting the worst I ever had was given to me by a doctor? (effexor)

    Anyway, I do feel like I was being a bit paranoid, but when you read things of seizures and such, those with anxiety disorder like myself freak the heck out for sure.

    Thanks again.

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