Anxiety Medication, Getting Help for an Anxiety Disorder, Recovering from an Anxiety Disorder

Was I Addicted to Xanax?

During my worst days, my Xanax intake looked something like this:

  1. 2:00am: Wake up in a panic and take a Xanax.
  2. 6:00am: At exactly 4 hours, the sensations would start coming back. At this time, the kids were up and I needed to function and pretend I was fine. I would take another one.
  3. 12:00pm: At exactly 4 hours, the Xanax wore off, but I held off taking the next one. My Psychiatrist told me it should last between 4 – 6 hours. I am trying to wait 6 hours. I have a nervous stomach and nausea immediately. The racing heart and shortness of breath starts soon after. I am cold and clammy, lying on the couch, crying now. I am wondering what the hell is wrong with me. At exactly 6 hours, I take the next Xanax.
  4. 4:00pm: At 4 hours, I am barely over the last episode. It was a reminder that I am still not well and can only feel somewhat calm and “normal” with Xanax. I am not going to wait 6 hours this time. I can’t. My body can’t take it and my son is home. I want to be ok for him. I take another one.
  5. 10:00pm: At night I wait 6 hours, so I can sleep as much as possible throughout the night. My kids are asleep so it is just me, my husband and my sensations of panic. I am sorry for my husband because I can’t pretend around him. In bed, he feels me trembling next to him and hears me crying. He is probably wondering what is happening to me and praying that it ends soon.
  6. 2:00am: I wake up in a panic again, trembling and gasping for air. It starts all over again.

Eventually, my Psychiatrist switched to extended release Xanax. He wasn’t sure why it wasn’t lasting 6 hours for me. The extended release should last 8 hours and it did! This was so much better!

  1. 6:00am: 1st Xanax
  2. 2:00pm: 2nd Xanax
  3. 10:00pm: 3rd Xanax

With this schedule, it was rare to feel any sensations of panic. It was GREAT! I was able to rest, function and stop crying. I was able to work, take care of my children and laugh more. I felt somewhat normal.

According to Psychology Today, “an addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance, or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.”

The “rewarding effects” for me, were the ability to go to work, drive, take care of my children and participate in their lives. The “detrimental consequences” for me were NONE. I never took Xanax without strict instructions from my Psychiatrist. Oftentimes, I would call him and ask if it was ok to take the next one, even though he had already told me it was ok.

Was I addicted to Xanax? I asked myself that question so many times and there were times where I thought I was. I was very afraid of becoming addicted. Xanax is associated with addiction and that keeps a lot of people from taking it. Well, I absolutely was not addicted. I used it because I needed it, in order to function. The dose I took was prescribed by a psychiatrist who sees people with this disorder every day. I understood that I couldn’t take it this way forever and that I had to continue to work with my Psychiatrist to find another way. The second I could reduce the Xanax, I did.

At the quantities I was taking it, I couldn’t just stop, or I could have seizures. I created a spreadsheet showing how much to take every day and reduced the intake by .5mg every week, then by .25mg every week, until I was no longer taking any at all. When it was time to make a reduction, I would lower the nighttime dose. I felt I needed that one the least. It was the time I felt safest because I was in my bed with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no one to bother if I felt “panicky”.

It took several months, but as the long term medication started to work I was able to stick to my “Xanax Reduction Plan”. The last week on Xanax, I was taking .25mg once in the morning. The morning was the time of day I was most anxious. That is also the time of day Serotonin levels are the lowest (not a coincidence).

I had been on Xanax for 9 months and finally on 8/23/11, I took my last one!  I owe Xanax a lot. In many ways, I feel it “saved my life” and I am so grateful that it exists, but I am SO HAPPY I don’t need it anymore. What an amazing feeling!!

Continue reading my story here:

Love/Hate Meds!


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