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Lucky to be alive... Hope this helps someone.

post #1 of 82
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I just figured I would share a personal experience I had last week in the hopes that no one else ever has to go through this.

 

I had been taking lorazepam (as prescribed), a benzodiazepine for the past 5 years for panic attacks, and insomnia. The little white pills seemed benign, and have helped me a great deal over the years.

 

However, they just never stopped being prescribed to me, be it for my panic attacks in my teenage years, my two shoulder surgeries, for my generalized anxiety, or for insomnia... and it totally blindsided me.

 

Recently, after steadily cutting down my dose and frequency of use I decided I would not go get a refill (had 0 repeats) as I have not felt I really needed them in a long time.

 

BIG MISTAKE.

 

I ended up having to call an ambulance, at 20 years old, with a BP of 161/100 with a heart rate of 130. I had severe cyanosis in my hands and feet, and was having cold sweats. I almost died.

 

These medications are given out like candy, and they do help a great deal of people, and I myself have needed them over the years but I never expected this to happen. I had no idea how physically addictive they could be, with very little psychological impairment.

 

I had "acute benzodiazepine withdrawal" which, along with alcohol withdrawal (alcoholism), are two of the only drugs where you can straight up die quitting "cold turkey" if you are otherwise in good health.

 

So, whether you get them for surgery, for anxiety, for whatever... just be aware the side effects of long term use can be devastating should you discontinue use abruptly.

 

Right now my bp is fine, my heart is fine, everything is okay, but I am looking at 2- 6 months of tapering off slowly and most likely will not be able to drink alcohol for up to 2 years.

 

I am suffering mild ataxia from the long acting clonazepam they have me on now, as well as severe anterograde amnesia in the morning... but it feels good to be a live... and to be able to listen to music.

 

Hope this helps someone.

post #2 of 82

Thank you for your personal and brutally honest story.  I certainly hope the future is good to you and I'm sure you have helped others.  Good luck to you.

post #3 of 82

My goodness, man.  Thats scary, how are you feeling right now?  Hope you feel better and all is well right now for you.  

 

* Head Fi Hug +1

post #4 of 82
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

Thanks for the kind words. Means a lot.

 

I am feeling good right now, healthier than I have in a long time actually - just a little sedated and it is brutal to wake up in the morning... it takes at least an hour.

 

Retarded to say, but just to feel blood flow freely through my extremities and have an average heart rate makes me very thankful.

 

I think withdrawal thing has been going on longer than I knew and had been attributing the feelings to other things, then when I finally ran out, my body flipped about 3 days later. But I am in good health now, I just have to deal with the fact that I am very seriously physically addicted to something that does not give me any pleasure, that I do not want to take, but I have to take and have a major dependance to overcome.

 

One of the worst parts of the experience though was how I was treated at the hospital, though. They treated me like some sort of junkie, and were very disrespectful. All in all it was a horrible experience, but I am healthy now, and my regular doctor is going to be working with me closely over the next few months, most likely with diazepam (extremely long halflife) to make sure nothing like this happens again.

post #5 of 82

i take risperidone and strattera. i really hope these will not impact me as greatly as yours did. thanks for the heads up. i will be very cautious about weening of of prescription drugs. and i hope you gain a full recovery and don't need to have a similar experience again.

 

good luck and to many years of life, enjoy it.

 

live life to the fullest every day.

post #6 of 82

woah, that's intense.

post #7 of 82

glad youre okay. this isnt near the same level but i had some stomach issues and thought it was an ulcer from my drinking, caffeine, advil, etc so i decided to quit all of it one day. for me, the caffeine withdrawal was the worst. i had the worst headache ever, cold sweats, etc.  i couldnt take advil for the headache because, well i wanted to cut down on those too for my kidneys sake.  it was horrible so i cant even imagine how back your experience could have been.  

 

goes to show, anything even coffee/caffeine can jack a person up.  

 

and i totally agree about prescribing meds... starting as kids, everyone is diagnosed with something and given a drug. its horrible.  

post #8 of 82

My first thought was: If you're so dependant on those drugs to stay alive, shouldn't you be investigating the root cause of your physical problems?  In my own case, various doctors prescribed me various drugs over the years to try and treat problems I had, which I ended up finding the root cause for and now don't need them.  I had to go away from just-take-this doctors though who were too lazy to make a proper effort however.

post #9 of 82

First of all, thank you for starting this thread.  I've been deeply disturbed by following a random run-in with some old "friends" yesterday that kind of had me a bit sad since that time.  There was a period of my own personal life about 10 years ago when I, too, suffered anxiety and panic.  I reached out for all the help I could get.  I had to take a small leave of absence from work and when I returned, I was employed for about 2 months, then received my separation papers (it was actually the best experience of my life).  I was gaining control of my life at that time, so the venture of a little change in my career seemed like a great challenge.  As part of the anxiety issues, I also belonged to a local support group that met weekly at a local church.  The group was great - I participated for nearly 4 years in that group, which leads me to my story of yesterday.

 

Back while I was in the group, we had a lady that basically couldn't leave her home without her husband.  Her husband would attend the group sessions with her out of support.  He also took an early retirement since her anxiety issues were quite extreme.  However, a few months into his retirement, he developed an auto-immune disorder where his kidney and liver were slowly being rejected.  He would meet with his doctor frequently for tests and to adjust his placement on the transplant list.  This auto-immune disease that he had developed put a lot of stress on his wife and many things were unclear to her how she would survive if he wasn't there.  A period of time came when I had several commitments, so I took a 3-month leave from the group.  When I returned, the lady and her husband were not there.  Our leader broke the news to me that the husband had passed away.  Apparently, he developed pneumonia and his immune system was so weakened, he couldn't recover.  I couldn't imagine what would happen to his wife.  They owned a farm that they were trying to sell and the real estate market was starting to soften.

 

Fast forward to yesterday.  It has now probably been 6 years since I last saw that lady and another lady from our group.  Ironically, they were in a store that I went into.  I saw the lady who's husband died, but didn't recognize her.  She had developed some severe osteoperosis and was walking with a rolling walker.  The other lady was there assisting her with shopping and walked over to me to get my attention as all of this didn't fully register that these were the two ladies from 6 years ago.  I'm not fully sure what else happened to the lady who's husband died.  She seemed to have some memory issues as well as motor function issues (stroke?) - I'm not sure.

 

Anyway, I've found out that the lady now lives only about 2 miles from my house.  I shared my contact information with her and invited her to contact me as she needed assistance.  I was extremely saddened to see how her health had degraded to such a point in just 6 short years.

 

One can never take life for granted.

 

 


Edited by wje - 6/26/11 at 7:04pm
post #10 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

My first thought was: If you're so dependant on those drugs to stay alive, shouldn't you be investigating the root cause of your physical problems?  In my own case, various doctors prescribed me various drugs over the years to try and treat problems I had, which I ended up finding the root cause for and now don't need them.  I had to go away from just-take-this doctors though who were too lazy to make a proper effort however.


You've made a valid point.  However, in my own personal case, I did go through any and all tests to rule out any other items that could be the root cause of what I was suffering.  I didn't simply just take the prescription and run to my local drug store to get it filled.  I wanted to know what was causing the issues.  I've spend years trying to find out the necessary answers.  However, I'm happy to report that I'm well on the road to recovery - but, it does take some medicine to do it.  Medicines shouldn't be looked at as bad to take.  If you've proven beyond a reasonable doubt to try and isolate the other issues but cant, then medicine might be your only answer.  Diabetics can change their diet, but still, most of them need some form of insulin to regulate their system.

 

post #11 of 82
Just glad to hear you pulled through and are doing OK.

Don't worry about the alcohol. I've had periods of being dry for a year or two and didn't miss it.

I'll agree with the others about caffeine withdrawal. I got off it a few years back and it was completely miserable. Vicious headaches, aches, pains, and irritability for about three days. Then I felt great, my sleep schedule straightened itself out, and I stopped feeling tired during the day. Didn't expect that, but it was a nice side effect.
post #12 of 82
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

My first thought was: If you're so dependant on those drugs to stay alive, shouldn't you be investigating the root cause of your physical problems?  In my own case, various doctors prescribed me various drugs over the years to try and treat problems I had, which I ended up finding the root cause for and now don't need them.  I had to go away from just-take-this doctors though who were too lazy to make a proper effort however.


The root cause of the physiological symptoms was the withdrawal (which is why it was so scary, its not like I live with angina and know I have a condition.) I do not actually have any heart or blood pressure issues and am in pretty good shape. I can run 10k in about 50 mins... not the best, but not the worst.

 

If you are talking about what causes my generalized anxiety I have no idea, but it has only been getting better since highschool, and that is why I decided not to refill my script in the first place.

 

Benzodiazepines stimulate GABA (inhibitory messenger) receptor sites making endogenous GABA more effective (IIRC). So, basically my body was used to a higher level of GABA activity, and when my plasma levels were finally low enough, neurons that were once slowed started firing like crazy. Mix that on top of the fact they were there to treat anxiety you get a double whammy where the sympathetic nervous system goes ape****, hence the stage 2 hypertension.

 

I am working on getting into a steady sleep routine and considering CBT if my anxiety returns, as I never want to have to take these medications again once I am off them.

 

I agree with you though, simply swallowing pills as told is not a wise thing to do, especially when proper exercise and diet can alleviate so many symptoms.

 

post #13 of 82

I managed to have those kind of withdrawal symptoms, eg: running naked outside, acute psychosis but on a different kind of dosage but nothing yet relation to the heart, still that sounds serious, Glad you're still ok.

post #14 of 82
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wje View Post

First of all, thank you for starting this thread.  I've been deeply disturbed by following a random run-in with some old "friends" yesterday that kind of had me a bit sad since that time.  There was a period of my own personal life about 10 years ago when I, too, suffered anxiety and panic.  I reached out for all the help I could get.  I had to take a small leave of absence from work and when I returned, I was employed for about 2 months, then received my separation papers (it was actually the best experience of my life).  I was gaining control of my life at that time, so the venture of a little change in my career seemed like a great challenge.  As part of the anxiety issues, I also belonged to a local support group that met weekly at a local church.  The group was great - I participated for nearly 4 years in that group, which leads me to my story of yesterday.

 

Back while I was in the group, we had a lady that basically couldn't leave her home without her husband.  Her husband would attend the group sessions with her out of support.  He also took an early retirement since her anxiety issues were quite extreme.  However, a few months into his retirement, he developed an auto-immune disorder where his kidney and liver were slowly being rejected.  He would meet with his doctor frequently for tests and to adjust his placement on the transplant list.  This auto-immune disease that he had developed put a lot of stress on his wife and many things were unclear to her how she would survive if he wasn't there.  A period of time came when I had several commitments, so I took a 3-month leave from the group.  When I returned, the lady and her husband were not there.  Our leader broke the news to me that the husband had passed away.  Apparently, he developed pneumonia and his immune system was so weakened, he couldn't recover.  I couldn't imagine what would happen to his wife.  They owned a farm that they were trying to sell and the real estate market was starting to soften.

 

Fast forward to yesterday.  It has now probably been 6 years since I last saw that lady and another lady from our group.  Ironically, they were in a store that I went into.  I saw the lady who's husband died, but didn't recognize her.  She had developed some severe osteoperosis and was walking with a rolling walker.  The other lady was there assisting her with shopping and walked over to me to get my attention as all of this didn't fully register that these were the two ladies from 6 years ago.  I'm not fully sure what else happened to the lady who's husband died.  She seemed to have some memory issues as well as motor function issues (stroke?) - I'm not sure.

 

Anyway, I've found out that the lady now lives only about 2 miles from my house.  I shared my contact information with her and invited her to contact me as she needed assistance.  I was extremely saddened to see how her health had degraded to such a point in just 6 short years.

 

One can never take life for granted.

 

 


Great to hear you found support through a group. I never really had social anxiety though, just panic attacks but I can certainly appreciate your situation and how hard it is to deal with those feelings.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by wje View Post




You've made a valid point.  However, in my own personal case, I did go through any and all tests to rule out any other items that could be the root cause of what I was suffering.  I didn't simply just take the prescription and run to my local drug store to get it filled.  I wanted to know what was causing the issues.  I've spend years trying to find out the necessary answers.  However, I'm happy to report that I'm well on the road to recovery - but, it does take some medicine to do it.  Medicines shouldn't be looked at as bad to take.  If you've proven beyond a reasonable doubt to try and isolate the other issues but cant, then medicine might be your only answer.  Diabetics can change their diet, but still, most of them need some form of insulin to regulate their system.

 


Medicine is always a double edged sword because your bodies job is to maintain homeostasis... so while it shouldnt be looked down upon, long term use should certainly be a last resort. But like I said before, as bad as an experience I had, I still respect the fact that myself, and millions of others have benifitted greatly from these drugs.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post

Just glad to hear you pulled through and are doing OK.

Don't worry about the alcohol. I've had periods of being dry for a year or two and didn't miss it.

I'll agree with the others about caffeine withdrawal. I got off it a few years back and it was completely miserable. Vicious headaches, aches, pains, and irritability for about three days. Then I felt great, my sleep schedule straightened itself out, and I stopped feeling tired during the day. Didn't expect that, but it was a nice side effect.

 

I actually despise alcohol, despite it being quite similar to how benzodiazepines function. So I won't miss drinking... because I don't haha, it is just shocking to find out experts suggest not ingesting anything related to benzodiazepines for up to 2 years after successfully withdrawing. I do enjoy a glass of red wine at a fancy dinner.

 

Caffeine withdrawal is indeed quite horrible (headaches are brutal), however caffeine simply inhibits adenosine, it does not directly impact neurotransmitters unless I am mistaken.  I have been on high doses of oxycodone (oxycontin) for months for my two shoulder surgeries, as well as dopamine reuptake inhibitors for "ADD" in highschool. Both of which were brutal to come off, much more so than coffee... but these benzos... they take the cake.

 

Just to put things in perspective for those who are not familiar with these drugs, I am stating that benzodiazepines have caused me significantly more trouble in terms of withdrawal than the legal equivalents of heroine (oxycontin), and cocaine (methylphenidate).

 

 

Thanks again to all who shared stories and gave advice or simply kind words.
 

 

post #15 of 82

Thank you for posting this. I may show this to my girlfriend as she has chronic anxiety, panic attacks, and (since our apartment fire) PTSD. She and I both know the dangers involved in even the benign use of benzos and having a story of the dangers will help us keep the doses, and those dangers, in perspective. I'm sorry you had to go through such an ordeal and I wanted you to know that your story will help many people.

 

as an aside, the pharmaceutical industry is a legal drug racket to be wary of. Exercise, diet, and meditation are incredibly effective at relieving symptoms of anxiety... never rule them out of your day to day treatment.

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