After the previous installment of this series talked about some of the worst medications I've had for mental illness so far, worst by either being entirely useless or by causing bad side-effects, this part of the series will talk about another type of awful meds that I deliberately left out in the previous post in order to dedicate an entire post by itself to it. Some of you might already have guessed it, we're getting into the twisted world of benzodiazepines here.
We all know Valium (diazepam), we've all heard of Xanax (alprazolam), in Europe lorazepam is all the rage, known as Tavor here, better known as Ativan overseas. You simply can't avoid coming across these brand names, especially not if you have a history of mental illness. And I'm willing to bet many people who are reading this post have had one of those benzodiazepines in the past or are currently taking one. They are as omnipresent as alcohol and cigarettes, and they mess with your body and mind just as badly as those two, but the major difference is that while doctors tell you not to drink and not to smoke, they tell you to take those pills. Doctor's orders. It's good for you. We want you to feel good. We're your friends.
Benzodiazepines are definitely great for short term relief in times of severe emotional distress. Anxiety, panic attacks, stress-induced psychosomatic symptoms, that sort of stuff. Take the pill, wait about half an hour, you're fine. That is a really fucking awesome thing to exist, so don't make the mistake of thinking this post is anti-benzodiazepine. They definitely have that one thing they are absolutely great for. Short term relief in extreme situations is one of the best things you can have for many types of mental illness and/or stress.
Where it starts to go down a darker road is when it comes to taking them regularly. Encouraged by your friendly doctor, of course. You can say anything you want, you can come up with a thousand arguments about how it is helping and how your doctor is supporting it, the simple and unavoidable fact is that you've just been made a drug addict. You can tell me the Earth is flat, you can tell me Elvis is alive, you can tell me Obama did 9/11, but you can't tell me a regular benzodiazepine consumer is anything other than a drug addict. That's simply how it is. You might as well be shooting heroin. The advantage is that you don't get any dangerous cutting agents from your drug dealer/pharmacist, and that in most places in the Western World your insurance will even pay for it. And you're not a social pariah because it's perfectly accepted to be a benzodiazepine addict. Doctors support it, must be a good thing.
All the directly inherent elements of drug addiction however are there. The constant need for a new dose, almost a craving, waiting for when it's time again to take the next one. And after a time it stops being effective and you need a higher dose. Then higher yet. You're on 12mg of lorazepam a day before you know it. Then what do you do? You need your fix, and the withdrawal from missing a dose or having to wait for a dose for too long is just horrible. Your whole life starts to revolve around the drug, and you either start going batshit from the stress associated with drug addiction or you take the only way out and go to detox. And that sure is one hell of a ride.
I've done lorazepam detox myself, and I've known a fellow patient at a clinic I've been to who has done diazepam detox. All the stress and anxiety you had before taking the pills is back, only increased tenfold. And you can forget about sleep. Even relaxing for a bit is impossible. You're incredibly on edge, constantly. You can't imagine how wired you are during benzodiazepine detox unless you've experienced it. It's like someone just gave you an adrenaline enema. And you're in that state for at least a week. Sometimes, if you've taken a lot for a long period of time, it can last several weeks. I've known a guy who's been through that, he's the one I got the 12mg of lorazepam figure from in the previous paragraph. Been in the clinic with him for eight weeks, and when I was discharged he was still not done with his detox. Not sure he ever slept more than one or two hours during my entire stay.
And that's the stuff your doctor prescribed you, and your pharmacist gave it to you. No regard for the obvious consequences. Can that be right? Isn't something going terribly wrong there? It's just something that should not be done. Use it occasionally in times of severe emotional distress, yeah, like I said earlier. But prescribing regular use, prescribing higher doses when the lower ones no longer work, what the hell is your doctor trying to accomplish? He can't deliberately want to make you miserable, he swore that goddamn Hippocratic oath. So what is it? What is the sense behind it? I can't figure it out. The whole thing is messed up. Just stop prescribing regular use entirely. May seem like a good idea at first, but come on, we all know where it will lead, and that the consequences of the use of this drug will be worse than whatever they were prescribed for in the first place. Stop prescribing drug addiction. That's seriously messed up. Seriously.