Off The Drugs…

Ok so this was what I was up against.

As I research all about the drugs I was on I thought I would share all the small print. Obviously I didn’t do it at the time. That would have been far too sensible and rational and things I clearly wasn’t at the time. Along with countless millions who ingest xanax and cipralex on a regular basis. 49 million in the US in 2011 alone.

Xanax – Alprazolam

May be habit-forming. Misuse of habit-forming medicine can cause addiction, overdose, or death.

Death – marvellous. What else?

Do not drink alcohol while taking Xanax.
This medication can increase the effects of alcohol. Alprazolam should be used only by the person for whom it was prescribed. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it. Never share Xanax with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.

Holy Crap I didn’t know that my friend had broken the law when she gave me some xanax when I had run out. It was always on Sundays you see. I won’t tell if you don’t and she certainly won’t.

Do not stop using Xanax suddenly
Or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to safely stop using this medicine. If you use this medicine long-term, you may need frequent medical tests.

Keep track of the amount of medicine used from each new bottle
Xanax is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if anyone is using your medicine improperly or without a prescription.

I thought you would like this one.

What should I avoid while taking Xanax?
Xanax may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert. Avoid drinking alcohol. Dangerous side effects could occur.

This ups the ante on the alcohol bit.

Common Xanax side effects may include:

  • drowsiness, feeling tired;
  • slurred speech
  • lack of balance or coordination
  • memory problems
  • feeling anxious early in the morning.

Well there you have it. Brain fog of course. More on this from Mental Health Expert, Dr. Charles Raison
Psychiatrist, Emory University Medical School

“You don’t have to use Xanax for a long time to begin experiencing some of the negative effects of the medication. Some of the common effects of Xanax are trouble with cognitive skills and difficulty producing words properly. People using Xanax may slur their speech and sound like they are intoxicated when they speak.

When you use Xanax in larger quantities, the effects become more dramatic. Some people also become confused or disoriented when they take the medication.

People who use Xanax for an extended period of time can experience long-term side effects. One of the common long-term side effects of Xanax is memory impairment. While the impairment is mild and it mostly affects your short-term memory, it can impart a lasting effect. This occurs because it becomes difficult to maintain the needed levels of attention and concentration to receive and retain information from conversations or material that is read or observed.

This doctor wrote

” We know a great deal about the short-term effects of Xanax (generic name is alprazolam) and other benzodiazepine medications on the brain. By blocking the benzodiazepine site on gamma receptors in the brain, these medications hyperpolarize neurons (i.e. brain cells). When hyperpolarized, neurons don’t fire as often, which makes parts of the brain that induce feelings of anxiety and fear less active.

When these brain areas are turned down, people feel calmer and are less likely to become fearful, agitated or anxious. Unlike antidepressants, which take days to weeks to turn down brain anxiety centers (and to show clinical effect), Xanax and other benzodiazepines produce immediate relief.

Benzodiazepines are hugely effective, but they have two major drawbacks. First, over time the brain adjusts to their activity, so that if they are stopped suddenly, brain activity can overshoot normal. When this happens, people show withdrawal symptoms, such as high blood pressure, shaking and intense anxiety. When severe, benzodiazepine withdrawal can produce death. Drugs such as benzodiazepines that can produce these types of withdrawal problems are said to produce “physiological dependence,” which is a fancy word for meaning they can be addictive.

A second drawback is that the danger of addiction to these agents is further increased by the fact that they work so quickly. Bad anxiety is probably the single most miserable emotional state humans can experience. It is truly a living hell. For people who struggle with anxiety, the fact that benzodiazepines work so quickly greatly increases the risk for developing psychological dependence.

Compared with other benzodiazepines, Xanax has an additional problem. It has a very short half-life, which in practical terms means that it goes in and out of the body very quickly. Because of this, many people will begin to experience subtle withdrawal symptoms between doses, which really can increase the addictive potential of this medication. Like most other psychiatrists, I dislike Xanax for this reason and will often try to switch long-term Xanax users to one of the other benzodiazepines that has a longer half-life and less liability for producing patterns of rising and falling anxiety across the day….”

Short-Term Effects of Xanax
When taken as prescribed, the short-term effects of Xanax are beneficial to many individuals. It has the potential to reduce the physical tension, restlessness, and feelings of unease common with anxiety.

It works brilliantly, it really does. I am sure, like lots of women who were given it at perimenopause time or post pregnancy for that. It is getting off it that is the bugger.

Another pronounced long-term effect of Xanax is sedation. It is possible that people who use Xanax may experience periods of sedation that last up to 4 days. This sedation can be exacerbated by mixing Xanax with alcohol, Since each substance serves as a depressant, their combined effects are amplified.

Ok so what about the cipralex. It was interesting

 

CIPRALEX Escitalopram

Belongs to the group of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It works by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain. Increased serotonin levels can lead to an improved mood. The medication usually begins to work within 2 to 4 weeks. However, it may take several weeks of treatment before the full effects are seen.

Stopping the medication Escitalopram should not be stopped abruptly due to the risk of discontinuation symptoms (dizziness, abnormal dreams, numbness, electric shock feelings, agitation, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, headache, tremor, nausea, vomiting, and sweating). A gradual reduction in dose over a period of time is recommended. If you are thinking of stopping the medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to do this safely.

What is the difference between the two? Well I found this but I don’t really understand it.

Xanax is a short acting benzodiazepine but lexapro is a selective serotonin receptor inhibitor.

  • Xanax is mainly used as an anxiolytic agent while lexapro is used as an antidepressant.
  • Xanax is a short term drug where one can relieve symptoms soon after administration, while lexapro is a long acting drug where it usually takes several weeks to obtain its desired action
  • Xanax is addictive but lexapro is not.
  • Xanax does not change the chemistry of the brain, but lexapro would do.

So the ideal would be that you don’t get stressed in the first place.

Yes well learning to relax in our busy world is not as easy as just having someone say to you, you need to relax.
Well what does that even mean anyway?

So there I was at the end of January, we got back to Dar and I started reducing the Xanax. I needed alternatives to it, to try and get to sleep.

I had scheduled another series of workshops and talks so I felt good enough to start getting my message out there for women to get more information about how to be healthy. I felt increasingly strongly that we were all too ignorant for our own good.

I started with…

 

5HTP supplements

Now of course there is no such thing as a free lunch is there? What a shame really. The first night I lay there with terrible chest pains. I got up, and looked up the side effects

POUNDING HEART

hmmm.

Didn’t take any more of those little babies..

Onto the next one.

 

Melatonin

Ok no pounding heart and got to sleep ok. Woke up 4 hours later. Now that sounds quite crap but you have to remember that here was a perimenopausal woman who had not slept well for about three years. I was both desperate and really rather mad from chronic sleep deprivation.

At least I was able to start putting material together for talks. I was still doing them at interested women’s homes, nothing formal. Everyone was also really shocked at their own ignorance, just like I had been.

There were women of all ages and as I started research for a series of workshops and I started moving away from the menopause as the key message.

Sleep deprivation can be a massive problem for women in their late 20s and early 30s as they have kids. Health IS for ALL women, not just women in their 40s. I was keener to reach younger women so they could adjust their quality of their life earlier than their 40s. I want my own child to learn what I have learnt much younger than I did obviously.

I kept going with the melatonin but it wasn’t great for me. I still woke up and they also gave me chest pains. Just not as bad as the 5HTP.

 

Holy Basil

I heard of Holy Basil as a supplement from a podcast so I persevered with melatonin till I got those in March. A friend of a friend’s husband who had gone to a meeting in the UK. These chaps have no idea what they bring back in their luggage…

All the herbal and other supplements all say on the packaging that you shouldnt take them if you are taking the SSRIs. So it was quite interesting that psychologically that helped me taper back the xanax as I was scared I might die if I used both.

I would have these conversations with myself – quite balanced I thought at the time – if I take half a xanax with one melatonin tablet will I die or I wonder if I will be ok? Hmm. Maybe they only wrote that on the packet to cover their arses. All tablets say that on the packet don’t they? Don’t take if you are this or that or human or breathing or anything else as it may endanger your ability to continue being a human. It is all to avoid being sued.

I kept a record in February and went from one xanax tablet to half over the month. I was still really run down. No don’t worry no more nose boils but armpits and leg ones this time. Is that better? Anyway courtesy of a “pits n’ half leg” waxing session where some sort of germ in the cleaning cloth or something was transferred to me, I was left with big germs. Yet more antibiotics…

No – no photos sorry everyone. Sharing is caring but showing is over-sharing. Mind you, everyone could see the boils on my legs – couldn’t miss them and I do have a photo actually.

On the bright side (!) In February because I was rather stiff with all my cardio gym bunny activities, I had hurt my neck. I know I am truly an upright disaster. I went first to physio and then to yoga because that was what the physio recommended to me.

A life saver, a game changer or whatever the latest is. Another missing piece. What else can I say? Anyway I hope you get the picture.

I started going three times a week. By chance the wonderful Mukti yoga centre round the corner was running a yoga retreat in the middle of February which I went to. It coincided with TT being away at a football tournament. The starts were aligning. All that wonderful breathing. I had found it. This is what relaxation was. I also did a few yoga nidras as well. Anyone heard of these?

 

Guided Relaxation

Yoga Nidra for sleeping was recommended to me and I started using it at night.

BINGO. It did work. It didn’t work when hubs was turning the lights on and off and his phone on and off and getting in and out of bed so it did require eye shades sometimes. Hopeless then really, they travel every time you move. A lot of people swear by them – how do they keep them on I wonder?

Would you ever believe that going to bed is hard work?

HARD, HARD work. Extraordinary really. We spend a third of our lives in bed. I had SUCH bad habits. I was addicted to the screen and to falling asleep with it on. I used it when I couldn’t sleep much at all. As adults we don’t unwind as we help our children do. We just slump.

Even if you don’t, as you feel smug reading this, millions do slump. As an ex-slumper I know – I’ve done the research. As I was researching for the workshops I ran in April, I was SHOCKED at what I was learning about sleep and how you can die years younger than you need to because of sleep deprivation.

I knew lack of sleep was bad for you, but I had really NO idea it was SO bad. Knowing that alone is enough to keep you fricking awake isn’t it. I have better habits – it is called sleep hygiene don’t you know, but I still slip into bad ways by the way. Don’t at ANY time think I am perfect. Oh you don’t? Ok splendid.

So this “how to sleep” malarky was a massive find – the holy basil and yoga nidra and the BREATHING business that came as part of yoga. This breathing business is so important it has its very own chapter. But you have to wait for that. Because of course, you have to breath properly every day NOT just when you are at yoga. EVERY DAY…most of us don’t do it properly you see.

I was starting to feel a lot better though.

It wasn’t as if I was suddenly sleeping 8 hours at a stretch but it was better. Like everything – fits and starts. I never gave it a huge amount of thought at the time, but as I write this just being off most of the drugs must have been a good thing. And I was so run down with all these chemicals and then germs and infections and then antibiotics etc. etc.

In March I went from a half to a quarter. Absolute nightmare cutting the little fuckers in half and then quarters…they were flying all over the kitchen. They cost a lot of money so I didn’t let any go to waste. No way. I used to chop them up ready when no one was in the house. I think I had been watching too much BREAKING BAD. I was rummaging on the kitchen floor under the counter to retrieve the parts of one I had just chopped up with a BIGGEST knife in the house – hopelessly blunt.

 

March was amazing actually

I can’t quite believe I just wrote that. But it was. I gave a talk about bringing out the wonder woman in all women. It went down very well and I only mentioned the menopause once as it applies to all ages. It was such a wonderful audience and they were really receptive to what I said. So many women wanted follow up and workshops and – super interesting – so many wanted them for their girl children – of different ages. Pre-teens, teens, pre-college etc. It was so exciting.

At that time, my brain fog and cognitive capacities were still not fully charged up and I wasn’t able to see all the pieces of the new work puzzle.

I didn’t have a flyer, I didn’t have a card. I didn’t have workshop dates all ready to sign people up for. You really need to strike while the iron is hot with people’s motivation and awareness. I really wanted to further the health message, but I required a little bit more work on my organisational skills first… I really beat myself up about it all not being seamless but in fact I had been on many mind altering drugs for some time and they mess with your planning skills frankly.

After that, I did then design a series of workshops for April and with themes with everything I had found out, lurched into, stumbled across etc.

AND the big news was that at the beginning of April I actually STOPPED TAKING THE XANAX… HURRAH!

I hope you know how big that is. I promise that is big.

Some people never stop taking them because it is seriously hard. The shakes, the dry mouth, the shaking eyes, it is not shaking but do you know what I mean? Probably not, but maybe then yes – if half the worried well are on xanax you probably do. I can’t think of the term but if I do I will amend this sentence. The headaches – the brain fog.

Anyway. Next I JUST had to get off the cipralex and then I was CLEAN. Onward and upwards.

I had reduced the morning dose to 1 tablet in February when I got back from my extended holiday in the UK… Enough about that I think.

I then started halving the tablets in March – halving and quartering tablets is a skill I have now acquired I like to think. Cipralex gives you chest pains if you reduce the dose too quickly. The racing heart is quite horrid and so I really didn’t want that. Well obviously I didn’t. I continued taking half for March and April as I didn’t know what would happen if I stopped both in April. I thought I might grow a tail or horns or something.

At the end of April I started taking the half on alternative days. That was big, very big. On the days I didn’t take them I was expecting some sort of withdrawal reaction but I didn’t get it. AMAZING.

Beginning of May every third day and then I suddently realised by the end of May that I had stopped taking them altogether.

ALTOGETHER

DRUG FREE

ALTOGETHER

DRUG FREE

MY BRAIN FOG WAS MY VERY OWN.

NOT SSRI INDUCED

HURRAH FOR ME and anyone else who gets off the little buggers..

When I saw the doctor in June for my next scan to check for big germies in my uterus, I told her I was off everything. She said, “Well done, that’s great. Was it hard? It is usually hard to get off them.”

I think you all know the answer to that.

HURRAH AGAIN.

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