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benzos ruining my student life
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benzos ruining my student life

Hi,
I am 23 at the moment.  Since childhood I have had symptoms of anxiety and the inability to deal with change and stress, which affected my social life, but not my academic life.  The overwhelming fear of not handing in an assignment or getting a bad grade was enough to push me to getting 90's-100's on all assignments, etc...  But around age 18, the stress became too great that I went to see a psychiatrist and a therapist.  Over the next year or so I was put on the regular Zoloft, Paxil, etc... to help me cope, but they either didn't help or caused bad side effects.  I went away to college in Boston and saw a psychiatrist who put me on a low dose of klonopin as well as a battery of SSRI's, tricyclic's, anti-phychotics, and other off the label treatments for anxiety and depression.  Every doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist I have seen (around 10 in all) has commented that I truly do have a very high level of anxiety (I have been tested for pheochromocytoma but it only showed high dopamine levels).  I gradually went up to 6mg of klonopin which helped my anxiety enough, but the medicine was not ideal.  The depression began when I loss the ability to concentrate on even simple things.  I couldn't think like I used to, my mind was blurry all the time, and this led to extreme frustration with lowering grades and the inability to even do the most simple assignment or exam.  This is 5 years later, at age 23, and I am in my 6th year of undergraduate schooling with no plans, no drive, no ambition, no major!!!  For the last couple years I have been just skipping exams and dropping out of classes left and right because I can not concentrate on the work or understand the ideas or memorize basically anything.  At the moment I am on 5 mg of xanax, which helps my anxiety enough, but the problem is more complicated.  My failures in life has caused my anxiety to increase each day.  Without the xanax I am a complete mess, on the xanax, I am a mindless drone.  I have begun taking such things as choline, gingko biloba, Deplin, and flaxseed oil to at least give me an edge, or simply to give me a placebo effect.  I am afraid to ask my psychiatrist to prescribe me a medication like Modafinil, or an ADD medication, because these may raise my anxiety, and I am afraid of being casted as a "drug seeker".  But this can not go on any longer.  Please don't advise me to lower my xanax dosage, as I have and the results were really terrible (not just WD symptoms).  I have though about going in and trying to discuss Modafinil or anything my psychiatrist would recommend, but I wanted an opinion from a doctor (MedHelp) before I went and possibly lost the trust of my psychiatrist.  I know ADD medication and possible Modafinil could interact with my anxiety treatment, but I am a smart kid, and I don't want to end up working at a local fast food restaurant or grocery store because my anxiety treatment is making me dumb!  This is a life altering time for me, I need to graduate college but can not do so the way i am going.  I  need advice on medications which will wake up my brain, without so much affecting my anxiety levels.  I am willing to lower my dose of xanax by 1 mg over a month's time, but that is about as far as I will go.  My question is, as a psychiatrist, if a student came into your office on benzodiazepines which had very much improved his life with his anxiety, but can't think and is in a stagnation period for several years in college (I dropped out of a great school to attend a local state school because I couldn't keep up with the work) because of his in ability to concentrate, what would you recommend?
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Just a thought for you.  I know you say you don't want to lower your xanax dose but did you know that any benzo can cause memory problems, especially if taken at high doses for long term.  I am weaning off a benzo right now.  I am also going very slow to avoid withdrawals.  Since I have gotten down to a lower dose, I can think clearer and my memory is getting a lot better.

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I have been on benzos for so long I know everything about them.  There is no long term memory loss with a benzo.  Once it is out of your system, your brain is fine.  24 hours after your last dose of xanax and your brain is just as sharp as it was before you took the pills (some benzos like valium last longer and may take 2 days to leave your system, etc...).  The fact is, I am "dependent" on benzos and besides the memory and total brain fuzz, they help me a GREAT deal.  I may be on them for the rest of my life (which does not bother me the least tiny bit) unless something dramatic happens in which I am able to cope with daily stress or that daily stress disappears (such as selling all my possessions and moving to the South Pacific).  But in today's society, with my body and brain (these symtoms (symptoms) run in my family), benzos keep me from acting like a complete paranoid maniac.  I will NOT get into it, but I have serious stress coping problems, but I don't want to be a zombie (like John Nash, the brilliant, Nobel Prize Winning, schizophrenic math genius who was given insulin shock therapy and lost his ability to think the "beautiful" ways in which he did before his treatment, or any of the brilliant men/women with bipolar disorders and the like who lose their creativity and drive from these drugs).  I don't want benzos to crush my brain, but without them I can't even leave the house, hold a job for more than a day (less even show up), or have any relationships.  My only questions, my only plea to this group, is does anyone know of anyone who takes both benzos and a medication to sharpen their brain?  Does anyone take ADD meds and benzos?  What do other benzo users do when they can not stand the terrible loss of brain power that occurs with benzo use?  If all else fails, the doctors, the psychiatrists, etc..., I am just going online and ordering a giant bottle of ephedrine (not ephedra, which is illegal) to help me think clearer, but this is a LAST option.  Does a doctor or psychiatrist moniter this board, because I would like to discuss it with them, to see their view on the suject.  If anyone has any experience with loss of brain power with benzos and their way of overcoming it (without withdrawaling from benzos!), please respond to this thread.
Thanks
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I'm a little confused by your posts.  You do seem very intelligent.  And you've provided a tremendous amount of information... including quite a bit about your treatments and medications.  But you've told us practically nothing at all about your symptoms, which struck me as odd.  Did you notice that?  

You mention stress and anxiety.  And something about becoming a paranoid maniac.  Anxiety doesn't make anyone a paranoid maniac as far as I know.  Even intense anxiety.

Do you have panic attacks?  Dizziness?  Chest pain?  Fear of passing out?  Difficulty breathing?  Feeling of being in a vice grip?  Constant worry about your health?  All of the above?

Just how, exactly, would you describe this incredible stress?  That would be a good first step in getting advice from those who can relate to your symptoms.  Based on what you've written so far... I don't really have a clue what your specific symptoms are.

mark
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I want to know how I can continue to take medication to help my anxiety (benzos) as well as remove the fog from my brain.  An answer I am looking for is "Hi Charlie, I take 4mg of klonopin and am also prescribed 'blah blah' medicine because I also feel like I have 50 pounds of cement in my skull instead of a brain.  I spoke to my doctor and he told me........"  PLLLLLLLEEEAASEEE, someone who takes anxiety medication as well as a brain stimulant such as an ADD med or Modafinil or whatever, respond to this post.  I doubt this practice is common, but someone out there must have a stressful job that demands a sharp brain who has worked something out with their psychiatrist.

However, if it helps somehow, I get heart palpitations (really rapid, I have seen a cardiologist and I do have a small extra flap that will need to be removed in a few years, but isn't causing the palpitations), panic attacks that can last for 15 minutes to over an hour, racing thoughts, several headaches a day, outbursts of rage and anger, I commute an hour to school, sit in the parking lot for 15 minutes crying with the feeling of a 100 pound weight on my chest, turn around and drive home, never entering the school.  I miss a lot of school and skip exams because I couldn't concentrate or memorize anything.  My hands shake at times and I get tremors which jerk my head from side to side when under heavy stress, I feel like I have a tub of adrenaline pumping through every inch of my body causing me to scream out loud, pull my hair, and run around to release the energy built up.  I just begin crying out of nowhere and then stop out of nowhere, then start again, and stop.  I get severely depressed and lay around all day for weeks.  Then one day I will feel one top of the world, and then back down.  On that up day I will buy 20 books, but by the time they arrive by Amazon, I am already down and never even pick a single one up.  I am a very magnanimous, calm, reserved person at times, but change into a violent, uncontrollable, red-faced "maniac" when anything upsets me.  I think violence is the only answer at these times and I know I am going to hurt someone bad someday.  My heart races so fast and I can barely breathe and the only thing that can stop it is to submerge my total body in a super hot bath and relax for a half an hour, which only cuts the problem down about %50.  I have had irritable bowel syndrome for years and years, since the anxiety started.  I have "restless leg syndrome", which I think is a silly thing, both me and my brother both just have so much energy built up that we are constantly bouncing our legs up and down and turning over and over in bed,  I sleep only a few hours every night.  I have had OCD-like symptoms since pre-school: twirling my hair, biting my fingernails, cracking my knuckles, obsessing over cleanliness and order and some other weird ones like tilting my head backward to comb the hair between my neck and top of my head without using my hands(hard to explain).  I "attempted" suicide a few years back because of intense guilt and stress.  Christ man, I could go on and on and on and on.  I have been on 99% of all SSRI's, tricyclics, Serzone, seroquel, anti-psychotics, dilantin, lamictal, klonopin, ativan, librium, and all of those weird old drugs from the 50's like trazadone and the like.  EVERYTHING!  I have stayed away from MAOI's because they are dangerous in my opinion, and if all the rest didn't work, why try that ****.  I have tried phenobarbital and meprobamate, which both made me sick as a dog and didn't help my anxiety a bit, just made me feel like half hung over, half drunk.  I have a great psychiatrist who will try stuff out.  I have been to mental health facilities, some who say I have GAD, some say bi-polar disorder, some say manic depression, some say plain old anxiety.  I am currently on 5mg of xanax, blood pressure med (Lisinopril), and heart med (toprol).  I am 23 years old.

Now that you know a little more about my symptoms, can someone answer or attempt to answer the question I really need answered.  I feel like a zombie, I can't think straight, haven't for years, but I am so terribly sick of it now, I want my brain back.  I want to be prescribed something to wake my brain up, but is this ridiculous to even think because I am on xanax?   Am I doomed to mediocrity because I have anxiety?  I have been attempting to get my undergraduate degree for 6 years!!!  I have 7 courses to go, but with the brain I have now, that will realistically take several years, instead of one.  What can I do?
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Avatar_f_tn
I really feel for you ,however am unable to assist you in what drug combination to take that will give you "yourself" back.However,from personal experience,I believe the real problem is the Xanax.I was hooked on tranquilisers for a long time(Valium) and Xanax,and they nearly destroyed my life.
Regards,and hope you do find some solution.
Dimi.
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Avatar_f_tn
I have to agree with johanni.  Since I have gotten lower on my benzo dose, I can think clearer, sleep better, concentrate, etc.  My anxiety is even better at the lower dose.  I plan to eventually come completely off but very slowly.  5 mg. Xanax is a really high dose and taken for a long time can really cause mess you up.
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Avatar_f_tn
Some of the new drugs that are l being researched are the Gaba based drugs. I have read everything I can find about them.  I understand they will not dumb you down.  I also have a problem making my brain work sometimes.  I only take 0.5 of Klonopin at bedtime and I still have touble getting my brain to work.  I am an accountant and do income taxes and I understand how you feel.  Maybe the Gaba drugs will help all of us. I have been on  Klonopin for over 10 years.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks numbercruncher, you are the first one to actually attempt to answer my question.  
But what are the new "Gaba based drugs"?   Benzodiazepines work on the gaba receptors and after a while the receptors get worn out, that's why it is a good idea to drop down your dose a little bit every once in a while so your gaba receptors can rebuild themselves, then go back up to regain the strength.  But if benzos work on gaba, what is an example of a "new" gaba based drug?  
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Thanks for elaborating on all your symptoms.  I'm no expert, but I suspect you've got a lot more going on than anyone in this forum can possibly understand.  It would be nice if someone could give you a quick and simple answer about what drug will fix things for you... perhaps you can get some glimmer of hope from others who've experienced similar problems.

Best of luck.

mark
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Avatar_n_tn
The thing is, I don't need the forum to fix any of my problems except for the one problem that I have continued to repeat over and over.  BRAIN FUZZ with the use of benzos and what people did to overcome their "benzo induced idiocy" without reducing their benzo intake dramatically.  The truth is I have been doing a ton of research and the next time I see my psych. in a little less than 2 weeks I am going to ask him to put me on Modafinil.  I will make my case strongly, with studies to back me up and testimonials, and if he comes up with something like "mixing benzos and Modafinil can cause a stroke, heart attack, etc...."  I will not take Modafinil.  I don't want to die in order to clear my brain.  But if his only concern is being harassed by the DEA or some psych. oversight committee for mixing a tranquilizer (xanax) with a safe, non-amphetamine based stimulant medication (modafinil), than I am just going to order the stuff online.  This is America and options, legal or otherwise, abound.  It just sucks that I have to wait around 10 days until my next appt. because he is out of county.  I see other people are posting about their problems with concentration and memory loss, etc... associated with benzo use, so maybe someone will sign on who actually has confronted this problem and found a solution.
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Avatar_n_tn
I know a ton about benzos and yes, I know they supposed to be a short term fix, but they still work.  The gaba receptors get worn out and the stuff stops working so well.  They are definitely not ideal, but I do get some relief whereas nothing else has helped.  What can I do?  I don't take 2.5mg in the morning just because it is prescribed, it is because I wake up with a terrible pain in my chest, speeding heart, grinding my teeth, eyes all bugged out, spaced-out, etc...  I wake up feeling as if I had just gone on a three day meth bender.  I have never used meth, but I can imagine how it would feel after 3 days with no sleep and all wacked out on a stimulant.  But after taking the 2.5mg, a half an hour to an hour later, I feel OK, not great, but OK.  I have tried so many medications and on very high doses, but all messed with me in different ways, or didn't relieve any of my symptoms.

My psych. was interested with the dopamine levels too, but didn't follow up on it.  He didn't have a clue what would cause it.  I definitely took toprol that day and at times (possibly the day of the 24 hour **** test) propranolol before and during the pheo. test.  Could that have messed with the test?  If so, how can doctors be so stupid?

About mid-summer, I got sick for around 3 days (possibly food sickness) and was throwing up every ten minutes.  I couldn't eat anything at all, including my medication.  I threw it up minutes after taking it.  So on the third day, with no xanax in my blood for days, I got all hot and dizzy, had some tiny black outs, and passed out, and had a seizure.  I was unconscious for 3-4 days, during which I had another longer seizure.  I was in intensive care.  The doctors thought I had OVERDOSED!!! on the xanax even though my parents said that I had been so sick for days and hadn't been able to ingest anything at all, and my mom brought in my xanax prescription bottle to show them, which still had around 20 2mg pills in it.  But they still didn't believe them!!!  Pisses me off to this day.  But anyway, after I got out of the hospital I asked my parents what happened when I was passed out, because I had slices of memory, such as ripping out my IV and fighting with two Latina nurses, being rolled off to radiology with a cute nurse talking to me (only a sweet 2 second memory), and my parents told me that they put me through a battery of tests, but being laymen, they don't know anything.  All they know is that I got a clean bill of health, other than the extra heart flap thing.  I saw a neurologist for the seizures, who said I probably don't have epilepsy, gave me dilantin and lamictal and after about a month and a half, I tapered down on both, and haven't taken either med for 2 to 3 months with no problems.  It was the xanax WD's that caused the seizures.  Caused by both me being sick for 3 days straight and then the ER doctors not giving me a shot of ativan or whatever to allow me to taper off, instead of assuming I had overdosed and allowing me to seize twice.

I am very glad you responded to my request of information.  I would like to go into my next psych. appt. and ask him if he can recommend an endocrinologist and ask him to truly recommend a good doctor to give me some real tests to see if I have a problem that a simple surgery could fix and I wouldn't ever need xanax again.

I think I am going to order some Modafinil tomorrow and give the stuff a try when it arrive weeks later.  I don't want to ask my psych. for it right now.  I will give it a try on my own and if it works, in a few months, after all the tests and all, I will bring it up again.

Thanks again brother,
I hope to hear your reply soon.
Sorry if my writing isn't perfect, I have my family all around me bothering me and I had a lot to say. I can clarify anything you need to know if my wording is confusing.

Charlie
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Avatar_n_tn
I forgot to say, the dopamine levels were too high to be accurately quantified on the assay.  The levels went beyond the range of the test.  Which was confusing to my psych. as well.  My GP had absolutely nothing to say, I guess he thought I was completely normal.  But he is incompetent, I won't see him again.
Charlie
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HI, Charlie,
I know exactly how you feel!!! I have been on just about every ssri there is, I have taken ativan and now take xanax. I take 4 and a half mg a day and can't think straight half the time, my brain feels like a complete fog.  I get dizzy and lightheaded alot. I hear alot of horror stories about benzos and it scares me. I asked my doc if they can harm me at all. He says no unless you abuse them. I feel stuck. I went to the emergency room many times, thought I was dying. The doc at there says be careful when coming off benzos they can be dangerous...gee thanks for the comfort, I needed that.lol. Anywho, Sorrry I can't answer your question either but just thought I would tell u I know how u feel. Hope u get better!!!
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Avatar_n_tn
I agree with your assessment of the benzodiazepines (it is all fact, and I knew it, was just ignoring the truth), but the xanax helps so quick, so I have always tried to stick with it.  But you are absolutely right with everything you said.  I had been on klonopin for a year or so, but moved to xanax because my anxiety got worse, but the next time I see my psych. I will discuss moving back onto klonopin and tapering down to a lower dose such as 4mg.  

I have been on Abilify, Seroquel, and Zyprexa, all with bad results.

Next time I see my psych., who is really does want to help, I am going to ask him to set me up an appt. with an endocrinologist and to recommend a new GP.

I would love to sue the hospital because they screwed me in the past as well, but it has been months since the seizures and I wouldn't know where to start.  It is over and my parents would be against it.  Unless there really was gross negligence, I am just going to let it go.

Charlie
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Avatar_f_tn
The Washington University in St Louis has completed their research with gabapentin and pregabalin.  My sister took gabapentin for shingles.  Both of these meds are available today, but have not been approved to treat panic disorder.  If you do a search on this university and link it with panic disorder, you will be able to read some of the info. I do not know what the research revealed, but I did read about one the one  success story.  Maybe this link will work for you.                          

http://medicine.wustl.edu/~wumpa/outlook/winter2000/panic.html#start.
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Avatar_n_tn
I took neurontin for like 3 years off and on while several other meds.  It had no effect on me.  Almost a sugar pill.  I know they use it for nerve damage and it doesn't really work well on that either, but that just may be the experiences of people with real pain with doctor's who are more preoccupied with the DEA than helping their patients.
Charlie
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I posted a message on the Doctor's mental health forum and the doctor basically told me I was a nut for even thinking of taking Modafinil along with a benzodiazepine.  He said it would exacerbate my anxiety and he wouldn't prescribe it to anyone with anxiety.  I hope my psych.'s views are a bit different from his....  I am going to find something to wake up my brain no matter what, whether it be legally prescribed and monitored or illegally obtained.  The thing is, it is easier to obtain a substance like adderall (adderrall) or dexedrine without a prescription than Modafinil, even though Modafinil would be much more suitable for my needs.  An highly stimulating ADD medication would definitely make my anxiety worse, but only a tiny fraction of users of Modafinil experience nervousness or anxiety, less than %5.  I really hope my psych. lets me try it out for a week...
Charlie
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As a medical student, I have some significant experience with the pharmacology of all these drugs being discussed, as well as personal experience with taking several benzos. The truth is ALL benzos give you the "fuzzy" feeling. I myself have taken Klonopin (Clonazepam), Xanax (Alprazolam), and Lorafen (Lorazepam), and in that order, and have found that all of them cause this fuzziness and made me feel dumb. I took them and am still tapering off of the last one, and can relate to your situation, cause they have interfered with my studies likewise. I think the real answer for you may be an antidepressant like Prozac, which also is prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks. I know this is not the answer you're looking for but benzos are not the answer for stress and anxiety. They cause more harm and mental disorganization than good. And to be honest even the most severe even acute stress and anxiety can be dealt with by means other than pharmacology. The availability of anti-anxiety drugs doesn't mean they should be the preferred form of dealing with stress, which remember is not a pathology, but a psychological disorder that should be dealt with psychologically. You will choose an appropriate method for yourself- whether pharm or therapy, but have you at least tried to see a psychologist? not a psychiatrist- who are paid to prescribe the drugs that have had a significant negative impact on your life. No amount of stress is worth dropping out of school over. I think you need to rethink your approach to deal with your stress. Even if to consider ANYTHING other than taking pills.
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Charlie, Im in your position but double. I am dependent on both benzos and tramadol. When  a specialist got me to try to wean myself slowly off of them...and im talking even slower than he wanted, I took over 6 months to get to the lowest dose, I could never, never ,never get off completely because at low does of vallium and especially tramadol, my body would freak out as if I had nothing in my system. So I go to plan B. I went cold turkey off both meds. After 48 hours I couldnt move out of bed. Was very depressed, by day 4 I wanted to kill myself. By day 5 I started to turn the corner and feel a bit better. By day 10, they just gave me some mild sleeping pills(no addictive useless crap if you ask me) and the problem flared right back up. I was so tired from not sleeping well, and this is a side effect of getting off either trams or benzos, that I had no will to fight anymore and now at day  20 of my cold turkey I was feeling twice as bad as when I just left myself alone to take whatever I needed. By day 20 of complete abstinance, I was more miserable than after the 3-5th days which for most addicts are the worst. I didnt even have the strength to go buy food at the market and when I found myself living on cereal and canned beans for 2 days. I knew something was wrong. Although I do admit my thyroid is low and I suspect most people who have the most difficulty going cold turkey or getting off anything by any method,have something wrong physically that might show up in blood work...and might not. Id wager to say, if a professional boxer or a marathon runner got hooked on_____(anything), they would have twice as easier time getting off because they take care of their bodies. Ive heard people who commit to  a regular daily...yes daily exercise program have over double the chance of recovery and 3x the chance of no relapse.

At the time I was using,I was within the docs recommended dose on both medications. But when I went cold turkey, after day 20 when I went back, I started to increase my dosages on both meds very gradually. I am now on over double the amount of tramadol and double the amount of  benzos. I say that every one reacts completely different to both withdrawal  by cold turkey and also by titrating off(going gradually). I will say this that medical science hasnt caught on to. Its just my humble opinion: GETTING OFF OF A DRUg or medication CAN BE WORSE THAN STAYING ON IT. GOING OFF SOMETHING WILL EITHER MAKE YOU BETTER OR WORSE. But if you are over 50 like I AM, IF IT MAKES YOU WORSE.....I believe you can die from the shock to yourt
body.I am also hearing now ofn you tube that people who get get off Valium and xanax who are clean for 2 years feel unable to clear their mind. Is it a vitamin deficiency, lack of exercise,  certain stressors(often people) you dont get rid of in your life.. Funny how after 3 weeks cold turkey I woke up one morning with 5 scabs on my body that now 11 months later are not fully healed. Normal? No. my doctors have no clue how it got there. i do.....my immune system was under such stress it broke down and this is what happened. Thank God it wasnt life threatening. Bit you can bet money there are people who walk out of rehabs every day and 2 months later drop dead of a heart attack or "catch" something and of course it couldnt be the rehabs fault!!!!!   Sadly ,there are no blood tests that any doctor or psychiatrist can give you to really tell what you need both to help withdrawal and what to stay on permanantly. "Its a guesing gane with no scientific data to back it up" admits one psych doctor. The odds he said of walking into a psych doctors office and getting prescribed a drug is almost 100%. Thats what they do.

But what if taking martial arts or jogging or taking art classes would be better therapy? Sorry...cant help you!  So I know where you come from charles. And as a therapist once told me, "dont let anyone have the final say on what drugs you need to get off of. Thats like your doctor telling you to throw away your insulin. If you need it, maybe it will cause problems.....for now. But it beats sleeping with the worms. Yes?  And if like myself, you have no suppport from relatives or friends, or you live isolated from other people, you will have to be gentle with yourself and allow more time. But definitely get into the gym, take classes in something, dont allow this chemical you are ingesting to turn you into a hermit.  AA and NA should be tried for at least 6 sessions. They arent for everyone but  they are the first thing to be tried. Support, no matter how you get it,is soooo important. I think also in closing that, being in this mess of dependency gives us timed to come up withy a plan on what would make life so worthwhile to live again, something that would give your life so much meaning, your med problem would be a minor inconvenience compared to what you really want to do. In fact,its the only thing that has kept me alive. Ask yourself this every morning upon awakining and every night before sleep................."If I could do or have any of these things _________?????, I would find a way to cope with some stupid chemical in my body even if it meant staying on it for another year. Which by the way...is my choice. I need to have things in my life that bring me joy....and lessen my anxiety and stress. The other problem will be 3x easier to tackle if you do that!!!!!
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look up kava root
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nursegirl6572
PA
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remar
st. louis, MO
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cj29
GA
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anxiety860
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Paxiled
Arlington, VA
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coh123
Grand Rapids, MN