I'm a 40 year old female, and I take anti-anxiety meds on an as-needed basis. I recently switched to Xanax .5 mg from Klonopin 1 mg. My doctor made the change because I didn't find the Klonopin as helpful as Xanax, which I'd taken briefly about a year ago. Much of what I've read about Xanax is... scary. But I find it very helpful. I mainly want to know if I should worry about becoming dependent and what steps I can take to make sure that doesn't happen.
On average I would say I take one or two of the pills maybe 2 or 3 times per week. Sometimes a week or more will go by without my taking them at all. Other times, if things are bad, I may take them two or three days in a row.
I'm not sure if my issues with anxiety are genetic or environmental (or even whether that matters). My mother was on anti-anxiety meds for about as long as I can remember. The last several years of her life she was taking Ativan and Paxil. Her sisters have also had long histories of anxiety problems and anxiety meds as well. As for environmental factors, I have dealt with a series of traumas over the course of my life that I'm guessing might have taken a toll. During one stretch of 6 years, my sister and her daughter were killed in a car wreck, my father died of a heart attack, my brother was paralyzed in an accident, my mother attempted suicide and we lost our family home to foreclosure. That all happened before I was twenty (ages 13-19). Three years ago, my mother suffered a heart attack and stroke and was unable to care for herself because of physical limitations and dementia. I moved her into a nursing home and was her primary caregiver. She died last year after a protracted hospital stay. My brother, who is a paraplegic, lives with me. He doesn't need me to physically care for him, but I am his sole financial provider.
It has only been in the last two years that I've needed anti-anxiety meds. Before then, I had tried a number of anti-depressants (Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin). I started taking anti-depressants because I have so much trouble staying focused and concentrating on my work but I either felt no better on them or felt like I was in a fog. Eventually I gave them up. In the last couple of years anxiety has become a real issue. Things knock me for a loop more easily now. Often there is no real trigger for my anxiety. I just suddenly feel like my stomach is in knots and have this awful pervasive feeling that something is very wrong, like something bad is about to happen. During these times, I'm unable to concentrate on my work and it's difficult for me to deal with people. I avoid the phone (it startles me just to hear it ring) and generally avoid dealing with anything. Taking the meds really helps take the edge off and allows me to calm down and work.
Like I said, my real question is whether my Xanax use (a couple of times a week) sounds reasonable and/or healthy, or if I need to be concerned about addiction.
Thank you for any help/advice.