Not the best way to deal with anxiety
This is the story of my patient Aurora, who was addicted to Xanax.
Aurora’s addiction started when she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in college. She had been suffering from panic attacks caused by the stress of school and other pressures. Not knowing about anxiety and panic attacks, she thought there was something wrong with her heart, and that perhaps what she was experiencing were heart attacks. Her doctor explained that the adrenaline rush, shortness of breath and dizziness she occasionally experienced were panic attacks. He prescribed her an SSRI, a daily anti-depressant medication used to treat anxiety.
Aurora hated the side effects of the SSRI and went back to her doctor for a new prescription. This time, he gave her a different SSRI, as well as a prescription for Xanax. The Xanax, the doctor explained, was only to be taken as needed, not daily. The Xanax was to help relieve a panic attack if she felt one coming on.
Aurora still disliked the new SSRI, but loved the Xanax. She decided without consulting her doctor to stop taking the SSRI cold turkey (which is very dangerous and can cause brain zaps and other side effects) and to take the Xanax every day instead. It helped at first, but she quickly noticed the Xanax stopped having the desired effects after a short time. She had to take more and more to calm her anxiety and keep from having a panic attack.
Aurora found a way to buy the Xanax online illegally. She was using more and more every day until her anxiety was able to emerge even after a very high dose of Xanax. She knew she was out of control and had to stop, and that her anxiety couldn’t be managed this way.
After treatment, Aurora is off the Xanax and has found a daily prescription medication that works well with her body chemistry. She volunteers as a speaker to health classes at middle and high schools about mental health and addiction.