I can admit when I am struggling down this road with my social anxiety.
One of my main struggles with my social anxiety is the battle with my psychiatrists (I say this in the plural for a reason) over what is the right dosage for me. Is it my current dosage of morning and evening, or is it better for me to take it three times a day. If you follow my blog since the start this issue with my Ativan pops up almost weekly.
I will be the first to admit I always research when a medicine is introduced as part of my diagnosis. However, with Ativan it was one of the first medications ever prescribed to me. From the very beginning, it was a medicine that always helped me with my anxiety. It is the only medicine over the last ten years outside of my Seroquel that hasn’t been stopped since I started taking it.
The issue at hand is that the government is cracking down on doctors prescribing because, as my psychiatrists are so fond of telling me, it is highly controlled. I wanted to find out how true it is, and it surprises me that it has taken me so long to research the truth about Ativan.
I decided to do a Google search with simple perimeters, “why is Ativan addictive?” I was surprised at what I learned. Having no experience in medicine other than having taken different medicines for different things, it was interesting to read those people that take Ativan run a high risk of it being an addiction in the long run. I knew from experience that Ativan is a controlled substance and it’s highly regulated. Why do they prescribe something that is so addictive in the long term?
Ativan (lorazepam) belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These are very commonly prescribed by doctors. I had no idea that Ativan is in the same family as Valium or Xanax. I can give witness to how effective Ativan can, and in some ways isn’t, helping to prevent panic attacks and to alleviate the symptoms of a panic attack when needed. Some of my worst anxiety and panic attacks have been elevated with Ativan but at a price. Sometimes I end up taking one or two more than prescribed in the really bad panic attack cases.
During my research, I found that experts prescribe Ativan because, unlike drugs like Xanax, the effects last longer in the system. The “calming effect” that comes over me after taking my Ativan is a good feeling after being stressed all day with anxiety. One thing that made a bit depressed is that everything that I have read says it is not to be used as a long-term solution. That’s great and all, but I was never told any of this over the years, or when it prescribed. Therein is the issue at hand, it is so highly addictive that my doctors fear the consequences of raising my dosage back to three times a day, but at the same time it would be disastrous to be off of Ativan
Every psychiatrist in the of the revolving door of them has continued to prescribe Ativan without issue other than raising the dosage. Therein is the issue at hand, it is so highly addictive that my doctors fear the consequences of raising my dosage back to three times a day, but at the same time, it would be disastrous to be off of Ativan altogether. Which is the right?
I wasn’t told this by my psychiatrists, in fact, all they really tell me is that I have to manage the dosage I do take and there is not much else I can do about it. What a reality check.
It doesn’t surprise me that it has taken so long to truly understand the realities of Ativan treatment. I confess that my social anxiety over the years has only increased and it makes sense a bit more why I feel so attached to Ativan. I will share an example.
I have been following my psychiatrist’s advice and managing my Ativan the best way I know how, without taking extra and keeping my dosage the same. This is no easy task. I do what I have to. That means not taking my morning dose unless I am leaving my house early that day and saving it for the afternoon when my social anxiety is at its worse. I can’t forgo my bedtime Ativan because my night time dosage because that would be disastrous. I have tried to make that adjustment and it just doesn’t work.
I know I am part of the problem. My reliance on Ativan comes from years of only relying on Ativan to solve my issues with social anxiety without meditation or mindfulness breathing. Its only been seven or eight months since I started CBT and compared to not ever dealing with it, my journey has just begun.
I am partly to blame because I never dealt with social anxiety head-on. But, it also comes with the way doctors prescribe medication to those of us with mental illnesses. I can count the times a psychiatrist explained my medication to me on one hand. I have changed medicines over the years countless times.
Early on in my diagnosis, it was simple. I had to take whatever they prescribed to me or I would end up back in the psych ward. I always chose to be blissfully ignorant because the other option I hated. I just didn’t ask questions and in the beginning, I was okay with all of it.
It has taken me looking back over the last three months to start to really understand the realities that come with my diagnosis of Bipolar One, and the medication that I have taken over the years. I wish sometimes that I was better at figuring out things in the beginning. Would it have changed what is going on with the present day me?
If I have inevitably built up a tolerance for Ativan is it the addiction the medication that makes me ask so many times for an increase? Or is it a real need? I’m conflicted because Ativan could be a real addiction. Was it better to not know the truth? I have enough issues already. I do know when before I stopped taking it three times a day my anxiety was manageable, and in the years since the change in my dosage, my social anxiety has only gotten worse.
Even understanding that Ativan is addictive I can’t imagine a world where I wouldn’t have to take it every day. It has become that important in my life. It’s a sad reality and maybe when I get my anxiety under control, that is always one of the goals of my recovery, it could be a reality.
I am curious, have any of my followers and my people in the mental illness community have a similar issue with Ativan?
I wanted to end with this, for those of you who are changing medications or just starting out taking medications, doing proper research is so important. Don’t be afraid to ask the “why do I have to take this medication” question. I believe that medication is part of the equation of my mental health, but I am left with the lingering question ” would knowing more mean I didn’t start Ativan?”
Always keep fighting.
Photo Credit: Jesse Bowser