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Friday, July 29, 2011

Alcohol, Benzo Withdrawal, Anxiety, and GABA Receptors

Alcohol, Benzo Withdrawal, and GABA Receptors

benzo withdrawals, Alcohol, Anxiety
Hello everyone, this has been an interesting week to say the least. By the title of this message you may be wondering where I'm going with this. I'll try to be brief as possible since this is an alcoholism blog, but there is a purpose so hang with me ;)

I first was given benzodiazepines when I was 17 years old (I'm 38 now) after I couldn't breathe to save my life. The doctors said I had an anxiety attack and gave me benzo's. So what are benzodiazepines? They are sedatives and you may have heard of them as Xanax, Ativan, Lorazepam, Valium, Klonopin (pick your poison) etc.....  I was supposed to take them whenever I felt anxiety coming on.. They worked just like magic.

Benzo's worked so well I was on them for the next 21 years. So, what's the point? Well, the doctors (I have been to more dr.'s than I have fingers and toes) told me that they could be addictive and to never abuse them. I never did. I never took more than the recommended dose. They say right on the pill bottle that they are to be used to treat ANXIETY..

So, what do the doctors NOT tell you? Well, your body builds up a tolerance to benzo's and once you reach your tolerance point, you have to increase the dose if you want relief from anxiety. If you don't take more and more they will GIVE you more life damaging symptoms than you could ever imagine.

For the past 20 years I have suffered from shortness of breath, racing heart, paranoia, anti social tendencies, insomnia, amongst many other side effects. I just thought that I was an outcast from society.  Well, why didn't I stop taking them? Well, whenever I would take a pill those horrible those symptoms would go away. I always thought that I just had severe anxiety, which I did and DO. What I didn't know is that the very pills that would make my symptoms go away was also CAUSING them.

What does this have to do with alcoholism? Funny you should ask. In the past couple of months I have been having such severe anxiety that my little magic benzo's would no longer work. I either had to take double the dosage or suffer horrific side effects. I have reached my current dosage tolerance and am in constant withdrawal. If I would go to the doctor he/she would say that it's anxiety and they would recommend upping the dosage to make the anxiety go away. So, I'm supposed to up my dosage, AGAIN. Why didn't ONE doctor in 21 years ever tell me that it was the benzo's that was causing my severe anxiety? After going to the ER a dozen times thinking I was having a heart attack why didn't ONE doctor tell me it was from the benzos? While I racked up immense medical bills not one of them told me a thing about withdrawal or the symptoms.

Oh yeah, got off track, what does this have to do with alcoholism? After being on benzos (my magic pill for anxiety) for over two decades I found out that if you drink alcohol, those horrible symptoms also go away. While you are drinking and eventually get drunk you have total relief from the dreaded anxiety that you fear. I self medicated my symptoms with alcohol for many, many years. It helped me breathe, it helped me not have social anxiety, my heart wouldn't race, and I could sleep. I'm not saying benzo's caused my alcoholism, but they sure as hell did play a major part.

The title of the blog says something about "GABA Receptors". What does this have to do with alcohol or benzos?

Last week after doing some research on the internet about alcohol withdrawal (when I could barely function while in withdrawal) I found out that alcohol attaches to your GABA receptors in your brain the same way that benzos do. So what is GABA? I'm sure as hell no expert, and just researched this last week, so I urge you do your own research, but I'll try to sum it up in laymen's terms.

You have heard of the "fight or flight" response right? Well, GABA receptors control that "calm" feeling. When you take benzo's (or alcohol) everyday your GABA receptors in your brain gets used to the benzo's or alcohol doing the job. Your GABA receptor stops working. Your "fight or flight" is no longer working. The "calm" no longer works. What you have left is "fight" response. The central nervous system excitability, anxiety, etc... This is what gives heavy drinkers alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can actually be deadly. This is also what gives you benzo withdrawals. Doctors don't tell you this. They will just put you on every anti-depressant known to man, OR up your benzo dosage.  "Ching Ching, monthly doctor visit".

Alcohol withdrawal only lasts a few days, yet it can be life threatening. Benzo withdrawals can last a couple of years, and even longer if you have been taking it for a long time. They say that the withdrawals are worse than heroin! I have taken it for 21 years!! Withdrawal from benzo's can kill you.. Maybe my doctor should have told me that! Yes, I have heard they are addictive, but I never ever ever abused them! I never used them as a recreational drug. They simply took away my anxiety (even though it was the benzo's that caused my anxiety). Where'as alcohol leaves your body relatively quickly, benzo's stay in your brain for a longgggg time, and your GABA receptors have to reteach themselves how to function again so your "fight or flight response" will work again. This process can take a many months, or even years.

If you only took an aspirin when you got a headache would you ever think that you were abusing a drug? That's how I felt when I took lorazepam (the benzo I've been on for 21 years). I only took it to take away anxiety, like a tylenol pill takes away a headache.

I'm going to cut this short (ha ha), but I wanted to put this info out there to any alcoholic who also is prescribed benzos. NEVER take them together, and if you haven't been on benzo's for a long time,  stop NOW! I promise you that you will regret it if you don't. I now have to slowly taper off the drug, and endure horrible withdrawal. Quitting cold turkey can cause seizure and death. As you taper off the benzo over time withdrawal symptoms may increase to horrific levels.

P.S. I found out this information simply by searching Google using terms like "benzo withdrawal" and "GABA receptors and benzo/alcohol withdrawal", etc.... www.benzobuddies.org is a forum where people suffering from benzo withdrawal like me talk about their horrible symptoms. I strongly recommend checking it out.

P.S.S. "Hey Doctors! Thanks for the heads up and warning, ASSHOLES!"

P.S.S.S. I haven't drank in five days :) Haven't started tapering off the benzos yet. Horrible tolerance symptoms though

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Im sorry that you have yet another hill to climb and cross to bear. Seems that youve already been given more than your share of obstacles.
I hope you pray along your journey and dont try to go it alone.
I recently found out that my own compulsions could have been caused from a blow to the head when I was 10 years old. The amazing miracles of modern medicine.
I wish doctors would study and understand addiction/alcoholism so they can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Good luck my friend. lc

Anonymous said...

Alcohol, while alleviating anxiety short term, actually exacerbates and intensifies anxiety long term. If you quit drinking your anxiety will likely go away.

Anonymous said...

Great article, you are 100% correct on how debilitating benzos can be, even when only taking the prescribed dose. What the asshole motherfucker dr's don't tell you is that even if you taper off slowly, you STILL get hit with tolerance withdrawal and then you get hit again with full blown withdrawal after your last dose. THEN, it takes 6-18+ months for your CNS to repair itself. Should be a fucking lawsuit against the pharma for no warnings about how it can ruin your life for years after you stop.

Anonymous said...

100% correct on the benzo story. What the fucking asshole dr's don't tell you is that even taking the prescribed dose for more than a few weeks will land you in debilitating withdrawal. EVEN after tapering slowly, you will get hit with tolerance withdrawal, THEN full blown withdrawal after your last dose. The motherfucking pharma companies should be sued for ruining people's lives for YEARS after they take these drugs. I have seen people take a benzo for 4 weeks and they were non-functional for 8 months after their taper!

Anonymous said...

I just got out of the hospital after 9 days of withdrawing from benzos and alcohol. I am still on a regiment of traxene as if not my heart rate goes up to 240 per min.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done. My recovering Dr. Gave me 4 25mg of Librium per day as well as 3 5 mg of Valium per day. Shame on him. He knew I was an alcoholic and yes I drank on it. I know this is my responsibility BUT A RECOVERING DR. GIVING A 100 pound woman this medication is ludicrous.

I am now back in AA and know this withdrawal is going to take months to years. Still having trouble keeping heart rate down but will call my regular Dr for possibly oppressor on Monday. Thanks and could use some prayers.

Anonymous said...

I cried and cried and cried this morning and the past week at nights and many nights I cried myself to sleep in fear of not waking up or waking up to these symptoms... Many nights I wanted to rush to emerge, like I have lots before but to be told the same shit. Then go home to still suffer and the only knowledge I have is what I looked up and researched. My brain feels like its fucked. Like a rubber band is tightening around the back of my head into my temples. Its incredible for hours on and off.,worse at night. I cant barely move in the mornings, good thing I work for myself, Wake up soaked all over from sweats, especially in chest area, I get dizzy spells, This fuzzing out like my sight is all fuzzy and murky, fades darkish and I shake my head to get out of out of it, I run then start sweating purfusely. Everything cognitive, its slipping!! My once sharp mind and speech is slowly going,I can feel it and catch myself with slurrs when I talk, Read and I cant remember shit. cause yeah! started on Clonazepam I'm on 0.5mg in the morn and at night, lately sometimes more, I take bites of more throughout the day, tarted last feb of 2012 and Zoloft 50mg at noon everyday.. started that in Dec 2011, three months for me to adjust and I fought the shit for the shit with hope to was going to work and then Ativan on and off cause I started having extreme panic attacks and anxiety for months. I almost lost my relationship, felt totally girl interrupted. A few months after I started drinking.. then more and more, just wreckless behavior cause I was in this numb it all - fuck it state of mind. I once was a pill phobic wouldn't take an Advil for a headache and once a Doctor I TRUELY TRUSTED!! Said Rechelle. Its like a diabetic that needs insulin to keep their body in tune, you need Zoloft cause your brain is producing no Sertraline. I had no coping skills nor education as to what I was getting myself into. Now its been a year and a half, Im 30, A hundred pounds soak and wet.Trying to stop drinking,Tapering, I feel sick EVERY MORNING, no ambition, tired beyond belief, Stopped the Ativans, now booze and after a body break next is Clonazepam. Then the demon, Zoloft. I am scared out of my wits. I wanna live, I want to breath again.

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