A young friend is now in a lockdown facility being detoxified after he tried to wean himself from Xanax and became suicidal. Police took him into custody before he could jump off the top of a parking structure. The week before he tried to hang himself.
The story is that he sought help for depression and insomnia at his university's infirmary. He was assigned to a therapist who was not an MD. She recommended Xanax and since she could not prescribe, sent him to a doctor who could. The doctor followed her suggestion without examining him. When the initial dose failed to help, it was doubled and then doubled again when that failed. He became listless and unable to cope. He quit his job and broke up with his girlfriend. Then the suicide attempts began, resulting in his current hospitalization.
The plan for his recovery at this point is detoxification followed by new medication and more careful monitoring of his condition. He has probably lost this semester and will not complete his degree this spring as planned. The suicide attempts will be part of his medical record and may hurt his job prospects.
Millions of people take Xanax every day without ill effect, but psychotropic drugs are notorious for bad side effects and withdrawal can be exceedingly difficult. Pharmaceutical companies want doctors to prescribe these drugs since they are big money makers and they do not want strong warning labels or information to doctors. Many doctors do not know the entire effect of these drugs and overprescribe. The drugs often make the patient worse and then dosage is increased as in this case.
It seems to me there is a serious problem with many university infirmaries. Few doctors would take on a practice so uninteresting and so poorly paid unless they could not work elsewhere in the medical field— because they are too old, too sick, or impaired.
I know of cases where an infirmary doctor has missed a diagnosis of breast cancer, moved an injured student causing quadriplegia, and sent a suicidal student home for vacation with a full bottle of sleeping pills. One problem is that students are covered by student health insurance that does not extend to care obtained outside the infirmary.
I don't know about Xanax in particular, but I've always regarded psychiatric drugs as blunt and dangerous instruments that are very liable to be misused. Psychiatric drugs have been used in the past to help people bury their feelings so as to remain in a bad situation. To control difficult children and difficult wives and difficult mental patients.
And so little is known about the brain. I was flabbergasted when I found out about 10 years ago how powerfully food allergies had affected me psychologically and emotionally. "Brain allergies" were totally unacknowledged by mainstream medicine. I was glad I hadn't taken psychiatric drugs to try to control the symptoms of the food allergies.
There is even a claim that some psychotropics cause the brain to close down receptors and as a result can permanently diminish mental capacity. More drugs are addictive than people realize and it is easier to become addicted than people know. Fortunately I have not needed any of these drugs and I know that in some cases they are helpful, but it seems they are overprescribed.
I was on Zoloft for several years for mild depression. My doctor put me on the lowest dose. The way she explained it was that it took the lows and the highs away from the roller coaster ride and made things a bit more even. So my depression didn't sink me down quite so much, but also any good feelings were frustrating not so good feeling. After 2 years I decided it was time to go off-I didn't want to be on it forever-and went through 6 months of hell. Even though I was doing a gradual decrease in medication amounts, I still went through a withdrawal that's known in most circles as snapping or zapping. If I moved my head slightly, or stood still, or walked, or took a breath, I would get a zap that felt like an electric pulse running in my brain. This went on for about a month straight, with gradual decrease, but even several years later, if I had a fever especially, I would get the zapping stuff happening. I won't say that I wanted to kill myself, but for about a month it really was insufferably frustrating.
The whole experience left me feeling that our mental health care system is failing. There is still such a stigma against being diagnosed with a mental issue. Unsympathetic lookers on expect the sufferer to "snap out of it", but would never say the same of someone who's having a heart attack. There really is so much we don't know about how the brain works, and then to throw these drugs in there and expect a miracle is really just asking too much without knowing more.
There really is so much we don't know about how the brain works, and then to throw these drugs in there and expect a miracle is really just asking too much without knowing more.
I found out recently that histamine is a neurotransmitter. Which might be part of how allergic reactions can influence the mind - mast cells in the gut releasing histamine near nerve endings in the gut.
Very little is known about this kind of thing. Maybe it's a neglected and underfunded area of research.
Maybe it's a neglected and underfunded area of research.--Yes. A friend of mine was describing to me yesterday how her gluten allergy causes anxiety. She said it's like her body knows before her brain does that she had gluten accidentally and ups the fight or flight response because her allergic reaction is so severe.
Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity as an Allergic Condition is a good recent review article on these kinds of food allergies, including to gluten/wheat (despite the title, people with celiac disease also often have a similar reaction to gluten).
These kinds of food allergies actually seem to be related to other atopic conditions like allergic rhinitis. I started to have inhalant allergy problems when I was 20, and at the same time I started to have weird food reactions.
And if someone has celiac disease, it can make the problem a lot worse. A lot of people with celiac disease say they have reactions to non-gluten foods as well.
If she's also sensitive to milk, she might be able to desensitize the gluten allergy by eating very small amounts of milk, because the casein in milk cross-reacts with gluten. The psychological aspects of the gluten reaction - mental fog, anxiety, irritability etc. - can be diminished a lot by taking Singulair, oral cromolyn sodium, and antihistamines beforehand.
I've been trying to desensitize my delayed food allergies by taking ~10-20mg of the food once every 4 days - that schedule seems to encourage tolerance. I take the allergy meds beforehand. My reactions become less after about a month of doing this but I haven't been able to reintroduce any foods in normal amounts yet. I've been doing this since about the start of 2014.
About 24 years ago, after my divorce, I saw a councilor that the company let me see for free. Well, you get what you pay for. After one session, she had me go to a quack doctor at the university to get an anti-depression drug.
I asked him about negative side-effects and he said there were none. Neither physical or mental. He put me on one drug, and when it did nothing positive, he put me on another. It didn't help either, and they both had negative side-effects I didn't like. One was waking me up in the night, and the other was pulsing and flashing lights in my eyes when I went from a dark room to a bright room.
Because that quack did another couple of things that no reputable doctor would do, I didn't go back to him, but took myself slowly off the second drug. Luckily, I was only on them a short time, so I had no problems eliminating them.
Perhaps I was lucky to get an obvious quack. If it had been a doctor I trusted, I may have stayed on the drug until it did me damage.
As a teenager in a very dysfunctional family situation, I saw a therapist who put me on a very mild dose of Xanax, and something called Parnate. My father researched the Parnate and was outraged, even hid it from me, but I fought with him, saying it's what the doctor ordered, and he relented. That was extremely hard for him.
Turns out the Parnate made me into a virtual zombie. I was falling asleep in class, and figured it would be best to take a semester off and start 10th or 11th grade over again the next year. The doctor met with the school officials explaining that it would be in my best interests, even suggesting that I should be removed from my house due to the family breakdown.
I worked as her nanny for a couple of years, which was fine- got me out of the house, and I made a nice bit of money. But many years later, my sister found info online about this doctor , how she was in legal trouble due to misuse of medications or something along those lines.
Looking back, I wonder if she didn't take advantage of my situation and ensure that my helplessness in school meant I could be a cheap almost-full-time nanny. At the time, though, I was lacking in any other role models (she was in her thirties or so), and simply though of her as unorthodox.
Don't recall withdrawl symptoms- went cold-turkey off the meds. Later in life, used Zoloft, and exactly as Reg described, it put me on a very even keel- the lows weren't that low, but the highs weren't very high, either. My emotions were FLAT, and it was actually a nice mental break! Felt some of the "electrical" shooting sensations, but they weren't bad, maybe a little distracting.
Also went cold turkey w/o any noticeable w/drawl symptoms, though it seems to have taught me how to stay on an even keel. Either I learned from it, or it permanently numbed some emotions- not sure. I do experience deep emotions, although a current lack of depression combined with experience from age have also taught me what's worth getting upset about and what isn't.
Zoloft ... put me on a very even keel- the lows weren't that low, but the highs weren't very high, either. My emotions were FLAT, and it was actually a nice mental break!
I was much more emotionally stable after I found out about my many delayed food allergies and stopped eating the foods I'm allergic to. It made life much more enjoyable. Mostly, being relieved of the intense anxiety and suicidal spells I'd had - but I also enjoy being alive more. I get pleasure out of everyday things, when I didn't in the past.
The people who've described quitting psychiatric drugs in this thread, seem to have done so on their own. It's a sad comment on psychiatry, that people apparently do this as a kind of rebellion against a psychiatrist's wishes.
Update. My friend has been detoxed and is no longer suicidal. He got out today and sounds good on the phone. He will even be able to complete his degree on time. Good news all around.
I asked two doctors whose opinion I respect about Xanax withdrawal and both thought it was unusual to have such a reaction.