During the summer of 2008 I had problems with anxiety, although my primary care doctor (no longer my PCP) thought it was depression and threw some anti-depressants at me. It wasn’t the first time I had been prescribed anti-depressants, but I wasn’t feeling like I did the last time I needed them. I was anxious and wound up and jittery. Those were not the symptoms I had when I went through a depression treatment the first time.
The anti-depressants didn’t work, but something else she prescribed me gave me peace: Xanax. It helped me sleep. It helped me stay balanced during a terribly difficult time in my life (I lost my job that summer) and felt like I couldn’t function properly. But I also knew about how addictive it could be. And I also didn’t like how it would make me feel (since I was on a higher dosage than I am now). All I wanted to do was sleep when I took Xanax and at times I felt drugged out. I didn’t like the feeling and still don’t.
It’s led to my love-hate relationship with Xanax. I love how it can help me sleep and settle my nerves when I am completely out of whack (that jittery, wound up, nervous, cannot sit still and do anything because I’m worried feeling). But I hate how it makes me tired (part of the reason why I try to take it when I can sleep if I need it). The addictive qualities of it scare the hell out of me. The idea of mixing it with any sort of alcohol makes me extremely cautious.
But there seems to be this culture today about Xanax where people see it as a quick fix. There’s evidence in a New York Magazine piece about “Xanax Nation” and a recent NBC New York investigation about the drug. The author of the New York Magazine piece has done plenty of interviews too, like this one:
I have to admit I was a bit unnerved about the New York Magazine piece, even a little upset and angry about it. It made light of the people who really do suffer from anxiety, the ones who cannot function normally without taking a pill. There are days I feel like that, but I have at least one friend who cannot function without taking Xanax daily.
And the magazine piece made it like anxiety and Xanax is a trend while also making light of Prozac and people’s need for that years ago. It seems to assume that other depression issues have gone away, which is untrue. More than one quarter of Americans are treated for mental health issues each year (God knows how many more go untreated), and I’m sure not all of those people are suffering from anxiety disorder. In fact, some probably have anxiety as a part of their other issues (like me, who is more bi-polar than anxious). Which is why I was happy to find this commentary on Huffington Post about how we shouldn’t make light of anxiety disorder and any depression. It’s not trendy or a fad. These are serious issues. And the video interview does take on some of those concerns I have with the original article.
It’s all part of breaking the stigma of depression and mental health issues. There needs to be more education about the drugs never mind the diseases themselves. But that also goes with doctors. If people who don’t necessarily need the drugs are getting them (and making it “trendy”), who is giving it to them? And then there’s the whole issue of why people feel they are “too stressed” or “anxious” in today’s society now? And why aren’t they finding other ways to help themselves cope?
What do you think? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.