“I Have a Prescription for Klonopin” Club

Klonopin is a brand name of the drug, Clonazepam, used to treat seizures, panic disorder, and anxiety. It is a controlled substance and can cause paranoid or suicidal thoughts and impair memory, judgment, and coordination. Combining this pharmaceutical with other substances, particularly alcohol, can slow breathing and possibly lead to death.

Therapists and my primary care physician have prescribed this for me to ease panic attacks. The prescription is for 30 pills with two refills available in the next six months. Instructions indicate to take it once or twice daily, “as needed,” which incidentally is the least scientific and most subjective way to specify dosage.

Klonopin is a dangerous and highly addictive drug, highly reactive with other substances and they dole it out like candy (or maybe it just seems that way to me). Each year doctors write out more than 50 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines and 15% of Americans have benzos in their medicine cabinet according to the American Psychiatric Association.  Stevie Nicks has become an unofficial spokesperson on the hazards of Klonopin addiction, admitting the dependence ruined her life for eight years. She said, “Klonopin is more deadly than coke.” 

DJ AM was another example. After battling extreme substance abuse and being sober for 11 years, he survived a traumatic plane crash and was understandably prescribed Klonopin for the PTSD effects he was experiencing. Developing a dependency on this new pharmaceutical sent him into a downward depression spiral where he ultimately relapsed on crack one last time and overdosed.

When I tried to initiate a conversation with my drug prescription dispenser (aka “primary care doctor”) about my panic attacks, explaining how my fight or flight reflex is extremely sensitive and it takes very little to set it off and very much to calm it down. She smiled knowingly, pulled out her prescription pad and said, “We’re in New York, everyone is stressed out here. Maybe you need the kind which can dissolve on your tongue and get in your system faster?”

The main problem with the drug as a solution to me is that my inner hypochondriac gets paranoid about the side effects. It’s a catch-22. In the midst of a panic attack, I engage in a pro versus con debate on whether the potential benefit of the pill (ending panic attack) is worth the drawbacks (addictive, withdrawal). I tend to play a tough boxing coach encouraging myself to try another coping method for panic attacks than reaching for the drugs. I try cleaning the hardwood floors or breathing techniques (which can also be counterintuitive because it makes me feel lightheaded, which freaks me out in another direction).

I don’t like taking the pill. Not only do I worry about its addictive qualities (addiction runs in my family); I am concerned about how it will make me feel tomorrow. This compulsive worry is completely counterintuitive to releasing me from the panic attack and also contradictory to my attempt to “live in the now.” I rationalize, “This might make me feel better right now but in the long term, it’s not a good solution.” The truth of the science behind the pharmaceutical is it was never designed as a long-term solution; it’s engineered to be taken short-term to help transition through a trying psychological time. However, in the current state of our healthcare, it is easier for a physician to write a prescription than to spend years unwinding the brain (potentially unsuccessfully) through psychoanalysis. I’ve attempted talk therapy several times in my life, with different therapists with various moderations of success. My culminating lesson is I have to be my own therapist. Only I know the honest, raw truth as it dances in a tango in my mind, and only I can confront it, understand it, and learn to live harmoniously with it.

A few weeks ago, I told my husband I had my very last panic attack. “I’m not engaging in this nonsense anymore!” I yelled, angry at myself, at my brain, at its anguishing attacks. I’ve said this a few other times before but this time I’m hoping I’m saying it loud enough for it to stick because that orange bottle which lingers in my bottom drawer and those small yellow pills folded inside a napkin in my wallet “just in case,” need to evaporate in my mind as a solution.

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15 thoughts on ““I Have a Prescription for Klonopin” Club

  1. I am not a fan of Klonopin either, but in my experience it helped me through some pretty severe panic attacks. Hopefully you find something that helps put you more at ease.

  2. I don’t know a thing about anti-depressent/anxiety medications so am not commenting on it’s use or not at all… but if there’s part of you resisting it and not wanting to take pills where possible, is it possible to take that decision away? Simply throw out all prescriptions and pills? And then work through that train of thought of what happens if you do have a panic attack – is it fatal, if you really had a panic attack what would happen, what would the medical/mental health system do if you got onto their books, and then what? etc. Just so you have all those answers ready. Like I said, I don’t know, I’m not suggesting it, just curious. I know for myself I think I wouldn’t like not having made a solid decision and having that choice available and going through the mental debate every time.

  3. I agree … there are times it’s the only thing that can bring me down and when it does, I’m grateful something like it exists. For me, the next day gets more complicated, though, because I start to think I might get another attack and it’s like I wait for it. Also, after I take the pill, I feel extra sensitive / sad / anticipating another attack almost.

  4. Yeah it’s my safety net. No, a panic attack itself isn’t “fatal,” but it sure as fuck feels like one. It’s really one of the worst sensations I’ve had, definitely worse than “pain,” per say. I don’t have the debate so intensely each time, but I do try to avoid it. For situations where I know I will be very nervous or anxious or when I have to do something (speak in public or fly) and I see the shaking won’t stop and I’m going down a rabbit hole, I reach for 1/2 a dose but then feel guilty (and grateful) about it even if it helps. I use them so sparingly; 30 pills lasts me 2 years or more! But for those just in case emergencies, I feel better they’re there just in case!

  5. I’m sorry you experience it that way. My experience with panic attacks has been isolated enough to allow me to see the immediate benefits, rather than the residual implications you experience. I’m sure you have heard this before, but meditation is a great tool as well.

  6. Absolutely others have no lasting reactions and part of is it I’m too fucking panic, hypochondriac that I “check in” all the time and wonder if “I’m OK,” which duh I am. Yes, meditation is on my list of things to try – as is yoga. Next year’s 365 project will be to “move everyday” and I’m wondering if that won’t have as much impact as the writing. Thanks for reaching out!

  7. Movement helps a lot. I’m not big on meditation but it helps. Even just walking a couple times a week might help. Steve Jobs went on walks all the time to sort out his thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  8. I know what its like for a psychiatrist to just prescribe you drugs and be done with it, even when you are concerned about addiction.

    This country feasts on medicated citizens too drugged up to give a fuck anymore. They are starting the kids younger and younger citing ADHD and social anxiety disorder as excuses. That’s all it is. People don’t want to deal with their normal, excited kids that they just drug them. Let the stupid system take care of them.

    Now, I’m living the results of this stupid over medicating society.

    Don’t hate…self medicate…but know what you’re doing.

  9. Pingback: “I am a Hypochondriac” Club – HeartsEverywhere

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