Earlier today, Ashley of Mental Health @ Home wrote an interesting article about the role of benzodiazepines in mental health treatment. While benzos can be useful as short-term treatment or PRN medication for panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety or insomnia, they are often used as a go-to “bandaid” med for all kinds of mental health conditions. And by “bandaid”, I don’t just mean short-term.
The first benzodiazepine I was prescribed, was the sleeping pill temazepam (Restoril) by my GP in 2006. I was suffering with significant insomnia, but really I was suffering with what I now know is a combination of the onset of autistic burnout and my dissociative shell cracking, if that makes sense. I was given ten pills to use over the course of a month at least. I took six weeks to use them up and refused to get a refill even though my staff at the independence training home nagged me about it.
Then, once in the psychiatric hospital a year later, I used a number of different benzos, one after the other, mostly for sleep too. I however also got put on oxazepam (Serax) as a PRN medication for my agitation. Whenever I took it, I’d become hazy, fall asleep for an hour or so and wake up just as agitated as I was before or more so.
At the time though, I was seen as just autistic if that at all. More so, I was seen as a manipulative, challenging pain in the neck of the nursing staff. It hadn’t been come to the surface yet that I was a trauma survivor and, if it had, no-one cared.
Benzos can cause dissociation to worsen in people with dissociative disorders. Indeed, I find that I do become more fuzzy and I really don’t like it. Benzos can also cause people with borderline personality disorder to become more irritable or impulsive. While I personally haven’t noticed I become particularly aggressive on benzos, like I mentioned above, after the first effects wear off, I do notice I become at least as irritable as I was before taking the medication. I used to attribute this to the fact that the reason for my agitation wasn’t solved by my taking a pill.
After all, one thing that Ashley doesn’t cover is the fact that people with severe mental illness who get prescribed benzos as bandaids for agitation, may very well have good reason to be agitated. I found that often the nursing staff in the mental hospital weren’t following my care plan or my crisis prevention plan at all and, when I got irritable as a result, I was quickly directed to take my Serax.
All this took place in 2007 or 2008, before I was diagnosed with DID or PTSD or BPD for that matter. Once diagnosed with these, I still ended up with a prescription for lorazepam (Ativan) though. In fact, I at one point took it at a relatively high dose of 3mg per day for several months. Thankfully, my withdrawal symptoms once quitting cold turkey due to a miscommunication with my psychiatrist, were physical only and I was able to go back on it and taper slowly soon enough.
Currently, I do have a prescription for lorazepam as a tranquilizer for when I have a dental procedure. Now that I am thinking about all the things I read in Ashley’s article, as well as what I’ve been discussing with my psychiatrist recently about my fear of losing control, I’m not even sure I’m going to take the medication when the time comes to have dental work done. Which, I hope, isn’t anytime soon.