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Addiction to Drugs/Ativan Withdrawal- What to Expect?

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QUESTION: My friend is currently on Zoloft (not sure of the amount, but I can find out if relevant) and .5mg of ativan, 3 times a day,  to control her anxiety.  The ativan was prescribed as she is breastfeeding, and her doctor's preferred prescription of Buspar doesn't jive with that.

Her mental health facility is a nightmare. They sent her a warning that if she doesn't make an appointment with the therapist within a certain time, the psychiatrist will drop her. Unfortunately, the therapist has not had any openings to fulfill the required visit. She is almost out of Ativan, and of course, because she has built a tolerance, they aren't working for her anyway. Her psychiatrist won't be available until Thursday (which she was told is also a big maybe), and apparently, whoever she is able to speak to refuses to bring an available psychologist in.

She is currently shopping for new mental health professionals, but in the meantime, she is afraid of the withdrawal symptoms she might experience. She's already extremely irritable, and is afraid of more severe symptoms, especially while caring for her breastfeeding child.

What kind of withdrawal can she expect from going from 1.5mg ativan a day to zero (cold turkey)? How worried should she be?

ANSWER: Hi Jess, If she has any Ativan left, she should try to stretch it out as much as possible, to lessen withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines can be very dangerous as there is potential for seizures.
Some of the symptoms she might experience are difficulty sleeping, irritability, increased anxiety, panic attacks, hand tremor, sweating, difficulty concentrating, confusion and memory/thinking problems, nausea, headache, muscle pain and stiffness.
The symptoms of withdrawal can begin suddenly, however tend to be prolonged.
My recommendation is that she seek help at her local emergency room or family doctor if she becomes very ill.
Lastly, I would also recommend that she seek assistance from a behavioral therapist who could assist her with developing better coping skills for dealing with stress and anxiety without potentially dangerous and addictive medications. The goal being, for your friend and her nursing baby, to be as healthy as possible.
Good Luck to you both, and please seek medical attention if you have any concerns about her condition.
Sherrie

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for such a quick response...

Is it relevant that she has only been on it twice a day for 6 weeks, then very recently brought it up to 3 times a day? She only has 3 pills  (.5mg) left.

Answer
Yes, hopefully she has not had time to develop much of a dependency and her symptoms will be minimal. However, I do not want to underestimate the dangers of medications like this. It is important that she seeks medical attention if she or the baby begin to show any signs of unmanageable distress.

Addiction to Drugs

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Sherrie Sweet

Expertise

I am qualified to answer questions in all areas of addiction and recovery. If you have a question that I can not answer, I am not afraid to tell you that I do not know, however, I am willing to help you find the answer. I am qualified to assist you with questions asked by the individual who is using drugs or alcohol, as well as questions from concerned friends and family members. I understand the stigmas of this disease and the difficult issues that arise from substance use. I am here to offer guidance and support.

Experience

I have worked in the field of substance abuse for 20 years. I have experience working in the areas of inpatient detoxification, outpatient counseling, halfway houses, self help groups, individual, marital and family counseling, drunken driving education, pregnant and parenting programs, and medication assisted treatment. Additionally, I have a strong background in medical issues, psychopharmacology and mental health issues. I believe in individualized treatment which meets the specific needs of each person suffering from the disease of addiction.

Education/Credentials
I currently hold a Masters Degree in Human Services/Psychology. I am also continuing with a PhD in Counseling Psychology. I am internationally certified as an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor, and licensed as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor. I am additionally pursuing the credential of a Substance Abuse Professional which will allow me to work with and evaluate individuals who are employed within the D.O.T. system. Lastly, I am a partner in private practice working with individuals who are seeking recovery from addictive disorders.

Past/Present Clients
I have extensive experience working with individuals from all walks of life. I have worked with professionals, community leaders, NFL players, police officers, lawyers, nurses, homeless individuals, the indigent, doctors, and attorneys.

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