Tonic

I Tried to Get Off Ativan

And learned some dark shit in the process.

Harriet Brown

Harriet Brown

In 2006 I had a really, really bad year. My older daughter got sick and nearly died, my younger daughter got depressed, and my beloved mother-in-law developed terminal lung cancer. For weeks all I could do was cry and panic and cry some more.

When a psychiatrist suggested I take a small dose of lorazepam (the generic name for Ativan) three times a day, I said  yes please. The relief was immediate: I could sleep. I could think. I could cope with the multiple traumas our family was facing.

I was in good company. According to a new report based on government data, one in five American women (and one in ten men) has taken at least one psychiatric medication, mostly antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan. And most of these patients take the meds regularly, many for years and years. Like me.

Our  annus horribilis eventually came to an end: My daughters got better and my mother-in-law died. But eight years later I was still slipping a tiny white pill under my tongue three times a day, and I wanted to stop. I asked my doctor if he could help me get off it, and his response, more or less, was "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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