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Now I’ve quit benzodiazepines, this year will be the first I can remember for a decade | Lily Lynch

I went through acute withdrawal from anxiety medication alone at home during the pandemic

I remember little about the past nine years. What I do remember is garbled, like it’s trapped deep underwater, or like my own memories aren’t quite mine. Everything prior to that time remains perfectly intact. I can remember the street I lived on in San Francisco a decade ago but the past five years are largely featureless. It has only been in the last months of this year, during the pandemic, that I have begun to reacquire any clarity, and the desire for clarity.

The culprit is benzodiazepines, or “benzos”, the most popular prescribed class of drugs for the treatment of anxiety. I took benzodiazepines every day for nine years, and in the latter half of that period I also drank. Benzodiazepines such as clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are notorious for being among the most difficult drugs in the world to quit, with severe withdrawal symptoms possible after just one month. Long-term use of benzodiazepines, described as use lasting just six months or more, results in marked cognitive impairment, and can cause anterograde amnesia, in which the ability to make new memories is lost.

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