The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 977: Fighting the Flu and Coping with Anxiety

Non-drug approaches to handling anxiety can be surprisingly effective and accessible.
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Fighting the Flu and Coping with Anxiety

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The flu season started early this year and is now in full swing. What do you need to know about influenza to keep from becoming a sad statistic?

Anti-Anxiety Medicines and the Alternatives

Doctors prescribe anti-anxiety drugs in huge numbers. When does anxiety need treatment, and what can be done besides take a pill? What are the downsides of benzodiazepines like alprazolam?

Call in your questions and comments at 888-472-3366 or email between 7 and 8 am EDT.

This Week’s Guest:

Stephen S. Ilardi, PhD, is Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas and author of The Depression Cure: The 6 Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs. He joins us from the studio of KANU.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Having had a long history of panic disorder (with decade long periods of remission) I had to comment on the use of Xanax. It has been a life saver since I also have had heart attacks, and the very fast heart rate associated with a panic attack has actually resulted in going to the ER until I was given Xanax to have on hand. I think the problem with Xanax and other benzo drugs is that often the initial dose is too high. I was initially discharged on a half milligram dose of Xanax to be taken three times a day. Each tab put me to sleep for hours. I requested quarter milligram tabs, and then cut them in four (one-sixteenth of the mg) and used them only when I felt an attack was imminent, or as a prophylactic when I knew I would be at high risk for a panic episode (e.g. driving far from home alone).

I would not consider taking them three times a day, even for a week. Over fourteen years, I have never developed a need for an increased dose, and notice no withdrawal symptoms even when in a few extreme cases I took a full quarter mg tab. Dependence is probably a function of repeated, daily use at too high a dose. For many panic sufferers, using only the smallest possible dose (they should really consider one-eighth mg tabs that can be cut in half), and using the drug only when symptoms are severe, might prevent the majority of withdrawal and dependence issues.

I’m 45 years old and have never suffered from anxiety. Recently beginning in October started having strange sensations that lead me to go to hospital 2x (once Oct, once Nov). In December I had 3 straight days of massive symptoms that once again took me to hospital. I’m in excellent health so these symptoms were VERY strange to say the least. At that visit the Dr. gave me Xanax .25mg and symptoms went away. There they deduced that this was anxiety. Primary care physician gave minimal info on what was happening to me and prescribed SSRI (I got 2nd opinion from Psychiatrist and he agreed) and I took it with very bad results (shaking, lack of sleep, no appetite, etc). Doctors were not immediately available for questions in the middle of the night. Went off after first dose. Started researching, learning, asking, finding counselors. Found some that didn’t know anything, found some that knew more than others and I’m still researching and think that this is AGORAPHOBIA. I too have found that if I take 1/4 of a .25mg Xanax that my symptoms go away. I don’t want to get addicted and treat this medication with care. I’ve pushed beyond these symptoms without the XANAX and have made incredible progress but have more to go. I’m not entirely convinced that this has developed only due to anxiety. My research continues.

Like the caller Tammy, I also live in Texas and had a low (24) Vitamin D level reading at my last bloodwork test. The show talked about eating more mushrooms, but did not mention that you can get your Vitamin D3 from a supplement containing mushrooms! I use MRM brand Vegan Vita Vitamin D3. I take 5000 IU / day. It is both vegan and non-gmo. Other forms of Vitamin D3 are actually derived from sheep’s wool, or lanolin., which surprised me.

There is a lot of information out there about how most people are deficient in this vitamin, but it should also be mentioned, that you also need to take magnesium, because D3 depletes your body’s magnesium; and Vitamin K2 (M4) should also be taken to make the D3 effective. Magnesium Glycinate, chelated has been effective for me, and has no laxative effects like other types.

I am a retired therapist. I specialized in behavioral psychology with an emphasis on applying DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) with clients. I found this method to be very helpful with clients who had failed previous therapies. We developed an adjunct for people with substance abuse that is now widely used, called DBT-S specifically targeting abuse issues. While DBT requires a time consuming commitment contract from both the clinician and the patient, the results were very good and long lasting.

My son was saved by DBT. His therapist used this and then again at the Menninger Clinic.

I was treated for depression and anxiety when I was 17. It took me over a year to withdraw from the prescription medicine I was given. The medicine was worse than the depression. The withdrawal period was bad. I don’t think I have ever been the same since. I think using SAD lights is better for depression. CBT is good too. Positive visualization works well for me as well as affirmations. Take a news diet. Stop watching and reading the news for about 6 weeks. Watch and read only positive (for you) things.

Many years later I was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s Syndrome and my son was diagnosed with Autism. I looked for biological treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders and found the DAN Protocol, 18 years ago. I began implementing some of the things from their newsletter (Defeat Autism Now website, now called Autism Research Institute.) My son has done very well and is now grown up. He went from non-verbal and wandering, to a fine young adult who talks, volunteers at three jobs, has friends and dates. He is very calm, kind and well-mannered. I have done better since I was able to use some of the things for myself (I didn’t get diagnosed till years after he did.)

Your caller with anxiety, insomnia, and OCD symptoms might find that the DAN protocol would help him, since these are also core symptoms of Autism Spectrum.
I had thought I had Fibromyalgia until I did these things.
The DAN protocol is rather extensive, including blood tests, and includes dietary changes, and vitamins.
I have mentored several adults on the spectrum and there are some things that are easy to start with that might help your caller.
Magnesium, Melatonin (small dose before bed),
DMG (n,n,dimethylglycine),
Vitamin B6,
Epsom Salts baths (2-3 cups in a bath, soak for 20 minutes),
GF/CF diet (very strict),
Vitamin D3.
Also avoid food colorings, especially yellow artificial food coloring, since they can stain nerve cells.
Avoid artificial preservatives, since they interfere with the probiotics.
Avoid pesticides, on food and around the home and yard, since they kill the probiotics.
Avoid all stimulants, including coffee, chocolate, nicotine, since they make your nervous system overreact to everything.
Avoid chemicals around the house for cleaning. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean things.
(The easiest way to do the avoiding is to just look for all organic foods.)
Avoid yeasted products, try Nystatin for a period of time. Fast-acting yeast overwhelms our immune system and our probiotics. (Naturally occurring yeast is OK.)
Boil and filter your water. Check your water for lead.
Sing (music helps the brain, singing helps with breathing)
Pray (and meditate)
Dance (a combination of the above)
Get outside every day, get a dose of fresh air and sunshine. Be around nature.
Follow a routine you do every day. Routines are calming.
Check your furnace to make sure it is tuned and doesn’t leak gas. Gas leaks can cause lots of symptoms.
Check your home for allergens. Reduce dust and mold if necessary.

I forgot to add that you should avoid HFCS High fructose corn syrup.
And avoid artificial sweeteners, particularly Aspartame, which is a neurotransmitter, and acts as a brain stimulant.

I took a small amount of lorazepam for 3 months for sleep. I have been 9 months tapering off and the first couple of months were pure hell and the rest has been just awful. I lost 15 pounds and weighted only 100 pounds at 5’6”. Had a burning bladder that felt like a UTI but wasn’t, terrible anxiety such that for two months I could hardly leave the house, suicidal depression such that my husband would not leave me on some days, muscles twitching all over my body—looked like an electrical storm, terrible constipation interspersed with diarrhea such that I developed hemorrhoids that caused bright red blood in my stool and insomnia that I hardly sleep on many nights. I had and still have such light sensitivity I watch TV with sunglasses. Loud noises make my whole body feel like its vibrating. I have never had anxiety or hemorrhoids no depression except occasional mild cases during peri-menopause and my sleep was not that bad –compared the withdrawal from lorazepam I slept like a baby. My GP that prescribed the drugs had no idea how addictive these drugs can be nor how long it takes to withdraw and how hard it can be. I would advise anyone to investigate these drugs carefully before taking them. Wikipedia has a good write up on the withdrawal syndrome.

I was prescribed Klonopin .5mg. once daily, in 1988 when diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse. At that time I was having severe anxiety and depression. Several times over the years, I have mentioned to my physician my desire to discontinue this medication and see if I could use it only as needed. Each time, my physician indicated that there was no need to stop the medication b/c I was doing so well with my drug regimen.

Having read in numerous places recently about the possible correlation between the use of this type drug and cognitive decline, I am determined to stop taking the medication. However, having read the horror stories about withdrawal I feel that I need some really good support and treatment to help me with this process. I am 62 years old and have a history of Alzheimer’s in my family and have always done everything possible to increase my odds of not getting this terrible disease. To now find out that this daily klonopin could possibly lead to cognitive decline has absolutely given me extreme anxiety and I really do not know who to go to to get a good withdrawal program. My MVP dr. and my neurologist basically said to just take 1/2 tablet for a couple of weeks and then 1/2 table every other night for a couple of weeks and see how I do. Having been on the medication for so very long, I am terrified to try such an unsupervised approach. I am looking for any advice anyone can offer. Thank you so much.

Be very careful when considering using benzodiazapenes.I am over 9 months off Lorazapam,and still having horrible withdrawal symptoms from a small dosage,used over time,but not taken everyday.These medicines change the way your body uses GABA the calming hormone,and it takes a very long time to get back to your normal homeostasis when stopping them.The messed up central nervous system you will be left with is nothing compared to the panic/anxiety you had pre-benzos.

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