NOVEMBER 5, 2010 3:03PM

Trazodone - A Cautionary Tale

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trazodone picture

I had been using trazodone as a sleep aid for about 6 or 7 years. It was part of the effort to anesthestetize myself against a horrible marriage.

I had been riddled with anxiety and sleeplessness at bedtime for years. One day a friend suggested I try one of her trazodone and I was immediately hooked. I wanted more of it. It would be my shut-off valve. My way to shut-out life for the day. A way to shut out the man who lay beside me, with his constant rage and resentment emanating from him.  I had never been much of a drinker, so I never drank myself to sleep. I didn't smoke weed or do any drugs. This drug, this trazodone, seemed like a life-saver.

Within 10 minutes of taking it, my eyelids would get heavy and the trazodone demanded I stop whatever I was doing and go to sleep. And I could fall easily into sleep. It was my only escape. It was the only way I could say fuck you, I'm outta here. 

Two years ago, I finally, after many years of hell, decided to make a break for it. I left him. I spent the next year in recovery, which included sleeping a lot. I didn't want to give up the trazodone. I had years of sleeplessness to catch up from. But, after a year or so, I told myself I really did need to get off it. I tried to cut down my dosage, but almost immediately had a return of high-anxiety and inability to sleep. I tried several times over the next year.

I had slowly come to realize that, even though I was divorced and should be recovering, I still felt so drained. I had no energy. I thought it was exhaustion and me just trying to catch up. I realized that I had a hard time functioning before noon on a good day. But it was different than just exhaustion. I was living in a perpetual fog. I could function, I got along okay, but I was definitely not healthy. I wanted to live a drug free life and just be normal, healthy, energetic, happy. I didn't want to be reliant on this drug anymore.

I saw my doctor in August of this year and told him I wanted to get off of it, but I wanted something to help me transition off of it since I had that trouble sleeping when I'd tried before. He agreed to give me a handful of Lunesta to see how I liked it. 

I was so excited and ready to get off the trazodone, that I didn't take any that night or the next 4 nights. I took the lunesta instead. Was I sleeping? No. Not at all, but I figured I would just barrel on through and eventually would get tired enough to sleep.  I so wanted to be off the mind-numbing drug.

trazodone chemical

By the third day off the medication, I was starting to feel strange. It was difficult to define exactly how I felt, but it felt like it was getting worse with each hour. 

I found myself increasingly unable to concentrate. I felt a kind of shakiness, like the kind you get when you're really sleep deprived. I blew it off because I knew I was sleep deprived, but it would all be resolved soon. I would find myself at work staring at the wall over my computer. I would try to re-focus and get back to work, but found it harder and harder. I was, at times, almost un-aware of where I was and found myself startled over and over as I became cognizant of my surroundings. I began to ask myself questions like, "what am I doing here?". "What's going on?" "What am I supposed to be doing?" and even "who am I?". I was so foggy. I began to feel  zigs of lightening in my head. My thoughts began to bounce frantically off the inside of my skull. No coherent thoughts, but just words and ideas ricocheting back and forth rapidly from one side of my skull to the other, to the front, to the back, to the bottom, to the top. I felt like I was inside my head, not my body. I felt like I was somewhere else. 

It was becoming more and more disturbing, but I was so determined to just get through it, that I tried to ignore it. I discovered that if I kept moving physically, these sensations lessened somewhat. So I became fidgety and kept finding reasons to get up from my desk and move around the office. I tried to be subtle, because I was trying to prevent my office mate from knowing what was going on. I had to leave the office when it got too bad, but usually not for more than a few minutes.

On the fifth day, I was feeling very bizarre and restless. Completely unable to concentrate on anything, my office mate asked me if I wanted to take a walk down to the gift shop just to get out of the office. I found myself staring at the things on the shelves at the gift shop and was so utterly unconnected to my body and to the world around me.  My brain felt like electricity was surging through my head over and over. It was getting rapidly worse, and I told my friend "I've got to get back to the office. Now." I told her "Hurry." As we approached the office, she said "are you okay?" and I said, in a weird repressed whisper "No, something bad is about to happen". 

A sense of impending doom towered over me. I picked up my cell phone and walked out of the office to call my mom.  She's the one steady thing in my life and of course as my mother, the only person to call. I remember walking down the hall and telling her I thought I was having withdrawal from trazodone because I was feeling very strange. She asked "what's wrong? are you confused?". At that moment, it all fell apart and I sobbed "Yessss!!" and began this deep sobbing that seemed to come from my solar plexus. I was breathing in the most immense breaths trying to control myself to get back to my office before anyone saw me. I knew I was out of control.  I staggered back to my office as she told me that she was coming to get me. I threw my cellphone at my office mate and told her to talk to my mom.

I fell in my chair and continued this sobbing, taking these deep wracking breaths. I shook and I felt like the world was spinning. The electricity in my brain was zigging back and forth, back and forth. I sobbed. Bizarrely, I felt like I was spinning on a stalk, and that stalk was my heart. I remember saying "My heart is breaking!" I felt like I was going to break off the stalk and would be lost forever. I was scared to death that I couldn't stop and I truly believed that I was going crazy. I was envisioning them hauling me to the emergency room on a cart, with all my colleages watching me and tsk- tsking "wow, she's truly gone nuts". be continued....

because I didn't expect this to be so long!



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You've done a great job of describing this, but what an awful thing to have to go through. I'm looking forward to part two, because I'm assuming things got better.
Jlynn, so sorry this happened and thank you for the warning, I am insomniac also but have resisted sleep aids except for benadryl once in a while. Looking for part two.
Yikes! I have been on it for two years (?) - something like that. I used to take it only when I couldn't sleep, but got very dependent on it after my mother's death until now - almost a year. I am definitely taking your words to heart - I'll wait for part two with trepidation.
Also - great, great writing!
Sounds so scary to have to deal with. I will be watching for part two.
Please please please keep writing! I can so relate to your story and want to know how it all turned out. I wish the best for you!
Holy.. something! This should published in it's full where people who think tazadone and lunesta is your friend can see it. There is some weird science going behind the new drugs... like celebrex even.. inseds (?). Strictly for pain relief, non-narcotic.. no buzz or sleep help, but the minute commercial is fully, half listing side effects. I listen to that and think fuck it, I can take aspirin, and alcohol... 3 beers and a 3 bong hits will put you to sleep while the aspirin soothes the body ache and keeps me from having the heart attack... or prostate cancer! Wait, aspirin doesn't help that, right.

This story was horrifying sister. Your sleeping fine now I presume? Anything we can help with do not hesitate to call.. Eli (and I) love that guitar by the way. And you : )
Nana, yes - things could only have gotten better. It was awful!!

Rita, If you can keep resisting, I say do it. I have a new respect for meds.

Veronica - I'm quite sure there are other drugs that are worse! I just didn't take trazodone as seriously as I should have. I thought it was a "nothing" drug. Ha!

Elisa - your description is perfect. A cotton filled head. Yes, it will do that to you the first time you take it. Glad you didn't continue to take it! What a strange choice to give you for a sleep aid in the hospital!

AIM, it's not evil. Just know that when you do get off it, do NOT go cold turkey. Do not underestimate it. Bastard drug.

Lunchlady - yes, I have to say it freaked me out. I NEVER want to go through it again. And I will NOT.

Leslie - thanks for stopping by. Yes, part II coming soon!

Trig, - thanks for the brotherly support. I think people underestimate drugs. People want drugs to be the answer too. Sometimes they are, sometimes they definitely aren't. American's want a drug to fix everything. They'd rather take the drug than do the work to fix whatever it is they need fixing...i.e. cholesterol meds, sleep, weight loss...But don't get me wrong. I'm a nurse, and absolutely understand the need for medication. People who need it and don't take it are jacked too. It's just respect that I'm talking about it. Respect for your drugs.
WOW! Antidepressants are scary damned things to take. They've made them a bit better over the years since trazadone, but they still come with a lot of cautions about the effects of even the slightest reduction of dosage.

Some scary stuff here j lynn. Anxious to hear the rest.
Thanks for posting this. Leave it to the medical profession to recommend you take this dangerous drug instead of leaving your horrible marriage, which I hope you have since escaped.
What an excellent description of the withdrawal process. So vivid, I felt every foggy moment.

And touching, that your mother was there to help you at just the right moment. I felt envy.