How I Finally Kicked Xanax To The Curb With CBD
Fifteen years ago, at age 29, a Ford Explorer smashed into me at 30 miles an hour while I was navigating a crosswalk. The impact broke my left femur (and dented the car’s grill) before hurling me onto the hood. By the time the motorist stopped, I had been dragged 49 feet into the adjacent crosswalk.
Aside from breaking my leg, I fractured five ribs, my tailbone, my L1 vertebrae, and tore my rotator cuff. And, my spirit and ego were also severely bruised. Overnight, I went from a go-go dancing freelance journalist to someone whose femur had been outfitted with a 14-inch titanium rod.
I convalesced for months and it took me about a year to walk without a limp. Western medicine didn’t even prescribe physical therapy so I relied on yoga. Yet the ongoing physical pain persisted. From there it was as though the universe enlisted me in an intensive in ailments. I experienced one health issue after the next, severe UTIs, walking pneumonia and surgery for an orange-sized cyst.
A year after my accident, I experienced insomnia. My initial bout with sleeplessness freaked me out. No matter what I did to relax before bed, I was unable to sleep. I’d finally nod off at 7 a.m., only to have to wake up an hour and a half later to get to work. The sleep deprivation was literally driving me mad before my very eyes.
Unlike an animal, I was not able to shake off the trauma. Instead it had found its way into my nervous system. My cortisol levels flipped, my adrenals fatigued, and my hormones jumped up and down. My gut malfunctioned, my immune system became compromised and I developed candida, gut dysbiosis and food allergies. This response was a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I didn’t know any of this at the time. I just wanted to sleep.
I used my investigative skills and found a veritable Dr. Feel Good in Beverly Hills. Within 22 minutes I had Xanax in my hand and the keys to Morpheus’ kingdom.
Xannies: The Unsustainable Choice
More than 49 million prescriptions for alprazolam were written in 2012, making Xanax the second-most prescribed psychoactive drug that year.
I started off at 1 mg before bedtime, well below the average dose of 5 mg. I slept at night and didn’t feel hungover the next day. Xanax became my saving grace. I was as calm as a lake on a windless day.
I clung to Xanax like a crutch, a protective shield against the wrath of insomnia. But I didn’t want to stay on it forever.
I feared my quitting would likely trigger “rebound effects,” the emergence or re-emergence of symptoms that had been suppressed or well managed while I was taking the medication. But the truth was – so much time had passed. I didn’t even know what my own sleep cycle looked like anymore. I was ready to quit, but I didn’t know how.
While most people develop tolerance and increase their dosage, I luckily weaned myself to .25mg and steadily cruised at that measure for years, while simultaneously working on my overall health, adding nootropics at night, such as theanine and tryptophan. And then I discovered CBD.
The Calming Effects Of CBD
My discovery happened by accident. The founder of MediQi Energetics had just sent me a Companion Set consisting of capsule and oil for me to vet and test. I took five capsules and a dropper of oil, and an hour later I was sleepy. It was as though my body was ready to catch up on a multitude of lost hours. That night I’d forgotten to take my Xanax, and my sleep was deep and sound. And that’s how I kicked Big Pharma out of my life.
Benzo bashers will tell you that we desperately need more research into agents that can alleviate the withdrawal process. Could that benevolent plant compound CBD, with its host of benefits, be the solution?
Dr. Junella Chin, who has been specializing in integrative cannabis medicine for more than 15 years, has seen patients successfully use CBD oil to replace Xanax.
“A lot of patients do not want to consume THC, with reasons having to do with their occupation. Or they just simply tried it and do not like the way it makes them feel,” says Chin who recently discussed the pharmacokinetics of Xanax versus CBD oils (no THC, no head high) during a lecture to the Department of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine at Touro University.
Interestingly, CBD reduces anxiety through its mediation of the neurotransmitter GABA.
“CBD is a GABA-uptake inhibitor, meaning that it creates a surplus of GABA in the brain, which results in a quieting and calming effect,” she says. “With CBD oil supplementation, patients don’t have the racing thoughts that paralyze them at work or keep them lying awake in bed at night.”
Xanax also works with GABA by binding γ-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) receptors in the brain, which decreases the overall level of brain activity. By activating GABAA receptors, Xanax reduces feelings of anxiety and panic in patients. This in turn activates the gratification hormone: dopamine.
However, long-term use of Xanax can cause the body to stop producing GABA naturally. Symptoms of withdrawal are mostly caused by these GABA deficiencies, explains cannabis researcher Brandon Seymour of BioTrackTHC.
The beauty of CBD is that it interacts with our endocannabinoid system, which modulates neurotransmitter release in a manner that maintains homeostasis, and prevents the development of excessive neuronal activity in the central nervous system.
While CBD hasn’t been on the market for very long, there are already a slew of studies and experts believe it’s a much safer alternative to benzos – especially long term.
Despite what many describe as severe withdrawal, I suffered none likely because my dose was very low. For those who are on a higher dose of Xanax, consider adding THC to help ease the transition and consulting with a doctor.
The sad irony is that the DEA recently categorized CBD, extracted from the marijuana plant, as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin, despite its many health benefits and the lack of any psychoactive properties, while Xanax, which is highly addictive, is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance, a category for drugs considered to have a relatively low incidence of abuse.
I’ve been Xanax-free for seven months and firmly believe in the power of CBD, a plant compound with no high that offers lots of help.