Tranx: Minor Tranquilizers, Major Problems
 Author:   Jim Parker
Publisher:   Do It Now Foundation

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4. The Last Word

When the minor tranquilizers were introduced, a good many people (the drug companies, doctors, and patients included) thought that the last word in anxiety control had at last been discovered.

We were wrong.

Because we misunderstood the minor tranquilizers. We under estimated their potential for abuse. And we were just plain wrong about the role that drugs can and should play in helping people come to grips with their lives.

No one's to blame. But we're all responsible -- then, for making the problem happen; now, for making it go away.

Because there is no magic answer to the problems that plague human beings. (Yes, the problems that plague us now, and the ones that have plagued us since the moment we stepped furtively -- and probably fearfully -- down from the trees.) The only magic there really is is the magic that happens when people take responsibility for their lives and feelings and go to work on making things better.

And there's any number of ways to make better the conditions that contribute to the abuse of "minor" tranquilizers. Nerves are only a problem if we say they're a problem. And helplessness only rules our lives if we let it.

Unlearning Helplessness

And that's probably the most exciting discovery that's come down in the decades since the minor tranquilizers were introduced -- the understanding that we are capable and we aren't helpless, that the actions that we take (even reluctantly) determine the feelings we experience as surely as our feelings determine our thoughts -- and the quality of our lives.

Research into the internal body systems that tranquilizers unlock have shown us that activities can change our moods -- and diminish our fears. Jogging, aerobics, meditation, even cooking or enjoying a book, can turn on the same relaxation circuits as Valium or Tranxene -- more effectively, in fact, and at a much lower price.

So the last word on the minor tranquilizers is simply this: Treat them as drugs, not as medicine. They don't cure anything. They just buy time and disguise symptoms.

And even though buying time and disguising symptoms can be beneficial to people in times of temporary stress or pain, if you live your life buying time and disguising symptoms, you've got a problem. Another problem.

If you think you might be addicted to one or another of the minor tranquilizers -- or are too dependent on them, however you want to say it -- why not get some help?

Because while it is possible to get better all by yourself, it's also possible -- maybe even more possible -- to get worse.

We're not talking about just the possibility of relapse -- that's a factor in the recovery of anyone who's ever been addicted to anything -- we're talking about fully resolving the feelings of fear or inadequacy or shame that contributed to the tranquilizer problem to begin with.

Because coming fully back from a tranquilizer addiction doesn't mean simply learning to not take tranquilizers -- it goes without saying that you have to give up tranquilizers if you're addicted and want to stop.

Fully coming back involves learning to be yourself again -- the real you, the vulnerable you, the happy you, the sad you, the you you always wanted to be -- and not the bundle of neuroses and frozen feelings and personality quirks and helplessness that Valium or Ativan or some other "minor tranquilizer" helped you to become.

And the best place we know of to discover that you is in other people -- in learning from them, caring about them, and ultimately learning to see yourself in them, and letting them see themselves in you.

That's the unpaid political announcement in all this. If you have a problem, get help. And if you don't have a problem, remember some of the points we've made and don't let one get started.

Because once you're dependent on them, living without tranquilizers is tough. And it can be uncomfortable.
And coming back -- all the way back -- can take a lifetime.

But when you stop and think about it (and you should stop and think about it if you think you might be dependent on one of the minor tranquilizers), what else are lifetimes for?

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Check out our online pamphlet, Benzodiazepine Blues


This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org.