Lena Dunham was ripped and “didn’t want to live” after she became addicted to prescription medication and another statistic in a nationwide epidemic. But she was able to kick the drugs.
Her addiction began like so many other people. She was going through a “rough patch” following a painful hysterectomy while simultaneously breaking up from boyfriend Jack Antonoff.
Her doctor prescribed some anti-anxiety medication to help her get through. Things spiraled downward after that.
“It got really complicated. I realized I wasn’t just taking medication for physical pain, I was taking medication for the emotional pain too,” she recalled.
The 33-year-old actress was put on benzodiazepines, a common type of anxiety medication also known as “benzos.”
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions, according to medical references.
They appear to work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, chemicals that nerves release in order to communicate with other nearby nerves.
The drug family includes Valium, Tranxene, Serax, Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin among others. They can affect the body for one to two hours or two to three days, depending on the strength and chemical composition.
“It changes your brain chemistry and suddenly you’re not yourself. You’re not present. You’re not functional,” Dunham says in a new interview.
“One day, I looked around and I was lying in a bed in my parents’ apartment under two blankets, in the same pajamas I’d been in for three days, and I was like, ‘This isn’t me.’ It wasn’t that I was suicidal. I felt nothing. I didn’t want to live.” she says.
She has been single for over a year now and has used the “hiatus” to work on her sobriety.
The first step in treatment consists of gradual reduction of the drug to prevent withdrawal and seizures. Another is to relieve the causes of stress to decrease the need for the drug.
“Sobriety for me means so much more than just not doing drugs, it also means that I abstain from negative relationships. It means I’ve taken a hiatus from dating, which has been amazing for me,” she explains.
“I think it’s been 14 months now that I’ve just been totally single. I may have smooched a guy at a party once, but that’s not illegal. I hang out with my dogs, my cats. It’s created a lot of clarity because I think [for] so many of us, even though the world has become much more sex-positive, as young, ambitious, independent women our relationship to sex is fraught and complicated.”
“On the one hand, we’re taught to demand what we want; on the other hand we’re scared we’ll never find anyone and have to settle. We’re contending with the prevalence of porn and having to be performative during sex, and once my body started to break down just didn’t have that option any more and I started to feel really vulnerable,” she says.
I realized that until I was in a dynamic with someone who made me feel super-safe, I didn’t want to do it. People right now will go, ‘Oh my god, you haven’t had sex in over a year,’ and I’m like, ‘No, actually it’s been the most healing thing.'”
Although benzodiazepines have a calming effect, they are highly addictive, and a person who abuses them faces a host of symptoms, according to the American Addiction Centers.
But the addiction is solely physical. It can also be psychological and behavioral
Like most addictive drugs, benzos lose their potency as the body builds up a natural resistance to the drug, requiring users to seek out higher and higher doses.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be particularly dangerous and even life-threatening. Undergoing medical detox under the direct care of a doctor is generally advised.
The combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol can be dangerous — and even lethal, according to WebMD.com.