Prescription Drugs: Forties vs. Fifties

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have at least a small issue with insomnia. I managed it okay, all the way up to around age 40.

I don’t type so much as I retype. I have to backtrack at least every few words. For instance, I just wrote “all the way up to around age 400”. Then, I decided that wasn’t a typo. I feel 400 when insomnia is kicking my ass. But I digress.

Anyway, around age 40, my insomnia meant I slept between 15-30 minutes at a time. Sometimes, I knew by 2:00 a.m. that I wasn’t sleeping any more. That was bad. Sometimes, I knew by midnight. That was worse.

It took months of badgering my doctor for a sleep aid before he gave me Ambien. I went through 9 months of hell while he prescribed different antidepressants, each one making more miserable than the last. What a nightmare, but that’s a completely different story.

My doctor wasn’t happy about giving me 12 Ambien. For a year.

He had no problem putting me through physical and mental hell with harmful drugs, but didn’t want to give me something that one can grow dependent on? The horror! He made it clear that he wasn’t convinced I wasn’t just trolling for drugs, but was encouraged that I was willing to try other therapies before jumping to the Ambien. The fucking asshole.

pills on a plate

Don’t get me wrong. I was happy for relief. Even 12 days worth.

What? Are you kidding me? I’m going to get to sleep one night a month? That’s like a miracle. Maybe I’ll skip a month and sleep two nights for my birthday month!

And forget about a reasonable supply of Xanax for panic attacks. I had a precious few that I kept more as a talisman than actual medicine that keeps full blown panic attacks at bay.

The Ambien worked like a goddamn charm. I would sleep all night and wake up, perhaps a little groggy, but at least I slept.

The only drawback I saw with Ambien is that I had some super strange dreams. For instance, what do you think it means when you dream that your husband’s penis turns into the ruler that Sister Jones used to hit your knuckles with in the second grade?

I took my sleep aid as prescribed. Pop one 20 minutes before bedtime and lights out.

Except, I learned something once. And I am in no way saying anyone should actually do this, but once I took my Ambien and I got involved in doing something and went past that 20 minute mark.

I had this weird, psychedelic 20 minutes where I felt funky and it appeared as if the clothes in the laundry basket were undulating. It wasn’t scary though. It was a completely, okay nearly completely lucid psychedelic experience. Like instead of going on an actual jungle cruise, you go on the jungle cruise at Disneyland. I mean, if Disney had a drug fueled jungle cruise ride. Which of course they don’t.

It’s an interesting thought, though. Right? 

Everything changed once I got past age 50. Doctors no longer treated me like I was junkie begging for a fix.

I remember the first time it happened. I had bronchitis and a sinus infection. I was miserable. He prescribed an antibiotic and then mentioned that my cough sounded painful. I said that it was painful. He asked me if I wanted cough syrup with Vicodin in it.

I thought I was being set up at first. Are you fucking kidding me? Pain killer? For a ramped up cold? 

“Uhhhh, yeah?”

I stopped having to ask for Ambien or Xanax, he’d just refill the prescriptions when they were up.

I read some articles about benzos and was concerned that I was taking way too many. I talked to my doctor about it and told him I was going to cut out the Ambien.

My insomnia got slightly better once I was post menopause. A xanax will help me get to sleep and, generally, I stay asleep. A few bad nights here and there, but totally manageable.

He was skeptical. “Are you sure? I mean, you can always get them if you want them.”

I told him I read that too many benzos can cause early onset dementia and, while my brain and I are often at odds, I’d like for us to keep understanding each other for as long as possible.

He told me that I shouldn’t worry because about dementia because that was more of a problem for my loved ones than me.

So, I have that going for me.

In his defense, I am pretty sure he was kidding about the dementia thing. My current doctor has a weird sense of humor.

I have less than a year before I turn 60.


That is just so fucking weird.

A lot about aging is difficult, but I’ve at least reached the age where I can get my addictive substances at will. And so far? I’ve self regulated in a responsible manner. Mostly. Those jungle cruise moments were pretty cool.


Photo courtesy of Bruno


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  • Ha!! (??) I mean, was your physician kidding or what?
    I may have mentioned in an earlier comment that I have long Covid – I got my diagnosis with a mail-in blood test last month, and had my long-awaited telemedicine consult last week. They recommend an antiviral, a beta blocker, and a statin which I questioned because my cholesterol is already very low – but he assured me they are giving it at a very low immunomodulating dose…
    I do not like the idea of being on more medication (it really gripes me that my whole metabolism hinges on those little blue thyroid pills) but I do want to Feel Better!
    I am currently taking an herbal-based sleep aid (Sleepzyme) which does seem to be helpful – too bad this morning I was awakened at 5 AM by the creaky floorboards in our bathroom; Hubby had a 5:30 AM conference call! Ugh.

  • And OF COURSE I’m so fumblefingered this AM that I mistyped the link to my own blog (if anyone wants to read more about it)! Sheesh!

  • Have you tried CBD (or it’s stronger cousin) for insomnia? I personally have not tried it but I have heard many reports that it can be a great sleep aid.

  • My doctor has no problem renewing my Xanax, but I have to go in for an office visit before he’ll do so. I’m not sure why – to see if I’m a junkie yet? On the other hand, while Ken was going through the final few years of dementia, the doctor asked me every visit if I was depressed and did I want anti-depressants. Good Lord no – I already can’t sleep! And any medication my husband mentioned – no matter how irrelevant – he wrote a prescription for. It’s like at a certain age they think you’re at your expiration date. Anything past that date is “gravy” and whatever you want to do to yourself is just fine. Rather than try to find a cause and cure it, they’ll just throw drugs at it. But I also have 2 back-up bottles of Xanax should the day come that he starts questioning my intake.

  • It’s funny that you say this I’m 52 and have always had trouble with insomnia. For the VERY FIRST time last week, my doctor finally gave me the Ambien and I was shocked. I want those Xanax though. Those middle of the night panic attacks are no joke.

  • Doctors should never KID about anything. My mother’s doctor continued to write her scrips for Valium so she could sleep. That after her usual bourbon. My mother lived alone. Age can make it harder and harder
    to fall asleep. But she did develop dementia. When we are young we take drugs without a thought. But I now know what my mother was doing was NOT good for her brain. Just something for you to think about, even at an early age.

  • A doctor with a sense of humour? How did you find such a creature?!
    I, too and wandering the ‘delights’ of medications post-50. Sleep has always been hard to come by. Particularly when I’m in the middle of directing a play and the stress keeps me awake 24/7. (This I do for fun?!) My doctor still hands out the sleep meds like they’re gold. Sublinox for me. The only side effect is that my sight is a little wonky the next morning. Nothing debilitating. Just fuzzy.
    But having that magic little pill in the drawer for ‘just in case’ helps me almost as much as actually taking them!

  • Briana has insomnia. I see her watching videos on her computer when I get up every hour and a half or so to go pee. Then I sit in the dark using my computer after I get up because she seems to be able to sleep in the day sometimes.
    When I was in the rehab hospital after my stroke, they were handing out opioids like candy. That’s been almost fourteen years ago, but it really left an impression on me. The orderly would come around with a cart and ask you about pain. “On a scale of one to ten how bad is the pain?” After a number was pronounced, pills were dispensed. “That vicodin not doing it for you? Here, try some of this morphine sulfate.” I, luckily enough, didn’t have any pain, and never needed any of the pills from the cart, but even still, when I was discharged they sent me home with a bottle of vicodin and a script for more.
    I mostly gave them away to friends who were in one sort of pain or another, but I kept two or three of them around, like you said, as a talisman against tooth pain, which I used to fairly regularly get. Just knowing they were there would usually be enough to let me get to sleep with a couple of ibuprofen, because I could take a vicodin and be off to sleep if I needed to.
    I have my latest doctor pretty well trained: I don’t have to spend an hour on the road to go see him every three months and he refills my blood pressure meds prescriptions on time.
    Lately though, my blood pressure has been low.
    Like below 100/60.
    I hadn’t even considered low. Low was supposed to be good, right?
    He halved the dose of my main blood pressure med, and that helped a little, but yesterday it was below 100/60 again, so I might have to go to Madera in May instead of doing it over the phone.
    Anyway, I hope you get your insomnia worked out, it really seems to be a pain in Briana’s ass.

    • I am so sorry Briana suffers with insomnia. It’s a fucking pain in the ass. Mine is much better than it used to be, but it still isn’t great.

      Yeah, you probably should go see the doctor. High blood pressure is bad, but low isn’t great either.

  • A doctor who has a weird sense of humor is definitely better than one with no sense of humor at all. Although I think it might have been more than slightly inappropriate when I told my doctor that even local anaesthetics knock me out and he said, “Oh, you’re a cheap date!”
    And it’s good that your doctor finally appreciates that you need certain drugs and you’re not going to abuse or sell them. I’m not even sure how to sell drugs, honestly, in spite of having too many leftover ones from various procedures because of that whole cheap date thing.

  • Everything stated is so true!
    I just enjoy your explanation of trying to get sleep so you can function during the day.
    If the time comes that Medicare and physicians won’t supply the sleep aid it will be trial of gummies with THC!
    Good night!

By Michelle