Lena Dunham is opening up about another health struggle — this one with prescription drug addiction and sobriety.
On the October 29 episode of Dax Shephard’s podcast, Armchair Expert, the actress revealed that she had been misusing the anti-anxiety prescription drug Klonopin. “I’ve been sober for six months,” the 32-year-old Girls creator shared.
After Shepard — who is open about his own sobriety — guessed that, as someone who has talked about suffering from anxiety, Dunham may have been using benzodiazepines (commonly referred to as benzos), the actress concurred. “You’ve hit the nail on the head,” she said. “My particular passion was Klonopin.”
Dunham went on to detail how her panic attacks had been interfering with her life and how benzos were initially a great tool for her. “Suddenly you can operate in the world,” she said, adding that Klonopin made her “feel like the person I was supposed to be.”
The New York City native catapulted to fame with the 2012 release of her Golden Globe-winning HBO series. As an outspoken feminist and body image advocate, she courted plenty of controversy and frequently came under public attack.
“When I was having crazy anxiety and having to show up to things that I didn’t feel equipped to show up for, I was like, ‘There’s no reason for me to ever suffer,’” she continued on Shepard’s podcast. Also, she said, “I know I need to do it, and when I take a Klonopin, I can do it.” She also shared that Klonopin made her “feel like the person I was supposed to be.”
She doesn’t feel benzo use is stigmatized in Hollywood. “The benzo thing is crazy because, firstly, let’s just say it is the most normalized — especially in our industry — everyone’s got a f–ing pill in their purse, a thing in their bag,” the actress and writer explained. “I remember my mom saying to me, and this is not me blaming her, when I was a kid, ‘There’s no reason to ever suffer’… and she’s right. You don’t need to be a hero about things. But I really took that to heart.”
Dunham was first prescribed the drug to treat her anxiety disorder. “I was diagnosed with pretty serious PTSD. I have a few sexual traumas in my past, and then I had all these surgeries, and then I had my hysterectomy after a period of really extreme pain,” she said. “It stopped feeling like I had panic attacks and it started feeling like I was a living panic attack.”
Eventually, however, the actress began taking more and more pills. “It stopped being ‘I take one when I fly,’ to ‘I take one when I’m awake.’” Medical professionals, she explained, were more than willing to prescribe the drug. “I didn’t have any trouble getting a doctor to tell me, ‘No you have serious anxiety issues, you should be taking this. This is how you should be existing,’” she said.
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Looking back, she noted, “there were a solid three years where I was, to put it lightly, misusing benzos, even though it was all quote unquote doctor prescribed.” And breaking the addiction was more difficult than she thought it would be. “Nobody I know who is prescribed these medications is told, ‘By the way, when you try and get off this, it’s going to be like the most hellacious acid trip you’ve ever had where you’re f–ing clutching the walls, and the hair is blowing off your head and you can’t believe you found yourself in this situation,’” she said. “Now the literal smell of the inside of pill bottles makes me want to throw up.”
And though she said she doesn’t blame herself for the things that happened to her that caused her anxiety, she does take responsibility for her actions while abusing the drugs. “I do see the way that the way I medicated myself negatively impacted people around me and decimated my decision-making and hurt my creativity,” she admitted, “and so I just feel, like, literally on-my-knees grateful every single day.”