Lena Dunham is ‘six months sober’ after years of ‘to put it lightly, misusing benzos’

Lena Dunham chats away outside of her hotel in Tribeca

For years now, we’ve been asking the question, “What IS wrong with Lena Dunham?” Lena Dunham, who gets off on being problematic. Lena Dunham, the toxic narcissist who makes every event and every interaction all about Lena Dunham. Lena Dunham, the woman who described her rape in the same book she described molesting her little sister. Lena Dunham, who publicly accused another rape victim of lying, just because the young woman said she had been raped by one of Lena’s friends. What IS wrong with her? One explanation might be that she was whacked out on tranquilizers for years.

Lena Dunham has reached six months of sobriety after “misusing” benzodiazepines, specifically Klonopin. The Girls star opened up about this milestone during Monday’s episode of Dax Shepard’s podcast, Armchair Expert. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Klonopin is a benzodiazepine that can be used to treat panic disorders. Dunham told Shepard benzodiazepines are often “normalized” in their industry and that she started taking them when she had to “show up to things I didn’t feel equipped to show up for.” At first, it seemed like the drug helped.

“I wasn’t just happy,” the actress explained. “It was like suddenly I felt like the part of me I knew was there was freed up to do her thing.” However, she soon started taking the drug much more frequently. “It stopped being I take one when I fly,” she said, “and it started being, like, I take one when I’m awake.”

She was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even though the drug wasn’t making her feel better, she worried about what her life would be like it she stopped taking it. “It stopped feeling like I had panic attacks and started feeling like I was a living panic attack,” Dunham said. “The only thing that was notable were the moments in the day when I didn’t feel like I was going to barf and faint.”

In fact, Dunham admitted “there was a solid three years where I was, to put it lightly, misusing benzos.” Now that Dunham is sober, she claims the “literal smell of a pill bottle makes me want to throw up. I thought medication was allowing me to be more myself. I can see all of the things that the world [brought] upon me. I don’t blame myself for my illness; I don’t blame myself for the sexual abuse I experienced; I don’t blame myself for the physical abuse I experienced; I don’t blame myself for the challenges of being a woman in this world, and an anxious woman in this world, and living in this body. But I do see the way that I medicated myself, negatively impacted people around me, and decimated my decision making and hurt my creativity. So, I just feel, literally like, on my knees grateful every single day.”

[From E! News]

Alright, let me do the boilerplate sh-t so we can get it out of the way: if this helps one person who is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, then it’s good thing. And I’m glad Lena shared it, because maybe it will genuinely help people. It’s a huge problem, this whole “doctors just passing out prescription drugs like candy” thing. Even TV stars like Lena deal with those kinds of problems. So good for her for talking about it.

…. Now, can I just say? She’s one of the most annoying people ever. She started taking tranquilizers to “show up to things I didn’t feel equipped to show up for.” Like, work or awards shows or the Met Gala. She got hooked on tranquilizers because she HAD to walk red carpets, you guys. As for her riff on how she doesn’t blame herself for anything that happened… like, I understand the point she’s trying to make. But surely some of the horrible sh-t she did and said during that time IS HER FAULT.

Lena Dunham out and about in New York City

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red and Backgrid.

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65 Responses to “Lena Dunham is ‘six months sober’ after years of ‘to put it lightly, misusing benzos’”

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  1. Jen says:

    I was a Lena Dunham fan, until I heard this on Dax’s Podcast. I am diagnosed with ptsd, and panic disorder with agoraphobia. I cannot take Ssri’s since they give me really bad side effects. My doctor and I made the decision to prescribe me a low dosage of Xanax everyday. It has allowed me to drive, to go to work meetings, etc. had I not taken this I wouldn’t be able to leave my house, and I would be crippled by anxiety.
    I would never want people to think that I “misuse” benzo’s. She said other things on that podcast that made me cringe and made me feel like she is just jumping on whatever movement she can to get sympathy and attention.
    Also, I have seen what addiction does to people, and her story of addiction does not sound genuine at all.

    • Mia4s says:

      Well said @Jen and good for you for doing what needs to be done for you. Lena Dunham is not worth listening too.

      She has no empathy or insight. Just one of many reasons J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg should both be smacked upside the head…hard…for hiring her to write a screenplay for a Syrian refugee story. Sigh…such old white man nonsense. 🙄

    • EllieMichelle says:

      There are some situations where Ativan is an absolute lifesaver for me. I have PTSD also and can be very panicked in crowds because I was in a crowded club when a fire started. However, I also have a doctor who worries about their side effects and the risk of addiction. I have no doubt that in the entertainment industry prescription pills are easier to get, but I feel like Lena has some sort of new issue every week. She is very dramatic.

    • sassbr says:

      I dated someone who misused his klonopin. I also used to take a half xanax every day to ward off general panic attacks until my psychiatrist took me off of them because he didn’t recommend it with bipolar disorder. Xanax and klonopin are very different. Xanax can be abused like any other pill but it’s relatively weak compared to klonopin, which lasts much longer and doesn’t need to be taken as often. I don’t think anyone who knows you take a Xanax every day would think you are abusing it. And I don’t even think someone who takes a klonopin every day would be seen as abusing it. However, what I think Lena is talking about here is taking it more than once a day-like waking up, then again before leaving the house, then again before work, etc. And THAT is abuse.

      It’s easy to feel self-conscious about what medication you’re on-I feel weird about it all the time, I’m on lithium myself and people are scared of that word-but you can’t say that people don’t abuse benzos or it’s not a topic worth talking about because you’re afraid of the implications for yourself. Doctors SHOULDN’T be handing out months of prescriptions at a time, which is also what I think she’s addressing here. I have a friend who would run through her scrip for Xanax really early and then she would ask for mine-her doctor would only give her a month at a time. Other doctors however, prescribe two or three or more at a time. NJ has some new laws now that prevent doctors from giving out more than 2 months at a time for controlled substances and that is a very good thing.

      • Heisgross says:

        Nope. I’ve taken both and l can assure you Xanax is the one that is stronger and has way more people addicted. I know A LOT of Xanax addicts…and no Klonopin addicts. Klonopin doesn’t give you a long enough high.

        Anyway, this idiot is just an attention seeker using whatever “addiction” is necessary to make herself relevant. She is disgusting.

      • Sassbr says:

        @heisgross your personal experience is your own but for length of time, klonopin is the stronger of the two-it lasts longer. And like I said, I personally knew someone who abused his klonopin. You don’t know anyone who abuses klonopin so bingo, nobody must? I think anyone can pretty much abuse anything. But like I said, regardless of Lena Dunham’s intentions, it IS a conversation people should have. People abuse pills more easily because of the blurry line between taking your medication and drug abuse.

    • Slacker says:

      She’s a pain in the ass and obnoxious. I guess we will have to see what post addiction Lena is like. I don’t expect her to improve though, benzos are no excuse for her racism, white entitlement and misogyny.

  2. Maum says:

    I hate people using mental health issues to justify being areseholes.

    That’s all.

    • OriginalLala says:

      I hear ya. I had an ex who used a PTSD diagnosis (which he also refused to seek help for) to justify why he was physically and mentally abusive to me. And being the empathetic, loving idiot that I am, I just blamed myself for it.

      Later I realized his biggest problem wasn’t PTSD, it was that he is a sociopath who had done the same to numerous women before me, and I am certain after me as well.

    • Millenial says:

      Yes, she’s exhausting, and it’s not the benzos that make her exhausting.

    • jessamine says:

      I mean … certain mental illnesses/imbalances DO cause arseholery. And sometimes people are semi-arseholes and mental illness exacerbates it. And sometime dyed-in–the-wool arseholes learn to use mental illness as a cover. And frequently it’s some magical, swirling combination of all three.

    • Veronica S. says:

      In fairness, she didn’t actually say that. She said she has mental health problems and isn’t apologizing for that, but choosing to abuse benzos was her own decision and had consequences for which she’s responsible.

      I mean, she’s a terrible person, but she can be a terrible person and have legitimate mental health and addiction issues, too.

  3. Mara says:

    I’m a bit more sympathetic. Lena be problematic but promotion is part of her job. Showing up for red carpets is part of her job. Girls wasn’t really a captivating premise and so I don’t think I would have watched it just off the back of an interview and some reviews, it was Lena being endlessly promoted as a celebrity on this site and others that made show stick in my mind and finally got me to tune in out of curiosity.
    As an anxious person myself I’d be tempted to swallow down half a pharmacy if my career depended on TV interviews and showing up on red carpets alongside models.

    • Torontoe says:

      I agree with you Mara.

      While I disagree with so much of what Lena says, I also have struggled with anxiety and it has definitely cropped up for me surrounding social events, or professional events that have a social element. The anxiety associated by feeling like you are being watched/judged or that you aren’t in charge of a situation can be crippling and you’re right, she cannot simply opt out of it. Her doctors should have been more cautious when prescribing it and we should be careful not to judge her comments just because other things she has said/done are super problematic

    • EllieMichelle says:

      I agree and have no doubt those things could be very anxiety provoking for some people. I’d never want to be famous in a million years. I mean I’d take famous people money, but not the being famous part!

  4. Here or there says:

    I just wish this odious person would go away. We don’t care. You’re a horrible human being.

    • fishface says:

      YES!!!!! please….she has absolutely no empathy….constantly droning on about what a hard life she has in the face of such suffering and misery all around. If she really wanted to do something meaningful with her life, she could go volunteer for MSF in Yemen or something. Until that point she really needs to STFU.

      • Wilady says:

        Speaking of lack of empathy…. Js.

        Telling someone with mental illness that it’s not that bad and just go volunteer… Yeah that doesn’t help. As someone with PTSD, agoraphobia, anxiety, when someone tells me what you just said, I write them off as an unempathetic person I can’t surround myself with. Just saying. Think if what you’re accusing her of.

  5. Ruyana says:

    She is just a fool desperate for attention and willing to say *anything* to get it. She’s so…basic.

  6. Chaine says:

    I just can’t stand how her mythology about herself is all “it’s soooo hard being a woman in this world you guys” when she is a super privileged from birth wealthy white lady that has had everything handed to her on a silver platter. Anxiety attack from having to wear a designer outfit to a red carpet event, boohoo, try raising three kids on a Walmart worker’s income and then come back to me and tell me about your anxiety levels.

    • jessamine says:

      I understand your frustration with Lena (who should really just go away for a lot of reasons) but please understand panic attacks, PTSD, and other anxiety-related disorders are serious not equivocal to “real life stress.”

      • ladie says:

        Yes, agreed Jessamine. It’s tempting to just write off everything Lena says because she so often says very problematic things, but you can’t control what causes you anxiety/panic attacks. Just because it seems trivial to one person, doesn’t mean it’s not a serious issue for the affected person, that has severe impact on their life.

      • Mara says:

        Thanks for saying this, people can be rich, annoying and still suffer from mental illness and addiction. It’s not an either/or situation, people are complicated.

    • Jess says:

      I don’t think that’s fair to discount her anxiety just because she has money and fame. That has nothing to do with it.

  7. dietcokehead says:

    Sounds like she’s trying to make excuses for her work being terrible and for being a generally awful person, but I don’t buy it.

    • Heather says:

      I agree. If she suffered so terribly from panic attacks that she ended up addicted to benzos so she could do her job….why not find another job? Why did she have to do THAT job? Where was the person holding a gun to her head forcing her to court celebrity and publicity?

  8. skipper says:

    She’s making excuses for her ridiculous behavior.

  9. Maria TR says:

    She is exhausting. How many times does she need to announce that she’s a victim? However, as someone with anxiety/panic disorder, some of this rings true. I could see becoming dependent on Klonopin, which I take when needed, in addition to daily Zoloft. However, my doc guards the prescription like it’s the crown jewels, so I have to take them super sparingly – like, one 30-pill scrip needs to last 6 months. And thank god. I can’t imagine what would happen if my doc enabled me like apparently, Lena’s doc(s) enabled her.

    • CharliePenn says:

      I was just commenting below that my doctor gives them to me like candy! And is the second doctor to do so! I am glad you have someone who is more careful with your well being. It’s crazy how much the doctors can differ on this. Best wishes to you.

      • Anastasia says:

        I haven’t YET found a psychiatrist or other doctor even willing to write a benzo script for me (I have OCD and C-PTSD). But I’m actually glad, I feel like I would get pretty hooked. I have other medications, and they work pretty well.

      • EllieMichelle says:

        My primary care doc and my psychiatrist give me benzos very sparingly. They both said they want me to use coping skills, CBT and Paxil and benzos are to be used in severe situations. Both of them say they fear meds that could become addicting. Opioids are also very hard to get now in my area. You used to be able to get them very easily, but my county has a huge problem with opioid and heroin addiction. They used to have a billboard of drunk driving accidents and deaths that has been changed to heroin/opioid overdoses and deaths. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with my docs being real strict with benzos, but it’s been a more recent thing I’ve noticed.

    • dietcokehead says:

      My primary care (a PA) is pretty easy going with Xanax. I was quite shocked the first time she wrote me the script, then told me I could double or triple it at any time. I have a legitimate panic disorder, but if I didn’t and were simply drug-seeking, I could have really gone nuts with the dosage and # of pills she dispensed.

      • Maria TR says:

        Wow! So interesting that there’s a wide swing in how docs prescribe! I am glad my doc is so careful. Good luck to all my anxious sisters out there. It sucks, doesn’t it?

  10. Meghan says:

    I wish she would credit some sort of rehab or program she’s doing because you can’t just take yourself off benzos, it could kill you. She could even go through more withdrawal effects even now. If it helps someone else I am glad but people need to know this requires assistance, not just “I woke up one day and quit benzos!”

    • skipper says:

      That was my first thought too. I was seriously addicted to benzos and had severe withdrawals as a result. I have been hospitalized for life threatening seizures from benzo withdrawals. I’m not buying Lena’s story for a second.

    • Anastasia says:

      Yeah, I noticed that part was strangely missing. And benzos are VERY hard to quit.

  11. CharliePenn says:

    Doctors really do hand benzos out like candy. I take Ativan when needed, to prevent panic attacks. During my panic attacks I pull muscles from tension and I’m in pain for days, have an adrenaline hangover for days, can’t function well as a mom for days. So I do take them, when meditation, breathing, walking etc aren’t working to keep a panic attack at bay.

    When I first started my doctor gave me sixty. SIXTY PILLS. Do you realize that for someone with an anxiety disorder, those pills are relief in a bottle?! They are highly addictive because they cure what we are fighting 24/7. My husband tried one (I know, not smart, he was super curious) and felt almost no effect because he doesn’t have an imbalance that causes anxiety. But for me or anyone with that imbalance they are a piece of heaven and need to be very carefully used.

    At my own request I now get only ten at a time and make them last a few months. At a doctors request I twice took them daily, during a hard period, but weaning off was hell and the “anxiety kickback” was ten times worse than the original anxious episode!! These drugs are misused by doctors. I feel fortunate that I caught myself in time and now use them incredibly sparingly, never two days in a row, rarely more than two or three a month now.

    People, be so careful. Benzos are the devil, they whisper the promise of relief in your ear but lead you down the worst path. I am glad she’s speaking out about it even though she’s an asinine asshole. Benzos are essential for the maintenance of my disorder but I don’t like them at all. I wish there was something else that worked.

    • Jordana says:

      @charliepenn, I went through a period of high anxiety, (discovered husband cheating, he refused to move out of the house during our in-house separation (over 9 months), was generally his usual @sshat self, I couldn’t sleep I thought I was going to my mind. The absence of sleep due to high anxiety was brutal. My dr prescribed ativan. I think it saved me in a lot of ways, but I was worried that it was treated like a lifetime drug. I knew I had to get off of it when I needed to increase the dose to just feel normal. It is meant to be used short term! It took months to work myself off of it, and I had to deal with the anxiety and insomnia, but once I was off I felt like i had my brain back, no more fogginess and memory gaps.

    • EllieMichelle says:

      Ugh I feel you! My anxiety has caused me stomach issues but also dental issues from teeth grinding and gritting. I have TMJ and fillings and crowns in most of back teeth from them becoming fissured. I also get panic attacks with the left arm pain and agitation and sweats along with insomnia. In severe cases like that Ativan is an instant relief. I never have had a doctor give me 60 though! Usually 10-30 depending the situation and always 1 mg. I’m someone who refuses hard pain meds in most situations because I’ve seen old classmates get addicted to pain pills and move on to heroin. I think Lena may be embellishing since she never mentions how she got off benzos, which is dangerous in and of itself.

  12. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I see these articles about this person, I understand she had an HBO show which I couldn’t get five minutes through, but there is absolutely zero interest on my part. Maybe it was something I read years ago, but she and that foul-mouthed comedianne can set sail on a fateful three-hour tour.

  13. Jess says:

    I don’t hate Lena and I’m glad she’s speaking out about this particular type of drug, it’s usually pain medication or alcohol that get the most attention, but benzodiazepines are sweeping the nation and ruining lives all the same. I work in healthcare and it’s shocking how many people are addicted to these things, and they flip the f out when they take more than they should have and run out and their regular doc won’t prescribe more. They call our urgent care walk in and scream, cry, threaten etc. Their bodies are no longer able to produce the natural chemicals needed to calm down because the drug does it for you, so when you stop suddenly your condition is 20 times worse than before. I understand it’s absolutely necessary in some cases, but I see a different side to it being in the medical field and it’s not good.

  14. Helen says:

    she will be adapting a story about syrian refugees… how on earth is she the appropriate person to do this…

  15. Gigi La Moore says:

    Very annoying woman. I just can’t with her.

  16. Carmen AIC says:

    Is this Lena’s shtick now? Talking about her health issues like my 80-year-old grandma?
    Her show is a bust, her magazine was a bust, her relationships are a bust so now she’s all about oversharing stuff about her health?
    Showing us her crotch on Instagram pics with mesh panties, describing her endometriosis bouts in great details, talking about her addiction to pills because she just can’t handle life, you guys.
    What’s next? Bodily functions? Constipation? Farts? Or wait…has she already “shared” about those? Might as well have…it’s Lena Dunham, after all.

    • Mara says:

      I mean its not elegant but its not the worse thing in the world for a woman to talk about the ‘unfeminine’ aspects of a woman’s body. You don’t have to read or listen to her interviews if talking about bodily functions and health offends you.

    • Veronica S. says:

      While I think she overshares in other ways, I’m not going to get on her case about the endometriosis. That’s a godawful disease that is horrendously underdiagnosed and often delayed in treatment because women’s health issues and bodies are treated as taboo topics. If creating more awareness of the subject gets more women diagnosed earlier with better treatment, I’m not going to throw a fit about it.

  17. Ib says:

    She also got given a blue chip job directing an awards bait drama about the refugee crisis so YES I thought I could not possibly be more annoyed with Dunham than already am, but here we are. Loathesome

  18. Gayle Griffindor says:

    is this the chick who posted the pic of her dog-bitten butt cheek??
    cuz, yeah, she can seriously go DIAF

  19. Ann says:

    Hi, The Devil sent me to Advocate for him today, so…..depression and anxiety are tough. When I am really “in it”, Oprah and George Clooney could be knocking on my door with armfuls of prizes and money and cake and I STILL would hide behind the couch until they leave.

  20. lucy2 says:

    I wish her well in her health.

    Beyond that, no, don’t like her. I just started listening to Dax’s podcast, it’s interesting, but I deleted the episode when I saw her name pop up. I’ve tried giving her the benefit of the doubt and listened to other podcasts she done, but no, I just can’t with her.

  21. minx says:

    Normally I would be sympathetic but she is just so manipulative.

  22. Cran says:

    What wagon won’t this woman hitch her horse to? Whatever she says always comes back to her. The sun around which all planets revolve. If she got to the crux of that overwhelming drive in her life a lot of other things might fall into place.

  23. Heather says:

    Dear Lena,

    Being mentally ill doesn’t give you a pass for being an ahole and rape apologist.

    Being addicted to drugs doesn’t give you a pass for being an ahole and rape apologist.

    Being a woman doesn’t give you a pass for being an ahole and rape apologist.

    Having a hysterectomy doesn’t give you a pass for being an ahole and rape apologist.

    Gaining then losing then gaining weight doesn’t give you a pass for being an ahole and rape apologist.

    Being sexually abused doesn’t give you a pass for being an ahole and rape apologist.


  24. Electric Tuba says:

    She’s a monster doing the most for herself.

    In life they teach you to understand that deep down most people are good. In reality most people are just kind of okay so don’t expect them to do the right thing, especially if doing the right thing means shutting the fark up LENA

  25. Fiji says:

    While benzos can have side effects, I am pretty sure “turning into a narcissistic elitist” isn’t one of them.

    With so many interesting and dynamic women out there, I hate that the press keeps wasting space on her.

  26. Oliviajoy says:

    Ugghh. I just can’t with this woman. She’s been sexually assaulted, she molested her sister, she called a professional football player out for not paying attention to her, she had endometriosis, a hysterectomy, called a sexual assault victim a liar, broke up with her boyfriend, had an ovary removed and now used to be addicted to Kolonopin. Damn girl feel free to keep some things and pictures to yourself. While I can symathize with her on some things it just feels like she needs constant attention. She must be exhausting to have in your life.

    • K says:

      Yeah, why must *everything* be shared with everyone? I respect those who answer questions directed at them with honesty and artists who use personal experiences to inform their work. I know how vulnerable that can make a person, as an artist myself. But I think she often goes a step (or five) beyond honesty or sincerity into exaggeration, desperation, martyrdom or attention-whoring. She’s constantly talking about herself to stay in the public eye, even while acknowledging that being in the public eye contributes to live-threatening health issues!

      Maybe just concentrate on your survival (and give us a break), Lena, and do less public-facing work! Since Lenny has folded, I hope that’s a sign that she’ll actually back off and get a grip.

  27. raincoaster says:

    Okay, when has this born-rich white New Yorker EVER had to “show up to things I didn’t feel equipped to show up for.”? When? She could have stayed comfortably in her loft buying and discarding new pets every week and nobody would ever have heard of her.

  28. Cara says:

    I just can’t get over those pictures!! They are the worst! We have all seen them before on this site, but it just doesn’t get any easier.
    I think she is super shady. This interview seems disingenuous to me.

  29. NΞΞNΔ ZΞΞ says:

    She has a long road ahead of her… psychotropic drugs alter your brain chemistry and it takes years for it to normalize. It’s a different type of withdrawal and sobriety than what you see with alcohol or coke or opiates, but it still has difficult side-effects that have to be managed. I wish her luck.

  30. Digital Unicorn says:

    While I’m glad she speakIng out about the issue as it’s a real problem but part of me thinks this is just another sad attention seeking stunt from her. No one cared when she split from whatshisface, no one cared when she had her hysterectomy and no one cared when she posted Instagram photos of herself butt naked.

    She needs to just understand no one is interested in her and what she has to say.

  31. anp says:

    She is trying to revive her lousy career.

  32. Jenni says:

    I like Lena.

  33. Grey says:

    Drugs explain her clothing choices.