Benzos: A Dance With the Devil

Kelly Brogan, MD, ABIHM
26
1919

“It feels like I’m plugged into an electric socket and every move I make shoots voltage throughout my body. I’m nauseous and my stomach feels like it’s on fire. Of course, I can’t sleep, and I spend the whole day thinking something terrible is happening. I have to tell you, there’s no way I can live like this.”

A 63 year old librarian, Jayne, came to me 6 months into a Klonopin taper. She had long ago abandoned her original prescriber – the one who put her on Remeron and Klonopin eight years ago after she had discovered her husband’s infidelity.

“He never once told me there might be an issue with taking these meds long-term. In fact, he told me I probably needed them after I tried stopping them cold turkey and felt so sick I thought I was dying.”

When she arrived in my office, she had been using a jeweler’s scale to measure micrograms of shaved Klonopin tabs to approximate 1-2% dose decrements per month. She told me of a hell that she had never envisioned possible before her tenure in the world of psychiatry.

The Dark Side of Pill Popping

I have countless stories like this from my work with women dependent on psychiatric medications. Women started on one, maybe two medications, that turned into three, maybe five medications over years of their lives. Years that they never felt fully well for and may have even struggled through. Just a little more of this medication, maybe this new one will help, they were told. No one ever discussed with them true informed consent: risks, benefits, and alternatives, perhaps because we as clinicians are not told the full story in our training.

In fact, there’s a bill on the floor in Massachusetts that would mandate this discussion, complete with a brightly colored prescription to warn the patient that their doctor is dealing them a potentially harmful substance. Better late than never?

I remember, as an intern working in the Bellevue ICU, treating a patient who presented after having suffered a witnessed grand mal seizure in the CVS parking lot on the way to fill his Xanax prescription. He had missed one dose before heading to the store.

I never prescribed Xanax again because of this but had reassured myself that Klonopin and Ativan were safer because of longer half-lives and slower onset.

Now I suffer the poetic justice of caring for dozens of women who are moving through the birth canal of Klonopin withdrawal, and I am here to guard the gates through which more may pass.

The History of “Just Taking the Edge Off”

How did we get here? There are a reported 100 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines written annually, with long-term prescriptions written for 14.7% of 18-35 year-olds and 31.4% of 65-80 year-olds, and with women twice as likely to be prescribed.1

Beginning with the glamorization of Miltown in the 1950’s, the “I don’t care” pill was a way to ease the growing awareness that the world is indeed unsafe, and that something is deeply bankrupt in the promises of burgeoning science, technology, and industrialization. Still, we sought to heal these wounds through application of more of the same mentality – one of dominance, management, and suppression of all obstacles into submission. The 1960s brought Valium, aggressively marketed to housewives for everything from existential to quotidian angst, the first drug to gross over $100 million in sales. Then in the 1980s Xanax was offered as a cleaner Valium and rode the activating and uncomfortable side effect wave of the newer antidepressants.

“The reason that conventional psychiatry – whether pharmaceutical or psychoanalytic – is powerless to substantially help the vast majority of patients is that it does not, and cannot, recognize the wrongness of the world we live in.” – Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity

Should We Be Worrying?

These medications are the centerfold of our “opting out” portfolio. As our bodies, minds, and spirits became more and more separated from nature, each other, and ourselves, the worry, discomfort, and unease mounted. Now that the going has gotten very tough, we are reaching for them more than ever. Surely, however, turning off the smoke alarm is not the best way to deal with this fire.

What if anxiety is telling us something. Something about the food we are eating. The water we are drinking. Something about the relationship we are in or the job we are going to every day. Something about our lack of connection and purpose.

If we medicate ourselves into submission, who and what are we serving? Survival at all costs? Are we really just here to punch the clock until we die?

But what if you’re struggling and you don’t feel like there’s room to examine and investigate.

Maybe you’ve always been a worrier, but recently, it feels like you can’t catch your breath, you can’t listen to what people are saying, and you’re crawling out of your skin. Maybe you just need to sleep. Maybe you’ve just started on an antidepressant and it’s not “working” yet. Maybe someone you love just died, you just lost a job, or your house just burned down. Maybe you were attacked, or perhaps your husband makes you feel like you’re losing your mind.

Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium spell simple relief.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill. Like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics, the many invitations to the world of benzos all bring you to the same room. It’s a room that many spend years trying to escape. It’s one of dependency, depression, forgetfulness, and detachment from self.

That’s if you live to endure it.

Many celebrities have died with benzos in their blood. The Germanwings pilot took down a plane with Ativan (and Citalopram, Mirtazapine, and Zopiclone ) in his. The worst part of the attendant risks of these medications is that they stop having any predictable sedative effect after a few weeks. After that point, you’re just stuck with a monkey on your back.

The real risks

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, MD, has devoted his career to sounding the alarm on psychotropics. He enumerates that documented risks of benzodiazepines in his paper on the subject:

  1. The primary clinical effect of inducing sedation (tranquility) or hypnosis (sleep), which is indistinguishable from a toxic effect except in degree;
  2. Cognitive dysfunction, ranging from short-term memory impairment and confusion to delirium;
  3. Disinhibition (dyscontrol) or loss of impulse control, with violence toward self or others, as well as agitation, psychosis, paranoia, and depression;
  4. Withdrawal emergent symptoms, in which the individual experiences a range of symptoms from anxiety and insomnia after routine use to psychosis and seizures after the abrupt termination of long-term, larger doses;
  5. Rebound symptoms, an aspect of withdrawal, in which the individual re-experiences pre-drug symptoms – anxiety, insomnia, or other serious emotional reactions – but more intensively than before drug treatment began. Withdrawal and rebound can take place between doses, causing anxiety and other symptoms during the routine administration of benzodiazepines, especially the short-acting ones;
  6. Dependency and abuse or addiction that range along a continuum from feeling dependent on the drug to self-destructive behavior associated with drug abuse.

He goes on to quote:

“Rail (1990) summarizes the adverse behavioral effects of the benzodiazepines as follows:

Adverse psychological effects: Benzodiazepines may cause paradoxical effects. Nitrazepam frcquently and flurazepam occasionally increase the incidence of nightmares, especially during the first week of use. Flurazepam occasionally causes garrulousness, anxiety, irritability, tachycardia, and sweating. Euphoria, restlessness, hallucinations, and hypomania behavior have been reported to occur during the use of various benzodiazepines. Antianxiety benzodiazepines have been reported to release bizarre uninhibited behavior in some users with low levels of anxiety; hostility and rage may occur in others. Paranoia, depression, and suicidal ideation occasionally also accompany the use of these agents.”

 Well, I certainly don’t remember ever being trained to have that discussion with patients I was seeking to help with their struggles during my training.

Furthermore, investigative journalist Robert Whitaker has collected data that implicates the faces of this monkey including:

  1. Benzodiazepine usage leads to a four-fold increase in depressive symptoms.2
  2. Patients taking high doses of benzodiazepines for long periods “perform poorly on tasks involving visual-spatial ability and sustained attention. This is consistent with deficits in posterior cortical cognitive function.”3
  3. Long-term benzodiazepine users are “consistently more impaired than controls across all cognitive categories,” with these deficits “moderate to large” in magnitude. The “higher the intake, dose and period of use, the greater the risk of impairment.”4
  4. Long-term use of benzodiazepines leads to “malaise, ill-health, and elevated scores for neuroticism.” The drugs contribute to “job loss, unemployment, and loss of work through illness.”5

How to kick the habit

So, let’s say you bought into the promise of these meds, survived the Russian Roulette of catastrophic adverse effects, and now you want off. The bad news is that it’s not even clear that a slow taper helps measurably ease the suffering of withdrawal, but the worse news is that an abrupt taper can be life-threatening. Sometimes, knowing what is possible helps to frame expectations and to clear space in your life for this transition. Breggin quotes:

Withdrawal can develop two to twenty days after abrupt termination of the drug, depending on the half-life of the particular benzodiazepine. First signs of withdrawal may be insomnia, anxiety, agitation, irritability, and nervousness. Persistent ringing in the ears or other abnormal sounds (tinnitus) and abnormal visual perceptions may develop. Withdrawal symptoms can progress to include abdominal cramps, muscle cramps (including persistent, severe neck pain), orthostatic hypotension with fainting, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss, trembling, fever, sweats, hyperarousal and hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli, blurred vision, “buzzing” or “electricity” sensations inside the head, confusion, depersonalization, anxiety, frightening obtrusive thoughts, obsessional states, and psychosis with hallucinations, and delirium or organic brain syndrome, as well as seizures and death (Jacobs, 1995; Nishino, Mignot, and Dement, 1995;Pecknold, Swinson, Kuch, and Lewis, 1988; Silver, Yudofsky, and Hurowitz, 1994). 

Not. Pretty.

Preparing Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Psychotropic withdrawal symptoms feel real. They feel egosyntonic, as we say in the field. They feel like your feelings, thoughts, and emotions, rather than what they can be which is the marionetting of your brain chemistry by chemical withdrawal. Ideally, work with a clinician who can reflect this back to you during the process. Make sure you surround yourself with supportive and informed energy.

Instill Resiliency

I have learned the hard way that optimizing mind-body health BEFORE a taper initiation makes a world of difference. If you imagine yourself to be a bucket that is almost full, the stress of a taper is likely to cause overflow. If we can drain the bucket with lifestyle changes like those outlined in this course, first, then the taper can be a relative breeze. I enumerate these steps in A Mind of Your Own and the deeper dive, Vital Mind Reset.

There are a number of supplements that can be helpful support as well including kava which has been studied for this purpose, l-theanine, and GABA (I like pharmaGABA).

I always recommend kundalini yoga meditation for nervous system balance as well as coffee enemas for accelerated detox. Here’s a meditation for Health, Energy, and Radiance to support you daily.

Join Communities

Grassroots peer support is an essential piece of this process for many. Sites like www.benzobuddies.com and www.madinamerica.com host gathering places for similarly-intentioned patients injured by psychiatry. We will be doing the same through our Vital Mind Reset course.

Through the process of my awakening to the Truth about psychiatry, I have learned to remain humble about every person’s journey. When you know better, you do better, as Maya Angelou has said, and if a challenging relationship to a pharmaceutical is a part of your path to get where you are going, then we must embrace that. For all of us, I hope that where we are going looks a whole lot like less fear and greater alignment with purpose and power than can ever be afforded by the current model of conventional medicine.

“What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”
― Alan W. WattsThe Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day

Each year, we honor the victims of benzodiazepine effects and their families. To those who’ve lost loved ones or personally suffered inconceivable damage as a result of taking these drugs, we pay tribute to you – and hope to raise awareness to both prescribers and patients of the unfathomable dangers involved.

The following video features the personal stories of people all around the world, whose lives have been turned upside down by these pills.

If you know anyone who is currently suffering or is considering taking a benzodiazepine, I strongly encourage you to share this article with them. If you’ve been injured – I want you to know that you are not alone. And I wish you strength and fortitude in your journey ahead.

* * * * *

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25517224
  2. https://www.madinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Self-reported%20depressive%20symptoms%20following%20treatment%20with%20corticosteroids%20and%20sedative-hypnotics.PDF
  3. https://www.madinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Cognitive%20impairment%20in%20long-term%20benzodiazepine%20users.PDF
  4. https://www.madinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Cognitive%20effects%20of%20long-term%20benzodiazepine%20use.pdf
  5. https://www.madinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Tranquillisers.pdf

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26 COMMENTS

  1. An excellent piece of writing on the subject. As a graduate student in Cambridge, MA I was given Ativan by a school psychiatrist during a particularly stressful semester and, as so many have shared, I was given no explanation of the repercussions from continuous use as prescribed.

    Today, 5 years later I am still reeling from the fateful decision to see a psychiatrist. Ativan has torn apart my life in ways I didn’t think possible. Hell on earth is possible and it comes in the form of a tiny pill called a benzodiazepine.

    What continues to amaze me is the disconnect in how doctors label those using a benzo and those recovering from benzo use. While on a benzo, I utilized as prescribed (e.g. as needed with a limit on the max daily dose) and I was labeled as a “compliant patient.” The second I stopped using Ativan as prescribed and was hospitalized and tormented, I was labeled as having “abused prescription drugs.” The ignorance through the psychiatric community is beyond astounding.

  2. Thank you Kelly for your article.

    I think our society and our religious traditions do not adequately deal with pain and grief. And so this is part of the problem here. You speak of the 63yo woman who has just discovered her husband’s infidelities, and ends up getting drugged. And of course getting drugged does nothing whatsoever to deal with the problem or change the situation.

    Legally requiring that people be better informed before they go on drugs might make some improvement. But I still think more is required. I don’t see why these drugs or these doctors even exist.

    Why do people turn to psychiatry or to psychotherapy? Why are the sent to psychiatry or psychotherapy? And why are children getting sent to versions of this as well?

    I have known and talked extensively with men who have gone onto drugs, and it is all very similar to what you are describing in women. One in particular was about 60 yo when he first turned to prescription mood alterants. He was facing a great deal of stress, having been forced out of or retired early from a long term career, and seeing that he was going to have to sell the house that his parents had lived in and that he had since lived in for decades.

    He had a kind of nervous breakdown, and he ended up in a psychiatric hospital, and getting drugged. Though I suspect that he was always tending in this direction for his entire adult life. He also got a diagnosis which entitled him to apply for disability money, and I believe that this is part of the appeal that this mental illness interpretation holds for him.

    So he is on drugs, and the dosages and the number of drugs continues to increase. And the man is terrified of feeling his feelings.

    I always told him that he needs to feel his feelings and get rid of the drugs. He says, “But I want to enjoy my life.”

    He doesn’t enjoy any life, he is a basket case. And because he is out of touch with his feelings he says stupid things which people will not tolerate, and so he gets penalized.

    He is convinced that the drugs are the only thing which maintain his social functionality. He gives this caricature of the local homeless people, as that is what he seems to fear that he would become without the drugs. Whereas to me it seems to be exactly the other way round. And we should have social safety nets. Welfare and disability money are set up to humiliate people. Instead we need to have Citizenship Pay and Paid For Housing.

    He actually talks about suing the County Hospital for not giving him enough drugs. He read in PDR about the recommended dosage. They started him out with far less. I don’t really know about those dosage recommendations. But it seems like starting with as little as possible, if you have to take it at all, is the right way. And that small dosage does have a big effect. But it does not completely mask his feelings of pain. So as he wants to, “enjoy his life”, he feels that he has a legitimate grievance.

    Well, his dosage is much higher now, in line with what PDR recommends. And he has lots more drugs too, including one he can take when ever anxiety comes on.

    To me this is all insanity. It is the doctors, but it is also this guy himself. So I, like most people, have found it necessary to shun him. He is disrespectful of people in his communications.

    To me it seems like exactly the sort of thinking which drives people to alcohol and street drugs. Lots of people are going to prescribe these for themselves. And it is always going to be difficult to do much about this.

    But with the people holding medical licenses and passing out drugs, we should be able to do something about this.

    I know that my friend has had a very hard, very repressed life, going back to childhood. Religion was a huge factor.

    Under the surface he is actually an extremely intelligent person. And I feel that this is a part of why things are as they are. People, like his parents, were undoubtedly trying to repress his intelligence and critical thinking abilities, as they tried to stay numb and led horrid lives.

    Our society does not deal with pain and experience very well.

    So I am opposed to all psychotherapy, psychiatry, and recovery. They are all derived from Original Sin and work by making people feel that they have something wrong with them.

    I would never try to outlaw psychotherapy between consenting adults, just like I would not try to outlaw psychics, fortune tellers, and channelers, even though I consider it all to be non-sense and superstition. But we must protect children from the middle-class family. And the way to do this is by holding parents accountable in any and all situations, and by providing escape valves.

    And then for the doctors putting kids on drugs, and those further using talk therapy to harm kids, there need to be severe penalties.

    Nomadic
    http://freedomtoexpress.freeforums.org/free-expression-f2.html

    Mother’s Little Helper
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2fMNG_nhKY

  3. An excellent piece. Could I also suggest Vit.B3 be another possibly useful supplement? Niacin has a history in successful alcohol withdrawal, and, since its amide form occupies the same receptors as the benzos, may be useful here (it also speeds up physical withdrawal time from alcohol).

  4. “The failure of the war against drug addiction is largely due to the failure to stop one of the most dangerous drug pushers of all time: the psychiatrist. The sad irony is that he has also established himself in positions enabling him to control the drug rehab field, even though he can show no results for the billions awarded by governments and legislatures. Governments, groups, families, and individuals that continue to accept his false information and drug rehabilitation techniques, do so at their own peril. The odds overwhelmingly predict that they will fail in every respect.”

    What happens when you get labeled a drug addict for getting dependent on benzos is they send you to rehab to be screwed up on the “non addictive” chemical nightmares like Zyprexa and Paxil.

    You don’t go from normal to benzodiazepine and then back to normal with treatment, hell no, they label you some shit and keep drugging drugging and drugging you.

    They label you “dual diagnosis” crap to grab more insurance money and of course with a “dual diagnosis” you get almost always get psychiatric drugging.

    Are you having the anxiety hell from accute or post accute benzodiazepine withdrawal ??? Here are some SSRIs and Mood pills to “help” with that (they don’t) and we won’t tell you that if you try and quit those pills you get sick all over again.

    And when you get sick all over again from trying to come off our “non addictive” chemical nightmare pills we will just call those withdrawal reactions your “illness” and use it as proof you “need” to be on “medication”.

    Part 2 of the benzodiazepine nightmare is the SSRI and mood pill combos they push at rehab or hospital after you get off the first stuff.

  5. We really do need to talk about part 2 of the benzodiazepine dependency n nightmare.

    The path should be benzodiazepine dependency treatment then back to normal and skip the useless SSRIs and Mood pill make you a pharma costumer for life part 2 part.

    Clients come in and they aren’t even done with detox and the labels and SSRIs and Mood pill chemical nightmares get started.

    Maybe 1 in 50 people are “bipolar” everyone else is having acute and post acute withdrawals. “Dual diagnosis” biggest scam in the rehab field.

  6. I enjoyed reading the article, it was informative and I am thankful that minds such as yours are spending time discussing the realities of specific types of psychotropics. I appreciate how we as an American society came to utilize these medications as “solutions” to problems that perhaps aren’t problems in the first place!
    I do want to state that I take a Benzo type medicine at a relatively low dose for many years and it has been very helpful. For me, it has been informed psychiatrists over the years who have been forthright about information on this and other medications that included discussing side effects, alternatives, etc that has been decisive.
    I do believe, based on my experience, that while the dangers are obvious and unfortunately not being properly recognized, there is a place for psychotropic medications. Your observation in the article – “Well, I certainly don’t remember ever being trained to have that discussion with patients I was seeking to help with their struggles during my training” is very telling. Why aren’t psychiatrists trained to have “that” discussion? What if they were? What if this discussion led to client’s feeling empowered about the medications they are being offered? I believe that the answer is not to damn only the medications, but also the way in which they are “served.” Someone with a degree in psychiatry is a very persuasive person simply because they practice medicine and are thereby assumed to be “experts.’ In this field of psychiatry (that one can argue is not even a true “science” in how it operates), there needs to be a balance of power between the physician and the client, an equal and shared understanding of every aspect, including every risk of physical harm of every medication that is considered. I have been blessed to have more than once such psychiatrist (and unfortunately in the early days, others who were not of this ilk) and this has made the difference to me.

  7. As someone going through protracted benzo withdrawal I agree with most of what is said in the article, except the part on using supplements to ease the symptoms. None of the major benzo experts including Heather Ashton recommend supplementing because at best supplements are useless, and they are potentially harmful. This also seems to be the experience on the online support forums for most people. For the few who claim to benefit from supplements, I wonder how much wishful thinking, placebo effect or just coincidence is in the game (they might just have a window while taking the supplement and then wrongfully conclude that the supplement is working). I’m 100% certain that oral GABA does NOT work in benzo withdrawal, and if any of the others DO work, it’s because they act in a similar fashion to benzodiazepines, in which case they should be avoided. You might as well pop a benzo again or drink some alcohol.

    I understand that, as a psychiatrist, one is trained to prescribe and suggest something in the form of the pill, whether it be a chemical or something “natural” (supplements are never 100% natural; for one, the concentrations of the substances in them do not occur in natural foods). But personally, I would not bet on supplements to get through this horrible thing called ‘benzo withdrawal’. Not to mention the psychological and possibly physical dependence that develops when using supplements. That cannot be the purpose when you are trying to come off an addictive substance.

  8. Some of this is why I’m interested in using niacin for benzo withdrawal. Your advisor would be scared, because she’d be scared by the quantity of B3 one would have to use (multiple grams/day) during the withdrawal period, but this level of B3 is commonly used in lieu of benzos for alcohol withdrawal. B3 also has anticonvulsant properties, as an epileptic acquaintance of mine (among others) once noted, and is used to prevent memory loss from ECT. Finally, which readers of MIA should enjoy, it’s anathema to orthodox psychiatrists, many of whom are sure it will fry your brain (perhaps that’s why I endorse it, after taking it for 40+ years).

  9. bcharris

    As Elsie states above, and if you ever perused the BenzoBuddies site, you would see that *overwhelmingly* most of those in the throes of PAWS (or ID) cannot tolerate most supplements. B Vitamins being first on the list. For whatever reason, they exacerbate symptoms.

    There is no ‘cure’ for ID from benzos…except time, time and more time…if then.

    Eating well, reducing stress as much as possible and distraction is all that is available to us at this time.

    Dr. Kelly has written a great article here, but as others have previously pointed out, if you haven’t lived thru this hell, you cannot possibly understand.

    • I already know why high-powered B-complex is bad. They always have B1 and B12 in them, which are both potential stimulants, not a good idea when one is overstimulated from coming off a CNS depressant. I was interested in B3, as it prevents DT’s when used in alcohol withdrawal (which I’ve had to supervise by default) and shortens physical withdrawal time from a couple of weeks to a couple of days. My internal mad scientist has never surfaced with benzos because I know withdrawal from them is a matter of months, at the least, because they’re fat soluble, and I don’t know anyone strung out on them.

      • So then, the iatrogenic damage from the alterations in the GABA system would *not* be helped with vitamin B3. PAWS has nothing to do with benzos being stored in fat tissues…that *is* what you’re saying, yes?

        In simplistic terms, and as I understand it, the iatrogenic damages (PAWS) is due to the down regulation of the GABA receptors in the nervous system.

        Thus, Dr. Kelly’s recommendation for GABA would be useless also, since we would be unable to utilize it since our receptors have been absorbed and no longer exist.

        GABA and glutamate are the ‘brakes’ and the ‘gas’ of our nervous system…we who are dealing with ID/PAWS have too much gas and not enough brake.

        We would all like to find *something* that would facilitate a quicker regrowth of our GABA receptors. It would sell like hotcakes, for those of us who could afford this mythical future substance.

        If the GABA receptors regrow at all! No one knows!

        But hey, this only my rudimentary understanding of what is going on in my brain (and my gut and my muscles etc. etc.)

  10. Yes, mental illnesses are messengers of the mind, warning signals that something is wrong with our lives, not with our brains. There’s NO proof that mental illness is 100% genetic… maybe 50%, but nurture is equally important, if not more important than, nature. Being bullied, for example, has been linked to psychosis. Being bullied leads to distrust of others, which leads to isolation (which is traumatic in and of itself, because human beings are social creatures).

    Thanks for the insightful article!

  11. I took Ativan for about 6 years in the early 2000s. Now I am on Klonopin. All of this information (and the video especially) is an eye-opener for me. At the very least, I am sure the Klonopin (even at a low dose of 1mg twice a day) is keeping me depressed. The Good Lord knows what else it is doing to me physically and emotionally. I see my psychiatrist next on July 22nd. We are going to have a very long talk.

    • I applaud your courage and facing this issue head on now that you have some new information. Be sure that between now and then you read as much as you can about benzos and arm yourself with information. If you can’t remember it there is always printing it out or taking notes. 🙂 I have had to do this in all aspects of “health care” as I choose to be a good consumer and informed advocate for myself.

      I wish there was a way to know how this goes for you. Wishing you well on your journey!

  12. Its very good for articles like this to be seen by as many people as possible.

    About 30 years ago I was addicted to valium. I think I was taking 12 to 16, 10 milligram valium a day.
    I stopped once for 2 days to see if I was addicted. No problem I felt ok without em. I found out later that valium has a very long half life and for me withdrawals didn’t start until day 3. I went through hell getting off them. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, had terrible painful stomach cramps, and a terrible feeling of living a nightmare. The worst part lasted for over 3 months and I didn’t start to feel like myself again for a year. My normal weight is about 185 but after I got out of treatment and going through withdrawal i weighed 130 pounds. In treatment they nick named me shaky because I never stopped shaking in my hands. Stay away from Benzos because they wind up in the end giving more anxiety and sleeplessness that you had before you took them and even when taken as directed for a short time like one or two weeks can cause withdrawal.

  13. Great article, Kelly.

    However, I agree w/ the above posters on the supplements. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is not a lack of GABA but, in fact, an inability for the down-regulated receptors to properly utilize GABA in absence of the benzodiazepine. In some cases, the CNS’ of people in benzodiazepine withdrawal so sensitized from neurotoxicity t hat they will have reactions to supplements – causing worsening suffering.

    Lastly – I’d just like to ask if we can get away from the language that blames the victims of this iatrogenic insanity. “Pill popping” and “kick the habit” are terms that conjure up thoughts of addicts who go out seeking to get high. Let’s be real: most of us thought we were “helping” ourselves by taking “medicine” our doctor said we “needed,” without informed consent or fair warning, until we realized it was all a giant fraud and it too late – we were caught in this cobweb of iatrogenic physical dependence. It’s hardly a “habit” to kick when you just thought you were being a compliant patient, taking medical direction under the guise of “treatment” from someone who *should* have your best interests in mind. Please don’t injure us again with your poor choice of words to describe what really happened to us. Trust me when I say, we’ve been through enough without having to defend ourselves against that misconception over and over again – not to mention the social repercussions and stigma that result from it.

    Thank you for drawing attention to this problem.

    • I agree Robbo – reconstructing an up or down-regulated system is the key, not detoxing, which can throw a person into dire symptoms, even when “nutritionally prepared” for the taper / withdrawal.

      It is one of the reasons that a Naturopath can be as dangerous as a doctor – they keep wanting to “detox” people in withdrawal, and that just strips essential nutrients and makes the whole process more difficult.

  14. I had taken Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin for years, in addition to others. I finally tapered from everything when it became evident that these drugs were only destroying my body, mind, life, as well as my partner’s life and spirit, witnessing helplessly my own deterioration after long term use of all this. Klonopin was the last to go, crumb by crumb. The withdrawal was the worst physical pain and disorientation I’d ever experienced.

    This was 2001, and I had not heard or read about anyone doing this at the time, and I faced a lot of resistance from the “mental health” community, despite what the drugs had been doing to my body. I persisted and persevered in my healing, leaving no healing stone unturned, despite what anyone thought about my personal process.

    I was extremely fortunate and found exactly what I needed to heal, regenerate, replenish and recover my well-being–this time, from the core. A combo of energy work, grounding meditations and exercises, and chi gong, for rebuilding foundational energy, gut health renewal for heightened auto-immune function, heart calming, and mental clarity, and natural herbal support for regeneration and balance, laid the groundwork for integral healing. Most important thing was allowing my perspective to shift radically. That was the most challenging, but it was so well worth it. My entire reality transformed, as a result, to one of ease and clarity–exactly what I needed.

    The drugs had masked every issue that needed addressing and numbed every emotion that would be my natural guidance. The drugs had taken me away from my self, my natural rhythm, my connection to my own humanity. It was painful to recognize the hard truths that lay beneath the placating effects of these drugs–and all that had snowballed as a result of how much these drugs limit our consciousness–but it is what led to healing and well-being, allowing me to experience life in new and improved way, purely as my own self, who I am and am meant to be.

    Coming off of these terribly toxic drugs is a rugged and enlightening process, no doubt, and extremely humbling. Probably the best life education I’ve ever had. Woke me up to the truth of the world, big time. “Not pretty,” indeed.

  15. I will add to the chorus of comments about supplements by saying that I, too, found B vitamins to be over stimulating during withdrawal. I did find fish oil to be somewhat helpful. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that your body needs time to heal. You will need plenty of rest and good quality nutrition. Drink water (go easy on the alcohol), and be patient with yourself. I am 4 years “clean” from benzos and psych meds. There is some residual damage which is helped by a low dose beta blocker. I’m free and doing many of the things I only dreamed about when chained to those drugs.