Benzo withdrawal - when do you taper?

Posted , 6 users are following.

I have been afraid to reach out.  I have lurked on Benzo Buddies for some time and last night found this group, and have been stalking it ever since.  My family doesn't get it.  I brought the Ashton Manual to the Dr. and I got a "well that is interesting," dismissal.  I am afraid to reach out to friends lest they reject me.  So here goes:  Oct 5 I was hospitalized for depression and taken off of 8 mg of Xanax and 60 mg Prozac.  I had slowly gone up from .5 mg as needed to 8 over 17 years.  I had been on 8 for the last 4 years.  Half-lives aside, I was put on 1/2 the equivalent of klonazapam and some unpronouncable antidepressant and then 3 weeks later 20 mg of valium and cymbalta.  The withdrawal has been unbarable, everything is amplified, my depression and agoraphobia are worse, I am irritable, too dizzy to drive, my vision is blurry, sometimes things taste funny or I am sensitive to bright light, I am completely lethargic, I can't read anymore and I can barely watch tv becuase I am so addled I can barely follow along and comprehend the meaning or remember what just happened, I constantly struggle for words I can't sleep and now my panic attacks are worse than before I was prescribed the xanax.   

I want to taper off the benzos entirely, but I was hoping that I would/could level off from all of these crazy withdrawal symptoms first.  So my question is, do you ever level off?  Ashton says it can take up to a year for some people to withdraw.  Am I just stuck with these symptoms until and well after it is out of my system?  What should I do?  My Dr. just wants to prescribe antidepressants.  I am really drug sensitive and often have allergic reactions or bad side effects. I had terrible side effects from the Cymbalta.  After a month  I went off of it and haven't taken anything but the 20 mg of valium.  I don't know what to do at my next appt. becuase he's gonna get the prescription pad out, and I am afraid of what's next.  I am also afraid to tell him I want to taper, because I am still having all of these side effects and if I do continue the taper, I want to be in charge of the amount and take it slowly.   

 

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  • Posted

    Hi PB

    From experience I would If you feel ok at the moment stay on what you're taking and stabilise. I have had so many other people who are desperate and have given them the same advice. Msg me over the weekend and I'll go through things with you. Until then if you look at my other posts you may find some answers.

    Do not taper any more until then as I think you are doing it too quickly!

    Kind regards

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    • Posted

      Thanks, I appreciate the advice, I will try to message you over the weekend.  I really really appreciate your offer to go through things with me.

       

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  • Posted

    Listen to BS8, panicbutton - you've been yanked around quite a lot with all the drugs and your nervous system is in total disarray!  What people don't understand is that it isn't about getting the drug out of your system and then you'll be fine; these drugs cause actual remodeling of the nervous system because the drugs CAUSED imbalance and the brain pushed back by growing a new nervous system that took the drugs' actions into account, and that goes for the antidepressants as well as the benzos.  You are likely having WD from the ADs.  I couldn't tell from your post how long you had been on each AD, but you can't just switch from one to another without suffering both WD from the old one along with side effects from starting the new one.  Doctors don't seem to get this.  I know with the benzos they switch you to one with a very long half life so that it is easier to come off of without having interdose WD.

    So yes, stabilize - don't be in a rush, because your nervous system is freaking out and needs consistency right now until it can register the new regimen and make adaptations.  Continuing cuts now would only add more instability on top of the instability you have now.  I'd hang out where you as long as it takes to feel pretty "normal," and then a few weeks more before doing any cuts.

    The recommendation for benzos and ADs is no more than 10% of the current dose per four weeks.  Some must go slower.  The idea is to keep the cuts small enough that the nervous system can respond without freaking out and causing extreme WD symptoms, then holding to let that stability settle in before the next challenge.

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    • Posted

      I'm a bit confused about the timeline.  You said you were hospitalized in October for depression and taken off the Xanax and Prozac.  How long were you on the Prozac?  

      Could you put dates for each med change?  Also put what symptoms you experienced after each change if you can.

      Your doctors really jacked you around.  Surviving Antidepressants recommends NOT stopping/changing two meds at once.  I'm sure the benzo authorities would agree with this, unless you are in tolerance withdrawal, I believe.  SA recommends tapering the AD first because wd can cause anxiety that the benzo can help temper, as well as helping you not lose your sleep.

      So, you were severely depressed even though you were on the Xanax and Prozac which leads me to believe they had pooped out (one or both) and put you into tolerance withdrawal which mimics depression and anxiety relapse. Was your depression over something tangible or did it feel above and beyond, without reason?

      Then you were switched, but were really likely in withdrawal from the first two.  It would help to know how long you were on each set of medication since October.  This could help folks understand what your next course of action should be.

      I'm so sorry you are suffering so much.  Withdrawal is truly horrible. It's mind-blowing that doctors often don't seem to understand this and treat the wd symptoms with yet more scripts that effect an already chaotic nervous system causing more chaos.

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    • Posted

      Betsy,

      Again, thank you for your help.  The agoraphobic in me is really afraid to reveal all of this information.  It feels like an open door to a stranger.  But I will give it a go.  First what is SA?  

      Yes, I believe I was experiencing Poopout from both the Prozac and the Xanax.  I have suffered major depression related to trauma since adolescence, although 2 months before my hospitalization I experienced a great loss which made my depression far worse.  Prior, I would catagorize my depression and anxiety as severe for about 2 years.  The agoraphobia joined in 6 years ago and in the last 2 has grown worse.  

      I have been on many antidepressants.  It was hard to find dates and my brain is so addled I can't remember even some of the names.   Luckily I had written the latest down in my journal.  I was prescribed Prozac first in July of 2013-ish with a brief periord off of it in early '15 where I was on Pamelor for a week and the side effects were so severe I went back on the Prozac.  

      Oct 5 I went into the Hospital on 8 mg of Xanax and 60 mg of Prozac.  That evening I was put on Cymbalta with no cross over and 4 mg of Klonazapam with maybe a 24 hour cross over.  I stayed on these drugs with an increasing dose of Cymbalta while in the hospital, then outpatient program and until I saw my new Dr. 11/20/15.  By then I was experiencing all of the following:  I was a zombie, I mumbled, dizziness & light headed, blurred vision, aching joints & muscles (weird places like my wrists and the bottoms of my feet), hypersensitivity several times a week to one or all of these - light, sound, touch (Like I could feel my wedding ring to the point it irritated my so much I had to take it off) smell, and sometimes things tasted weird like an apple tasted like garlic or pudding tasted rotten, I was drowsy all the time, had no energy, I was weak, couldn't concentrate, remember, aphasia, confusion, inability to control my body temp, discomfort in my own skin, irritability, shaking, night sweats & chills, headache, coughing (?), and nausea.  By then I had found the Ashton Manual and understood that many of these symptoms were actually side effects of withdrawal from benzos. 

      11/20/15 I was taken off of Cymbalta (withdrawal from that was terrible including increased weakness, dizziness, night sweats, confusion, zombie-ness, and terrible stomache pain) and Klonazapam.  There was a 5 day step down off the Cymbalta.  I was prescribed 20 mg Valium and Respiradone and Mirtazapine - I am sorry I cannot remember the dosages.  

      8 days later most of my withdrawal symptoms were either the same or worse.  I couldn't tell what was withdrawal from the Cymbalta, what was withdrawal from the benzo, or what was a side effect of the medication becuase so many of the symptoms crossed over.  I decided on my own to go off of everything except the Valium until I could be clear about what was the cause of what was happening to me. And you have a list of my current remaining side effects today above.  Some have improved.  I am less frequently hypersensitive and now it is just light and sound, I have experienced fewer incidents of sleep paralysis.  Some have gone away.  Some have increased.  My vision is more blurred, my sleep is more disturbed, and maybe it is a side effect of the lethargy, but my confusion, memory and comprehension are much worse.  

      I am still not taking an antidepressant.  Although the Dr. really wants to put me on one and frankly the depression is uber present. He also wants to put me on Synthroid.  He wants to mess with my nervous system and now my Hormones?!

       So there you have it.   I hope it helps you & others in the group to help me.  And I appreciate it.  Thanks.

       

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    • Posted

      Well, the benzo is the more dangerous one to come off too fast because of the risk of seizures, I believe.  You've really been through the ringer!  

      When a person is in WD from the benzo and/or AD, their nervous system becomes super sensitized to any new meds (ADs etc.) and so monkeying around with trying this and that is NOT advised.  I'm not clear myself as to whether reinstatement of a small amount of Prozac would be the way to go, but I'm sure that is part of the WD equation.  Withdrawal from ADs from too fast tapers of cold turkeys can last for months and even years, depending on how long you were on them and how high a dose.  The healing goes in windows and waves, feeling better, then worse again, then better, etc.

      SA is survivingantidepressants, the peer support forum for coming off ADs, benzos and Z-drugs.  I'll send you more info.  The mods there are quite knowledgeable, and there is a subforum for benzos.

      Of course, it is entirely up to you about going back on an AD or not, a very small reinstatement possibly alleviating symptoms to a manageable level, and then doing a very slow taper off from there.

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    • Posted

      Hi Betsy

      I think we're both on the same page, Thanks for writing to PB. I had some time just after I said I didn't as I, like you could see they were desperate. I wrote much the same as you - then my iPad froze and I lost it. I'm trying to catch up .

      What I have found is this problem is escalating eg: one person who comes onto this forum I write to them and there are others they know in a similar position. This problem ( you'll be aware) is massive. What can we do as individuals?

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    • Posted

      You're right, it is a massive problem!  I'm glad you are here fielding these situations, too, and I hope I didn't step on your toes!  I think we are on the same page, though you are clearly more experienced about benzos!  It does seem to be a tide that no one individual can turn, since no matter how many you try to help, more keep turning up!  I don't know the answer!

      It is frustrating to try to help and then get the mod on your case as being anti-doctor or anti-med, and there are trolls out there that get upset and turn you in, because they are pro-med and seemed to be threatened by any stance that perhaps the meds are the problem.  But indeed they can be, and they are not benign!  They are incredibly powerful and the research was never put in for the long haul use; we long term users are the guinea pigs.

      It is also discouraging that med scripts seem to be the first line attack on emotional problems by the general and p-docs.  They are NOT a cure, but perhaps a band-aid to give people a leg up in the short term until they are past a crisis, but then they need to come off and get on with therapy and other self-help techniques that help them cope better!

      Off my soap-box....LOL!

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    • Posted

      Hi Betsy

      Nobody I can see has mentioned how - Psychiatrists so often misdiagnose benzodiazepine withdrawal as whatever label they decide to give it. Consequently prescribe antipsychotics. What I have not seen anywhere on this site is the question of how to withdraw from benzodiazipines when on antipsychotics. They do lower the seizure threshold! Seizures can take any shape or form! Maybe many people on this site are experiencing seizures?

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  • Posted

    I had just had a really bad few days.  My balance is worse, and everything tastes and smells burnt, I can't regulate my body temp., I am shaking and I am crying all of the time.   

    And I guess I am also feeling really sensitive.  I was upset by this statement in Betsy's response: "Withdrawal from ADs from too fast tapers of cold turkeys can last for months and even years, depending on how long you were on them and how high a dose.  The healing goes in windows and waves, feeling better, then worse again, then better, etc. "  Not upset with you personally, but the idea that it could go on for several years and I could feel better and worse.

    Did you mean just withdrawal from ADs or also too fast a taper/cold turkey from benzos?  Or both?

    My gp and I discussed the fact that I am what he called medically addicted to benzo's and that it might take a year to taper off.  Ironically, he eventually said that I was at such a high dose of xanax If it wasn't helping I needed to see a psychiatrist and it was psychiatrists who tapered me off so rapidly.  Anyway, knowing that it might take longer than a year, and that the withdrawal symptoms that had gotten better might come back or get worse at times fills me with hopelessness.  I had set my sights on a year, and now I don't have anywhere to set my sites.  

    Are you two off benzos?  Did you have the opportunity to taper slowly?  How long did it take?  I am reaching for some kind of hope to look towards.

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  • Posted

    I survived my ftrst visit with my new Dr., just for the blood work Dr.on Monday feel good beat the anxiety and agora went with no escort. Feeling happy and positive that he may help me I explained alittle to the nurse about the 2 mg and said to her why would anyone want to keep you on this stuff? Her answer money.
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