Diazepam Taper - Suffering Awful Withdrawals - Advice Needed!

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Hello, I have been taking Diazepam (up to 6mg) for nearly 4 months and am desperate to stop as soon as possible but I am having a really tough time tapering. I was (wrongly) given Sertraline at a low dose in December (25mg) for an existing anxiety disorder that had actually been caused by a vestibular / balance problem. Knowing nothing about Sertraline and trusting my GP I took it for only a week before deciding I HAD to stop as it was having a horrible reaction with my mind and body - dreadful dizziness, night terrors, sweats, tremors, nausea, headaches, it really felt like I was going to die. But when I tried to stop the Sertraline these symptoms only got worse, so bad that I ended up in an emergency appointment shaking and fearing for my life in front of 2 GPs who put it down to "anxiety" rather than anythng chemically related. Knowing exactly what my anxiety felt lke before taking any drugs I knew this wasn't the case. Anyway, at this point I was prescribed Diazepam (6mg to be taken daily) to help me overcome the horrible reaction I had to the Sertraline. Initially this eased a lot of the symptoms mentioned above and I was able to function almost as normal for a week or so. Keen as I was not to be taking the Diazepam for too long I began to reduce the dose inside that first week, from 6mg, to 4mg and then to 2mg at the end of the week. I had no trouble with this as no level of dependency had built up yet. At the end of that week, however, I suddenly got really sick again out of nowhere and spent the day in bed, shaking, nauseus and with a bad stomach. I assumed it was because I hadn't been taking the Diazepam at the level prescribed to me and so the next day went back up to 6mg (I was given a month's worth of Diazepam in my initial prescription). During this second week I didn't get the relief from the drug as I had experienced in the first week and after a few days at 6mg my body and mind was feeling overwhelmed, I became extremely depressive one night and decided I needed to reduce the dose again. I reduced down to 3mg per day very quicky but at this stage noticed that I was craving between dosoes and feeling very agitated. I knew that I was becoming dependent on Diazepam in only my third week despite trying desperately to reduce the dosage (well below what I had been prescribed) and it was a hopeless feeling. I knew I was in for a fight and was determined to get off the drug ASAP, I had cut down to 1.5mg per day by the 6th week but my body just couldn't take it anymore and was in full revolt. The cluster of symptoms I had at this stage (worsening as I had tapered down) included upset stomach/bloating/pain, severe nausea, extreme fatigue, rapid weight loss, lack of appetite (although I forced myself to eat regular meals), insomnia - sometimes total, perceptial discrepancies/vision blurring, extreme sensitivity to temperature change, depression, headache, constant dizziness, sweating, severe tremor and extreme anxiety. I had read somewhere that if you experience this 'acute' level of withdrawal from a Benzo it is best to reinstate at the level you last felt comfortable and stabalise before trying to reduce again, at a slower rate. A GP I saw around this time also agreed that this was a sensible approach to take. So, once again feeling on the verge of death I put my dosage back up to 2.5mg per day for a couple of weeks and sure enough the cluster of symptoms eventually subsided, not fully, but enough to be tolerable. I decided I must have tapered too hard and fast and that a slower approach would see me through okay this time. So I began to drop steadilly every couple of weeks, from 2.5mg to 2mg with no problems, and then from 2mg to 1.5mg/2mg alternate days (unable to split the tablet to create an in-between dose) and it was going okay, in fact I was gradually feeling better the lower the dose became. Then 12 days ago I started taking 1.5mg every day (as opposed to 1.5mg/2mg alternate days) and pretty soon I developed that 'craving' sensation again, similar I imagine to how someone feels when they are quitting cigarettes. No matter, I continued to take my 1.5mg per day but soon started developing other unpleasant feelings such as feverishness at night. I still felt pretty well and functional during the day for a while until last Friday it hit me all over again. The whole cluster of withdrawal symptoms are back. I have near constant tremor, feverishness / burning skin sensation around my head and neck, extreme nausea, dizziness, complete loss of appetite, insomnia and night sweats, worseing visual disturbances (floaters, blurriness), the rapid weight loss is back (I'm like a skeleton now), general weakness, mental confusion/slowness and worst of all right now complete and utter fatigue. It is a challenge for me to sit myself up in bed or walk to the kitchen and back to get a drink. I haven't reduced the dose of Diazepam now for 12 days and was tapering slowly to a strict schedule I had planned for myself but now find that I am completely bedbound, with all of my previous withdrawal symptoms and more, without the ability to perform simple tasks or do anything at all. I keep thinking I will stabalise at this dosage and things will improve but each day and night I am just feeling worse. The GPs I have seen have very little knowledge about the withdrawal from these meds (I usually end up telling them what I have learned through research and exerience while they reach for the textbook) and I really don't know what to do or where to turn from here. It seems to me that the severity of symptoms I am experiencing are unusual for someone who has taken Diazepam for the length of time that I have and at the level I have. The first (failed) taper I can understand that I probably tried to cut down too quickly but now I am going at a much reduced pace and have run into the same troubles. I am desperately hoping it will level out but I only get worse each day and am afraid what will happen next. So really my question is - where do I go from here? What is my best course of action? Can anyone provide advice based on their own experiences of tapering and how did you overcome problems like the ones I am facing? I have now been prescriped liquid Diazepam so I am able to recduce dosage in 0.1mg intervals, but this will take until November at least. I cannot put up with that if I am feelikg like this, it will kill me before then! My only plan at the moment is to try and tough it out at 1.5mg and pray that things improve... Any help or advice really would be very much appreciated. Martin

2 likes, 8 replies

8 Replies

  • Posted

    There are many sites which give you the instruction to make a tapered withdrawal from diazepam.You have to come off in a slow controlled way and only make a reduction when you feel OK on the present level. Just mark time try not to go up, it can be a very long process. I'm afraid


    • Posted

      Hi Bonzo, thanks for your reply. I've been researching the various as much as possible and made a plan for reduction that I thought was gentle enough given my dosage. I wasn't expecting to hit problems as extreme as this, perhaps I am just one of the unlucky ones with hypersensitivity to the drug? I'm fighting it as best I can but I'm concerned it will be a long battle.
  • Posted

    Hi Martin

    ​I'm Craig and can relate to everything you have said. You tapered WAY to fast it can take up too 18 months to come off of Diazepam. So your now on 1.5mg daily, correct? I'm not a Dr but was a 3rd med student. I would call your doctor and double your dose (if he agrees) It sounds counter intuative I know but the plan is to get you feeling back to normal as quick as possible. Don't be overly concerned with becoming dependant. 3mg a day is still a small dose. (I was on 60mg daily but free and clear now) your gonna need to taper very slowly something like dropping .5 every 4 weeks or so (but longer if necessary) do it at your pace, NOT what the Dr's think. You are right in saying that your symptoms seem severe given the time and dosage your on. there may be some filler or inactive ingredient that doesn't agree with you. So you may want to switch to another benzo called Chlordizepoxide (librium) it's mode of action is slightly different to diaz, and is usually used for alcohol withdrawall, ask your Dr about it. When I began my taper i dropped .5mg every 4ish weeks, when i got down to about 20mg daily i switched over to Librium as it's only an anxiolytic. (diaz is an anxiolytic, anti-convulsant, muscle relaxer and hypnotic) It's almost definately anxiety that is causing your symptoms and you can get what are called paradoxical effects. They actually cause the symptoms they are supossed to help. I started on 75mg daily= to 30mg of diaz. ( you'll start lower given your current dose obviously) then i tapered of the librium again a 5mg intervals every 4weeks then i got down to 5 mg libruim every other day then 2.5mg(cut tab in half) every other day. Then i just stopped and not looked back since. Total time was over a year, but i was on 10times the dose you started on. Hope this helps a bit and feel free to ask any more questions if you want too. Call Dr first course of action. Again I'm not a Dr just want to make that clear smile good mate your not alone and you can do it but do it SLOWLY.

    • Posted

      Hi Craig, thank-you for your reply. Correct I am currently on 1.5mg per day and toughing it out despite all the symptoms. I am very reluctant to updose again having done this previously, I'm hoping if I manage to stay on 1.5mg daily for a few weeks longer that my body will evetually stabalise and I can reduce further from there. I am attending a drug and alcohol drop-in centre near me on Friday to try and get some expert advice, the GPs I have seen have very poor knowledge of Benzo withdrawal unfortunately. I'd not considered swithcing to another Benzo as most sources I've found say that Diazepam is regarded as the easiest to taper from due to it's long half-life. After the nightmare I had with Sertraline I'm reluctant to take any new drugs ever again and just want to be off everything, I felt SO much better before! But thank-you for the suggestion if things don't improve for me it's something I'll mention to a professional. You say you managed to taper from 60mg, I can't imagine how tough that must have been, so congratulations. How long has it been since you finished your taper and do you feel back to 'normal' again? The symptoms that concern me most at the moment are the weight loss (I didn't have much to lose in the first place), complete and utter fatigue (it nearly kills me just to walk down the road at a slow pace) and visual disturbances - like floaters that never go away but darker - in one eye especially. Are these things that you experienced at all? I'm convinced my vision is deteriorating and have actually began wearing glasses since taking these drugs. The feverishness, nausea, shaking and insomnia, although horrible, are much more common as I understand. Also, how low did you taper before 'jumping off' altogether? Was there a point where things got easier for you?
    • Posted

      librium has the exact same half life as diazepam up to 200 hours, but has less action on the cns. Yes unfortunately pyscholgy is way down on the list as far as Dr training is concerned, I actually wrote my own medications out got the Dr to sign off on them, because like you I knew more about benzos and anti depressants and WD and side effects to for that matter. It took me about 2 years to come off the benzos I still take 150 Sertraline (your fav) in the morning and 15mg of mirtazipine at night, but I feel completely normal now. It just goes to show how different we are all wired, each brain is unique and one of a kind. Sertraline works great for me but nearly crippled you. Medicine is literally best guest, trial and error always has been. I went through most of the SSRI SNRI tetracylic and tricyclic anti D's before finding the right combo. The one i wrote myself i might add lol. It does get easier and i understand why you'd be reluctant to increase the dosage but your suffering and in distress, when you don't need to be. Your right if you stick at 1.5mg eventually you'll balance out, but why put yourself through the anxiety, night sweats ectect. Your gonna be back down to 1.5mg eventually anyway but without the symptoms your currently expeirencing. It's great that your going to a day clinic I did the same and it does work CBT/ NLP therapy especially in conjunction with the right meds at the right dose. The weight loss is a concern and I would speak with your Dr about getting a thyroid and liver fuction test plus a full blood count and cholesterol count.
    • Posted

      Hi Craig,

      My psychiatrist has recently tapered me down from Diazepam 2.5mg to 2mg and it has been about 6 weeks.  I am still experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, tight muscles, inability to concentrate, fatigue, irritability.  When I started tapering, I was not completely fine, I was still experiencing anxiety and depression and have been taking Cipralex and Bupropion and also Zopiclone 3.75mg to sleep, so my question is, shouldn't the doctor have waited until I am stable before reducing the dose of anything?

      I feel as though I should up the dose back to 2.5mg as it is not a very large dose and stabilise and then taper again, however my Doctor said I should give it another week or so...I am quite confused and not sure what to do...any advise would be very much appreciated??  Thanks

  • Posted

    Martin how are you doing?

    Did you get off the Diazepam?

    • Posted

      Hi Jen, how are you doing? I am also experiencing withdrawals from Diazapam... I am down to 1.75 now....been on this dose for a week now, feel very frightened, full of anxiety, can't see very well, ringing in my ears, loss of weight, not sleeping, can't think straight, very confused, poor memory agitated, so want to get back to normal... put me on allsorts of AD's in the last 2 years which made me worse, then put me Diazapam for side effects of the AD's... they all have put me in a bad place, when i eas only sad through late bereavement. .. Hilary

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