Doctor wants to take me off Zopiclone after 15 years, do I have any rights to refuse, UK

Posted , 6 users are following.

Hi all,

I have been on Zopiclone for about 15 years; Previously anti-depressants and then after a hospital admission I was given 7.5 Zopiclone and Quetiepine as an out-patient.

Over the years the usage has gone up and down, I was on 3.5mg a night at one point but in difficult periods it has gone up to 7.5.

For a while I was taking 2x7.5 per night but this has always been challenged at the Doctors or hospital and usually I have got it back to 1x7.5 per night.

I have had a lot of life changes this year and have had a few med switches, currently trying to stabilise on Depakote - I take a number of other meds for Thyroid and other Problems . At my last review Zopiclone wasn't even mentioned, the main focus was on the Bipolar Meds - It's been up and down and I have tried many meds, got quite well with lamotrogine for a while and the year before Lithium.

Anyway it would be safe to say that Zopiclone is my goto choice; Whatever else has been going on in my life I have always been grateful to be able to get some sleep, Zopiclone calms me down and switches off my erratic brain like nothing else.

The Zopiclone has always been on my repeat list, at times I have requested it a week early and that has been okay - Other times I have had to make an appointment, It's true that it can creep up at times but in the past I would talk this through with the Doctor and they would encourage me to get back to taking 1x7.5mg per night.

I find when things are going well, I am excercising eating well etc I can stay on track.

Recently I began taking upto 2x7.5mg a night. Typically I would take 1 at bedtime but I would wake up around 2-4 am and couldn't get back to sleep so would take another half, this usually gets me back to sleep and I can function the next day, the alternative is no sleep and feeling very unwell and off-kilter the next day. Generally I realise that I am creeping up and will try and excercise more and get back to 1x7.5mg this has been going on for years and this is usually the pattern.

This week I went to renew my supply (admittedly a week early) and was told that I needed to see the doctor for a medication review.

My usual Doctor who has known me my whole life has retired, the practice now only has new doctors.

The Doctor wanted to take me off the Zopiclone completely; I explained that I had been on it for so long over a decade and it worked really well to help me sleep, also that I had tried to come off it many times over the years and had gone into Mania or Severe Depression often losing touch with reality completely. As it goes I am trying to manage how much I take but do fall into taking more sometimes.

The Doctor has agreed to write to my Psychiatrist and see me again in 2 weeks - I have a 2 Week Supply of 7.5mg.

I have to be strict now and not take any more, I'm putting the zopiclone in another room than my bedroom - I feel that there is no buffer though if I am distressed and sleepless during the night, that is all having a few extra tablets has ever been really and very helpful to stop from falling apart completely in difficult times.

I don't know what the Doctor will say in 2 weeks time but I am worried that they will just stop it; They actually wanted to prescribe 3.75mg Pills and I had to explain at lengh how ill that would make me! -

Do I have any rights here, I'm worried that If they suddenly stop my Zopiclone I will freak out and have to goto the Emergency Department at the hospital and even they will turn me away if it has been written on my notes that the Doctors have instructed to stop Zopiclone. I wouldn't know where to start to fight back against this if the Doctor decided to stop prescribing.

I realise this is a long post but would appreciate any input from any knowledgeable folk, I have tried googling what my rights are here but can't get to the bottom of it. I am also feeling quite anxious about this whole thing with the festive season approaching and all.

Many Thanks


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4 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi georgeyc,

    Your doctor is right to want you off the Zopiclone but wrong to want to take you off it straight away. These drugs need to be slowly tapered or you could end up in hospital. Unfortunately many doctors do cold turkey their patients because they don't want to be involved in any legal action.

    I could see from your post that you are waking up in the middle of the night and taking another 1/2 a tablet so that you can go back to sleep. I'll bet that isn't what happened in the beginning and it should ring an alarm bell for you because it means that you are probably in tolerance and have become physically dependent on the drug. Tolerance means that your body is no longer satisfied with that dosage and it wants more....Zopiclone has a half life of only around 5-6 hours which would also be a reason for you waking up. this is the beginning of a very slippery downhill slope which is why you need to begin a slow taper.

    My experience is that doctors want to see a patient with a plan to get off the medication so if you come up with one he/she may listen to you. What I did, after nearly 40 years of being on a benzo of one kind or another was to take a few pages of The Ashton Manual, written by Professor Heather Ashton on how to come off these drugs, and ask the doctor to read it. Give your doctor a few days and make another appointment.

    The truth is, you are going to find it more and more difficult to find a doctor willing to write scripts for you unless you do have a plan. Ashton suggests crossing over to a slower acting drug like Valium over a 4 week period and tapering from there - the problem is much stronger than Zopiclone and the dose may be too high in which case you will need to do a direct taper until you have tapered down far enough.

    Here is a link to the Ashton Manual - please educate yourself on what is going on in your body. I know that this is a very scary place to be because I have been there but if I can do it so can you. For now, read the Ashton Manual, print off a few pages and try to get the doctor onside - your other doctor wasn't onside, by writing those prescriptions for so many years....there are many, much more life affirming ways to deal with the issues that you are dealing with.

    Good luck

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  • Posted

    that's crazy. why would they stop the meds if it's helping you ?! if you are coming off any meds please do some research if you decide to taper. is it possible to find another doctor that understands your needs a little better.?! is there a reason why he is stopping ?! I don't know it seems odd to me. I'm sorry you have to deal with this. never stop meds cold turkey.

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  • Posted

    i had exactly the same thing happen to me. i only took low dose Zopiclone /2 of 3.75 dose, gp retired been on them 11 years and saw a different gp gave me 1 packet and git told no more,said it was all psychological, and shouldn't have any trouble as on such low dose. Stopped them completely month ago after tapering off after 2 months. Cant lie the withdrawal symptoms are awful i've got severe anxiety all the time and sleep pretty rubbish. i don't know how you stand I'm afraid, but you do need to taper off them very gradually certainly don't suddenly stop them. i got very angry gp's told me they were non addictive and started me on them but then get no help trying come off them. i totally sympathise with how you feel.

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  • Posted

    Hi georgyc, Coby is right you do need to taper off slowly, I looked at the Ashton manual but seemed aimed at people on high doses, and also recommends switching to diazapam, but my gp refused to give me any. Try by cutting the tablets in half, then after few weeks into quarters. Go back to your gp there is lots of stuff on internet how dangerous it is to go cold turkey print some off and give it to him to read. I have managed to come off them but still struggling with withdrawal symptoms, it's not easy I do still get nights without sleep, I'm seeing a counsellor to help with the anxiety, you can do it but needs to be a gradual tapering off. Good luck.

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