6 Facts about Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome (Hint: it’s not pretty)

benzo withdrawals

Benzodiazepines have been around for about 40 years.

They can be prescribed for numerous reasons – including severe anxiety, rehabilitation aids from opiate abuse and sometimes for something as simple as a sleep aid.

Patients who are prescribed are rarely told how serious the effects of long term use can be. Indeed, thousands of people are prescribed a new prescription for benzos every week and are never told how potentially addictive it will be and how challenging the withdrawals are.

In some cases, doctors will completely deny that there are any physical or mental symptoms present during benodiazepine withdrawal.

If you have been told this by a doctor and maybe think that it’s just in your head, you’re not alone.?It is sad to know that many people are suffering unknowingly and unnecessarily due to this type of medication.

For all of you who may be suffering through withdrawals, this post is for you.

1.) Dependence on benzodiazepines is a serious matter.

Again, most people who take these medications simply do not know how much this medication effects your brain. Or that the withdrawal symptoms can be as bad as opiate and alcohol withdrawals.

Those in withdrawals, both cold turkey and slow tapering, can find living through each day extremely difficult. The experience can be truly awful, leaving the individual to feel severely debilitated.

The anxiety has ramped right up and the depression and just feeling horrible is awful. I’m finding living through each day really difficult.

The worst and most serious part?

The doctors who prescribe and institutions who promote this stuff are commonly reluctant or even blatantly unaware of how the serious negative impacts of what they are giving people.

2.) Withdrawal side effects can be quite nasty.

You don’t have to look far to see people drawing parallels of hell and horror when discussing their withdrawals.

Of course, determining the effects is a highly subjective question and highly variable. There are a number of factors that come into play.

Here is a quick list of the more common withdrawals effects associated with benzos:

  • Moderate to severe depression
  • Painful resurgence of emotions
  • Migraines
  • Debilitating anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shallow breathing
  • Neck pain
  • Muscle twitching
  • Burning sensations going through the brain
  • body tremors

3.) The withdrawal period is complicated and long lasting.

  1. Acute phase – lasting 7 days to 90 days
  2. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) lasting up to 2 years

Of course, there is a lot of variability to these periods for each individual:

Length of time treated with benzodiazepine.

If you’ve only been treated for around 4 months or less with benzos then you’re in for a much quicker and less painful recovery than those who have been on these meds for long periods of time (think years, decades…). ?Those who have used for longer periods of time like this are in for serious recovery if they want to quit.

Type of benzodiazepine.

Valium (diazepam) is a low potency and longer lasting benzo which is more suitable for tapering off with than say, Xanax (alprazolam).

Speed of tapering method

If you choose to taper down on the drug over a period of months rather than weeks you will experience far less discomfort.

For many it can be very troubling when they realize it will likely take months or years ? not weeks ? for their brain and nervous system to normalize to something resembling a baseline state.

But time is only half the equation, because the true crux is what you do with that time. There is no fast-forward button on life.

To truly get well, in the grander sense, is to utilize the time you have; even if you are going through discomfort. Try to see the bright side , even during those bleak moments. In the end, you can’t be sure exactly how long it will last. So learn to embrace the time your given.

4.) Quitting benzos cold turkey is most often unadvisable.

Many people who have been struggling to get off psychiatric medications, including benzodiazepines, for several years are not able to stop cold turkey because when the levels of medication in the bloodstream drop too low, anxiety and panic can become unbearable.

But you must be able to discern what’s best for you individually.

If you haven’t been using benzos or other similar meds for too long, it might be good to taper very quickly. Or if you’ve only just started being prescribed for them in the last couple months (lucky you), you can stop as quickly as you deem fit.

5.) Generally accepted treatment recommendations in the medical community.

The consensus in the medical community is that the most successful treatments incorperate these three steps:

  1. Switch the patient to a form of benzodiazepine with a long half life.
  2. Gradually taper down doses over a period of roughly 10 weeks to allow for a slow but continuous decline in tissue/plasma concentrations.
  3. Provide psychological counseling to deal with the non-physical aspect of the addiction.

So, the best ways to get off benzos are with other benzos. Especially Clonazepam (longer half life) it’s probably the easiest to taper and quit and use very tiny doses to prevent seizure.

6.) Some common medications and supplements can complicate things further by?causing additional interactions and withdrawal symptoms.

Many who turn towards tapering off from meds will be drawn to other medications to help ease the withdrawal effects.

This can be problematic, especially if the substitute meds cause similar effects and are just perpetuating the persons conditions.

Commonly used assisting drugs and supplements:

  • Phenibut
  • GBL
  • GHB
  • Kava
  • Ketamine
  • Baclofen
  • GABA
  • Flumazenil (arguable)

Closing words of advice.

Reading this you might feel a little bit desolate about the outcome of your drug use.

Even if you have a long road ahead in recovery, never forget that you can do it. You can make it.

It won’t be easy, but you have the power to do it.

Basically, at some point you will HAVE to do it if you want to have a happy life. Benzo use cannot be continued by anyone indefinitely.

It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but never forget that the human brain is an ever changing and amazing phenomena. It takes time to reprogram it and rewire it back to stability, but it is possible.

Even if you’re only able to manage 2 hours of sleep at night right now, remember that it will get better. Even if you can’t sleep at all! It WILL get better if you stick to your determination to be free.

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IMPORTANT:?This information is just a brief conversation piece about benzodiazepine use and withdrawals. There is a whole host of information I have not included. This piece should simply be a spark to get you looking in the right direction.

 

20 thoughts on “6 Facts about Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome (Hint: it’s not pretty)”

  1. Michael

    Yep, discovering your own dependence on benzodiazepines is, in itself, a very bitter pill to swallow (no pun intended), even more so if you have never abused your dose and were just doing what your doc recommended because they said it would help you. If I had the past 8 years back I’d tell my doc exactly where he could stick his lorazepam, that’s for damn sure. That should not suggest the doctor is the only one to blame, we’ve been taking these pills with blindfolded on.

    1. Gwaruk1

      Completely agree. On Valium for 29 years for conditions I apparently don’t have apart the addiction.
      DR can stick them up were sun don’t shine.

  2. Spent 8 Years on clonazapem myself, been off them for about 3 weeks now and I’m constantly dizzy. That’s the worst of it for me. I’m just hopeful that it abates sooner than later, I’ve got shit to do. Lol.

    1. paul newbold

      these benzoes have stolen so much of my life.40 years on them.began 11 weeks ago, cutting down.every hour of every day and night is so painful,mental torture.im not sure of what is ahead,but i HOPE things ease up.anyone doing this,you are all warriors,dont 4get that.Paul

    2. Did your dizziness ever go away? If so how long did it take?

      1. Jason Dick

        I am at 4 months (with one Klonopin taken in between) clean off of 8 years of Klonopin, and the symptoms for me now are worse than they were for the first two and a half months. It will go away, but it will take time and more effort than you can imagine on your part to help your body and brain move along in the right direction.

  3. I been on and off dif benzos for a yr now all kinds started by drs cause I was being abused by chemical poisoning in my home now coming off benzos I feel like I’m gunna go nutts and I end up using again. I’m scared too death. There the only thing makes me feel normal. Idk what to do. And I have other health probs w a 7 yr old. I’m scared

  4. I’ve been trying for at least four months to quit cold turkey(I know dumb) the longest I got was like 25 days off before trying again. I was on 2mg Clonazepam a day. It’s been like 10 days or something this time. I was twitching really bad with insomnia hallucinations sweating terror. It’s hell now I’m crying all day and can’t sleep again. I’ve lost so much in my life is just in shambles. I have to stop but it’s a choice!

    1. Hi angel, I just wanted to give you a suggestion to help ease your suffering. Obviously jumping off a benzo that abruptly is dangerous you’re only making things harder than they should be, you need to slowly taper yourself down off of the drug by reducing your dose by about 5-10% every 2 weeks or so, just listen to your body and take it slow. Buy a digital scale that can help you weigh your pills more easily, track your progress and find someone you can talk to to help with the mental aspect of the withdrawal, be kind and gentle to your nervous system and practice breathing exercises I am in the same boat as you I’m in the acute phase of my withdrawal and it is not easy but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and both of us will look back on all this mess and be glad it’s over just keep a picture of that day in your head as a source of inspiration. Best of luck to you God Bless!

  5. I am at the end of 4 month milk taper of 1 year 1mg use of klonopin. I am down to .15mg and am totally disabled. Just want to die. I’ve given up hope. I am afraid to taper the rest and start going crazier….

    1. I like to feed clonazepam to my enemies, And the same length as I been on them. I want them to have the same results as well. No shorter or longer. Maybe then they would understand the hellish symtoms that we endore. And likewise I didn?t forget all them insane comments that the doctors said to me without any concern to the patient, And if you think this is cruel to think and say,well it was meant to be.

    2. Adam, how are you several years later (I’m reading this 2021)?

  6. Doc Undy

    Hey everybody. We’ve all been to hell and some of us are still there. I’m at the end of over 8 month taper off of Clonazepam. Was on 4mg/day for 5 years. Have been on & off all kinds of Benzos for around 40 years all up. Have experienced many physical symptoms over those 4 decades and NEVER considered them to be the result of the Benzos.

    I started the taper off clonaz by switching to 25mg of Diazepam (Valium) For me this seemed to be equivalent of 4mg Clonaz. Everybody is different & you may need to adjust your own dose of Valium if you switch over from one of the shorter acting and more potent Benzos such as Xanax (Alprazolam) – or Clonazepam (Klonipn)

    There are many Benzo equivalence charts online to give you a rough idea. Initially ~ was tapering down from 25mg/day for 3 weeks..then dropping 5mg/day every 2 – 3 weeks depending on how well I tolerated the cut. My biggest problem withdrawal symptoms were physical ones. Mainly stiff sore neck +sore eyes + headaches. Also gastric pain accompanied with a leg twitch at night that made sleeping difficult. Many other minor physical problems – but compared to the head & gastric pain – were/are tolerable.

    The pain was quite severe & I needed to take a non-opiate painkiller + a slightly higher dose of Valium to make the pain go away. I found that the early cuts were much easier to tolerate than when the daily dose of Valium was getting very low – say around 1mg/day. I eventually got down to as low as 0.25mg/day Valium after 8 months.

    I jumped off Valium totally about 6 weeks ago. I needed to take a single ‘rescue’ dose of 15mg about 2 weeks ago & then WD symptoms cleared to a tolerable level. The stiff sore neck and headaches have faded away and the gastric pain is also getting less problematic. I still have some way to go and it may take several more months – even another 6 months before I can say that I’ve finally beaten this damn fucking nightmare!

    Hang in there guys – it may take many months of putting up with very unpleasant WD’s – but remember that for most of us here seeking advice – it took many years of using Benzos to get to this point. I am feeling MUCH better emotionally and mentally than for many many years – and it is this that keeps the future of being Benzo-free alive.

  7. I like the advice to taper from benzos slowly, but if you can’t find a doctor to prescribe them, you are screwed. My biggest issue is coming off 1 to 2 milligrams of xanax which I used for the last 4 years. My doctor suggested I shouldn’t take this medication anymore as I am now over 65. Say what?? I’ve never had problems and never took more than what I was prescribed. The PAWS I have experienced is horrible buzzing and ringing in left ear AND constant dizziness. I can barely work because of these problems. So what do you do when NO doctor (even psych doctors) will not prescribe any type of benzos? Sorry, but GABA and Trazadone do not work!

  8. Raelene Darrow

    I’d been taking Xanax for 30 years with no idea of the repercussion of it, I’ve been dealing with PAWS off and on for about a year, since I stopped taking Alprazolam . IT IS NOT FUN! I feel like I’m about to explode sometimes with anger, my body sometimes feels electrified and I have bouts with disorientation and panic attacks randomly and when I feel stressed about something. I just had an EEG because I fainted at work and my BP was off the charts….A PAWS attack. This is wreaking havoc on my life but hopefully within another year I will be able to enjoy life again without the help of any drug and the hindrance of not using one .

  9. Several years on klonopin 1mg a day (even though the doctor said 1mg as needed up to 3 mg a day! I’d come home with a THREE months prescriptions worth of klonopin ) and still never abused them. I went into ‘tolerance’ (brain ‘wants more’ and the original dose stops working) Went to doctor after doctor..for the issue of waking up in a panic and heart Palpitations EVERY night for 10 years…sleep deprived and in misery!! ‘One doctor prescribed me Ativan 2mg every night for sleep and then yanked me off cold turkey !!! I lay in bed in severe withdrawals. Called an Urgent Care clinic. They told me I could come in but NO guarantee I’d get the meds to stop the wds. Finally the Doctors office gave me one more month of Ativan…I went to an Addiction specialist and he gave me a prescription for Valium to taper off, and then just charged me cash on the barrel head to see me for 25 minutes!!!
    I sought out a GP who would give me the Valium to taper. He agreed as he could see I was not drug seeking and sincere in my wanting to get off. He did say he knew nothing of tapering and I was on my own. 10 hellacious months of tapering and now 8 months off benzos and until recently my life was suffering from symptoms of withdrawal Akathisia, benzo rage, numbness of extremities and face/mouth, audio and visual hallucinations, swelling of hands and feel, cortisol rushes, insomnia for all the time of the taper and the additional months I’ve been off benzos. Severe dizziness, problems speaking etc etc. (It was good, despite the suffering, to not have to take them anymore!) Akathisia persists but not as badly, sleep is still minimal…night terrors still occur on occasion. Tinnitus is loud and I had it for years never knowing what was causing it. The sad part is my Sister told me “people come off meds all the time, I guess I don’t understand.” and walked away. My neighbors had no sympathy and have judged me horribly and some even dictate how fast I should be ‘getting better’ and getting angry when I set boundaries so they don’t call all times of the day or night or come banging on my door. (one woman bangs so loud you’d think it was a police bust!!!) I have been told some are saying I had a nervous breakdown or have a mental illness!! That hurts!
    I am so very sorry for anyone having to endure withdrawals from these doctor prescribed poisons!!! I have a long way to go before I’m healed and the last 11 years of my life have been rough to hellacious! Please, never take these drugs for any time longer than one week. They are NOT meant for long term use. Research the harm they can do YouTube.com has hundreds of videos of damaged people warning against the hell they bring into one’s life!! Beware!!!

  10. I have been on a decline from 80mg of diazipam per day and am at 15mg. Since I got below 20 I am experiencing the worst nightmares I can even begin to explain, Ben is are there ugh work, a lot of my withdraw is hidden I believe as I am also on 2mg of subutex per day for hospilisation morphine dependence.

  11. Tom Torkington

    I have been on a relatively low rose of.25mg clonazepam everyday roughly for about one year. I too am experiencing neck stiffness/head pain that is pretty intense. And some burning behind the eyes. As well as some resulting psychological issues resurfacing.

  12. Jim Bostick

    I was taking 0.5 mg Xanax 3 to 4 times a day for about 3 to 4 years. During that time a was also drinking alcoholic beverages on a regular basis. I decided to taper off Xanax after that period by decreasing my dose 10% per month from the previous months dose. It was a challenge. The withdrawal symptoms I struggled with were physical anxiety, irritability, paranoia, and depression. Sometimes they were overwhelming. It would take about a month for the symptoms to gradually reside but by then it was time to taper down again. After about 2 and a half years of tapering off, I finally laid the Xanax down completely. It has been about a year and a half since then. However, I have still have struggled with physical anxiety and irritability. There are moments I cant stand the feeling of being in my own skin. I would drink a beer or two to resolve feeling that way for that moment in time but I noticed the next day after doing so I would feel much more irritability and anxiety as a result. So I quit drinking all together. I can say that staying busy – keeping my mind occupied makes a difference in combatting these unwanted feelings. I noticed in the mornings when I first wake up and on the weekends when Im not working is when I struggle with it the most. So I make sure I have things to do. Also I started exercise daily which I think made a big difference. I starting riding a bicycle for 1 hour every day and I felt better. There were periods of a week that I put off riding my bike and I noticed the uncomfortable feelings returned so it verified the exercise made a big difference.

  13. Joseph Arsanis

    I have used Valiums sparingly for 3-4 years, no additions until March 2020 – Aug 2020 I was using about 23 Valiums 10mg each month for 5.5 months, I just learned about Benzo Withdrawal. I asked VA Dr I want to taper down, she said wait another 6-12 months because your doing good now so keep using Valiums. I could not believe the Psychiatrist told me to continue taking them daily for another year then taper. Does that make any sense ?? I will be asking patient advocate for a new Psychiatrist. Anyone have comments?
    I thought I would taper 1/2 mg of Valiums each 15 days until finished. Will I still suffer the numerous side effects that I continually read about?
    No other pills but Valiums, so just I pill to taper down. Thanks 8/19/2020 if having withdrawal problems with Valium can I take 1-2 to calm down? If I do does it change my tapering off method of 1/2 mg every 15 days!

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