Do you want to know what it feels like? Have you ever hurt your back so badly that you can't move? Did it hurt so bad that you couldn't even lie down without feeling like someone was cutting you with a knife? Was it a gnawing, throbbing, stabbing, dull aching, pins & needles, deep rooted core pain? Did you try to get from one room to another and the agony was so excruciating that you screamed and wept like a baby? I had that. And I ended up in hospital where they gave me relief. The sweet relief of narcotics and muscle relaxants. And I could walk out of the hospital without screaming out. Well, that's what benzo withdrawal is like. Only there is no narcotic or muscle relaxer that can take away your pain. No one believes you. They think you are crazy and give you more drugs (more benzos, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, etc.) because they say you have an "anxiety disorder", or you are "bi-polar". And you get worse, and the pain gets worse, and no one wants to hear. You know people think you are nuts, and so you isolate yourself. You don't want to be seen like this. Imagine if you had that back injury and they forced you to walk, and no one helped, and they didn't believe your pain was real. And they make you suffer through it for years and years and years. THAT, my friend is benzo withdrawal! And it is real. Imagione: with the back pain I was out of coimmission for about 5 days; with benzo withdrawal I was out of commission for 3 full years! And people wonder why we find it so hard to forgive the medical community and the pharmaceutical industry. Get this: my shrink laughed at me!
Click HERE to access the manual.
Click HERE to convert equivalent values from one benzodiazepine to another.
Click HERE to read one week's journal entry to get a feel for what I went through.
Click HERE to see my actual taper schedule from 0.5 mg Klonopin (10 mg Valium) down (I didn't keep a record prior to that).
Presenting a short, "What Worked for Me" dialog and a little history of my experiences in my journey out of "Benzo Hell".
What Worked for Me
My Journey out of "Benzo Hell"
or... My Benzo Nightmare
By Tony Pirog
Last updated March 9th, 2011
- Cross over to Valium.
There is plenty of information in the Ashton Manual regarding why Valium is a preferred drug for tapering off of benzos. Visit: Benzo Equivalency Charts to determine what the equivalency is for changing over from various other benzos. I did the crossover in two weeks, from Klonopin to Diazepam (Valium), half at week 1, and the rest 7 days later. I began my taper once I had completed my crossover from 0.5 mg Klonopin to 10 mg Diazepam.
Summary of reasons for choosing Diazepam:
- Smooth Taper
- Rule of thumb tends to be do not taper more that 10 percent in any 10-14 day period
- This does not mean you must taper 10% all in one go every 10-14 days.
- I accomplished it by tapering 1/5 of 10% every two days on average. This means taper 0.1 every day, or 0.2 every 2 days, and so on.
- Click HERE to see my actual taper schedule from 0.5 mg Klonopin (10 mg Valium) down (I didn't keep a record prior to that).
- Anti Depressants
- I was on Effexor through sometime late in '04.
- Several months after I quit the Effexor, I began having horrifying tolerance withdrawals from the Klonopin and Valium I was on.
- I was unable to go back on SSRI Anti Depressants immediately because they caused even greater symptoms of panic and fear.
- After going through the entire gamut of meds my shrink could think of, he sent me for Electro Convulsive Therapy which of course failed to offer any relief.
- Eventually, during a partial inpatient program for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at the hospital, being under the supervision of doctors and therapists, I was able to get on an anti depressant and finally settled on Lexapro. I don't believe I could have got off the benzos without the help of the A/D. WARNING!: When in benzo withdrawal, if a patient wishes to start SSRI's they must be very closely monitored by their physician during the first few weeks while the body adjusts to the med. I am absolutely not recommending this option! It's an extremely tough row to hoe, and should not be chosen lightly.
- Go to http://www.deplin.com for more information.
- Simply. sweetly, honestly: I didn't feel better until I added Deplin (a special form of vitamin B9) to my regimen. Without the Lexapro and Deplin I believe I would still be on benzos. Now I am getting my memory back. It works better than it has in 20 years. My confidence: I'm getting to be good at things I thought I was utterly incapable of doing anymore. And my stamina is improving too. Thanks be.
- Check out Benzo Buddies.
- Please, stay away from "Benzo Island." Most of the highest page ranks point to BI, but only go there if you want to feel worse. They try to control your entire taper, and they make sure you suffer as much as possible. Then after filling you with even more fear and paranoia, they will reject you, and spit you out without any care for your pain or feelings. It is a toxic environment designed to massage the egos of the moderators and administrators. They will deny this, but their actions speak far louder than any words of denial. Be forewarned.
- Why do I call it "Benzo Hell"?
There is a pattern in many cases (I am not trying to explain away all "psychological" problems!), and here is how it goes:
- Patient goes to doctor with minor sadness, grief, or vague feelings of depression or anxiety.
- Doctor prescribes some form of benzodiazepine, most likely Xanax nowadays.
- Patient feels better.
- Patient only goes to doctor from now on for prescription refills.
- Over time the pills don't work any more. Patient gets a larger prescription.
- At some point the "med" no longer offers any relief.
- Patient tries to cold turkey and experiences horrifying physiological symptoms of terror, depression, heart palpitations, sweats, rolling panic attacks and a whole host of other physical symptoms that feel like fear. May even experience a seizure.
- Patient goes to psychiatrist utterly freaked out! Begs for help. Doctor tries anti depressants, anti psychotics, mood stabilizers, MAOI's, just about everything in his arsenal. Also gives the patient Valium or Klonopin "As needed!"
- Patient ends up in a Psych ward. Doctor diagnoses him/her with generalized anxiety disorder possibly even bi-polar disorder. Patient attends CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It doesn't help! Why? Because it isn't a psychological problem! It's the body's "normal" reaction to benzodiazepine poisoning. It is physiological at its root. The body reacts with all the symptomology of intense terror, and any normal human will interpret the symptoms as irrational fear. I've seen the strongest men and women get felled by this monster. Check out: Benzo Stories for more stories of Benzo suffering.
- Patient never finds out that the problem is benzo withdrawal. God help that patient! He loses his house, wife, family, friends, job. And he never gets better. I wonder how many commit suicide. I know some who tried, and I know of some who succeeded. (I never cease to be shocked by the way the media trivializes benzos.)
- OR... The patient may or may not lose, house, husband, job, etc, but discovers a web based support forum, reads the Ashton Manual and starts slow tapering from benzos.
- Many succeed in getting off benzodiazepines and healing, and they never have that unnaturaly intense anxiety, panic and symptomology again. These patients get their life back together, and are able to enjoy life again. I am one of those success stories.
- My Story, Summarized
In 1995 I started taking Prozac for depression. I had been taking Xanax on and off the previous 10 years or so. Looking back on it now, I realize that my cognitive skills took a hit as soon as I took my first dose of Xanax, and that caused me to experience more anxiety and depression. I don't remember what made me start the Xanax. But I do know that I lost 20 years of my life to benzodiazepines.
July of ’96 I had a religious “conversion experience”. (It never occurred to me that the high I was experiencing might be from the Prozac. It also never occurred to me that my new-found naivete was due due cognitive fog brought on by benzodiazepines.) I immediately stopped taking the Prozac and my benzos believing that Jesus would now be my protection from depression and anxiety in the future. (It's a wonder I never suffered grand-mal seizures!) I had another massive "breakdown" in July of ’97. (It was actually benzo withdrawal I realize now) I had to take 7 weeks off work before I could return reasonably functional. (I was back on high doses of benzos and anti depressants and still had no clue what was going on.) I was seeing a "counselor" regularly.
By '98, I was on Anti Depressants, benzodiazepines, and “Adderal” (SPEED!) for “Adult Attention Deficit Disorder”. I was taking benzos at night to sleep, and Adderal during the day. These were all prescribed drugs. I felt like Superman. (A cognitively and emotionally impaired Superman as it happened.
In '04 I decided to get off Valium using a super slow approach. I had learned about what was happening to me and I wanted to get clean. I was tapering 2 mg every couple of months. I would go into withdrawal after 17-21 days and then start feeling better after some time and then I could resume my cuts. At 12 mg I could take it no longer. I had quit Effexor (The anti depressant I had been on.) some while before (HUGE mistake! No one should qute their anti depressant while tapering benzos!) and other than the Valium I was drug free.
I had my biggest breakdown in ’05 when I hit the 12 mg low of Valium. In May of that year I started seeing another doctor. I tried to get back on anti-depressants but they exacerbated my anxiety. I was put on the most powerful drug available (An MAOI called Nardil), and that caused other severe problems.
In September of ’06 I had Electro Convulsive (Shock) therapy. This caused memory loss and greater anxiety. I was unable to work for over 2 years after that. I was totally isolated at home until January ’07 when I started an outpatient program at a local hospital. I started anti depressants during my time at the hospital. They started me on a benzo taper, and gave me neurontin and tegretol to help, but I packed those in a while later because I didn't believe they were helping. I was also given Doxepin for sleep. I quit the 50 mg Doxepin some time later after I forgot to refill it and slept fine without it.
Here's a list of drugs I was given during an 18 month period spanning May 05 to September 06:
Diagnoses during this time:
Bipolar II disorder
Bipolar II disorder, mixed
Generalized anxiety disorder
And all this to treat the symptoms of benzo addiction. Imagine how you would feel if you were incapacitated for years due to doctor negligence. And consider this: we have no recourse becuase they pretend it's not real.
Mine is a success story. I am completely drug free as of April '08. My cognitive skills have improved dramatically since I got off. My memory is amazing now considering my age and expectations. I was convinced that I was permanently brain damaged but it turns out I was wrong! Never a day goes by that I am not in awe of where I am now compared to how hopeless I was. I have the cognitive faculties of a 25 year old, if not the energy. And I have a perspective that comes with it. No matter how down I may be, I can always remember what I went through and say, it could be a damned sight worse!
November 29th, 2008: I responded a few days ago to a plea for help on http://www.benzowithdrawal.com. Deb was asking for help. She was in a bad way.
Quote from: debtank on November 27, 2008, 10:46:22 AM - "Can any of you relate to my story? Any advice? Kind words?"
Absolutely! It's called catastrophising. And I was the very worst culprit of all. I was going to lose my job, lose my house, lose my sanity, lose my wife and children, lose my friends ... I couldn't face anyone (isolation), was so very deeply ashamed, my skills were deteriorating both at work and at home, all hope was lost, I would never, ever get better, I was permanently brain damaged, the IRS was going to put me in prison, I was utterly terrified 24/7/365. Oh yeah! I can relate!
Fact is now, our expenses exceed our income, I am not paying my mortgage, our credit cards are almost maxed out, my LTD runs out in a few months, we have no savings, my son has DUI problems and depends on us to help him out, the economy is crap so there may be no jobs when it comes time to get back to work, I'm older so it may be tougher to get work because of that too, Anna has possibly had a mild heart attack recently that she didn't get treated, she also has a lump on her breast, I have no pension plan, and if I spent time there's probably more I could add. Oh, the IRS is still looming as is the Illinois Department of Revenue.
I'm not catastrophising! I'm concerned and working to make things better, but whatever happens I will survive one way or another.
You see, people who aren't in the throes of benzo withdrawal cope with stress much better, even if it means ignoring it. People are losing their jobs all over the world without freaking out. They move, they downgrade, they change their lifestyle, they even divorce ... family members die, children get ill and there is so much suffering. But they get up and dust themselves off and move on with life. Circumstances change, life goes on.
It'll happen to you. You'll turn the corner in a year or two and go "WOW! I can cope! This isn't the end of the world as I know it!"
Believe me Deb, it will happen.
My wife just got back from Poland. She visited a very rich family. They lack nothing material. They have loads of money, all the creature comforts. But no joy. They live separate lives, don't share the same bed, don't talk to one another. You see it's not about stuff, or circumstances, but what's inside that counts.
Generally life's circumstances aren't as tragic as they seem. Benzos make it all a thousand times worse, but it's all benzo effect. Remember this: "IT'S THE BENZOS!"
Disclaimer: This will not work for everyone. This is not to be used as a substitute for a doctor. In no way am I suggesting, implicitly or explicitly, that anyone else follow my taper plan. I am not offering medical advice nor practicing medicine without a license.
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