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What your doctors won’t tell you about benzo withdrawal

The Huffington Post recently published one view about benzos. But it’s missing the patient experience. Here’s another view, with a section at the end for your comments, questions, and general feedback. (If you write us, we’ll try to respond to you personally!)

Benzo awareness is coming of age

Alexander Zaitchik shoved the dangers of benzodiazepine into the spotlight with his edgy article “Is It Bedtime For Benzos?” re-published by the Huffington Post, June 25, 2015.  I’m over the moon that benzo awareness is coming of age. But the whole benzo story needs to be told, not just the bullet points and interviews from doctors who have absolutely no idea what surviving benzo withdrawal feels like every second of every day.

Trying to learn about benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal from a doctor’s perspective is like asking a German soldier what the concentration camps were like for the Jews who had the misfortune of ending up in one. We need to hear from the benzo victims themselves. They know the truth. Let’s take a look at the benzo problem from their perspective.

The “Benzos Are Like Cocaine” argument

Zaitchik’s article rests on the argument that benzodiazepines are addictive in the traditional sense of the word. Citing a study done by Dr. Christian Luscher and colleagues at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and published in 2012, he posits that benzo users crave the dopamine surge that benzodiazepines, like other addictive drugsm cause. Luscher also claims, “Now that we know that it’s the alpha-1-containing GABAA receptor that is responsible for benzodiazepine addiction, we can design benzodiazepines that do not touch those particular receptors.”

He’s moved into fiction here, because he doesn’t know this to be true (for many reasons, and he’s clearly stumping for more drug manufacturing. Let’s not forget that Switzerland is the home of the Valium manufacturer Roche). Luscher doesn’t touch on the problem of what causes the debilitating symptoms that arrive upon tolerance to the drug, dose reduction or cessation. That’s the real story of the dangers of benzos.

The real dangers of benzos

Talk to most benzo users who take the drug as prescribed by their doctor and you’ll hear a much different story than chasing a surge of dopamine. They are trying to stave off what feels like (and could actually be) death and insanity.

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Benzo users don’t crave the drug the way one would crave, say, cocaine. They are addicted because the drug causes changes in the GABA receptors (and who knows what else) that cause he following when you reduce the dose:

  • extreme anxiety
  • terror
  • fear
  • paranoia depersonalization
  • derealization
  • panic

If those nightmare symptoms aren’t enough to make you think twice about getting on a benzo then think on this: Going through withdrawal from benzos can cause pain throughout the body: bones, joints, muscles and nerve endings scream in protest. Still not convinced that benzos are the devils doing? On top of the emotional and physical anguish, benzos cause debilitating problems with:

  • vision
  • hearing
  • taste smelling
  • skin
  • digestion
  • balance
  • walking
  • memory, and cognition

Wait. There’s more. The bladder, bowel, heart, stomach, esophagus, uterus, and other organs, and systems can be prey to benzos havoc. Oh, and not to mention auditory, olfactory and visual hallucinations.

Reduce the dose or remove the drug to provoke detox from benzos, and you enter a Faustian world where you will do anything to feel normal. But normal is a long ways away, and there is nothing — no pill or potion – that can reverse the damage the drug has caused. The only cure is time. A lot of time. Sometimes years. Benzo withdrawal makes craving heroin look like child’s play. Seriously.

Let’s get the timeline straight, and other truths

TRUTH #1. Benzo withdrawal can take years.

Recovering from the damage that benzodiazepines cause takes longer than the few months cited by Zaitchik’s source, Rev. Jack Abel, a rehab therapist who runs the sleep program for Caron Clinics. Recovery from benzo use can take years. Many, many years.

TRUTH #2. Benzos damage the brain BEFORE withdrawal even begins.

Zaitchik shares integrative medicine physician, Dr. Peter Madill’s, sentiment that if one removes the drug too quickly the brain, “thinks it is being injured…” I’ll go out on a limb and say that the benzo damaged the brain long before the drug was reduced or removed.

TRUTH #3. Stop prescribing benzodiazepines for more than a few days and there is no withdrawal.

Madill wants more research into drugs that can augment the withdrawal process. That seems backwards to me. I’d rather see the time and energy devoted to banning the use of benzos for more than a few days. Stop the benzos and you won’t have a population of people suffering in benzo withdrawal. There won’t be a need for time and energy researching ways to alleviate their suffering.

TRUTH #4. Benzo withdrawal unravels your life.

Madill argues that benzo users don’t destroy their lives in dramatic fashion, say, like heroin or methamphetamine users are prone to do. Benzo users function just fine, usually. We go to work and raise families. But when tolerance to the drug hits and our brains and bodies need more to stave off the horrific withdrawal symptoms, our lives begin to fray around the edges. Reduce or remove the drug and they unravel, sometimes completely. We are often unable to take care of even the most basic of survival needs in benzo withdrawal. Suddenly heroin or meth addicts seem high functioning in comparison. (I know. I lived it. For years.)

TRUTH #5. Benzos don’t just disempower you; they can kill you.

Dr. Jason Eric Schiffman, the director of UCLA’s Dual Diagnosis Program balks at benzos because he believes they create a sense of disempowerment. Feel anxiety, take a pill. You don’t learn to cope with anxiety. I agree that learning to stand up to the bully called anxiety is a grand idea. Schiffman misses the point though. The danger isn’t that the pill will disempower you. No, the very real danger is that the pill may kill you. And if it doesn’t kill you, you’ll wish it had when you start the long and arduous battle of fighting for your life and your sanity when you try to divorce yourself from it.

We’re barking up the wrong trees

Not to sound ungrateful. I’m pleased Zaitchik wrote a gripping piece to bring more light to the benzo problem. I just want the deeper, darker truth to stand in the spotlight along with his arguments.

Benzodiazepines kill people. They can totally obliterate people’s lives when they try to stop taking them. Granted, not every benzo user will experience extreme benzo withdrawal, but a good proportion will. Benzos are dangerous at any dose and even when used for a few days (not two years, as Rev. Abel believes). Poll a group of benzo survivors and you’ll hear horror stories from people who took them for a handful of days, and then took years to heal.

Benzodiazepines destroy lives. That’s the bottom line. For those of us in the trenches healing from their damage, we are busy trying to put our lives back together again from the debilitating emotional and physical symptoms benzo withdrawal causes. Add in the bankruptcy, abandonment, divorce, and homelessness that withdrawal can cause, and you understand our grumbling when the media doesn’t portray the real reasons why benzos are dangerous.

Bedtime for benzos

Zaitchik writes that it’s remarkable that it’s taken so much time for the conversation about benzos to take place in the U.S. I agree. The conversation has been ongoing for decades in the U.K. Dr. Heather Ashton, who for years, ran a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic, is the leading expert in benzo withdrawal. She is often scorned here in the United States as a “kook.” It’s hard to have a conversation with doctors who don’t even want to acknowledge one of their own. I’m regularly copied on emails that are part of an ongoing legal battle in England with regards to these drugs. The powers that be continue to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the problem.

The benzo problem is hiding in plain sight

Take a look at the people who are suffering through benzodiazepine withdrawal and you’ll see the truth. You’ll see shattered lives. You’ll see people who can’t go on another day and end their lives because the suffering in benzo withdrawal is too much for any human being to bear. You’ll rethink what addiction means. You’ll rethink what the Hippocratic oath means. Doctors are maiming and killing people with the stroke of a pen, and very little is being done to stop them.

We need the truth to be told. Mainstream media needs to listen to another perspective of the dangers of benzodiazepines. Perhaps then more doctors will listen. Perhaps then it will finally be bedtime for benzos.

Photo credit: Pressmaster

Leave a Reply

86 Responses to “What your doctors won’t tell you about benzo withdrawal
Sandy
2:19 pm July 8th, 2015

I’m so grateful for this reply to the article. I finally feel validated. I’ve been tapering for 2 years and 1 month from taking .25 mg of Xanax at night for sleep. I never took more than the prescribed dose. I did that for about 18 months before I built up a tolerance to the drug. I was switched over to Valium and I’m now at 3.5 mg a day. I have been on the Valium longer than I was on the Xanax! What’s up with that? will I ever be free of this drug and the horrific symptoms? Thanks Dr. Leigh for advocating for those of us who are trying to heal from this dangerous drug.

Elizabeth
5:31 pm July 8th, 2015

This is an honest assessment of what benzos are and what they do. I do not understand that after all this time doctors are not aware of what this drug really does to people. There is no excuse. Thank you for your needed work in informing the medical community about the truth and I hope things will change. The aftermath from benzos is much worse than any condition it was prescribed for.

Karen
5:56 pm July 8th, 2015

I was prescribed Xanax after a bad reaction to Wellbutrin. I got addicted on a small dosage in a very short time. (2 -3. Weeks). Never did the Psychiatritrist tell me it was addictive. I was switched over to Clonazepam, a longer acting Benzo. I hated being on the drug, I just did not feel like myself at all. I started on a long slow taper off of it. I experienced severe anxiety, horrible insomnia, cognitive impairement,extreme fear, took all the pleasure out of my life, threw me in a deep dark depressive hell, I wanted to,end my life, it was unbearable feeling this way, not being able to function, do what I used to do, I used to be be a talented artist, I could not even plan a grocery list, go,shopping, much less be inspired and plan out and design a painting.. I had no social life, lost a lot of friends, almost my marriage.( puts so much stress on a relstionship) I also experienced sore stiff neck, depersonalization, derealization, could not drive , work. After the first taper I had to reinstate due to extreme unbearable anxiety, it’s horrible when you do not have your GABA working in your brain, your CNS is just so raw, could not take loud noises, bright lights, go,to movies, crowded places,. None of the doctors, emergency room staff knew how to treat me,all they could offer is more drugs!. I did go on on a shorter taper and got off. I am now 29 months off today, finally being able to get my life back, feel like myself, do art again. The only ones that I trust are the people who have gone through this and recovered. That is what kept me going knowing and hearing from these people that you do heal. It really is Benzo Hell, a desent into so much unbearable suffering for a long time, so people do not make it, take their own lives. I almost did. No one should suffer this. The world needs to hear the stories. It time for responsible to,be held accountable!

Michele
1:40 am July 9th, 2015

Thanks Jennifer. I was rxd for insomnia caused by anither Rx med, (the polypharmacy blues). I never got any feel good effects although reliably being able to sleep again reinforced taking what I thought were relatively benign meds. I never increased my low dose or craved the benzos.

At 3 years post withdrawal, i know that my cognitiion was adversely effected even though I thought I was fine. Not knowing better, I quit cold turkey & found myself bedridden with extreme hypotension & POTs plus the benzo flu.

I was very fortunate not to have the anxiety, depersonalisation & depression that is common but even the simplest paperwork would overwhelm me. it was very depressing to deal with being completely incapacitated when I had always been very fit. The financial ramifications of being unable to work for 2 years mean that my retirement date has been pushed back 10 years.

Once I started to get some windows of relief, the random nature of the healing path was crazy making, it was impossible to make plans because I could never predict when I would be well.

My doctors refused to attribute the symptoms to benzos & I was dxd with CFS. One MD said you must be unusually sensitive to the drug.

The lack of recognition by the medical profession lead to friends & family thinking it was all in my head & there were some hurtful exchanges even though I know they were informed by the prevailing ethos that benzos are only a problem for addicts.

I have friends with cancer & i am so happy that they are getting the support they badly need but being a benzo victim is a lonely & stigmatised place to be. I have to account for my lost time in the employment market & being honest would undoubtedly be a direct path to the reject pile.

Thank you for all you do to raise awareness.

Haley
2:19 am July 9th, 2015

Coming off even 0.5 mg (1/4 the dose my doctor wanted me to take!) has been a nightmare! I am 3 months into the weaning off process and see another month to detox safely. Initially, i didn’t even think about side effects in coming off 0.5 mg. It wasn’t until I was complaining to a friend about how terrible I was feeling and she educated me on benzo withdrawal. I immediately went back on the full dose I had been taking and begun the slow taper. I would tell anyone who will listen that benzodiazepines are pure poison!

Elizabeth
3:21 pm July 9th, 2015

No sleep again last night! After eight weeks of sleeping only every other night , that is what I get after quitting my .25 mg dose of Xanax. I was prescribed this drug to take every day “as needed” for “sleep”! I was never given any warning and no information; never informed about what this drug does to the brain’s receptors. It seems archaic that in this day and age, this could happen. Although my prescription had a refill for three months, l only took it for a month, but the problems it has caused and it is not over yet.

Elizabeth
3:21 pm July 9th, 2015

No sleep again last night! After eight weeks of sleeping only every other night , that is what I get after quitting my .25 mg dose of Xanax. I was prescribed this drug to take every day “as needed” for “sleep”! I was never given any warning and no information; never informed about what this drug does to the brain’s receptors. It seems archaic that in this day and age, this could happen. Although my prescription had a refill for three months, l only took it for a month, but the problems it has caused are great and it is not over yet.

Dee
6:33 pm July 9th, 2015

I’m so grateful to Dr. Leigh for writing this. She knows the truth about benzo drugs, having lived through the horror herself for years.

I no longer trust doctors to tell me the truth when it comes to drugs. I will always look at them with a skeptical eye after what I’ve been through with benzo drugs. I was told that in one month, max, I would be done with withdrawal. That was over a year ago, and I’m nowhere near healed. My head is still “off.” I feel unsteady. I’m a shell of what I once was. Financially it’s been an absolute nightmare, as I haven’t been able to work because of continued dizziness.

There are those who excuse doctors’ ignorance about benzo drugs, saying that they didn’t receive enough information about them in medical school. If that’s the case, why are they even prescribing pills they have little knowledge about? It makes no sense at all. Interactions between benzos and other pills can delay the process of healing. Doctors, not being aware that a person is in benzo withdrawal, will often add more and more drugs on top of an already extremely sensitized nervous system, setting off a cascade of very unpredictable and extremely frightening symptoms.

Doctors’ continued ignorance and cavalier attitude relating to benzo drugs has got to end. I’m absolutely floored that their ignorance has carried on for over 50 years now. How can this be? .

And it’s not just the elderly who are having problems with benzo drugs. At all ages there are extreme withdrawals that can last many months and years.

Thank you, Dr. Leigh, for telling it like it is.

Madelon
7:05 pm July 9th, 2015

Thank you for this article….
I lived this nightmare myself from 1984 with the start of the first prescription and 8 years later with three withdrawals after tolerance had set in. In those years information was difficult to find and my doctors insisted that the problem was within me and certainly not the Rivotril. Due to a lack of proper information, I ended up in all the wrong places like Detox, Rehab for harsh addicts to illegal substances and Psych wards. With over 100 withdrawal symptoms all at once, it is a wonder I survived the ordeal. I often wanted to die due to the horrid pain these symptoms caused me, all day, everyday, for many years. Friends and family washed their hands off me, believing I was over dramatizing, asking for pity and attention, a pillpopper, a mental case. One even had the nerve to say ” We have always known there was something wrong with you”. They urged my husband to divorce me. I was lucky to find people in the UK and New Zealand who told me this was not me but the drug and accompanied me on my climb back to health which took more than 10 years to become someone resembling what I thought was ME. Today, my life is good and I am thankful I did not act on the urges to do the unthinkable…however, forgiveness and forgetting is slow…if ever. I lost my best years, I don’t remember raising my children or the people I met during my benzo years. For too many, these drugs destroy lives and health and it takes the rest of one’s life to recover.

Ron
11:12 pm July 9th, 2015

I Have been on klonopin Since 1995, I was told this drug was safe and non Addicting , Like Xanax and the others , I am Living in Hell right now , Wishing the lord would just take me out of this Misery .. I went to a Detox several times and was taken of the Drug ct. Doctors had no clue what they where doing , I am now 57 years old and trying to do a taper and Feel like I am going crazy. I Came off Suboxone 3 months ago, on top of all this Hell..

MMC
11:41 pm July 10th, 2015

Great article! You nailed it. Benzo w/d is a horror story from hell and most of us who have gone thru it were given it by doctor’s we trusted. We never abused it, never craved it, and were told it was harmless. I was given Klonopin daily b/c I had cognition problems, dizziness, anxiety and nausea. Turns out I was insulin resistant. But benzos already damaged by entire body by the time I figured that out. These drugs are causing untold misery and suffering…destroying lives. Yes, if you need a benzo for one or two night (tops) due to a trauma then fine. But other than that, they should be off the market.

The suffering I endured was horrific. At seven years off a cold turkey from K in 2008, I am still not able to work full time and am mostly housebound. The psych drugs poison and damage the entire body: cns, brain, muscles, gut, thyroid, adrenals, hormones etc. Who in their right mind thought that taking a neurotoxin on a daily basis would heal anything?

Thanks for this awesome article. The ugly truth about benzos has to get out there! God bless you for speaking it.

Larry
1:30 pm July 11th, 2015

The horrible interdosal and withdrawal symptoms the Dr. Leigh discusses are true and it seems totally ignored. A drug like this used for sleep? It is hard to believe that could even happen, but I know it does and all the horrible results outlined here. It is low dose usage and causes huge problems.

mary
9:14 pm July 11th, 2015

I cold turkeyed off klonopin after decades of ativan and other benzos.. It’s been a month and a half now. I projected vomited everywhere for days. Joint pain unbelievable pain. I did Not drink for 5 days. I also did not sleep sat on my bed and did not move or speek..I did not know anything. I could of killed myself, had a seizure which I already had, I welcomed death. No such luck lol
I am much better now and had no brain damage. Still have drenching sweats and my nerves feel shot. My psyce Dr.said withdrawal symptoms could go on for a year..so now I warn everyone..everywhere to stay away !!! SSRIs which I am on too and something to help with sleep. SSRIs, antidepressants.. Are highly addictive too ! They should all have black box warning… I do want to see laws changed and want info to know where that info is at. Lastly, remember decades ago your doctor knew he was addicting you but, we become repeat patients..guareented money for your Dr. And pharmacy, and big pharma…hhmmm wonder what the next drug is coming.. It’s a game they play..at the expense of our suffering…

Pat
12:18 am July 13th, 2015

My comment is on Truth # 3. I think it is sensible to want research into drugs that can augment the withdrawal process. I think it is unreasonable to think that benzos will ever be banned. Pie in the sky thinking, money wins out every time. Look at the history in the U.K., the years, lawsuits, money spent. I am all for banning benzos (I suffer daily tapering off of them) but it’s not going to happen, so having something to help people get through the withdrawal as Madill suggests would be a much needed blessing.

jocelyn
12:58 am July 13th, 2015

I was prescribed a high dose for five years. I put myself in detox and went off cold turkey. I hallucinated for six months. I was hospitalized twice (no relief,). I am 2.5 years out and just finally able to sleep. I lost my kids and became a raging alcoholic after a time. The agony is indescribable. The lack of understanding from my loved ones caused severe abuse and PTSD. Benzos have basically destroyed my life.

Lysa
9:01 am July 13th, 2015

WOW…FINALLY something real and truths told.

I am 6 months out of the most HORRIFIC experience of my lifetime. Benzo WD. I am still healing, 6 months later and praise God everyday I lived through it. EVERY single issue you listed and then some, I battled thru. I am still amazed I lived thru that hell! These drugs should be illegal and if not illegal, than a VERY noted warning and Dr’s taught to inform their patients before they are EVER allowed to send a benzo RX out their doors.
I think Hell would be a place of calm, compared to what I went thru.
It’s absolutely criminal that these drugs are being prescribed, without any info given to what the potential VERY serious risks are. My Dr NEVER said a word…just wrote out the script, telling me it would help with my anxiety and to get better sleep.

INSANE, this almost took my life and I clawed my way out of total hell trying to survive it all and am still trying to get my life back. I feel I’m forever damaged, but I am hopeful T I M E will heal me, just more time…

Anthony
6:43 am July 19th, 2015

My aunt took Xanax for 40 years, quit cold turkey and had no withdrawal. Maybe this is rare. My point… long term benzo addiction, while quite real and horrid for some, may not be as bad for others. I believe it is being and has been exaggerated. SSRI (antidepressant) withdrawal and addiction is a huge problem, yet given little to no attention. It might be the biggest addiction issue we face as a nation in the coming years. Anti-psychotics aren’t any safer or understood.

The biggest reason benzos are getting such a bad reputation now (I acknowledge they can be bad) is because it cuts into HUGE profit margins of SSRI manufacturers. Just google SSRI withdrawal and you’ll see the problem. Those same manufacturers also spend millions lobbying against marijuana legalization for the same reason.

I have watched this pattern emerge and grow for 30 years. When Big Pharma made big profits from benzos they were touted as a God-send and safe. Now when the profit has shifted, so has the rhetoric. And as dangerous and addictive as SSRI’s are, they are now the newest Godsend according to the TV advertisements.

Pat
10:16 pm July 19th, 2015

i agree with everything, but I question truth #3. Of course, banning benzos would be the ideal solution, but that’s not going to happen. Look at the long, hard ,expensive fight the U.K. Has put up for years. It’s all about the money. I think putting money into researching for an adjunct for a drug to help people withdrawing from this poison is a stellar idea. And,of course, the effort to ban them could still go on. Like maybe that adjunct could be developed in 10 years and the ban could take 20 years, that’s an awfully lot of misery that could be eliminated or lessened between year 10 and year 20. The drug companies would be amazed at how much money they could make since they seem to be ignorant about all the pain and ruined lives these drugs cause. I say let’s do both.

Liz
5:15 pm July 21st, 2015

I have recently wondered if drs. prescibe the first benzo, in order to begin a life of drug use for the patient as “more” drugs are often, then prescribed, for the insufferable withdrawal syptoms: ie: antidepressants and OTC drugs for sleep. I have put benzos and antidepressants on my list of allerigies! in an effort to prevent any further such prescriptions.

Dr. Jennifer Leigh
5:28 am July 25th, 2015

Pat I hear your logic on number three. My concern is anything that changes the brain seems to have a high price to pay at some point. If we fight hard enough, we may see a ban sooner than we think. With the internet now connecting victims, our voices are loud and clear. More has been written in the last three years about benzos than the last 30 combined! We are gaining speed!

Alison
4:32 pm July 28th, 2015

In my experience with benzodiazepines, I never became psychologically addicted. I never “craved” the drug. Instead, I became physiologically dependent. I went into full blown tolerance withdrawal where I would get disabling symptoms of dizziness, fear, insomnia, lethargy, dissociation, in between doses of the drug, which I took as prescribed. I became sick while I was on the drug because it was harming my nervous system.

Once I rapidly tapered off the drug, following my doctors advice, things only got worse. The symptoms were so disabling that I had to drop out of nursing school, leave work, and move home with my father. I lived minute to minute for about two years and then things slowly began to improve. I am three years off the drug, and I am still healing. I expect another year or two until full healing takes place. Some symptoms I have experienced (which I never had prior to taking to this drug) include fear/terror, extreme dissociation, electrical sensations in my head, severe cognitive problems (loss of memory, inability to concentrate or understand people when they spoke to me, inability to follow directions, etc.), insomnia, bladder and muscle pain, inability to sit still, the list goes on and on.

I never had an addictive personality, and I was never addicted to benzodiazepines. My body began to rely on them to function normally because of the changes they made to my nervous system. I became physiologically dependent.

The symptoms of tolerance and recovery are dangerous (seizures) and so severe that high functioning people are deemed non functional, and in some cases, take their own lives because they cannot see through their symptoms, and the symptoms last so long, that they lose hope. Not to mention, there are so few doctors that have any understanding of this process and so patients are offered zero validation and guidance,

Ryan
4:48 am July 29th, 2015

I ,35 yrs old, have been taking prescribed Oxosapam 30mg / twice daily for 2 years to cope with severe anxiety. Now i find i need to take minimum 4 a day to keep withdraw at bay. My doctorvwon’t put me to 4 a day, only 2. Therefore i run out around 14 days in out of a month supply, 60/30mg tablets. I go threw withdraw for 2 weeks every month, this is pure hell trust me. What on earth should I do?

Dee
12:07 am July 30th, 2015

Dr. Leigh , thank you so much for trying to educate people about these horrible drugs that should be taken off the market. I am in the 6th year of a cold turkey from 20 years of klonopin use. I am still very sick, with burning skin, paresthesia, neuropathy, cog/fog/, tinnitus, chemical sensitivity. And the worse thing is I have an aortic aneurysm and am unable to take blood pressure drugs because my central nervous system is so messed up that they actually raise my blood pressure. So I actually may die from these drugs. And my current doctor knows nothing about what has happened to me or what they are doing to other people. Thank you so much for all your work.

Betsy
3:08 pm July 30th, 2015

So, I am one of those accidental addicts. My ignorant psych, who is an addiction specialist and also a neurologist put me on 10 mg of klonopin for a decade. I didn’t know what was wrong with me for so many years that I was on disability for more than 10 years. And could not work. I could not think. I could no longer write. Watching Jeapardy was like watching something in Chinese. Just slept my life away. This is what she said to me, “Oh, you won’t become addicted to it as long as you take it as prescribed.” I was a mess and my mom had to fly to my home and take care of me. Hubby gave up on me and left. I finally had to move back home from another state and found a very benzo wise doc that is tapering me very slowly off, with a partial C/O to Valium. It’s been almost two years and I still have a ways to go. This original doctor ruined most of my prime life. Luckily, I have been symptom free. Doctors normally refuse to say anything bad about another one, as they are one big self congratulations club. But my new doctor said that my original provider should have her license revoked. He is anti-med in general. What a pleasant surprise compared to those pill pushers who only make pharmafia even more profitable, as they want life long customers. You ever notice why they never come up with a cure? Only remission that means a life time of meds. And much of that remission is not a remission at all. Drugs make people even worse for what they are being treated for. Look at all of the mass shootings. Most of them were on psych meds. But nobody ever mentions that. Only “gun control, gun control!”

Kathryn
3:23 am August 12th, 2015

Tell me how any prescribed drug that leaves you at 60 years old, after 4 years of wd and another year required at least, without family or friends and your own children, can be said to be of help. I’d rather die screaming of anxiety than now live in this living death.

Carrie
6:46 am August 12th, 2015

I was prescribed both xanax and valium for pain. I took them intermittently for several months and developed odd sensory symptoms with increased pain. My physician wrote prescriptions for consistent and increased doses. When I expressed concern about dependence she discounted them. After a few weeks I developed extreme depression, depersonatlization and derealization. When I called my physician to discuss these worrisome changes I was told these meds do not cause this combination of symptoms. I did my own research, found an online support group and a new physician who would help me taper. It took 38 months to taper 1.5 mg of xanax and 5 mg of valium. I was ill the entire time. I am newly off the drugs and am in acute withdrawal. With these drugs my once active and fulfilling life ended. Some days I barely function. This has been an extremely difficult experience for my entire family. Theses drugs shattered my life but I am slowly reclaiming my world.

Frank
5:54 pm August 16th, 2015

I would hope you will address the attacks on psychiatry and psychiatrists one sees at online benzo forums. I was on Xanax for years and joined a site and was shocked to see doctors being attacked. Some people even threatened them.

Wendy
12:44 am August 19th, 2015

The truth about benzos (and hundreds of other prescription drugs) will never be told by mainstream media as long as the pharmaceutical corporations are paying them billions of dollars in advertising. That is a very sad truth.

Kyle
7:17 am August 23rd, 2015

I agree that benzos are very dangerous, and pretty addictive. A big problem is when people combine benzos & opioids or opiates(pain medication or heroin). Each type of drug(benzos & …, I was going to type narcotic, but I think I will steer clear of that word & all it’s misunderstood legal goobli-gopp; meaning horse shit. benzos & pain pills) has the potential for numerous side-effects. The problem, one of them, when folks choose to combine Xanax or Serax with a pain medication or heroin is that one of the “main” side-affects of these drugs is that they cause respiratory depression; your breathing slows down. Take a lot, and your breathing can stop. If you are passed-out as opposed to being asleep, you will not cough, choke, & suck air until you are breathing again, you will asphyxiate. Die from lack of oxygen. But that’s another subject.
I believe I have typed too much already so in summation I will say that I do think benzos are a serious addiction problem. But just as human bodies have slight differences or large differences, and drugs can have different affects on different people, saying benzos are as hard to kick as heroin or alcohol is like comparing Johnny Unitas & Brett Favre as who was the better QB. They were both great. Addictive drugs(physically addictive) are all hard to quit. There are many people that cannot stop smoking even after losing body parts & such. It’s a hard pill to swallow all the around, and I have had my battles with far too many. I wonder how I am still here to be writing this?

Bil
3:30 am August 29th, 2015

Thanks, this article nails it. I was on valium for 23 yrs. Im now at 25 months off, Im about 90% healed. I must have been in tolerance for about 10 years, looking back. The problem im having now is that its starting to sink in, all the years of being numb, i feel robbed. There needs to be a major shake up in the medical world about the dangers of benzo poison.

Tony
8:17 am August 29th, 2015

Now Im deathly Afraid to stop,Im on 1 mg. of Klonopin 3x A Day,And have been for About 8 Yrs.NO WAY can I go thru a taper let alone Withdrawal,And my Doctor Is forcing A slow taper,But Now I am CERTAIN that I dont want to stop,I been thru addiction on and off my whole life,Now Ibe been sober From Alcohol for 11 yrs. And opiates for 9 yrs.,But Now Im on Benzo’s And Methdaone,180 mgs. A day,The Methadone is a nightmare to get off too,So here I am “sober”From bad drugs and Alcohol,only to replace them with an evil Band~Aid ~I feel DOOMED ~:(

john
9:09 pm September 27th, 2015

“Doctors are maiming and killing people with the stroke of a pen, and very little is being done to stop them”

Conversely, it may be that doctors are causing harm by NOT using their pen. I was forced to go cold turkey from 10+ years of prescribed valium (30 mg daily) as well as d/c of pain meds–morphine and hydrocodone Compounded with several other serious medical conditions, I am a complete wreck…I had to postpone a total hip replacement surgery because of this. I also have small fiber peripheral neuropathy and the very painful symptoms have returned with a vengence. Not much help where I live…thx for listening.

Elizabeth
5:05 am September 30th, 2015

Thank heaven l only took m Xanax for one month— and then– at the lowest possible dose. It was prescribed to help me to fall back asleep after waking too early. I was given a three month prescription, but found that l was becoming nervous and had a tight feeling around my forehead. When l stopped taking it, l endured six monts of only sleeping every other night. Still not completely healed but much better now. I guess time ” does” heal and l warn everyone against this dreadful medication right out of the dark ages.

Pam
1:13 pm November 2nd, 2015

I am also extremely grateful for Dr. Jennifer Leigh and her powerful reply. She absolutely speaks the truth about the horrible, hidden nightmare of benzodiazepines. In fact, I am currently overcoming (minute by minute) a three year fight to be free of these anxiety pills. I face insomnia, extreme rebound anxiety, rapid heart beat, constant tremors, depression as well as many more that I seem to be forgetting. Oh that’s right, memory problems and loss of passion in a once loved profession. I want to now spread awareness so that the next young man or woman that faces occasional panic doesn’t end up in my boat. There’s other options and unfortunately most doctors don’t mention that. Thank you Dr. Jennifer Leigh for sharing your own personal stories as I enjoy reading them right now. Please never stop advocating! This world needs you!

Tony
7:23 am November 8th, 2015

Ive been on and off Benzo’s for Ten Yrs. And I feel fine IF I have them,But I start to totally freak out when Im down to one or two Pills.I know the horrors that await if I run out.My Dr. wants to taper me off,even though Im not ready,So Ive had to resort to buying additional pills to keep up my tolerance.Ive gone thru the withdrawal before and had 4 mini Strokes~Im Scared of going thru the long arduos process of getting off these Devil PillS ~ IDK ~ Lost and Desperate ~ :(

cd
10:54 am November 15th, 2015

I agree the danger of these drugs should be out there and each patient should know fully these dangers before taking them. I also think these drugs can be very helpful if used right. These drugs for the last 10 years have saved my life. I have Kaiser and the doctors there seem to be very ignorant of the drugs.

joey
1:47 pm January 2nd, 2016

my heart goes out to everyone suffering in the wake (or in the midst) of using benzos. a few years back, i stumbled into a couple of cycles of short-term usage, both of which concluded hellishly. suffering that degree of…sheer physical terror – it was like the door to an over was yanked open inside my body, inside my mind, and all i could do was wait until the waves of pulsing, searing electrical heat would die down. i remember being so grateful during those precious moments of calm, yet soon enough i’d entertain worries of when the next attack would come, mixed with the all-too-lovely guilt, self-loathing, defensiveness, twisted sadness.

for all of you suffering, i wish you the swiftest, truest trip beyond the aftershocks. in the meantime, for anyone that might happen to be inclined to do so, maybe spend the worst moments seeing if you can recognize the one thing about all your experience that never, ever changes – whether there’s pain, pleasure, whether you’re young, old, awake, asleep, up, down, in or out – as everything that can come and go does, what is it that’s absolutely constant? recognizing it myself, i’ll just say it did more than merely pass the time, even though that would’ve been more than enough.

Liz
1:16 am January 4th, 2016

I am finally sl3eping, but I still have an occasional night with no sleep and I worry about taking antibioticss, about drinking any alcohol, about a possibility of relapse into insomnia. I took xanax for only a month and at the smallest dose, yet suffered for six months (when I quit) with only being able to sleep a few hours every other night. I should have had a least some information or warning before being prescribed xanax. I “thought” the little white pillos were just mild tranquilzers of some sort. Why is there no warning? Do doctors purposely want to hurt their patients? I believe there is no excuse.

Abraham
1:01 pm January 24th, 2016

My Dr (?), Prescribed Klonopin for my alcohol w/d and to subside the cravings for alcohol, along with other medications.
When I began to show too much dependence on the Klonopin, he abruptly stopped my prescription for this med, and when I told him I knew there’d be with withdrawals, he told me to go to ER!
To me this shows total abandonment from my Dr and very irresponsible conduct! I’ve been doing research about Benzo withdrawal, and frankly it’s a miracle I’m not dead!
I am suffering withdrawals still; insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, I feel like crap!
I am in the process of finding a new Dr, to say the least, but I do not in any way, want to go back on Benzos!
I am beginning my third week without them, and it’s been hell!

Monalisa
11:42 am January 25th, 2016

I have used Ativan off and on for almost 30 yrs. It saved my life, I suffer from serious panic and anxiety attacks. I have never had any off these ‘withdrawal ‘ symptoms. I took between 2 – 5 mg. per day for 3 yrs. when it was time to taper off, my therapist gradually reduced the dosage. Absolutely no withdrawal !! Some off the bigger more recent studies find no physical addiction. Maybe a mental want, but I have never seen or heard of anyone going through this.

Elizabeth
8:42 pm January 26th, 2016

Well, l am still finally sleeping almost every night. I have heard antibiotics can reverse the healing? Certain types? So l pray l don’ t have to take them. I have been completely hesitant about attending church where l could catch the flu, also, l don’t know how flu or pneumonia shots might affect recovery. I wonder if anyone has had adverse reactions ( recover wise) due to inniculations. So l am very carefully living each day not drinking coffee, eating chocolate or consuming any caffeine. So far maintaining!!! But l know Xanax affected more recepters than just the sleep..find myself foggy often and stumbling on words in conversation still.

Madelon
10:27 pm January 26th, 2016

This in response to Monalisa’s message:
Many people on a benzo don’t suffer the withdrawal as we have seen in so many others. Years ago,we figured a 30% only had massive withdrawals although I feel this has become much higher. I can only say to Monalisa she is very fortunate to have escaped the hell I and millions of others have suffered at the account of these very addictive pills. I don’t know what recent studies she is referring to where they found no physical addiction but maybe mental. There is most definitely a physical addiction when the drug has made such brain changes that the victim is too scared to even lower the dose due to the overwhelming and disabling withdrawal symptoms which pop up within hours. Take 1 pill and the symptoms disappear within 20 minutes. Some do have a mental dependency but it’s save to say they are in the minority.

Gena
8:38 pm February 2nd, 2016

Thank you so much for your article. I am currently deciding when to start my withdrawal from Klonopin. I am very, very scared as you can imagine. I take 2 mg per day for chronic facial neuralgia. I am under a doctor’s care. I have been taking this amount of Klonopin for 15 1/2 years. After reading so many articles and watching lots of people talk on YouTube I am so scared. My current doctor’s PA said that I should withdraw because Klonopin can cause Alzheimer’s. Not one doctor I have had (which is 3) in these 15 1/2 years ever told me how bad this medication was or that I should start the withdrawal process.

I would really appreciate any thoughts and any help you could provide. I am a single mom with a 12 year old daughter. I know the withdrawal process will be very difficult for me.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Gena

Jasmine
6:55 pm February 3rd, 2016

Benzos have been prescribed to me since i was about 20 and i turn 30 in 5 days and hate my life. I barely got to my psychiatrist just now because simply riding in the car in the back seat laying down with my eyes shut and covered to go three miles is almost impossible. The shear panic i feel when I’m alone let alone in a car…i can’t work..have no friends…hate my life. Screw the doctors for making my life hell. Now i can’t get help to get better.

Alison
5:26 pm February 21st, 2016

I was on Clonazepam for ten years at 8 mg a day in the end. My psych doctor took me off in a month. My life has become unbearable and when I asked her to help me with protracted withdrawals, she stated she wasn’t aware of them. She continues to utilize me as a guine pig prescribing me trazadone, seroquel, clonidine, and now saffris. How can I start a civil suit against thus agency for destroying my life?

William
10:53 pm March 9th, 2016

I’m 54 was given lorazepam over a year ago by the hospital for my vocal cord dysfunction I never thought twice as it was given in hospital then after a year I decided to read up on it & realised I was trapped unable to come off it I was getting chest pain abdominal pain bloating had clots on lungs twice but no reason as to why my diastolic BP has gone sky high it was all good before Benzos now i get so many
Symptoms i feel like I’m going mad been seen by cardiologist , gastroenterologist, hemotologist all did
Scans bloods etc say can’t find anything wrong but I know it’s these evil Benzos I feel like they’re killing me I’ve got down to one and a half mg that’s from 4 but it sounds very small but what I learned was 1mg is equivalent to 10mg of diazepam it’s a wicked evil drug & my doctor should have stopped it but kept prescribing it. Now I have no life.
William
Crosby
Liverpool
UK

Kathleen
5:58 am March 11th, 2016

Is there any legal recourse for those that have had their entire lives pulled out from under them by these harmful drugs? I need someone to pay for a rehab for benzodiazepine withdrawal. Where do we find help? I’m terribly afraid of my psychiatrist.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:32 pm March 11th, 2016

Hi Kathleen. Why don’t you call the helpline on our site? Our treatment consultants can help you find an appropriate program for you.

Elizabeth
6:54 pm March 11th, 2016

I think that there is much to be said for naturopathy and holistic medicines. In fact the only serious health problems l have endured in my life were caused by medical drugs! Benzo drugs, to me, are akin to poisen.
While prescribed to help a condition ( mine was too early waking), the result of quitting Xanax, was a year ” lost” in misery to very little sleep at all! It was the worst time of my life………..
Fortunately, a year and a half later, l am finally sleeping every night. Hang in there fellow sufferers!!

Roger
12:40 am March 13th, 2016

Does anyone know of a good doctor in the Atlanta area that is knowledgable about benzo withdrawal? I have been off clonopin for 8 months now, and would like to talk with someone who knows what they are talking about. Thanks

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:45 pm March 15th, 2016

Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing your story. Hope other will find your post inspiring!

Tami
1:01 pm March 16th, 2016

I started taking Xanax because I have terrible panic attacks. Being epileptic, my doc doesn’t want that. I have taken them for 15 yrs. There are times I don’t take them for days. Do not have any withdrawal.
I’m sorry for those who do. For those with disorders such as epilepsy, severe panic disorder, they are very important.
Respectfully. ..

Alison
4:29 am March 17th, 2016

Tine for a lawsuit in the US like the one in the UK! Show me the way!

Andrew
7:09 am March 18th, 2016

I agree with everything stated above. I would like to add that an insidious aspect of benzo withdrawal (an aspect, by the way, which is exacerbated by psychotherapy) is that benzo withdrawal is marked by a belief on the sufferers part that he or she “has always been this way” or that this “is who he or she really is.” Also, underlying disorders are often seen as the problem when it is withdrawal.

Elizabeth
10:46 pm March 18th, 2016

It is amazing to me how some people apperantly suffer few withdrawal problems from Xanax. However, for those of us that do —- it is not in our minds. It is not a figment of the imagination. It leaves many people ( including myself) with a brain that ” will not” sleep. That alone, is torture, not to mention the other terrible problems with the central nervous system. Better not to mess with mother nature, and the Benzo drugs ( in physically changing and damaging the body’s receptors) certainly do!!
In my experience, l slowly began sleeping almost every night and am currently finally getting enough sleep. Yet l hope to heal more where my brain is the way it was. I still feel something is a little slow in my thinking and formulating my thoughts, but that seems to be steadily improving too. Things get amazingly better in “TIME”. I appreciate everything ( esp. Sleeping) even more after that experience!! Life is good again.

Deb
12:05 pm March 19th, 2016

It is so nice to see these articles being written. I went through a horrible Ativan addiction in 2013 and there were very few good articles out there. My experience was so bad that I had my suicide planned and I know I would have gone through with it. I knew that I could not go on living in the hell that had become my daily life and if I hadn’t gotten help, I know I would not be alive today. I became addicted very quickly, in just a few weeks. At first, when I tried to stop the drug, I didn’t realize what was happening with the swirling anxiety and horrifying panic attacks. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding and racing. I went to the doctor and was put on Klonopin for a slow taper. That was a mistake! I could not tolerate the side effects of the Klonopin and went back to the Ativan. Within a week I was in some type of horrible withdrawal that I can’t even describe. It was surreal. I would have a good day here and there, but then I would have days where all I could do was sit on the porch and stare into the trees outside. I felt like I was in some type of horrible fog where I couldn’t see or think straight. It lasted for weeks, even though I was still taking a small dose of Ativan. I went to the ER about 3 times and they just told me to stop taking the Ativan. What a joke! I felt like I would die if I stopped it. The doctors told me that the amount of Ativan that I was taking was not enough to cover the Klonopin but I refused to take more and started searching for a way to get off the Ativan. When I tried to reduce my dose I would have symptoms, mostly horrifying anxiety and insomnia with that pounding heart and palpitations. I also completely lost my appetite and lost 30 pounds in two months. I had to force myself to eat and drink as I had no urge to do either. I ended up seeing addiction specialists. I was given a choice of switching to Valium for a slow taper or going to a rehab facility. I was so afraid of the Valium because of what the Klonopin did, I chose the rehab. It was a horrible experience. They put me on a really high dose of phenobarbital and stopped the Ativan cold turkey. Then they tapered the pheno and used Neurontin to ease the symptoms. It was a 14 day program and I had to go to classes on addiction and introduce myself as an addict. It was very hard for me to relate to the therapy because I had never been addicted to anything before and I never craved the Ativan. The classes were all about drug seeking behaviors, but all I wanted to do was be off drugs. Once I was home I started to taper the Neurontin and quickly realized that I was also going to have to endure a withdrawal from that drug. It was pretty difficult, but nothing like the Ativan. It took me 3 months to get off the Neurontin. I was a high school teacher when all this happened. (I am retired now.) It started in early May and I made it through the school year. I suffered all summer and was off work until Thanksgiving. I went through 7 months of hell and missed 3 months of work. If I hadn’t had the summer off, I would have missed those months too. I simply could not function while I was in withdrawal. One of the most debilitating symptoms was social isolation. It was painful for me to be around other people and I barely left the house during all of this. As other people have described, I also could not tolerate others talking or stimulation from the TV. I went to one movie and had to leave within about 3 minutes because I felt like the sound was going to blow my head off. Another horrible aspect of all this was everything I read on the interned. I became obsessed with finding help, but I felt like I just went down dead end roads and the stories were horrifying. I was really afraid that doing the cold turkey thing would mess me up for life, which many people described in testimonials on the internet, but I couldn’t stand the withdrawal symptoms from tapering. When I went to the rehab I felt like it was my last hope before I took my own life. Although the rehab experience was horrible, they did keep me comfortable while coming off the Ativan. Then, once I got off the Neruontin, I was fine. I was only on the Ativan for 3 months and my dose never went above 1mg per day. I think because I kept my dose relatively low and got help quickly, I was able to recover faster. The lesson learned here is that I will never touch a benzodiazepine again for any reason. I have had medical procedures done and I always make sure benzos will not be used. I got addicted so fast, I would never trust these drugs again. I agree, they should be taken off the market. I really do think they do more harm than good when you measure the amount of suffering that comes with an addiction. Thanks again for shedding light on this problem. Now we need to educate doctors because they are completely in the dark about the realities of benzo addiction.

Sara
11:53 pm March 24th, 2016

I have been on Ativan for about 19 years and am contemplating withdrawal. These horrific stories make me wonder, why not just continue taking them?

Elizabeth
3:50 pm March 28th, 2016

For me, it has been 15 months since l stopped taking a low dose prescription of Xanax. I have finally been enjoying sleeping every night, yet am still not exactly 100 percent. Yet l think even more time will get my brain functioning better. I would like to study more on brain foods ( what kinds of foods help the brain?)
It still is incredible to me that many drs. are unaware that the benzo drugs hurt their patients. Surely they “must” know.

Tanya
9:12 pm March 29th, 2016

I was on 2 milligrams of Klonopin at night only and 300 milligrams of Gabapentin at night only I was on it for 2 years I went to a rehab I got off and never touched either substance again I thought everything was going to be ok and it was it has just been a total nightmare since my withdrawal I experienced all the symptoms of benzo withdrawal normally causes it was a complete nightmare I felt she is suicidal ever since the only reason why I’m still alive is because of my son I feel completely and totally brain-damaged debilitated and totally screwed I lost my house I can’t work my son has to be with my mom a lot benzodiazepine is no joke it’s completely and totally dangerous it should be outlawed is responsible for total debilitation for death for addiction and Untold pain for not just the victim but their families their families their kids mothers and their children children lose their parents something needs to be done now it’s not just opiates people are dying all the time and being hurt all the time because of the denial of doctors and the greed of pharmaceutical companies

Lilyкуш
6:57 pm April 4th, 2016

Thanks so much for publishing this article & stating actual facts about benzodiazephones. We all need to be better informed about the subject (especially the doctors who choose to prescribe it): it is such a potent & dangerous drug.

Bill
4:53 am April 16th, 2016

I was taking I think 2mg klonopin for really just mild anxiety, but began feeling oddly more anxious after about 2 months of this. Researched the drug and immediately began a slow taper, which took several months to complete… and was beyond the worst experience you could imagine. You have to experience it (and you’ll wish you hadn’t). Any doctor who lived through this would never prescribe this to any creature. Never been depressed before but this sunk me, serious anxiety over irrelevent stuff, insomnia, nothing was fun anymore (dysphoria). Finally tapered over eight months, then it took about 6 more months to feel back to near normal. After a year completely off klonopin, I feel totally back.. honestly never thought I’d say that. The worst one and half years of my life, completely lost span of time soaked in misery… feel sorry for those who are just beginning the journey out. There is hope but you have to be strong

Laura
1:10 am April 17th, 2016

I have been on KLONOPIN 1MG 3 times a day for over 11 years and yes you can say I’m addicted to them because I am so terrified of not having them. Before my doctor put me on them we tried all kinds of methods to relieve my anxiety and panic attacks. So she started me on the Klonopin. They did change my life 110% But now I’m addicted to them. I went without them once for a week because I left them at my mother’s house while visiting.
That’s like coming off of them cold turkey. It was the worst experience I went through. I went to the ER thinking they could help me and instead I was treated like a junkie. The treated me like I was looking to get high. Even though I was withdrawing right in front of them. I even had seizures. I just want to get off of them But I will have to take something in it’s place. I’m scared and don’t know what to do from here.

Divina
3:37 am April 19th, 2016

I was on clonazepam 2 mg for 20 years because of insomnia. I decided to taper in December 2015 and substituted it with diazepam. My last intake of clonazepam was in Feb 2016 . I am still on diazepam 5 mg. I started getting easily tired in Dec and the joint pains and dizziness happened after my last intake of clonazepam. I could not exercise . I would get dizzy just walking around the mall. I also had panic attacks which prevented me from driving.
It has been 2 1/2 months . I do not get dizzy anymore but I still have joint and muscle pains. I have resumed exercising but I am not as strong and I always have to take a psin killer an hour before I work out .
By the way, I am a doctor and I started taking clonazepam without medical supervision. Did not know then that withrawal will be tough.
I have a license to prescribe benzodiapines but I have stopped prescribing and I now tell my patients how to taper.
I know that it can take years for the symptoms to go away. The joint pains really bother me. But I am never going back to it again. In a few days, I will decrease my diazepam too.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:48 pm April 19th, 2016

Hi Laura. I suggest you speak with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

Silvia
11:26 am May 16th, 2016

I am on benzos, was off for a good 7 weeks went through pure hell, the body ach, the thought of suicide, I went to Er 3 times, I really thought I had something else wrong, all my test came back normal, I even had such seaver chest pains, yet tests came back fine. I couldn’t take the body withdrawal, so I took more of my pain medication, I now am dropped from the pain clinic for for over eating those, I tried to explain why I had done this, yet hearing that I was weening off of benzos just made Dr angry. I now am weening from pain meds and benzos,.I don’t know if I will survive, I am 61 and don’t know where to turn.

Sal
10:14 pm May 17th, 2016

I have been on klonopin (1 mg) every night for eight years. I have yet to experience any negative effects of tolerance, which by now should have arrived. However, I have tried taking .75 mg and have suffered unimaginable nightmares and shortness of breath upon waking. My doctor says that proves I’m not ready to quit… staving this off is what the klonopin is for. I’m a little worried. I know I never had nightmares like this before I started taking the drug, and things are going pretty good for me right now (which my doctor says is partly due to the klonopin) so I’d like to pull out. Also I’m getting a bit old to look forward to a prolonged fight with a drug. Everything I find on line and show my doctor is blown off as “anecdotal” or written by people who have it in for the drug companies. I live in fear that a) my doctor will retire or die, b) laws will be passed making the drug harder to acquire thus forcing a cold-turkey withdrawal or c) whatever is going on inside my brain, whether I feel it or not, will ultimately prove irreversible. Suggestions?

Jennifer
4:02 pm May 20th, 2016

Dear Sal
I have three suggestions.
1. The cut that you took is far too big for tapering from a benzo. One-quarter cuts are common when tapering from an opiate, but that isn’t the standard for tapering from a benzo. if you visit my benzo withdrawal help website, you’ll find a link to the Ashton Manual on the resource page. The Ashton Manual is the gold standard for benzo tapering.

2. Your doctor may not be educated about the dangers of benzos or the withdrawal process/recovery that some of us must go through. When someone reduces the drug and they have withdrawal symptoms such as nightmares or breathlessness, it is not the return of an “anxiety disorder.” The symptoms are withdrawal related. The drug causes changes in the brain, (damage) and those changes are the cause of our withdrawal symptoms, not any underlying “condition.”

3. Make a commitment to get off of the drug. Most research indicates that people on a benzo are unhealthier than people not taking a benzo. The death rate is much higher for people on a benzo. (You can Google this research.) Dementia is a problem for long-term users as well. No one “needs” to be on a benzo for a long time. The manufacturer even indicated that usage should be no more than 2-4 weeks. But doctors keep patients on them for years, and even decades, causing in some cases, horrific brain damage.

Please feel free to message me if you need some help. I wish you the best on getting free and reclaiming your brain and your health.

Elizabeth
6:16 pm May 20th, 2016

Hi fellow sufferers, l have a bit of information l would like to share in that it might be helpful. It has now been fifteen months since l cold turkey .25 mg Xanax. After many months of sleeping lightly only every other night, l finally began sleeping well ” every” night. Then, after almost seven months of fairly reliable sleep, suddenly one night l could not sleep at all again. I began the old routine of sleeping only every other night, but this time l slept fairly ” well” every other night. The good news is — that after about two weeks of this, l am now sleeping every night once more.
As l understand it, this was a wave ( relapse) and not uncommon. So, with this understanding ( that the receptors take a long time to heal), l am comfortable with the necessary situation and feel that the relapse was another wake up call to prod the receptors to continue to know things are not quite right yet, and to continue to heal.
But l am enjoying each day more ( with feelings of gratitude) that the body heals. I read that the only body part that does not heal because of its nature, are teeth. I don’t mean from Benzo drugs, just that teeth don’ t heal from anything! Fortunately there are caps nd iimplant for ” them.”

Izzy
3:52 pm June 3rd, 2016

I’m happy to find the site! My doctors been giving me 2 mg of Xanax for times a day for the past 26 years. I’ve lowered the dose and now down to two to 2 1/2 daily. I want to get off these pills I have messed up my body and my brain something awful. I’m looking for advice on lowering the dose and getting off at myself. Any advice would be appreciated.

Anastasia
5:25 pm June 5th, 2016

I am 5 days off of my finial taper (that took place over 3months with the help of a rehab center) from 1mg klonopin after 3 years of use. this article really gave me the validation that I needed. sometimes I just feel ao alone in all of this. i’m still having medical complications like my liver enzimes are spiked muscles spasms that wake me up in the night (I only sleep with the help of remeron) and some other minor health issues. I am also suffering from a ton of fear based anxiety (although I have learbed a ton of cbt and coping skills that I know without I would be a complete wreak) I also suffer from a ton of derealozation and depression…feeling like I have a huge hole in my heart like even though I have God, a boyfriend and family who love me nothing seems to make me happy. some days I want to throw all of it away and just go right back on the pills because it seems so much easier. I wish more drs would become educated on these horrid benzos. I now try to warn anyone I can of all of the bad things these pills can do to you, and tell them how awful the withdrawal process is. thank you for this article.

Beth
10:20 am June 6th, 2016

It was the only drug that relaxed my muscles. I had a very bad bike accident. Fractured my esophagus and dislocated a vocal cord. Nothing else relaxes the muscles. Servere pain in neck, traps, down arms. NEVER had this pain to this high degree. Terrible I can not sleep a full night. Getting older by the day.i have hyrocoydn 5mg. Cannot take at night, i can not sleep

Marchelle
12:38 am July 29th, 2016

Thank you greatly for this article! Literally as I come from another doctor’s appointment, turning me down on the fact that YOU CAN WITHDRAWAL or have discontinution symptoms FROM KLONOPIN (Clonazepam or me), with the finger pointed at me for “underlying depression being the blame for my body going crazy”, I read this article in tears. I know I am not crazy. The thousands of people who are experiencing this are not crazy. I don’t understand how so many doctors are blind to benzo’s and how they affect people. Seriously this drug is evil and should be banned. Does anyone know of a good benzo doctor in the northern New Jersey area? Even Philadelphia, PA. I am in great need of help because I do think these doctors will kill me because they won’t listen. (I also have a pulmonary embolism in both lungs and 3 deep vein thrombosis in my leg so its kind of important for me to know whats really in pain and what is not) . Benzo withdrawal is a real thing. Not some mystical creature thousands of people have created. I can tell you everything that is going on with me and they still shrug their shoulders and say “it’ll pass. I don’t think you are that bad. Clonazepam would not make you feel this way”. What??? They don’t understand the hell you see, smell, think, and feel every second of thE day. They get to go home and be “normal” with a family they can raise while I go back to “benzo hell”. This is not whining, this is real life, here on Earth happening everyday. It breaks my heart to know that everyday more people are “innocently/ignorantly” being introduced to a drug that will consume your life for the months, years to come. This article gives me hope to keep searching for a doctor or psychiatrist who knows the truths of benozos. So for others out there like us. YES, you can get withdrawal or discontinuation symptoms/syndrome (as some call it either or) from after only 4 months of use. YES, you can get this symptoms after stopping at .25mg after a 2 week taper. YES, you can feel head pressure, extreme pain, even muted emotions. Through my first 8 days of not taking Clonazepam, I could not cry. When I would want to cry, I would feel a fizz, zit, pop go off in my brain and then I would feel immense pain in my head. So badly that I would have to make myself stop feeling the emotion of wanting to cry in order to stop my head from hurting. I didn’t regain the ability to cry again until I started taking . 25mg again after a week due to not being able to bear the bottom of my skull, neck, and shoulder spasms. I’m used to doing laborsist work so I’m no weanie to pain. These symptoms are very real people. I will definitely look up Dr. Ashton’s work. I wish I could travel to her clinic so that I can get off this safely and with I person I trust to know how to do it safely. Would anyone want to be a pin pal with me? This is a lonely road for so many don’t understand, and through learning and understanding, at least we can get through it together. Dr. Jennifer, thank you! I will be following your articles. At least I can get some answers as to what is really going on. <3 Thank you greatly! Try to hold on strong Everyone!!!

jonathan
8:52 am August 2nd, 2016

Hi I’m Jonathan, 44 year old mechanic.
tapering off of Clobozam (frizium) started 60 mg in 2003 currently down to 30 mg
My wife doesn’t understand what’s wrong with me. I have urged her to read articles about it, don’t get me wrong its not that she doesn’t love me but the problems it has caused. I cant work and we are fighting for housing benefits etc. to me that’s the side of it that’s really frustrating and the way I could feel fine for a week and then feel like s*** the following week, there is no pattern, I cant write in a diary “oh Jonathan its ok to go on holiday august the 16th because all that week you will be fine” when I do have a bad day it feels like a bomb has gone off in my head and leaves me with aftershocks for ages. I’m 3 months into my taper and have another 3 months until I’m clean but no one had told me side effect problems can go on for moths to years after………..I am getting counselling for coping with my symptoms. it doesn’t work for me

Madelon
4:50 pm August 5th, 2016

This is a message for Marchelle. I know what you are going through…..did this myself off klonopin 3 times back in the nineties. Prof Ashton is retired. If you like to have a pen pal you can email me. I can’t do it for you but I can at least let you know this is not you…you do not imagine things..this is real stuff caused by klonopin and the likes. Your doctors are so wrong in this. I don’t know if the administrator of this site lets me give you my email address through here. Maybe she can send this you. Let’s wait what she says.

Elizabeth
6:18 am August 7th, 2016

Hi, l am the one who finally began to sleep ,” every” night. Then, out of nowhere and after sleeping regularly for four months, l had a rather severe relapse ( wave). I was distressed, but was advised not to panic— that it gets better. Sure enough, after going two nights with 0 sleep, and a week of sleeping only a few hours per night, l again began to enjoy good, regular sleep again. I do think it takes a lot of time for the brain to heal, but l have a sense of confidence again, knowing that ( waves) occur as we heal….l appreciate Dr. Leigh’,s encouragement and understanding on how is healing seems to work. There should be banners stating ” BAN THE BENZO!”

TxS
12:37 am August 8th, 2016

Hi, I was orescribed Clonazepam and Xanax and several other sych meds and stimulants seven years ago following a life-changing tragedy that is too much to bear. 4 months ago I went to a hospital to as per friends and doctors who oticed how different and out of balance I was. They took me off of everything cold turkey. Now I am in living hell. Nothing makes sense. I can’t perform basic tasks. I’m isolated alone, scared, and a mess. It’s all of the things described as benzo withdrawal and it’s maddening. I was trying to get off of everything and be able to be more clear and handle a lot of messes and now I’m much work. My brain and body are not aligned. Every day is a scary nightmare and I can’t stand it mch longer. I can’t wait much longer or I’ll be out of house and home and my mind. I have no one to help me. I tried searching online for doctors and can’t find someone who will help me. The few people who got back to me are ridiculously priced or can’t see me or are too far. I will not make it much longer by praying, meditating, doing small things and working up to functioning. PLEASE, if anyone knows who to call for help inNYC please tell me. I’m losing my mind.

Elizabeth
6:09 pm August 10th, 2016

It was enough Xanax to cause me horrid insomnia. Plus bouts of extreme anxiety which l had not before known!! I would try to imagine all the people who work night shifts ( as l lay in bed awake all night) and liked to feel that there are others who are awake all night at their jobs. But– darn, l was so tired and this went on ( sleeping about four hours every other night) for around six months. I would like to know, if it is alright to get innoculations ( like pneumonia shots?) Also are there any antibiotics that are relatively safe to take if l ever need them? I know that there are some that Benzo withdrawal sufferes

I tell all my friends and family to “Never take Benzo drugs”!

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:37 pm August 16th, 2016

Hi TxS. Call the number you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

Evan
6:46 am August 20th, 2016

Wow, I have never felt this hopeless. I have been taking four 2mg Xanax a day for 5+ years. My doctor just retired and I have enough bars for less than a week and no refills. I pray that article keeps as many people as possible from taking Xanax.

Summer
8:57 pm August 27th, 2016

Yep, your right about everything you said. I have extreme paranoia to the point where it’s ruining my life and I can’t control. It’s all due to getting off klonopin. I was on it for 5 years at .5 mg a day. The doctors told me it was a low dose and I would be fine. Yeaaaaaa that explains why I’ve been sick ever since I got off. I’ve been off for 2 months. I see a bit improvement but by no means enough to brag about. These drugs need to be illegal! Thanks for getting the word out! ❤️

Peter
1:18 pm August 28th, 2016

To add insult to injury, my wife’s GP refuses to accept that her 2 years on benzos and 3 years since withdrawing can be blamed for her present problems. She’s had blood tests and scans, and so far she appears to have a minor vitamin B12 deficiency. In other words they’ve found nothing. In GP logic it follows that as the benzos can’t be to blame there must be something else (unspecified of course) wrong with her. Naturally there is nothing to be done.

bobby
5:23 pm September 3rd, 2016

My anxiety was present before I started taking benzos. ( clonazepam) but not nearly as bad as now. Benzons seemed to ease my anxiety while taking it, however the withdrawal was terrible. Its been a year since I’ve been off clonazepam and I STILL feel the “waves” of symptoms. They come and go. Somedays its bareable, others its terrible. Can’t stress how dangerous this medication is. Supposedly they stopped prescribing clonazepam because the crazy severe side affects. Hoping it doesn’t last another year…

Elizabeth
9:14 pm September 6th, 2016

There should be informed consent papers before taking these medications. This should be required to prevent possible lawsuits and mostly to protect patients!!

12:00 pm September 7th, 2016

I totally agree with you, Elizabeth. Doctors should inform their patients what happens after stop taking benzodiazepines.

Donald
11:03 pm September 19th, 2016

Thank God for this article and many others I have read recently. Today is 42 days for me and I would have thought I was going insane if it wasn’t for all the brave people sharing.. I don’t care how long it takes, I am in this for the long run. I will keep sharing because everyone who has done the same helped me. God bless everyone, don’t give up. I won’t.

darleen
5:56 pm September 22nd, 2016

hi i was on ativan 1.5 a day for 10 yrs. yes the wiyhdrawal nightmares are true,ty all forsharing. i found this blog today thank God bc i was searching why i feel this way after like 34 months clean. i call it “beingzapped” little worries that normal people deal with zapp me. to descibe feeling zapped its like a my nerves just got hit bolt of lightning nmy nerves thru out my body fry out. i dont drink caffien. is this ever evergoing togo away? it renders me fearful for a few seconds n i feel helpless!

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About Dr. Jennifer Leigh, Psy.D.

Dr. Jennifer Leigh is a Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Coach and award-winning author. She works with people worldwide to prevent and to heal addictions.

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