Getting through benzodiazepine withdrawal: INTERVIEW with Dr. Jennifer Leigh, Psy.D.

In this exclusive Q&A, we speak to Dr. Jennifer Leigh, Ph.D. about benzodiazepine medication(s) withdrawal. What kinds of protocols are best practice? Why do we get hooked in the first place? More here.

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Jennifer Leigh holds a doctorate – a PsyD – in psychology and is an award-winning author and spiritual growth coach for people in recovery from alcoholism, addiction or psych med withdrawal. Today, we speak to Dr. Leigh, Psy.D. about benzodiazepine medication(s) withdrawal and invite you to share your thoughts and questions on this topic in the comments section below.

ADDICTION BLOG: Let’s begin with these two burning questions: “Why are benzodiazepines such a widely prescribed class of drug (mostly to women and the elderly)?” and “Why does treatment with benzos tend to last a lot longer than the recommended few days or weeks?”

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: Those are two questions that we who have been harmed by these drugs ask, too.

It is hard to come up with an answer that defends the current prescribing practices, as it has been widely known for 40 years that benzodiazepines are addictive and cause brain damage. The problem is that benzos work to reduce anxiety, pain, insomnia, etc. so they do have short-term efficacy. Long term that is not the case, but doctors don’t seem to take that into consideration.

One of the reasons treatment may last so long is that when a patient attempts to reduce their current dose, they feel withdrawal symptoms, which the doctor diagnoses as either the return of the original complaint or a new “illness” or disorder that needs medicating. Stopping a benzo can be so intolerable, that many stay on the drugs, even though they drugs are making them sick, literally.

ADDICTION BLOG: Tolerance is quickly formed after taking a benzo med every day for several weeks, and then, the effects subside. Why do doctors keep upping doses and continue prescribing to patients?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: When you hit what is called tolerance withdrawal, your brain needs more of the medication to continue to feel any effects from it. What happens is the drug remodels the brain. The current theory is that GABA receptors that they drug interacts with in the brain, are either absorbed into the neuronal axon or they become detached.

No one really knows.

All we know is the drug changes the brain and there are less viable working GABA receptors. That means that the patient will experience anxiety, panic, paranoia, intrusive thoughts, and a host of body symptoms, unless the dose is increased.  At some point, however, even with increased dosages, withdrawal symptoms will not be kept at bay. The patient will be sick both mentally and physically from the damage done by the drug.

ADDICTION BLOG: What would you recommend is the best method to withdraw or detox from a benzo drug?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t practice medicine without a license so cannot say anything here that would infer that I am.

But I can voice my opinion and say that Dr. Heather Ashton, the world’s leading benzodiazepine expert recommends a very slow taper off of the drug. She has a manual called the Ashton Manual that is the “Bible” of most benzo users who want to get off of their medication.

The worst way to get off a benzo is to go to a detox or rehab. Most are uneducated about withdrawal and will remove the drug far too quickly, or they give other medications to help with benzo withdrawal and the medications actually get in the way of the brain’s healing. A cold turkey withdrawal from the drug, or too rapid of a taper can be fatal.

What most doctors and detox or rehabs don’t understand is that once the drug is removed, recovery can take years. The suffering a person experiences in withdrawal is intolerable. A percentage take their own lives to end the suffering. It is important to get off of the drug slowly, so the withdrawal symptoms are lessened.

ADDICTION BLOG: How do you advise families to work together and help a loved one that’s become benzodiazepine dependent and is going through withdrawal?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: That is a wonderful question and I am so pleased that you asked it.

First, it is important that family members educate themselves as to the extreme suffering benzo withdrawal can cause. The suffering is mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. It affects every aspect of a human being-s existence. It is important to be aware that suicide is a very real risk in withdrawal. It is also important to reassure your loved one that they will heal. Reassurance will be needed many, many times throughout a day, for a very long time.

Also, it is important to understand that most doctors are ignorant about benzo withdrawal, so it is best to avoid insisting that your loved one visit a doctor for help, or to tell them that “the doctor knows best.” Usually, the doctor doesn’t know best, and the treatments offered to people in benzo withdrawal are actually harmful. Listen to your loved one, have compassion and above all, tell them they will recover, because they will. Don-t think that their symptoms are “all in their head.” They are not. They are very real, and very horrible.

ADDICTION BLOG: Are there things friends, family and loved ones should avoid doing when a person is withdrawing from benzodiazepines?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: Yes, family members should avoid insisting that their loved one do anything that is beyond their capabilities in withdrawal. We are truly very sick in withdrawal so the suggestion that we go to the gym, or suck it up and go on vacation, etc., really is hurtful and harmful.

Please avoid drama, and overly stimulating conversations, or activities. Benzos stay in the system for a long time and the central nervous system of a person in benzo withdrawal is quite fragile. We need calm and quiet. Please don’t tell a person in withdrawal to stop talking about their symptoms. Preoccupation with benzo withdrawal is a benzo withdrawal symptom. It will fade away like the other symptoms will.

ADDICTION BLOG: Long-term benzodiazepine use can have damaging effects on many organs is the human body, including the brain. You, yourself have experienced benzo dependence and withdrawal. Would you like to share your the details of your recovery process?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: (Laughing) No, it was too horrific. But of course, I’ll share the highlights.

I had panic attacks in my mid thirties. I was put on Clonazepam. I was kept on the drug for 18 years. I never abused it, and took it only as prescribed. Nine years into taking it, I started having strange health issues; my bladder, stomach, heart, bones, muscles… I didn’t feel well a lot of the time.

Not one doctor ever told me I was in tolerance withdrawal, even though I clearly stated that I was on a benzo and had been for many years. In 2010 I was having a lot of tolerance withdrawal symptoms and made the decision to taper off. My doctor (who is one of the “best” in the area”) gave me very bad advice which I followed.

I tapered for 8 months. I became bedridden and unable to sleep during the night. Another doctor gave me Phenobarbital and sent me home to cold turkey on my own. I ended up in the hospital, deathly ill and out of my mind with terror, the hallmark benzo withdrawal symptom. I had almost every symptom that one can have in withdrawal. I was lucky I never had a seizure though.

The 18 month off of the drug was exceedingly cruel. I prayed for death every day. I had intrusive thoughts, looping thoughts, severe anxiety, terror, panic, paranoia, depression, hopelessness, and an inability to feel joy or comfort. I developed bizarre fears and phobias.

My body was a mess too. I had horrific pain in my bones, joints, muscles and eyes and ears. The fatigue was crushing. I also had severe cognition problems. I couldn’t use a computer for awhile as I forgot how. I lost things, and forgot things. I went days without showering as I had developed POTS, postural orthostatic hypotension. Standing was almost impossible some days. I used a walker or a cane for awhile. I was unable to work, and unable to participate in normal life. I felt removed from everything and the only emotion my brain could create was fear or shame.

It took three years for the mental symptoms to go away, and I-ll be four years free this June, and my body still is healing from the damage. I have blogged honestly about my journey so as to give hope and comfort to others who are suffering in benzo withdrawal. It is an almost unbearable suffering. It is primal suffering. And the sad thing is is that doctors are doing this to people, all over the world.

ADDICTION BLOG: Benzodiazepines tend to produce the same withdrawal effects that they are prescribed to treat. Usually, when people stop taking a benzo they do not realize that symptoms can be part of the withdrawal effect. What, in your opinion, needs to be done to better educate people who are receiving benzodiazepine therapy?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: First, it would be best to avoid taking a benzo for any reason other than a one time dose pre-surgery or to stop an uncontrollable seizure in an emergency situation. Other than that, there shouldn’t be a market for them, unless you are in the market for brain damage.

I’m not sure who would be better to educate, the general public or doctors. But if one is currently on a benzo, please know that your brain and body will function better if you slowly get off of the medication and allow your brain to return to its normal state. It’s important to know that not everyone taking a benzo will suffer horrible withdrawal symptoms. We don’t know what causes some people to be able to take the drug with little harm, while others are decimated by it. Don’t avoid tapering off because you are fearful of withdrawal. Long-term use of the drug may cause dementia. It certainly can cause cognition problems and memory loss, along with the terrible benzo withdrawal symptoms.

Know that your doctor may not be educated about benzo use, tolerance and withdrawal. Please educate yourself. There are many blogs, websites, Facebook groups and an online forum where you can get information about benzos and withdrawal. Once you are armed with the facts, stand your ground when you talk to your doctor.

ADDICTION BLOG: When other successful anxiety and insomnia treatments become available, do you think that benzodiazepines will still be as widely needed? Also, are there currently successful treatments out there?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: There are many ways one can deal with anxiety. A good therapist can help, as can yoga, meditation, prayer and exercise. Benzos are not “needed” per se as anxiety is a normal human emotion. It isn’t pathological. Knowing that benzos can restructure the brain and cause anxiety/panic/terror/paranoia, it doesn’t make sense to treat someone with something that can cause the same, if not worse, feelings and thoughts.

I am hopeful for two things.

  1. As we learn more about the brain and how it functions, better medications can be invented to help those who have brains that cause mental/emotional problems.
  2. In time, I hope that the public becomes educated about all psych meds and they learn the inherent dangers in each and every one of them. There are no “safe” psych meds. Yet we all believe that if we are anxious or depressed, a quick trip to our doctors and a pill will solve those feelings. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that pills are the answer and they are safe. Neither is really true.

ADDICTION BLOG: What would you recommend needs to be done to change the benzo prescribing practices of clinicians and healthcare professionals?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: I am hopeful that here in the U.S. that the FDA will step in an laws will be created and enforced so that these drugs can not be prescribed long term. The manufacturers of benzos say 2-4 weeks is the maximum they should be prescribed. (Even that is too long for some people. Addiction has been recorded in 10 days. )

Legal battles have been waging for decades in the U.K. over these drugs, with very little headway made. It is discouraging that profits are more important that people.

Education about the side effects, tolerance withdrawal, interdose withdrawal and the withdrawal syndrome that occurs upon lowering or ceasing the medication needs to be available to every doctor. The dangers with benzos needs to be taught in med school.

There is so much information now on the web from people who have survived benzo withdrawal, it is a shame that the powers that be discredit it, or don’t read it.

ADDICTION BLOG: Finally, is there something we missed that you’d like to add and share with our readers?

DR. JENNIFER LEIGH: I want the public to know that these drugs are very dangerous. Not everyone will be so grossly affected by them, but many, many will be. The health issues that arise while taking them can be debilitating. And doctors are unaware that the source of the problem is the benzo. You can go for years with sub-optimal health, while you are one them, and not know why you are so sick.

I’d like your readers to know that there are very, very few doctors here in the U.S. who are educated and truly understand the damage that a benzo can cause, and how very long, frightening and debilitating the recovery can be. Even doctors, who claim they understand, don’t, and they prescribe more drugs or supplements and vitamins that are actually harmful to us in withdrawal. It really is a health crisis.

I encourage anyone who is on a benzo to educate himself or herself by learning from those who have been in the trenches. They know the truth. They have more good advice than 99% of the doctors. (It’s not that doctors are bad, they just haven’t been exposed to the truth.) People who have been through withdrawal know about kindling, a very real complication that can occur, as well as what foods, beverages, vitamins, supplements, medications etc. must be avoided so the central nervous system isn’t more compromised than it already is. They understand why traditional talk therapy is counter productive in benzo withdrawal. They know what works and what doesn’t work.

It’s a shame, really, that there is such an enormous health crisis in our country, caused by doctors, ignored by doctors, and the only help is from fellow sufferers who have been through it. Hopefully one day, the medical community will wake up, get the message and stop damaging people with these drugs.

Please remember that there is no safe amount of a benzo to take. Just because your doctor prescribed it and you take it only has directed, doesn’t mean that you are not being harmed or becoming dependent on the drug.

Do you suspect that you might have a benzo problem? Maybe you are worried that a loved one of yours is abusing their benzodiazepine medication? Learn more about the addiction potential of benzos, available treatment options, the course of rehab and recovery, and more…in this comprehensive guide on benzodiazepine addiction treatment programs and help.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. All of this information is very good and I have used it to help me with the withdrawal process.I am 4 years off Klonopin and I have severe insomnia and get no sleep.only with Benadryl.Doctor says not to take Benadryl.Melatonin makes me feel bad.Insomnia will probably take me out.I also have very severe dizzy spells and blood pressure seems to go up.All probably from not sleeping.I guess there is do solution for me.I am 71 years old.I have tried everything and saw sleep doctors, did sleep studies etc .Now I just pray a lot.I just try to stay calm.God Bless

  2. I am trying to get of Klonopin – I am taking 0.5 mg for 2 1/2 years and now my phys., wants me to taper off if breaking the pill into half and taking 1/2 of the pill – I am scared of what the with drawl side affects are – can you all help me out – also is there any herbs that I can take while I am getting it.

    1. Cynthia
      I would cut it in 1/4s …one doctor even suggested taking a metal file to the pill, and scraping it smaller, little by little each month…you need to print out tapering proof to show your doctor as they will not take your advice. lol You got this!!! go super slow. Stay positive and keep tv on for company.
      I had to be told i was loved 100 times a day and that co-dependent like feeling is a side effect. It is called emotional dependency . Try to keep positive people that understand around you . God bless

  3. Addictive and harmful drugs are here to stay as long as we have a for profit healthcare system, follow the money.

  4. Annonymous ` Post from July 22nd. God Bless you and so sorry as I feel your pain. Never saw this freight train coming or I would have never ever started!
    And to James – Post Aug 18th I truly hope all is well with you. You were only using this for a short time and look at what the withdrawals were like. Praying for ALL of you on here. XOXO

  5. I’ve been prescribed .5 – 1mg Klonopin for 10 years. I’m trying to wean myself off of this as I have learned so much about long term use with this drug. I have GAD Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was never able to have novocain at the dentist as too much epinephrine over loads my body with anxiety! Any suggestions how to slowly come off this. I would take .5 three times per day, and sometimes 1 mg at night for sleep. I’ve cut down to .5 mg at night, and went without any last Saturday night. Let’s just say this was NOT FUN. I felt like my heart was palpitating, sweating, nausea, muscle aches, extreme headache, and never slept all night!!!! Had no idea this would be so difficult and appreciate all your posts on here informing me of the dangers. Thanks so much.

  6. Hi. I was recently put on Klonopin 1MG PRN midway towards June this year (2017). 1MG was too strong so I would usually use 0.25/0.5 as needed. I hardly abused it but wanted to tell you folks that if you use it more than a few weeks you do build a tolerance to them. I ended up going Cold Turkey on Aug 1st. (not recommended but I did just to inform you folks). I went through every withdrawal symptoms (still have some of them as I write this) except seizures and Hallucinations (Thank you Jesus). I have to work out almost every day/or walk everyday so I can get a few hours of sleep but it is very taxing to the body. Somedays I just sit behind the computer and watch movies or just surf the web to distract myself from the pain (though be careful of things that could raise your anxiety, be calm for the most part). Everyday, I try to pray to God because faith is all I can have at this point. My friends and family don’t believe me either, they refuse to do their research when I tell them. Though God has been good to be me as he allows my mom to go to the beach everyday to workout and swim with me. Only God can truly heal me now, but the point of my message is that it takes only as long as a month to get you into withdrawal modes and the worst part is that I hardly abused it taking it only 2-3 times a week as needed (no BID just for sleep) but it already did it’s damage. So I’ll pray for the most of you but if you are thinking about taking benzos or you are into it for a week or two, stop taking it now or consult with tapering! Like I said, it only took me a month and a half taking the benzos just impact my life. I had to take a month off from work to heal so I don’t know if it is ample time though I do believe the biggest concern is sleep deprivation this drug gives you and so far I thank the lord I’ve got anywhere 2-4 hrs sleep a day but I work in the hospital field so I will need my sleep when I return next month in Sept. Trust me I had my 0-1 hr sleeps in the beginning. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts. I was also crazy enough to exercise lots during my 2nd week. It helped as I got some hours of sleep but the anxiety the withdrawals give you are pretty malicious at times. Any fellow Christians, please pray for me. TY.

  7. Thank you for your effort to educate peoples who got into benzo medication. I had a occasional leg paralysis problem and my doctor prescribed colonozepan 0.5 mg and i took it because it helped the leg problem as well as occasional insomnia. After 1 year and 9 months later, it id not work, so i had a choice to withdraw. I did it but it is a nightmare as you described. Mine is still on going insomnia. I am afraid of night time-sleepless night after another. I dont know what to do. Your article help me a lot. Thank you! We got to educate peoples and i am still suffering. My doctor did not know anything about the sideeffects that i am going thru and recommend a mask. I dont know how long this nightmare will go on but i will persist. I am a 80 yrs old man with no major medical history.

  8. Cheryl Ann. I understand. I never abused or misused any drugs in my life. But I am at the end of my rope. I have tried 4 times to withdraw from klonopin for 18 yrs taken as directed. I am now 64. Including detox facility where I was called an addict and taunted because I was highly educated and rapidly withdrawn. I tried the Ashton manual protocol under a Dr supervision but was unable to bear the anxiety at the end of the taper. I have tried various nutritional programs and biofeedback. The longest I was able to stay off was 2 weeks was while heavily sedated with other psychiatric drugs. I have become suicidal and was hospitalized 6 times where I was put on other of psychiatric drugs which turned me into a Zombie while I was threatened by other patients. I literally have not slept in over 3 years and after working my whole life am on SS disability which causes me great shame as I expected to work for many many more years and I am young. People can’t believe I can’t do simple things anymore or drive since I have a PHD and am constantly in panic mode and can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes. I don’t know what to do? My family has rejected me.

  9. I really identify with your blog on Benzos. I am writing a book on my experiences with Ativan withdrawal and would appreciate your permission to quote you in part or in whole with duly recognising your name on the swcript. Thank you,

  10. It’s sad that Dr Leigh is charging $50 for a half hour phone consultation. My goodness,who has that kind of clout?
    I can tell you from experience the average benzo withdraw period is 90 days. The worst peaking after 2 weeks after final taper. Micro tapering is controversial. Many who have chosen this method end up with serious withdraw even after the taper ends. It’s best to use a slower acting benzo like Valium. Also avoid supplementing. Magnesium especially. Caffeine should be avoided like the plaque I was on 2 mil of Klonopin.I ended up with life threatening BP and landed up in intensive care. Some may need to take beta blockers

  11. I, too will be 4 years off of Klonopin this July after using them with a doctor’s prescription for 30 years. I definitely still have both physical and mental symptoms although I am now able to work again. I cope primarily by isolating myself when not working as even close family members no longer believe my symptoms of cognitive fog and joint/muscle pain, etc. could be from the medication. More than anything I am sad and hurt by where I am in my life now because the medical community continues to prescribe these drugs for more than short term use. Carol

  12. Great blog and so much more faith when listening to someone share their actual experience, not just opinion or statistics, thank you for that Jennifer. The Benzo scam is a fiddle that the pharmaceutical companies cannot really lose; there is no down-side for them. This mass over-prescribing of benzos (and many other anti-anxiety/depression meds) has been going on for so long. It is passed on to our Doctors who have now become the legal drug-dealer and their employers love it. The premise is great: reduce suffering. The negative consequences though are staggering (forgive the pun). Legal moves in the UK, as you point out, have very little effect. It is clear why, the drug companies influence Parliament.

    This brings us to the topic of authority and sovereignty. We place so much trust in “authority”, so much so that it is mis-placed. We go back to the drug dealers to prescribe us with meds for getting off meds. It is lunacy. It is understandable but still plain crazy. We get further entrapped, never daring to get off the hamster-wheel, fueled by fears of deaths and mini-deaths of discomfort. Taking on governments and institutions is not the way forward; it may give us a sense of purpose yet any in-roads will take too long and are usually ineffective. Sovereignty, re-claiming our identity. One by one, and small group by small group. It will involve some discomfort, we will have to feel our dis-ease. But we will break free and we will have an experience based narrative to pass on. These stories we tell speak from our hearts and are beyond fear and statistics, all gathered and collated and presented to keep us trapped.

    Maybe you will feel pretty divided for two weeks, to sweat out the ‘critical’ withdrawal period. Are we not divided now? Once we identify and engage with our highest, wisest self (the one in all of us who loves freedom), there is no going back. We are stronger than our fears tell us. We need courage and wisdom.

    Become the new statistic, tell your story. Listen and discern what is true. Avoid getting caught up in the old narrative.

    Then tell your story, inspire others. Inspire yourself. All the best stories involve beating adversity, not medicating it away.


  13. I have anxiety with a suicidal thoughts. I have been prescribed benzo 4 times. The. First time I weaned myself off slowly with no side effects. I was Med for for three years. Then I had panic attack which quickly led to severe anxiety. The dr put me on Ativan Filofax two weeks only. I experienced bad WD sx ended up in the hospital and put on klonopin. One week after being on klonopin I became severely depressed. I ended up being being admitted to hospital 1 month later and was taken off the klonopin in less than three weeks and was sent home where I went through a horrific WD. I had three months of feeling better and then because of a health scare developed anxiety which led to no sleep suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety. Ended up back
    In hospital after being put back on Ativan and a bunch of other meds. After being on Ativan for a few months developed interdose wd so dr decided to wean me off. Life is hell I have anxiety all the time suicidal thoughts bad depression. Going down by 5 percent at a time and still having bad sx

  14. this is the best thing i have read online about the ‘horrors’ i did not know for the first year that the nightmare was a result of benzo withdrawal (had been yanked off of 30 mg of valium per day in one week by horrible ignorant doctors when i was in the hospital for another issue. thank you so much. i cannot get over my rage towards the medical profession – not so much for having prescribed them for y ears (because of course i wanted them…) but for the dreadfully irresonsible way i was taken off, against my wishes. thank you again. Pamela

  15. I have a brief message for Harry The Troll. The suffering due to benzodiazepines is real. All of us going through this horror are very grateful to Dr. Leigh for standing up for us, helping us through each day of this Hell on Earth, and trying to educate other medical professionals. Debating ones’ degree/credentials is unhelpful, unproductive, and insulting. One of the obvious points here is that most medical doctors are ignorant about the adverse effects of benzos so we have no choice but to educate, and help, ourselves. I am a certified Chef. My “degree in benzodiazepine withdrawal” was earned, and learned, in the trenches of Hell, and is about as real as it gets. I’m currently educating my 19th doctor on the realities of this illness. He’s highly educated, well respected, and one of the top Psychiatrists in the state. He also, like you, doesn’t know squat about benzos. Which begs the question of why he’s allowed to prescribe them. I also question why someone with your extreme ignorance on this subject would feel qualified to comment on it. Please stop.

  16. hello
    I was on lorazepam for 2 years 1 mg a day without fail , I stopped them on 28th November 2016 the doc put me on 10 mg diazepam since the day I stopped I have had a crushing head & cant bend my feet …I have been for a brain scan all good been phsio regards stiff joints in feet said he had not seen anything like it .. I have read and been told these are typical withdrawal symptoms from Ativan withdrawal am currently reducing 1 mg a month to help with the withdrawals I have just started on 8 mg . any advice would be great
    thanks lee

  17. Hello Dr. Leigh,
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    I am a 67 year old man and a cancer survivor.
    I was prescribed two different antidepressants back in 2014, both of which caused suicidal ideation. I stopped those, and was then prescribed Ativan for panic attacks. I have been off and on since then, but in the last year or so, more on than off. During this time I have developed serious muscular skeletel pain. I have not taken any Ativan in 8 days, and have now developed twitching eyes, increased muscular pain and a number of the symptoms you mentioned. I have been clean and sober for 35 years,
    Any advice on helping me with this cold turkey withdrawal, will be much appreciated

  18. Thank you Dr. Leigh. I am on my own with stopping, all my doctors are clueless about it. I have epilepsy and on my last cut from 3 to 2mgs I had a 27 minute seizure. My neurologist told me to go back up to 10 mgs of valium. I did not do it and am at 2.5 mgs. I know your not a medical doctor but I am worried where to do next! Thanks for your blog and all your doing for us.

  19. Thanks for all your help 30 months off klonopin getting better but still no sleep and now having hip and other pains.Any suggestions?

  20. Ok it seems to have worked. I am 67 years old. I have taken clonazepam for approx 9 years off and on. For the last four it has been consistent. I attempted to detox once when they tapered me off. When done with the taper I was still having horrific withdrawal symptoms. A Dr. Who worked at a outpatient program I was involved in told me I may have to be on a 0.5mg. One time a day for the rest of my life. Well needless to say that did not work. Eventually I needed more. Another Dr. who prescribed Suboxone (which I was also on for Norco withdrawal) used my dose. Anyway I went to a detox where they did not taper and here I am 34 days later off of the benzo and all other mind altering medication and am having a really hard time. My brain is making noise, feet tingle, dizzy, nauseous, anxious. I lost about 20 lbs and am way under weight. I look like a Skelton. It is too late for me to go back and taper. Is this going to be a constant withdrawal state that will take years to be ok? Also I do not know what meds to take. What makes the symptoms worse. I take hydroxizine,, Robaxin, dicyclomine, Zoloft, promethazine, as well as magnesium. Also for sleep they have me taking 30 mg Elavil, melatonin, rozerem and trazodone. Oh and I take buspar which I do not like so I’m tapering off that. What meds will cause th withdrawal to be worse. Also I have a hard time eating. Foods do not taste the time.what should I be eating? Sorry for the long reply, I’m just scared.

  21. I am a long abuser of immovane and zanor initially for depression and ptsd after robbery gone wrong where i jumped off ist floor balcony and fractured my femur in pieces and pulled my femur ball out of my hip socket, i was raped monnths later and reburgled 3 day after coming back from rehab. I have spent 10 days in hospital trying to cold turkey these drugs by putting me on valium and
    Epileptin ( i am not epileptic) they just made me feel more anxious. I left the hospital and asked her ( Phycologist ) to keep me on zanor S/R 0.5 ans immovane 7.5 till im not so stressed so i can start taperin slowly.
    I have ever single tolerance and withdraw symtoms from what ive read. I need to do this for my family and my two teenage boys who r at boarding school, do you have anybody based in south africa (ex benzo addict) whome i can talk to

  22. I am in a terrifying situation regarding my psych and pain medications.  I have been on clonazepam 4 mg per day for about 8 years for anxiety; Ambien 10 mg for 8 yrs.;  a fentanyl 75 mcg patch, and oxycodone prn for chronic pain for about 7 years.  Recently the DEA has been putting a great deal of pressure on local doctors to reduce by half their prescribing of both narcotic pain meds AND benzos. SO, I am in a really bad spot. I have managed to cut the Klonopin down to 2 mgs a day, but I can’t go down any further without unbearable anxiety, profound fear, panic attacks,  etc.  I have already reduced the pain meds by a huge amount (I HAD been on 175 mcg fentanyl). That reduction happened cold-turkey style, from 175 to nothing.  I experienced PAWS for a year, until I was so suicidal that I took myself to my County Mental Health Dept., where I was promptly started on Klonopin and trials of every antidepressant ever made. I eventually restarted the pain meds, as they are necessary for me.   Within the last year my psychiatrist retired, and his replacement insisted on a rapid taper and DC of the Klonopin. (The Ambien was DC’d, too.)  This caused me to have a complete psychological collapse. Both were grudgingly re-prescribed, and a slower taper was started.  Even though I managed to cut the Klonopin dose in half, I am not going to be allowed to stay on it, or the Ambien.  I switched doctors, but this seems to be the policy across the state.  I am consumed with fear, I can’t think straight, and I don’t know what to do.  I cannot handle another withdrawal.  Sorry for the long post.   Any suggestions, help, positive thoughts,  and prayers are welcome.   Julie

  23. Hello Dr Jennifer
    I came upon you blog today (I think I’ve read it before) and was inspired to comment.

    I’m 13 days off of Librium, with taper starting in May 2016 at 100mg. I had been on Ativan before I crossed over per Ashton (my Dr insisted on Librium rather Jan Valium). On Jan 3, 2017 I entered a rehab facility in FL at 55mg. I left there on Jan 31, off of Librium. I know this was a mistake and have been beating myself up enough already. I need to move forward.
    I am now fighting all symptoms, on a high dose of Gabapentin and taking Seroquel and Luvox. What can I do now? I’m wide open to suggestions / recommendations. Thank you Dave

  24. Hi did anyone have double vision for a long time almost four years..I do still have eye pain ears dizzy and sometimes feel weird..its been so long im starting to freak out!!!I my son is getting married and I need my vision…so hard to do anything..such a battle. .I do have to say without God I couldn’t have made it this far. ..He has kept me…thx lynne

  25. I am looking for a compassionate doctor in albany ny area to provide help with my symptoms. I don’t take benzodiazepines everyday and am not addicted to them. I have anxiety and depression and the only thing that works is a .25 mg klonnopin. I take 1 to 2 maybe 2 Times a week and they have been a life saver. I need to find a compassionate doctor who can prescribe maybe 15 a month max as I don’t want to get addicted. This is very frustrating.

  26. I am in recovery and want know if this site is ongoing. I have already joined benzo buddies. I am interested in as much information as I can, as well as support

  27. I was put on clonazepam for anxiety for the past 9 years. I was taking 2mg 3daily. I did so much stupid stuff, I had no clue was an effetc Iif the drug. I tapered my dose over the past 6 mos, finally completely off for 4 weeks now. The first 3 weeks were pure hell. I felt like a druggie you going thru real withdrawals. All I could really do was pray for God to walk me thru this & remind myself that I wasn’t dying. I could breathe, my heart isn’t goung to explode, it’s all in my mind. Quite literally it was definitely my mind. I tried benadryl, Advil pm, dramamine, promathizine. That gave me a stomach ulcer. But week 4, Amazing. I feel like a new person. I have energy. I probably cursed the people in week 2 & 3 that said “exercise!!!!” I was doing good to walk to the mail box & back without holding on to something. The blogs I read about it taking months to years depending on dose & ‘length of time were starting to scare me seeing I was on a high dose for a long time. But over 4 days I went from barely walking to going to the gym. It’s crazy. In the early stages I thought I might give in, but it was worth the torture to get out of that Benzo Funk & get my mind right. I’m praying for anyone struggling & hope my story might help someone.

  28. I will make an effort to start posting some thoughts that might be a comfort to those withdrawing and their friends and family. Love and patience are key words to all.

  29. For those suffering, Dr. Leigh is spot on in regards to what it was like when I was being tapered off “8mg of Xanax”. Brutal is to put it lightly but you will recover. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel! That light will slowly get wider and much, much brighter as you leave this tunnel, I promise. You will have a new appreciation of life like never before. One suggestion I would like to mention. If some way or how, you can find anything that can occupy your mind to direct you away from the constant looping of the repetitive thoughts is HUGH! I have a part time job that I go to from 5:00PM to 8:30Pm at UPS. I fuel the trucks as they come in and move them around as needed. When withdrawing (very slowly) from the Xanax I would push myself to work each day. It was not easy by any means. By the end of my shift I felt almost normal, IT STOPPED THE LOOPING! I then would go home enjoy a couple hours of normalcy and make me realize that I will make it back. Then of course, I would ask myself “Why can’t I stay like this and not wake up tomorrow feeling much better”, which was not going to happen. But it was my connection to saneness which gave me hope and strength. Keep in mind, my job forced me to think of my task while also making me move physically. Much like the gentleman that wrote the book, how Starbucks saved his life, or something like that. Think hard and try to push yourself to find something to cause you some obligation to someone else or a job with some simple duties to divert yourself from yourself. After a year and a few months I started to have small windows of normalcy! Then more and more and more. It’s been almost two years and I am BACK! I’m productive again and very very happy. Life is good once again, maybe even better. It’s a hard way to get you to appreciate the little things. God Speed, you will get better, I promise you! Meant to say, I was on benzo’s for bout 26 years, slowly increasing over those years.

  30. Hey Stephanie! I know of no one who is ever told by the medical community the withdrawal effects and harshness of it all. Hang in there and educate yourself without getting into the horror stories.

  31. Hey Stephanie! I know of no one who is ever told by the medical community the withdrawal effects and harshness of it all. Realize the other side does exist.

  32. HI: Sue: I just went off of Klonopin after 7.5 weeks. rapid melts. I was on .5 nite dose and .25 in the day (only once) as needed. Somewhere around 5 weeks I think I became resistant and the Dr. raised the nite dose. I only took .75 at nite a few days with one day going o 1.0 mg.

    When I realized the medicine was making me sick, I asked to go off. The Dr. gave me a crappy taper starting at .375 and going down to .125 over a 6 day period. I started this but had to stay 9 days on the .375. This was before I read all the blogs!!!!! Now I see it was too rapid. I did 6 days on .25 and 1 day on .125.

    Of course my stomach is churning now all night, and my nerves are shot. can’t sleep. How long before you would think I could recover? And get rid of the bowel problems. Literally shakes all night and muscles contracting all over.


  33. I’ve abused drugs for 35years now. The last 20 on opiates and benzos.when I take benzos I take copious amounts at a time then just stop. I’m now 50 and I would advise anyone not to go down this road. I suffer bad withdrawals that can last weeks or months at a time. Effects my breathing and many other parts of my body. Been hospitalised three times since just before Christmas. Lost good friendships and relationship s cause of my own stupidity in not stopping. My advice to anyone,young or old. DO NOT EVEN BOTHER. You are doing yourself NO favours at all. You are opening a door to dependency and years hell and a catalogue of health issues. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Take it from someone who knows.Leave well alone.

  34. Hi, can anyone offer advice on bad headaches/ extreme hypotension of head/shoulders/back……it’s killing me! As is the constant screeching in my ears-10mths seems eternaI.I too was in the dark about what was happening too me thanks to building a tolerance to clonazapam / zopiclone over the past 10yrs. It amazes me the amount of ignorance there is in this country (New Zealand) I wish we had the right to sue. Any help would be great….

  35. Hi, Dr, Leigh. My name is Manny from Spain. I went to my psyquiatric yesterday, and he reduced my klonopin from 1.5 mg to 1 mg. That amount is a 25 % reduction Can you recommend a new psyquiatrist here in Galicia,Spain?

  36. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve never heard another person say they prayed for death everyday. when I share my story about my ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal after 10+ years on it, I share that I had to hang a note typed in large, Bold font that said ‘Don’t think about suicide this second, this minute, this hour, this day’ because, I too, prayed every second of every minute of every hour of every day for a gun for weeks so I could end the mental torture that my Community Mental Healthcare workers put me through by telling me it was ‘just fine’ to abruptly stop taking my Klonopin. And I lost my Recipients Rights case against them for Neglect of Care when I ended up with hallucinations, extreme psychosis & seizures and ended up in the Psych hospital and then a week later in the emergency room. My case was DENIED because of the simple, one page consent form I had signed the year before that said nothing about withdrawal symptoms. So yea to all of us who survived.

  37. An often ignored mistake is believing that mental health counseling or even a psychologist has training to coach benzo-recovery. However, here we need to recognize differences in degrees. A psychologist’s Phd requires far more than a PsyD.
    However, people in severe states seem to crave someone to elevate and adore even as the elevated people aid their lack of education.
    A medical problem requires a medical answer. Slathering on the counseling will not correct the damaged physiology. Many people are seduced into thinking that it does.


  39. I have a debilitating and painful neurological condition and take hydrocodone and morphine for pain as well as diazapam for a severe cramp in my leg. After my doctor retired (with him for 16 years) I couldn’t find a doctor in the county who would fill my diazapam script. As a result, I went cold turkey and not so gently into that good night. Somehow, the idea that doctors in general are largely uneducated regarding the monstrous effects the medicines have is just no excuse. Why isn’t the subject taught along with the other pharmacology courses in med school?

    Five months now and no relief in sight.

  40. Dr. Leigh hit all the issues relating to benzos right on the head. Originally suffering from a back injury, I went through a series of misdiagnosis and never ending prescriptions, including benzos. The last drug was Lorazepam, to which I was on 3 1/2 years. I have never suffered such a hell, and the road to recovery was a series of roller coaster rides.
    My passion is to now join forces for a united voice for change. I have just begun a blog ( of my own to help people self-advocate for themselves and realize that those suffering withdrawal can make it to the other side.

  41. 2 questions ,first so many have suffered in withdrawal over the past 30 years that is would seem enough publicity has been produced by those suffering and their family and friends ,it’s hard to understand that nothing has been put on the market for the doctors or people in horrible withdrawal,to help them.There must have been some ” connected ” people who suffered and would get something in the face of big pharmacy developed and out there. Second question is each year I have gotten worse and have never had a hint of what’s called a window ,so that concerns me that I may never get better ( 33 months off) – THANK YOU FOR BEING ONE WHO KNOWS .

  42. This is a great post and describes the hell I feel right now. Wish MANY psychiatrists, GP’s and other doctors would get this. I feel I am fighting alone 99% of the time in a medical world that is clueless and SHOULD NOT BE!!!

  43. You’re quite correct, Sara.
    In addition to the language correction I would add that Leigh is not a psychologist. Leigh also is a benzodiazepine patient so her misunderstandings can be forgiven. She oversimplifies possibly because she cannot comprehend biological and medical science. Her work is counseling adolescent girls. Leigh holds no credentials to qualify her as a Benzodiazepine writer. I am quite familiar with Leigh. She is a patient and likely will remain a benzo patient.

  44. Liked the interview, but just wanted to note it is redundant and incorrect grammar to call someone Dr. and additionally put the PsyD at the end of the name. One can refer to a psychologist as either Dr. (name) or name, PsyD (or PhD, as the case may be).

    1. Grammatical and errors of title corrections are surely the least of anyone’s problems when suffering the horrors of a benzo. withdrahwal.

  45. Is there a way to email this article? I’ve been devastated by these drugs and would love to send to family if possible. Please.

    1. Hi Kathryn. You can copy and paste the text of the article itself or just copy the URL and paste it into the body of the email message. Then, when they get the email, they will either read the text or open the URL to read it from the site. I hope this helps!

  46. I have been on benzodiazepines of all kinds for 30 years. Just a few years ago I was prescribed as much as 8 mg of Xanax a day! Long terrible story cut short, I’m down to 1 mg of Valium and am coming back very strong. I thought about writing a book about my journey to help educate people but am not a good writer. To those who are suffering, you will get through, I promise you. When you get your first window of feeling back to normal, do me and yourself a favor. Write to yourself that how good it feels and a few reasons why. That window will close and re-open during your recovery. When it closes, that letter will be a guiding light to hold onto! I don’t think there are too many people that have been on benzodiazepines for as long or as much as I have been and I am proof YOU WILL MAKE IT THROUGH ALSO! You will feel such an appreciation for life again. I’m not sure about the best way I can help those going through this but I will find a way. Life will be good again I promise!

  47. I was on 2mg Klonopin a day for years an unfortunate situation that involved me serving 30 days in jail. I was forced to go cold turkey for the entire 30 days since the jail’s policy is that they do not issue “controlled substances.” Worst experience of my life.

  48. Thank you for this interview. I was prescribed Ativan for IBS by a GP and after a cold-turkey was then sent to a psychiatrist, misdiagnosed and prescribed clonazepam (klonopin) and antidepressants for the next 18 years. I then became almost always unwell in some way(s). I cold-turkeyed many times over the years, often while in a foreign country, thinking, “Why would I need antidepressants and sleeping pills while stress-free?” I was always trying to quit the drugs and I believe this has contributed to making my withdrawal worse due to kindling. When over the years I continued to be sick or “relapse”, the psychiatrist would change antidepressants, tinker with dosage and tell me it meant I needed to stay on all the drugs. The benzo withdrawal symptoms came on so delayed and were so insidious, I never connected it. And I was led to believe that clonazepam was innocuous and I should be able to just stop. Benzodiazepines never even seemed to warrant discussion. I stupidly trusted this.

    While tapering the AD’s after self-diagnosing Celiac Disease and feeling some improvement, someone on an AD forum suggested benzos might be my problem. I researched and quickly learned the truth. I realized had been in in tolerance and interdose withdrawal which became unmasked as I lowered the AD. It took three years to taper off the AD because the psychiatrist said the symptoms were AD withdrawal and I should reinstate and taper more slowly. It didn’t help. He did not believe in and had not heard of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Yet, I’m sure he’d seen in many times. I brought and later sent him information and he stopped helping me. Arrogance, ignorance and/or denial? I don’t know. As soon as I raised and split the benzo dose, symptoms (including three years of daily nausea and Gravol), faded.

    I tapered for 15 months and have been off the drug for 35 months. The withdrawal has been absolutely horrific, unrelenting and nearly unbearable. The anguish is mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. At three years off, I am incapacitated some days and less so other days. Overall, I continue to improve slowly. I long for the day I am well enough and I also for the day the truth comes out in mainstream media and the dangers of this drug is common knowledge. This is criminal.

    Thank you again Dr. Jenn. I appreciate your continuing to speak so well on behalf of and to those of us afflicted. It is important. This message is essential.

  49. I was put on klonopin due to my husbands long illness for anxiety I took it for two years..I started tolerance very soon and was told I had lyme because of the pains and double vision.i went to seven eye doctors and every doctor imaginable only to be told …it was all in my friends and family didn’t believe me either.i felt like I was in hell!! This to me is insane that doctors cannot help you and how a drug can cause brain damage! I now have anziety every time I go to doctor..and of course they tell me I need meds…unbelievable!! What a mess..I still have some pain and double vision but,as jeniffer says we Will heal it just takes time…sometimes longer than we like..I’m 22 months out and waiting my recovery..Jennifer’s story is a blessing..we will heal too.hang in it will come!! ..

  50. My previous doctor proscribed Klonopin 0.5 mg twice a day. I actually only took .25 mg before bedtime to help with sleep, as I have to get up in the middle of the night due to a bladder condition called IC. I thought it was a great drug for me. What a mistake. Never a word from the doctor about dependence. If I’d only read everything on the internet, it was all there, five or so years ago. When I finally reached interdose withdrawel, I rearched it and tried to talk to my doctor about switching to Valium to taper. She was cluless and said I had become a “drug-seeker” and dropped me by certified mail. It’s been a year and I’m sure she still handing out Klonopin and Xanax like candy. Luckily after much effort I found a GP willing to proscribe so I can taper. But I made the igorant mistake of asking him for a higher dose to get back to sleeping well. So now I’m at 2.75 mg nightly Klonopin and learning all the tapering options on Benzo Buddies. But just reading this article about the damage the drug may be doing to my body scares me even more. At least I’m now fully educated about what I face and am look forward to being completely off it.

  51. Can you give me some information on eye floaters and flashes. I went to the doctor for a check a few months ago. All was ok. But they have returned and are worse. I am in such an anxious state. P,ease help!

  52. My grandson has a very rare and deadly seizure syndrome. Its called Dravet syndrome. And he is only 2 years old right now and he has to take onfi 2 times a day. After reading this interview, it made me sick to my stomach knowing now that his brain is not even going to really have a chance to develop. And, who knows what else it is going to do to his little body. So now if we try to wean him of, he can’t tell us where it hurts etc. And might possibly give him his seizures back. And he has been on it for around a year.

  53. Hello,I took klonopin for 16 years,and got taking off to abruptly back in March and April of 2008. I did abuse it while I was on it and drank and did drugs and party on it,I know I must have done permanent damage to my brain,my withdrawl was very very severe abd horrific,till this day,my eyes are still red and glossy and I am dizzy and light headed and cannot walk right. I am depressed a lot plus I am still having menopause problems to. It has been 7 years and I still haven’t healed yet,I still remain on tegretol and remeron,I tapered those most of the way but still remain on tiny doses for now. It has been rough and sleep is just awful still. What can I do???? Kristine

  54. Fantastic article that sums up the insanity of not only giving people psych poisons to address physical, psychological or emotional issues but that the people giving it to us i.e. doctors make things infinitely worse. Withdrawal IS horrific. It is beyond any human imagination the pain, terror, exhaustion, and bizarre symptoms (up to 50 at a time) hitting you every second of every minute or every hour of every day for weeks, months and years. How this can be happening and nobody is jailed for the horrific suffering done to people is baffling.

    One thing I would note. Yes, stay away from all prescription drugs in w/d, OTC’s and processed foods too. But if you are still in the nine circles of hell a year later than your body needs help healing and you may uncover additional damage done by the drugs i.e. thyroid, adrenal, nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, candida, sibo. These poisons damage the entire body…brain, liver, endocrine, muscles, bones, blood etc. So find a good Natrupath and get some functional tests done to make sure nothing else is amiss. Eat healthy and clean. Give your body the nutrients it needs to heal. No smoking, caffeine, alcohol, OTC, sugar, processed foods etc.

    Depression, anxiety, mania, schizophrenia are mostly caused by physical issues such as nutrient deficiency, sugar issues, hormones, thyroid/adrenal, leaky gut, candida, sibo, poor diet, allergies. Our body’s aren’t born with psych drug deficiencies. They need nutrients, vitamins, good metals, fresh food, water, air, sun for their physical aspect to work right. Yes, there is a spiritual/mental aspect too. Seek objective truth based in reason, logic and historical fact. Find God and surrender to Him on His terms. But we need both in line for our body’s to flourish:+)

    Maybe post some links to groups that can support people in this:+) Benzo buddies, healing from psych drugs and others on Facebook etc. God bless you for writing such a great article!

  55. Thank you so much for your message today. You give me reassurance that even though I’am overwhelmingly exhausted from not sleeping during withdrawal,there is hope and with time I will recover. I had the same experience with doctors so will never trust they would know how to help me. I finally took Dr. Ashton’s manual to my doc. He read it and agreed to help me withdraw by switching to diazepam from lorazepam. I have completed half my withdrawal,but wonder if I will ever sleep again. So very tired. You give me hope. Thank you with all my heart.

  56. Thank you for this. I was prescribed Ativan for sleep and 4 1/2 years later I’m suffering debilitating effects. I’ve started speaking out on YouTube, joined a class action lawsuit and assist in a support group. But I can’t be the mom and wife I used to be. I can never give back to my children what they have lost.

    1. I cannot say how happy I am that this interview and Dr. Jennifer Leigh’s answers have helped all of you. Stay strong, as benzodiazepine withdrawal is a hard road to walk, but by taking one step each day takes you further towards your goal. God bless!

  57. Thank you for such a wonderful Blog,
    At the age of 25 after giving birth to my son, I presented to my local G.P. with every symptom of Post Partom Depression. To cut a boring story short, within THREE MONTHS, he was prescribing over 100, 30mg Murelax without me even having to see him! When I’d ring for an appointment, the script would be waiting for me with the receptionist!
    Now at age 49, I literally have NO FAMILY LEFT due to my 29 year old daughter refusing to believe the medication was beyond my control. I’ve been in numerous private detox and rehab clinics and have ‘beaten myself up’ over this for years. This article further validated that I’ve lost everything through this drug yet even though I remain vigilant, I’ve been tried and judged through pure ignorance. Relapse was always my fault, I was weak or didn’t care is the general concensos of my ‘family’ members and ex spouse. Thank you so much for recognising a battle I never intended on entering into. 🙁

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