Benzo withdrawal requires special protocols
Dr. Heather Ashton, a leading authority on benzodiazepines, ran a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic in the U.K. She discovered that a portion of people who take a benzo have serious problems stopping the medication due to the brain changes it has caused. In fact, some people need to take a year or more to slowly taper off to avoid life threatening or debilitating withdrawal symptoms.
What do traditional drug detox clinics lack when it comes to benzos? What should you BEWARE OF and what should you avoid altogether? We review here. Then, we invite your questions and comments about benzodiazepine withdrawal at the end.
What’s wrong with traditional detox?
Detox centers are a safe solution for getting off of alcohol or drugs. However, if you want to get off of a benzodiazepine such as Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, or Xanax, a detox center may not be a viable solution. They can cause serious damage to benzo users, even users who have taken their medication as prescribed.
The problem is that detox centers take patients off of their benzos far too quickly. They are also notorious for prescribing medications that can hamper healing from benzo withdrawal and/or make withdrawal symptoms worse. In some cases, people will experience withdrawal from the newly added medications, in addition to benzo withdrawal.
Five (5) ways to avoid detox damage
Here are five (5) way in which you can avoid “detox damage” if you are benzodiazepine user and you want to get off your medication.
1. Do your own research.
Don’t blindly trust medical professionals. Most are not educated about benzodiazepines, even psychiatrists and addiction specialists. Do not be tempted to go inpatient to come off your benzo as there is no way to know if you will be one of the people that a rapid taper causes severe withdrawal symptoms.
Google benzo withdrawal. Read the Ashton Manual. Read stories of people who are going through benzo withdrawal or who have survived it. Become knowledgeable about the possible withdrawal symptoms. Slowly reducing your dose by no more than ten percent every few weeks is the best way to minimize your risk of experiencing a severe withdrawal reaction.
2. Read stories of people who went to a detox and had a severe withdrawal.
You can find their stories through a quick Google search, or by registering for the free online benzo withdrawal forum at benzobuddies.org. My own story, and Kate Fay’s story can be read at benzowithdrawalhelp.com. It may help convince you of the nightmare that people live through after going to a detox center.
3. Don’t be fooled by a detox center that claims they can get you off of your benzo quickly.
True, they can pull you off of your medication safely by using an anti-seizure drug to ensure you won’t seize, however, they can not ensure that you won’t have disabling, debilitating, and unbearable withdrawal symptoms that can and often do, last for years.
Plus, you’ll come home benzo free from the detox center, but you may not be able to endure the withdrawal symptoms. Many reinstate their benzo after they return home because the horror of benzo withdrawal is too much to bear. The problem with reinstating is that in some instances, returning to your dose doesn’t stop the withdrawal symptoms and the subsequent taper to get off can bring even worse symptoms. This is due to a phenomenon in benzo withdrawal called kindling.
4. Taper at a pace that your body can handle.
Getting off of your medication isn’t a race. Unless you are having a paradoxical reaction to your benzo, or it is causing serious illness, it is advisable to reduce the dose in very small amounts over many months.
Many benzodiazepines don’t come in small enough doses to dry cut. Unless your doctor is willing to have your medication compounded, you will be one of the millions of benzo patients who have to create a DIY taper. What are some ideas to consider?
Many use a water or milk titration method while others dry cut using a jeweler’s scale. Some cross over to Valium (diazepam) as it comes in smaller doses and is easier to taper. However, some people can’t tolerate the cross over, and for some, Valium causes extreme depression. You’ll need to decide for yourself which method you want to proceed with.
5. Ignore friends/family who insist you go inpatient.
Your friends and family mean well. However, unless they have experienced benzo withdrawal or have done extensive research about it, they won’t understand the dangers of seeking help from an uneducated professional or a detox center. Seek the help and advice of someone who has experienced benzo withdrawal and is knowledgeable about what to do and not to do in benzo withdrawal. There are many websites dedicated to benzo withdrawal help. There are many support groups on Facebook as well.
Damage from benzo detox can be avoided!
You may already have damage from your benzo. Don’t ad injury to insult. Don’t expose yourself to “detox damage.” If you follow our suggestions above, it’s a good start. If you have additional questions, please ask them in the comment section below.
Finally, consider this: You don’t need the hit to your wallet. Detox centers are usually tens of thousands of dollars. Recovery is a billion dollar industry. Remember that a detox center is a business, designed to make a profit first and foremost. They are not designed with your long-term welfare of minimizing benzo withdrawal symptom in mind.