This is my post from 2019!
The following is a description of how I accidentally became addicted to benzodiazepines and what I learned along the way. My goal is to educate readers about the dangers of reckless use of benzodiazepines. Please note that I am not a doctor and any recommendations I make here should be discussed with a physician.
Anxiety attacks (also called panic attacks) are a disorder in which the body suddenly feels a fight-or-flight response. These usually occur due to stressful stimuli, but can also occur during random periods. The sufferer suddenly experiences shortness of breath, chest tightness, tremors, and sometimes symptoms of a heart attack.
Unlike a phobia, which is usually an irrational fear, panic attacks take the sufferer by surprise. The person experiencing these episodes feels imminent doom or fear of imminent death.
Benzodiazepines: help or curse?
One form of treatment for this disorder is a class of medications called benzodiazepines. These medications include Xanax, Valium, and Rivotril to name a few. For panic relief, they are a miracle drug. Then either the occurrence of an attack can be stopped or its severity reduced.
But as with any drug, there are drawbacks. For one, benzodiazepines are known to quickly produce a habit effect. Habit effect, to me, is a euphemism for addiction.
Over a period of more than a year, I suffered from sleep disturbances and nighttime panic attacks. After several visits to the emergency room of local hospitals, with fears of a heart attack, countless check-ups and all forms of an EKG, I decided to contact a doctor of psychotherapy. After describing my worries, etc., I was given 1mg of alprazolam and 2mg of clonazepam for a month. Since I could manage my daily life reasonably well, I only took clonazepam for sleep. I found after a very short time that the dose also had a positive effect on my day, at least in the beginning.
Mode of action of benzodiazepines:
Neurotransmitters in the brain suppress anxiety and fear. People who suffer from panic disorders either don’t produce enough of these neurotransmitters or they are not processed properly. Benzodiazepines help fill this deficiency, producing a calming effect. The byproducts of the drug are then metabolized in the liver.
When a person first takes benzodiazepines, the brain does not anticipate a sudden surge of the mild sedative chemical. This is why these drugs work so well in the beginning.
However, the human body is very adaptable, which can sometimes be a curse. At some point, the brain realizes that this calming chemical will be present, so it begins to produce less of its naturally occurring substances. At the same time, the liver has now created a sufficient amount of enzymes to metabolize the drug quickly. This is called “tolerance.”
By increasing the dose of benzodiazepine, the brain and liver are again unprepared for the higher amounts of the sedative. But over time, they adapt and again the drug becomes unusable.
The brain begins to expect the artificial chemical, thus the threshold for panic changes. The liver also anticipates the dose of benzodiazepines and has the proper enzymes to metabolize them.
After two months, the nighttime panic attacks returned, even though I was still taking my dose.
What was the solution?
Simple. I doubled the dose.
After a few months, I was taking four times the original prescribed dose, and my doctor immediately prescribed the more pills I needed without any warnings or cues.
She told me not to worry.
However, I myself vowed not to increase the dose again under any circumstances.
In retrospect, I can say that during the period of withdrawal and with the absolute will to get off it, no dose increase was necessary. I took the dose of 0.25 mg for the longest time, although my body reported the first two days of reduction to 0.25 mg, from the third day on everything was “normal” and without major withdrawal symptoms. To me this means that the body is also trainable and if you don’t dose high, if you have to use benzos, your body will also calm down again.
Tell yourself “no more, there is just no more”.
I started sneakily reducing my dosage of the drug, way too fast, while my pill supply was adding up. My anxiety became even worse than before; I realized I was addicted. Now the fears of withdrawal added up, as well as the original anxiety, as well as insomnia. In addition, there were new unpleasant feelings: crawling skin, fast heartbeat, nervousness, inner restlessness, and I started to become extremely irritable. After about a week of withdrawal with severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms, I went to a hospital, the doctor in charge recommended returning to the original dose. And prescribed additional 10mg of zolpidem. I was to reduce clonazepam by 0.25mg at 2 week intervals and take zolpidem to fall asleep.
However, on the site Benzos.org I found logical withdrawal schemes and very useful information about benzodiazepines. It specifically warns against replacing benzodiazepines with zolpidem. Withdrawal with zolpidem is textbook, if you google this you will find relevant exam questions about it. I took zolpidem for about 3 days and it is useless as anything, except for putting you to sleep in 15 minutes. The duration of effect for me was 2 hours at most, and I’d rather not sleep at all than wake up at one in the morning and not be able to continue sleeping. Moreover, with zolpidem you run from one addiction to the next. Zolpidem’s mechanism of action gave me the idea to use Gaba for sleep. See my withdrawal scheme below for more on Gaba.
Half-life means the period of time in which the blood concentration falls by half of the maximum value after taking a single dose.
- Half-life clonazepam / 18 – 50 hours
- Half-life alprazolam / 6 – 12 hours
- Half-life lorazepam / 10 – 20 hours
- Half-life diazepam / 20 – 100 hours
The really dangerous part is how the brain reacts. As it continues to receive this synthetic chemical, it begins to decrease the production of the naturally occurring neurotransmitters. When a person suddenly stops the benzodiazepine medication, the brain’s own “calming chemistry” is not available. This creates “rebound anxiety” that is many times worse than what the patient originally experienced. If a large enough dose is discontinued, seizures, convulsions, and even cardiac arrhythmias can occur.
Rivotril , Klonopin withdrawal
When addiction occurs
At this stage, a person is now physically dependent on the drug. This is known as “physical dependence.” There is also the psychological aspect of addiction, due to the euphoria the drugs can cause.
A long-time heroin addict does not use heroin to get “high” but to ward off the symptoms of withdrawal. The same is true for benzodiazepines.
If I had known this information earlier, I would never have started taking benzos.
Rivotril , Klonopin, tapering off benzodiazepines.
Withdrawal Schemes Clonazepam:
According to the Benzos.org withdrawal regimen recommendations, a benzodiazepine should be replaced with a next stronger one and slowly phased out. Also, a single dose should be divided into several doses. In order to avoid a so-called “flooding”. However, this was out of the question for me.
After the first cold turkey withdrawal and the doctor’s recommendation to start again with Clonazepam, but to creep in to find the most necessary dose to avoid withdrawal symptoms, I finally ended up with 2mg.
The withdrawal lasted about 10 weeks.
My withdrawal medication:
Before sleep: (10 minutes before going to bed).
It should be noted that 2mg of Clonazepam is equivalent to about 40mg of Diazepam and 5mg of Diazepam is given the night before major surgery, for sedation!
600mg Reishi Extract
Reishi has a very calming effect. I took about 2100mg of Reishi Extract in a 1 time dose to see if there were really noticeable effects. I can say that with absolute certainty; Reishi works and it works for a period of several hours. That is why I decided to use Reishi as a long acting soporific. However, the effect can also reverse, for this reason I only take 600mg.
3 grams of GABA
Since I was prescribed Zolpidem for withdrawal and at this point again the advice NOT to use Zolpidem and I dealt with its mode of action much me a Gaba to use. Had I anyway through previous sports activities in the house. However, Gaba has unpleasant side effects with me, rapid breathing and increase in heart rate. That’s why I didn’t use Gaba at that time. Today, the side effects are still there, but I still use Gaba. Because as soon as the side effects are over, after about 30 seconds to 1 minute, it acts like zolpidem in a way. The little eyes fall shut. From ingestion to sleep a maximum of 15 minutes.
5 drops of CBD with 2.5% THC content.
during the day:
2-5 times 3-10 drops of CBD with and without THC content (depending on strength and pain level).
There were days without CBD intake during the day.
I did well with 750 – 1000mg of CBD oil during the day.
Afternoon: (between 4 and 5 pm)
2 tablets of Brenkam
With reference to Benzo.org and the recommendation to use an antidepressant before and during withdrawal, I decided to use Brenkam since I was already taking St. John’s wort before without significant effects. I can also confirm the calming and drowsy effect of Brenkam.
Every 2 weeks I reduced Clonazepam by 0.25mg. Each reaction step brought some withdrawal symptoms despite CBD’s, however acceptable and only for a short time. From day 3 of each reduction I was always symptom free.
The right oil:
I took four different oils during my withdrawal.
2 pure CBD oils and 2 with THC content, the oil with about 2.5% THC has been the most effective, but also not quite cheap. So I decided to use this oil only for the night and to cope with cheap variants or pure CBDs during the day.
Which also worked relatively well. As mentioned before, oils with THC are preferable from my point of view.
When choosing an oil, decide based on analysis and not advertising. Here are some analyses of oils whose ingredients I have done well with. Of course, this is not a guarantee!
Of course, there are warnings not to combine benzodiazepines with psychoactive drugs or opiates. These warnings and the warning to use benzos only for a period of 2 weeks are downright ridiculous in my view.
I can tell you from experience that no doctor would even bat an eye at prescribing the following stack.
- 90mg Arcoxia
- 30mg Codeine with 350mg Paracetamol
- Orphenadrine with paracetamol
- 1mg Alpazolam
- 2mg clonazepam
- 5mg Lexapro
I take the first 3 medications due to an old herniated disc and various spinal issues. (There will be a more in depth article on this).
The further question is; How are you going to solve a problem or your fears, which very often stem from early childhood etc. in 2 weeks? Even if you admit to yourself that you need psychotherapeutic help, you will not find a suitable therapist in 2 weeks, nor will you get an appointment there. Furthermore, this therapist will not cure you in the first session. I cannot exclude that, but the chances of healing in the first session are very low.
My recommendation for therapeutic help:
If you do not get better after reading these specialists, contact a therapist who works according to the principles of Frankl, Erikkson or Hawkins. It is best to contact a certified psychologist who works according to these or one of these methods.
Unfortunately, the therapist is usually not authorized to prescribe you medication and the one who prescribes you the medication is not a therapist. Most of the time it is just a qualified tablet dispenser! Everywhere you can read that you need to find your appropriate antidepressant and that it can be a long process. However, this is not because you are so special, but because the jerk is constantly off. He sees you for a maximum of 10 – 15 minutes, hears 2-3 symptoms BUT only the ones that are on your mind that day. And then he has to choose from hundreds of medications one or 3. If they remain without effect, you go again and again and at some point he has seen you 5 times and has figured out in the meantime that it is not only stress and then prescribes you a remedy that works.
And your therapist, who may have listened to you for 2 hours in the first session, could possibly prescribe the right drug right away if he had memorized the drug compendium like the fool he is, but unfortunately he may not.
Withdrawal symptoms Clonazepam / Benzodiazepines
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache, dry eyes, tinnitus, muscle aches, weakness, sweating, chills, palpitations, tremors, insomnia, nightmares, dizziness, lightheadedness,tremor, balance disturbances, gait unsteadiness, muscle stiffness, abnormal movement patterns
Anxiety, restlessness, dysphoria, irritability,crying spells, overreactions, aggression, movie tear, depersonalization, memory impairment, confusion
Some final thoughts
I hope I haven’t demonized benzodiazepines too much. They have a legitimate being there justification when used properly. Without them, I would have nearly despaired due to anxiety, insomnia, etc.
The main point I want to emphasize is to be aware of new medications and question your doctors thoroughly, even if it annoys them. After all, they are human and make mistakes as we all do. Do your own research before blindly adding a new substance to your body. Just because it is a prescribed drug, as opposed to an illegal drug, does not mean it does not carry risks.
To relieve my anxiety without taking benzodiazepine I use CBD with THC content, this is extremely helpful to reduce panic attacks and sleep throughout. Now when I wake up at night I just take 3 drops of oil to fall back asleep within minutes.
Do not stop medication suddenly before you know the withdrawal symptoms.