This is the 4th installment in my Deep Dive into Benzos (benzodiazepines). The more I learn, the more I feel this class of medications has harmed my overall health. In Part 1, I wrote about the basics: medical uses and some of the negative consequences. Key takeaway: benzodiazepines are recommended for 2-4 weeks maximum. Part 2 was more personal: I wrote about my experiences taking this medication long-term and the negative effects I have experienced. Key takeaway: slow withdrawal is needed from any benzodiazepine. Part 3, was focused on protracted withdrawal symptoms. Key takeaway: benzodiazepines are a knife-edge of short-term gain/long-term pain.
A couple of weeks ago when we had sunny warm weather, I was doing pretty good although still struggling with wanting to constantly stuff food in my face as a distraction
Last night wasn’t great. Everything irritated me. Everything. I was out for a walk in the field with my dog, Cassie, and saw someone with their dog off-leash. I got very anxious. I stopped dead, then turned around and retreated through a barbed wire fence into a different field and took a long, long detour to get home. My brain was running in circles with thoughts of possible weapons if the loose dog attacked. It was a full on panic attack.
That night I couldn’t sleep. The slight wrinkles in the sheets drove me crazy. My legs were jumpy. My body was sore everywhere. Get up, check that the doors are locked and the cat is in. Try again. Nope. Get up and watch Garden Rescue on my iPhone sitting in our dark bedroom. Drift off about 2 am; cat howling at the door by 5am. Utter exhaustion.
My family physician offered a guideline that is at once encouraging and depressing: in her experience, people who have been on a short-acting benzodiazepine like Ativan experience protracted withdrawal symptoms for between 6 and 12 months. Which is great as I have gotten through the first 6 months but not so great if I have 6 more months of this.
“The longer you stay on benzodiazepines, the more likely it is that you will find it difficult to stop taking them and the greater your risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Short-acting benzodiazepines (which are most likely to be taken as sleeping pills [in the UK]) can be particularly difficult to come off if you have been taking them for a long time.” (Mind)
“There is an increasing body of literature indicating that quickly eliminated, high potency BZD such as alprazolam and lorazepam may be more likely to cause severe withdrawal reactions than slowly eliminated compounds such as diazepam or less potent derivatives such as oxazepam.” ( Wolf, Barbara; Griffiths, Roland R.. In Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 1991 29(2):153-156).
That’s it for now. Part 5 may take a while to appear as I want to wrap up my experience tapering off Ativan post-withdrawal symptoms.
Peace & Progress,