Benzodiazepine-FREE, finally!

No, this is not a thread offering free Xanax. :smiley: “Benzodiazepine-free” means that I am now (as of February of this year) no longer taking any benzos whatsoever. And I’m fully past the lengthy withdrawal period!

The story of my addiction and recovery is looooong and painful, and better suited as a blog post than a thread in MPSIMS here at the SDMB. But I thought I’d share with my new Doper friends the joyously good news that I’m finally starting to get my life back. I’m clean, and no longer have any ongoing cravings for that junk, at all. And no more access to it.

And I wanted to make a few quick observations about prescription drug abuse/addiction…

It ain’t a joke. I always thought that being “addicted” to prescription drugs was really just hyperbole…you know, nobody could REALLY get ADDICTED to them, and those who were “addicted” were just rich, idle housewives stuck in bad marriages, who took on the persona of an addict because it was fashionable, or something. Or fat, hot-aired, right-wing radio hosts, who have nothing better to do. :stuck_out_tongue:

Uh-uh. Addiction is addiction is addiction. You can be just as hooked, can commit crimes just as felonious, get sent to prisons just as real and for just as long, suffer withdrawals just as horribly nightmarish, as you can with “real drugs” (street drugs). You can lose your job, your family, your freedom, just like with heroin or meth or cocaine… And you can wind up just as dead. Witness Heath Ledger and Corey Haim.

Some folks think (and I was one of them) that if it’s a prescription medication, it’s “safe”. Well, yeah, very generally, statistically speaking, or else the FDA wouldn’t have approved it. But there’s a reason why it takes a doctor’s scrip to get this stuff: it’s too dangerous to let even adults buy it OTC. Thnk about that. Drug abuse is drug abuse, and some Rx substances are just as lethal as street drugs, if misused.

As horrific as these past five years have been, I’m not an anti-benzo crusader now, or anything. But I will say, if any of y’all are on benzos, please be careful. I’m NOT ABOUT to tell you that taking them is a bad idea. In the first place, I’m not a doctor. In the second place, I don’t know y’all. Finally, benzos have proven very helpful to people who struggle with severe pathological anxiety conditions, and I will always support their carefully professionally-supervised, legal prescription.

But if you’re on more than one benzo at a time, or have been taking them for more than a few months, please just be careful. Their addiction potential really is quite high (it varies from person to person, obviously), and it’s a type of addiction whose withdrawal and recovery period is worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. (Sadly, I’m no stranger to addictions; had a very serious struggle with opiates during many years, too–but benzo recovery was worse, by an order of magnitude, even! But that’s another story.)

I’m sober now, and ironically (but perhaps not surprisingly) much, much happier. :slight_smile:

p.s. If anyone has any questions about benzos, opiates/opioids, or addiction/addiction recovery and treatment in general, feel free to ask. Send me a PM if you’d rather not ask openly. Cheers.

Good for you, and best wishes on your new found sober journey now.

Thanks, TJ!
Oh, and before I forget:

p.p.s. I’m not here to sell anything. Not here to push any program, product, etc., on anybody at all. My post is quite genuinely just a description of a personal victory. If anyone asks me anything related to all this, I most certainly am NOT going to say, “Why don’t we meet downtown at the Scientology Center, where I can give you a personality test?” ! :slight_smile:

Congratulations! Sending out a wish for continued success.


I’ve had doctors try to persuade me to use clonazepam (Klonopin) on an ongoing basis for Restless Legs Syndrome. This despite my having heard from a LOT of RLSers that the stuff wasn’t a good choice for them, the dependence was an issue, etc. One alternative is actually narcotics (and I know some RLSers for whom that’s the answer).

When I finally found docs who were “up” on the latest treatments (by dint of going to the world leaders in the disorder, up at Johns Hopkins), one of them said essentially “it’s easier to develop a physical addiction to narcotics than to benzos, but if you do develop a dependence on the benzos, it’s a LOT harder to break the addiction to the benzos than the narcotics”. Sounds like that was your experience.

Way to go!

My ex was on a combo of Xanax, Klonopin, Fioricet, Methadone, and Ambien. Needless to say, the effects were pretty devastating, and she was never really able to pull herself out of the hole. Good on you for having the inner strength to overcome it.

Thanks for the congrats.

Oh yes. Yes indeed. Benzo withdrawal and recovery is the worst thing I’ve ever suffered through, in my life (and as I mentioned, I’m an ex-opiate addict). One of the things I’m rather bitter about is that my doctor didn’t tell me ANYTHING** about the drugs’ side effects, addiction potential, or what the withdrawal and recovery process is like.

As a matter of fact, when I was coming to terms with the addiction, and realizing that I needed help, I did a lot of research on the Web. What I found was alarming: benzo withdrawal, besides being unspeakably horrific psychologically, can also result in intense physical pain, seizures, suicidal tendencies, and even on occasion, death.

Even more alarming? The USA is waaaaay behind the times on recognizing, understanding, and treating benzo addiction. Almost all of the major websites and clinics addressing the problem, are based in the UK, or Sweden, or some other western European country. So it’s not really surprising to me that my doc prescribed two benzos at once to me, and for an extended period (both of these are BIG no-no’s, which most Euro doctors are keenly aware of). He just didn’t know any better, I’m convinced.
**I realize that technically, as a consumer, it was my responsibility to go look up the information and educate myself, but really, how many of us ever do that? We’re in the habit of accepting what physicians tell us and give us. In retrospect, I definitely would have investigated the drugs before I started taking them. I do now, for damn sure! :slight_smile:

Great to hear about this! I was on it for ten years*, and thanks to rebound anxiety, lose many friends. I don’t blame them; I was really irrational.

  • I kept having to go through high stress situations - first studies, next conscription, then university life…

Thank you much.

I’m very sorry to hear about your ex. That’s certainly a scary cocktail. Any two of that particular set of opioids, benzos, and hypnotics taken together can render a person something of a walking zombie, and all of them in that volume and combination, could easily cause cardio-repiratory failure and death. I hope if your ex is still among us, that she gets the help she needs.

Good for you! You must know firsthand what I’m talking about when I describe the psychological trauma that these drugs can throw you into. Congrats on coming through it!

Congratulations! Do you mind if I ask what/how much you were on? I’m currently in a battle with severe insomnia and we keep coming back to temazepam (was on lorazepam at one point but it did nothing at all for me)… I’ve been taking it for about 2 1/2 years though not regularly since just after Christmas, since we’ve been trying other things. I didn’t experience any kind of withdrawal that I’m aware of, but we’ve just switched me back to it because none of the other things we’ve tried have helped…

Hi, OpalCat -

No, I don’t mind your asking what/how much I was on, but I’m uncomfortable sharing actual mg/doses right here in the thread. I’ll send you a PM with that info.

But to answer half your question here: The benzos I was on were Xanax (alprazolam) and Restoril (temazepam). When my recovery started, my addiction specialist switched me from Xannies to Klonopin (clonazepam), since it has a much longer half-life than Xanax, and thus doesn’t contribute as strongly to overuse. It’s much easier to wean off of.

FWIW, it doesn’t sound to me* like you have much reason to be concerned. If you’re only taking one benzo (the Restoril) to treat insomnia, and aren’t double- or triple-dosing, running out early, etc. (you know, the usual warning signs of Rx-drug addiction), I would guess that your risk of dependence is really really low. Especially if you didn’t have any withdrawals when you went off of it.

I hope your ability to sleep naturally improves, though!
*Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor. Nor do I play one on the Internet. :wink:

Congrats! Here’s hoping for a smoother road ahead for you.

I’m a co-leader of a local anxiety disorder support group, and we have a new member who is in the process of reducing his dependency on benzodiazepines (he’s on Ativan). In my experience with this group, we have working against us the willingness for the medical community to prescribe benzos at the drop of a hat, and for people with anxiety disorders to take them and look no further for treatment. In my experience doctors do advise about the addictive qualities of benzos, but a lot of people with anxiety disorders have somewhat of a natural immunity to it (we’re afraid to take medicine, so we under-medicate and take benzos as seldom as possible).

I have some concerns about the new member who is working on his addiction to Ativan; he’s working on it with his doctor and psychiatrist, but I’m getting the impression from him that he’s still in denial about it. Do you have any advice you could give me as a support group leader that could help him with this? Is an anxiety support group an appropriate place for someone like him? Part of my concern for him in our group is that he really talks up the Ativan - yeah, I know it works really well, but I’m not sure he should be encouraging other group members to take it, when he’s struggling with an addiction to it himself.

Congratulations to you for kicking your addiction.

I’m hoping I can say the same, soon. I was taken off way too fast. While I’m a year out, I’m still in withdrawal. It’s sometimes even been worse then when I first got off.

Did you have any problems using clonazepam to get off? A lot of stuff specifically recommends not using that, and jumping back to Valium. If clonazepam is one of the easy ones, I’d hate to find out how bad it was on one of the harder ones.

Sorry to hear you’re still in W/D, BigT. That was one of my big fears. When I first started looking for help, and saw online in various places that the W/D symptoms could last months or years, I was terrified.

But clonazepam–still a benzo, of course, but a milder one, with a much longer, smoother half-life–worked very, very well for me as substitution therapy. No problems at all. My addiction specialist moved me from Xanax and Restoril to a relatively high dose of clonazepam, and then over the period of a year, slowly tapered me down to zero. It made things IMMENSELY easier to bear. In fact, I don’t recall having had any W/D symptoms at all, as I weaned off benzos for good, over the past year.

Assuming that one starts a benzo-dependency treatment plan of some sort that involves pharmaceuticals, I suppose the choice between either clonazepam (Klonopin) or diazepam (Valium)–or even a different drug entirely–as substitution/weaning medication, ultimately depends on the individual and his/her doctor.

I strongly recommend going to see a psychiatrist or addiction specialist who will agree to get you on some sort of therapy, whether pharmacological (i.e., substitution w/ a milder benzo) or otherwise. I’m not a doctor, of course, so all I can do is suggest that you go see one. But I can say that I had good–nay, almost miraculous–results with clonazepam substitution therapy.

Good luck! Do let me know if I can help out in any other way.

First of all, thank you! :slight_smile:

Honestly, CW, as much as I would love to be able to help, I just don’t think I’m qualified to say much of anything in this situation. I’m very sorry. I just don’t know what to say, without the risk of giving recklessly bad (unqualified) advice. The situation that this group member is in (and that you are in) sounds rather unlike anything I’ve had to deal with.

Sorry! And good luck!!

My grandfather who was a great man overall died from Valium withdrawal at age 55. He went in for a regular checkup with his doctor and they decided more tests needed to be done assess a heart problem that had been noted. The hospital admitted him for testing at 2 pm for testing but cut him off of Valium for the tests. He went into withdrawal and cardiac arrest about midnight and our family got the death call a little later.

Benzodiazepines are no joke and I am sad to say that I overdosed on them once myself mixing them with alcohol and landed myself in-patient for a week. My thing was always alcohol which I don’t do anymore but benzodiazepines are one of the two commonly abused drugs that can kill you just by trying to stop cold turkey (alcohol is #1). Crack and crystal meth won’t even do that. I have seen people up close and personal detoxing from benzos and it is very bad, scary, and painful to them.

I rise in standing ovation for you to prove it can be done. Keep up the good work but remember the hell it caused because you will have to repeat this whole process if you relapse.

Wow. I had no idea of the severity of benzo withdrawal. Thanks for the enlightening thread, Cyninablod. I take .25 mg of Xanax very occasionally for generalized anxiety disorder. I’m grateful that a small dose works for me because I have an addictive personality. Food is my current drug of choice and I would almost (almost) welcome a drug or alcohol addiction instead. To me it’s similar to asking an alcoholic to drink in moderation. Yeah. Not gonna happen. Gah.