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What If I Never Get Better?
One of the classic symptoms of benzo withdrawal and recovery is the feeling that all is hopeless and that you will never recover or feel well again. Everything seems so insurmountable. First you have the taper to complete (a taper that can take months) and then recovery to go through without any certainty about when your suffering will end. Feeling “normal” seems pretty distant and hard to imagine.
This dysphoria is partly a biological reaction based on the brain struggling to regain normal functioning after being artificially hyped up by drugs that manipulate GABA and the structure of the neurons while reducing the natural calming capacity of the brain. Chemical/biological changes account for a substantial part of your despair.
What is Wrong With Me?
The Early Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription psychiatric drugs have an enormous range of effects on the brain and body from the very first dose. For example, Prozac, one of the first antidepressants is associated with over 200 adverse reactions. One dose of a benzodiazepine can lead to over-sedation, cognitive changes, mental confusion, paradoxical reactions (like excitement) suicidal ideation or dizziness leading to falls.
Anti-psychotics can lead to over-sedation, falls and irrational behaviour, especially in the elderly. Every person who is considering taking a psychiatric drug or sleeping pill should become fully aware of all the side effects and potential harms at a normal dose level.
How to Survive Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal
Surviving withdrawal from benzodiazepines, sleeping pills or other psychiatric drugs can be challenging. Online support groups and other information on the web can help. Here are some tips that help and have stood the test of time.
- Don't stop any psychiatric drug abruptly. It is dangerous and reckless; it could be life-threatening (leading to seizures or suicide) and will delay your progress.
- Become informed — read Heather Ashton's booklet about benzodiazepine withdrawal (The Ashton Manual), Joseph Glenmullen's book, The Antidepressant Solution, and Peter Breggin's book, The Anti-Depressant Fact Book for starters. There are many first-person recovery stories available. The Accidental Addict has all types of symptoms listed — order it online.
What is the Best Way to Get Off a Benzo?
A noted journalist in Canada who was a two pack a day cigarette smoker tried and failed many times to quit the tobacco habit. When he was diagnosed with a life-threatening lung disease he entered a residential detox and quit smoking within weeks. He later said the method really wasn't that important — that he could have stopped smoking standing on his head with a carrot in his ear if he really had wanted to. The difference now was that he had no choice.
What Are You Really Asking?
There is a lot of discussion about what method works “best” in terms of getting off benzos. But the question people are really asking is “what method will not make me suffer too much” or “what method is easy.”
You Can't Be Addicted…You're Only Taking a Low Dose (and Other Myths)
An addictions specialist once told me that nobody could become addicted to Ativan (a benzodiazepine) unless they had been taking it for more than a couple of years. This is a complete myth.
Some people can start having symptoms of between-dose withdrawal (the first sign of addiction) after taking a benzo for only a few weeks. For others, addiction takes place over a period of weeks or months. Sooner or later everyone will become addicted.
Is It Safe?
People also get told by their doctors that it is safe to take a benzo or a sleeping pill for a few days at a time, or on a regular but intermittent basis.
Deciding to Come Off Benzodiazepines or Sleeping Pills
Deciding to come off benzodiazepines, sleeping pills or any other psychiatric drug is a serious decision and one that can only be made by you.
Here are some things to consider.
Most people consider getting off of psychiatric drugs when they have searched for other causes to their mental or physical health symptoms and are beginning to wonder if the pills they are taking are part of their problem. Perhaps the symptoms for which you starting taking a benzo (sleep problems, pain, anxiety, panic) are getting WORSE not better.
Do You Experience These Symptoms?
Maybe you are depressed, irritable, fearful, and unable to sleep or wake up in a panic. You may have unexplainable jaw pain, gastric problems, chest pain, sexual issues, overwhelming depression or other strange symptoms. You may have been involved in a car crash, workplace accident or a fall due to feeling sedated, confused or dizzy. You may have trouble thinking or remembering things.
Updated: November 24, 2017