Exposure to Benzodiazepines
Recovery from exposure to benzodiazepine tranquilizers involves a multifaceted approach usually beginning with inpatient treatment followed by outpatient treatment. In my case, I just did not have the mental or physical stamina to break free of benzo’s on my own power. I needed the help of a knowledgeable community of medical professionals.
The debate whether to taper quickly or slowly will no doubt continue. My position is mixed. I concur with most treatment facilities that a 5-7 day “fast-track” titration is radical but I did get through it, even after years of use (and maybe abuse) at high doses.
If one elects to go the short route, anti-seizure medications are essential. Keep in mind however that some anti-seizure medications have their own set of dependencies and possible withdrawals as well as side effects. Depakote, for example helps with seizure management but elevates liver enzyme levels – sometimes to a critical point. Gabapentin if taken for longer that a few months can bring upon us a benzo-like withdrawal syndrome.
Careful attention to any and all medications while going through the various levels of benzodiazepine withdrawal are essential. My argument to a long term taper is that as long as you are putting the benzo “poison” into your body, in any amount, you are prolonging the inevitable and the agony and the time it will take the brain to heal.
Historically, I found that one can titrate to a reduced level but not to abstinence. For example, I was able to titrate to 2 mgs per day from 12-15 mgs. Quite an improvement! But I could not titrate any lower on my own without medical professional help. It is my opinion depending on dosage and length of use, that inter-dose, acute and post-acute withdrawals are just a part of the process of healing from exposure to benzos. There is no quick fix or softer way of getting through this process.
My last dose was on June 28th 2012 and my last partial seizure was on December 12th 2012. After inpatient treatment of 30 days, I began 6 months of outpatient treatment which helped me understand post-acute withdrawals (PAWS). The most serious symptoms subsided after 18 months and after 24 months, the remaining symptoms had subsided with the exception of some lingering symptoms like memory loss and occasional bouts of moderate anxiety. I got a sponsor to help me understand recovery meetings and the recovery community and mentors to help me grow in my faith. I began studying and going through the 12 steps. I began secretarying meetings, sharing my story and being of service to the recovery scene. I connected with church and supported their recovery community. I changed how I viewed diet and exercise and incorporated strict dietary restraints and included daily yoga and meditation practices. I started walking to relieve anxiety. I started with half a mile and worked up to 5 miles a day. The most important thing I did was not put anything in my body to change the way I felt – no matter what.