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CaliforniaDreamin: protracted withdrawal symptoms 14 months after discontinuation Clonazepam and Zoloft


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Hi everyone, I am so happy to have found this forum!  When you google withdrawal symptoms and speak to doctors about them, the internet and medical professionals are quick to assure you that withdrawal doesn't last beyond a few weeks, but mine have been ongoing for 14 months.


When I was 19 (eight years ago), I was prescribed 150mg of Zoloft and 2.5mg of Clonazepam per day (1mg in the morning, 1mg in the afternoon, .5mg before bed) for severe anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.  I was a pretty heavy drinker but would hold off on the afternoon 1mg and .5mg before bed if I knew I was going out.  Over the following seven years, alcohol became a huge part of my life, up until two years and eight months ago when I finally abstained from drinking.  I continued to take Zoloft and Clonazepam until roughly eight months into sobriety, when I decided it was time to discontinue taking all medications.  People in AA are notorious for describing sobriety as "nothing mind altering" or "not taking things that don't alter you from the neck down," so it began bothering me that I was still taking prescriptions.


A year and a half ago (November 2020), I began slowly tapering myself off of both, first reducing Zoloft to 100mg / day for a month and skipping the .5mg of Clonazepam before bed.  After five months, I was able to get down to 50mg of Zoloft and .5mg of Clonazepam (.25mg twice daily) with mild physical symptoms (twitchy muscles, sweats, and shakiness when I would reduce a dosage, heightened anxiety) but few if any noticeable mental/perceptual symptoms.  Having put myself through endless hangovers that felt identical to Clonazepam withdrawal/dosage reduction, the physical symptoms weren't so difficult if I had a few days to myself to ride the storm out.  In April of 2021, I finally stopped taking both medications.


Two weeks after stopping both medications entirely, I noticed a change in my vision.  Blinds and repeating patterns like stripes or dashes on the highway would bother me, to the point where I felt like I was going cross-eyed if I looked at them for too long.  Flashing lights elicited the same response and made me very uncomfortable, sweaty, confused.  My vision was blotchy, more fuzzy, and looking at any repeating patterns almost resembled what happens when you look at the pavement on a hot summer day and can see the heat waves, or the static of a cable channel that won't tune in.  On the anxiety front, even two cups of coffee was enough to elicit a panic attack, which was odd - as a young adult, I sometimes drank upwards of 6 cups of coffee and several energy drinks a day.


I told my doctor, who referred me to a Neurologist and had me get a CT scan.  The results came back fine.  I then saw a Neuro-Ophthalmologist, an Ophthalmologist, and had an EEG test for the potential of seizures.  Once again, all tests came back fine. 


I assumed my symptoms were due to the discontinuation of the medication but I didn't want to go back on them, so I made some changes in my personal health.  I took up an all-organic diet and began exercising for one hour every day.  My thought was if I maintained a healthy lifestyle, these symptoms would eventually vanish.  Prior to this, between June of 2020 and February of 2021, I had lost 100 pounds after being very heavy for several years, so this felt like a natural progression of pursuing a healthy lifestyle (as did staying off medication.)


It's now June of 2022 - 14 months since I stopped taking Zoloft and Clonazepam - and I am still as miserable as when I first stopped taking the meds.  I still workout every day (sometimes twice a day) for an hour and eat an all-organic diet, but my symptoms haven't subsided.  Panic attacks happen sporadically, but usually in the morning.  Any amount of caffeine is enough to trigger a panic attack, so I cut it out entirely two days ago.  At 11 AM most mornings, a migraine kicks in, where the left side of my face feels tingly and numb, and I have tension around my forehead and ears.  It usually progresses into a distinct headache on the right side of my head, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and increased salivation.  My vision gets crystal-like and can give the illusion of movement in things like carpet.  Lights become difficult to tolerate, which makes my desk job very difficult.  


I am prescribed .125mg dissolvable clonazepam tablets to use as needed, which almost immediately clear up both panic attacks and migraines if I take them.  I use these as sparingly as possible because I keep telling myself that I can't get back on medications, but my suffering is getting to the point where I will almost take anything to end this 14-month long cycle of panic attacks and migraines. 


Two weeks ago, my doctor first prescribed me 600mg of gabapentin before bed (which did nothing), and then after discontinuing that, 25mg of Topiramate before bed.  This past Sunday - the second night of taking Topiramate (Topamax) - I had night sweats and woke up Monday morning with the darkest, most emotionless void of feeling I've ever had, to the point where I considered committing myself to a mental hospital (I haven't taken Topiramate since).  I took a half of a .125mg of Clonazepam I was still able to get out of bed and drag myself down to the gym, which did seem to help.  Tuesday night I had a migraine, which was strange because my migraines always happen around 11 AM every day.  I didn't take anything for it.  Wednesday morning I had a panic attack after experiencing a similar level of hopeless dread, and the cycle had become too much.  Normally, panic attacks and migraines coincide with one another, but the timeline of going right from one to another - alternating from migraines at night to panic attacks in the morning - became too much.  I called my doctor, who advised me that taking up to four .125mg of Clonazepam a day was tolerable, given my history of being on 2.5mg / day for eight years.  I still haven't taken Zoloft since tapering off of it 14 months ago.  The most Clonazepam I've yet taken is a .125mg and a half of a .125mg in a single day.  That was three days ago.  I took only a half of a .125mg yesterday and haven't taken any today.


Please, if anyone has advice to offer, I am open ears.  I'm exhausted of daily migraines, panic attacks, and not even being able to look at striped patterns without feeling like I'm going to get sick.  I've tried the wellness route, and it has led to nowhere.  I have a psychiatrist appointment later on today and my plan is to get back on 50mg of Zoloft.  

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  • ChessieCat changed the title to CaliforniaDreamin: protracted withdrawal symptoms 14 months after discontinuation Clonazepam and Zoloft
  • Administrator

Welcome, @CaliforniaDreamin


Did you have these regular morning headaches prior to stopping your coffee drinking 3 days ago? Did you have one today?


What do you eat or drink before 11 a.m., aside from coffee?


It sounds like you have visual hypersensitivity. How has this changed in the last 3 months?


On 6/10/2022 at 10:27 AM, CaliforniaDreamin said:

I have a psychiatrist appointment later on today and my plan is to get back on 50mg of Zoloft.  


Since you quit Zoloft and clonazepam at the same time, you might be suffering from withdrawal from either or both drugs. For reinstatement, we would suggest an initial dose of perhaps 5mg Zoloft, to see how it affects you. Zoloft is available in liquid form to make small doses.


This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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Hi @Altostrata,


Yes, migraines far pre-date me putting a halt on caffeinated coffee.  These have been going on ever since I stopped both medications.  I did not have a migraine today, however, per my psychiatrist's instructions, I did take a .25mg dose of Clonazepam in the morning.  He too suspects that my problems can be attributed to stopping either one or both drugs too fast.  Typically in the morning, I eat either a small bowl of mixed berries or a bowl of oatmeal.


Visual hypersensitivity certainly sounds correct.  In the past three months, it's been the same.  I haven't noticed any changes since April of 2021 - any flashing lights or alternating patterns (e.g. rotating helicopter blades or changes in light from a fan spinning below it) consistently bother me to the point of sweaty palms and a heightened heart rate. 


I just picked up the prescription for Zoloft today but haven't yet resumed it.  They're 50mg tablets that could easily be split into half.  Can I request Zoloft in liquid form from him?

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  • Moderator Emeritus

Alto suggested 5mg.  Please do not take any more than 5mg.


Obviously if you can get liquid Zoloft it would be easiest.


Post #1 of this topic explains various ways to get non standard doses.  It is possible to make your own liquid from tablets:


Tips for tapering off sertraline (Zoloft)


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED:  (6 year taper)      0mg Pristiq  on 13th November 2021

ADs since ~1992:  25+ years - 1 unknown, Prozac (muscle weakness), Zoloft; citalopram (pooped out) CTed (very sick for 2.5 wks a few months after); Pristiq:  50mg 2012, 100mg beg 2013 (Serotonin Toxicity)  Tapering from Oct 2015 - 13 Nov 2021   LAST DOSE 0.0025mg

Post 0 updates start here    My tapering program     My Intro (goes to tapering graph)

 VIDEO:   Antidepressant Withdrawal Syndrome and its Management

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  • Administrator

Are you taking clonazepam every day?

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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