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MC13 Struggling, "as needed" Xanax, trying to taper


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My story is a little different one than most... I took Xanax strictly as needed, small doses of .125-.25mg that worked fine for me for a few years. As needed was sometimes once a week, sometimes a few days in a row. Ironically, only a few times for "panic". Mostly for sleep, stress, etc. I was originally prescribed them for anxiety from a bad reaction to a birth control pill (Yaz/Yazmin). I think I went through a major cold turkey withdrawal/reinstatement this way at least twice, each time thinking I was sick with "something"; I've spent tens of thousands of dollars on doctors and tests. All represcribed the xanax. Just thought it was my heart and stomach acting up; upped the Xanax to daily, took a betablocker, tons of vitamins, then tapered the drugs... And slowly recovered. Then started the xanax as needed again. I had no idea that's what was causing all the issues. Neither did 20+ doctors.


This last time was the straw that broke the camel's back. In October, I took a winning combo of dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine for bronchitis. 2 ER visits in 24 hrs. Never the same since. Panic all the time, worse than ever before. More drs, more tests, more xanax prescriptions. I have PVCs for the first time in my life. I had to resign from my job; I'm just so sick. Some people in a wellness FB group tell me it's the xanax. I can hardly believe it. How can this be? I took so little, infrequently and responsibly! I become "benzo-wise", finally upped my daily dose from .25-.3mg to .85mg in early Jan. I'm catatonic, suicidal, calling detox centers, the local psych hospital. No one can help. They literally laugh at my tiny dose.


Anyway, I could never stabilize on the drug when I wanted to start tapering in early Jan. I'm super sensitive to medications, so the bigger doses felt awful. It just felt like it was poisoning me. I sort of stabilized somewhere at .80mg (triple any daily dose I ever took) and tapered to .72 in the last month. Honestly I was only able to get down that low so fast because there were some days I'd fall dead asleep from the drug and not be able to take it. Recently I "updosed" to .75mg because I was told on a different group I tapered too fast. Some doses feel like I took water, some make me feel tired, some give me panic...


It seems each week, I have 1 good day, a few okay days, then the symptoms start getting a little worse leading up to a night of no sleep with constant panic/heart attack feelings (the day after one of those is just debilitating.) Up and down, every day, every moment, different. I'm not even really tapering yet!!! On an even just okay, or even sort of bad, day, I can run errands, drive, function... It's like I'm 2 people trapped inside one body. I have no panic or anxiety about normal things. Just watching tv will set me off. But the freeway is fine?! This is crazy!!!


My worst symptoms are: racing thoughts, heart attack feeling at night with no sleep once or twice a week, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, suicidal, internal shaking, akathisia, heart pounding, adrenaline surges, sore joints/muscles/jaw, panic attacks, constant anxiety...


I eat a mainly primal diet, I exercise daily no matter what (ride my bike or walk 20-30min). I have a wonderful support system of my husband and 14 year old daughter. And my mom... Who is trying to taper off a low dose of Valium (taken as needed). :( I take magnesium glycinate and food based vit C powder. I am hypothyroid but was taken off my natural thyroid medication because it can cause anxiety. I want back on that.


I need help. I have no idea what to do. How much drug to take, when to start my taper, plus my doses are all screwy since I'm using a liquid suspension from a compounding pharmacy. I tried liquid micro tapering and cutting doses using a jewelers scale as well. I do have a nice micro taper plan in place if I ever get there. Right now I'm dosing 5 times a day. 4 almost even doses and one tiny make up dose I had to add because I cut too much awhile back. I tried combining it with the other doses and felt some bad symptoms.


Thank you for reading this. I'm sorry we are all going through this. Truly heartbreaking.

Benzos as needed, very small doses, not always daily, for 7+ years.

Xanax as needed for last 2+ years, .125-.25mg, not always daily.

10/08/13 - got very sick, in withdrawal? (Third time since starting xanax)

1/06/14-Up to .75mg daily xanax just to cope - Doses all over the place, .43-.84mg

1/15 - .78mg - started "taper", 4 uneven doses a day, every 5 hrs (not stabilized)

1/21 - .73mg - switched to suspension liquid from compounding pharmacy

1/26 - .72mg

2/04 - .75mg (updose; very sick in w/d?)

2/11 - .80mg (.16mg taken 5x daily, approx 5 hours apart)

2/16 - started taper - 5% a month, .01mg weekly

2/24 - .785mg

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Do you think you might still be having inter-dose withdrawal? Some people run that stuff out their bodies pretty fast. I am on an intermediate benzo and I dose every two hours, but that is mostly because I can't tolerate much at a time in the daytime. I am so sorry that you are going through this.

1st round Prozac 1989/90, clear depression symptoms. 2nd round Prozac started 1999 when admitted to dr. I was tired. Prozac pooped out, switch to Cymbalta 3/2006. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder due to mania 6/2006--then I was taken abruptly off Cymbalta and didn't know I had SSRI withdrawal. Lots of meds for my intractable "bipolar" symptoms.

Zyprexa started about 9/06, mostly 5mg. Tapered 4/12 through12/29/12

Wellbutrin. XL 300 mg started 1/07, tapered 1/18/13 through 7/8/13

Oxazepam mostly continuously since 6/06, 30mg since 12/12, tapered 1.17.14 through 8.26.15

11/06 Lithium 600mg twice daily, 2.2.14 400mg TID DIY liquid, 2.12.14 1150mg, 3.2.14 1100mg, 3.18.14 1075mg, 4/14 updose to 1100mg, 6.1.14 900 mg capsules 7.8.14 810mg, 8.17.14 725mg, 8.24.24 700mg...10.22.14 487.5mg, 3.9.15 475mg, 4.1.15 462.5mg 4.21.15 450mg 8.11.15 375mg, 11.28.15 362.5mg, back to 375mg four days later, 3.4.16 updose to 475 (too much going on to risk trouble)

9/4/13 Toprol-XL 25mg daily for sudden hypertension, tapered 11.12.13 through 5.3.14, last 10 days or so switched to atenolol

7.4.14 Started Walsh Protocol

56 years old

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  • Administrator

Welcome, MC13.


See this list of doctors http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/988-recommended-doctors-therapists-or-clinics/


Stuart Shipko in Pasadena is an expert at Xanax withdrawal. You might want to look at his e-book on the subject http://xanaxwithdrawalbook.com/

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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  • Moderator Emeritus

Hi MC13.


Unfortunately, this is not primarily a benzo withdrawal forum, so we don't have the breadth and depth of knowledge here that we do with ADs. I do know quite a bit about benzos and Xanax myself but my ability to support is intermittent--sometimes I get too busy with other things and don't get onto the forum as often. We have a members' benzo area, but again, not really the breadth and depth of knowledge there that you'd find for ADs.


That said, it sounds like you're doing a lot of things right. You already have a liquid to taper with, check. You're doing multiple doses per day spaced (hopefully) evenly apart, check (although it sounds like you could maybe tweak and improve that a bit). Those are the most important things with Xanax.


It sounds to me like your symptoms right now are due not so much to what you're doing every day right now, but to destabilization and withdrawal symptoms from what you've done in the past. Please read through this forum and see if you can find some of my posts about how these drugs affect the neuroplastic brain; I don't have time right now to recap that. The kind of windows and waves, roller coaster symptoms you're experiencing are typical for benzo withdrawal and the kind of autonomic destabilization that going up and down and on and off psych meds usually causes, if not at first, then eventually. (As Alto says, our nervous systems are not made of rubber.)


I think your best bet now is to find a dose you can tolerate, and stabilize on it. This is probably going to take a matter of months, not days or weeks, at this point. If you're still getting too much sedation at 0.75 you can cut that down a little, perhaps, depending on how intolerable it is; but at this point you have to balance the benefits of any changes with how they're going to worsen the destabilization that you're suffering from already. 


Once you pick a dose, divide it up into about six equal amounts and take that amount every four hours, religiously, around the clock. (You might be able to go with an eight-hour stretch at night.) You want to keep your blood levels of Xanax as smooth and even as humanly possible. After a dose the level goes up for less than two hours and then peaks and begins to drop.


Once you do that, it's time to just hang in there and let time do the work. Keep a daily journal ranking your symptoms on a scale of 1 to 5. (This may not make sense to you now, but do it anyway.) You can keep notes in there about external stressors that may have happened during that time.


For now, avoid other meds and supplements other than magnesium and fish oil.


What you want to do is allow your brain to remodel itself and attain a sustainable homeostatic state.


Once your symptom journal shows that the numbers are no longer fluctuating as much, and they seem to have plateaued out at a level you're comfortable with, you can begin a slow, safe taper. You can read about all the tapering suggestions on this forum.


Use this time (as I say, from what you describe, I think it will be a minimum of three months, possibly/probably longer) to educate yourself. Read through all the topics on this forum, especially those pinned at the tops of sections. I also recommend reading Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker and the work of Peter Breggin and David Healy.

I don't always agree with everything Shipko says, but he's better than most, I suppose.


Good luck to you!

Started on Prozac and Xanax in 1992 for PTSD after an assault. One drug led to more, the usual story. Got sicker and sicker, but believed I needed the drugs for my "underlying disease". Long story...lost everything. Life savings, home, physical and mental health, relationships, friendships, ability to work, everything. Amitryptiline, Prozac, bupropion, buspirone, flurazepam, diazepam, alprazolam, Paxil, citalopram, lamotrigine, gabapentin...probably more I've forgotten. 

Started multidrug taper in Feb 2010.  Doing a very slow microtaper, down to low doses now and feeling SO much better, getting my old personality and my brain back! Able to work full time, have a full social life, and cope with stress better than ever. Not perfect, but much better. After 23 lost years. Big Pharma has a lot to answer for. And "medicine for profit" is just not a great idea.


Feb 15 2010:  300 mg Neurontin  200 Lamictal   10 Celexa      0.65 Xanax   and 5 mg Ambien 

Feb 10 2014:   62 Lamictal    1.1 Celexa         0.135 Xanax    1.8 Valium

Feb 10 2015:   50 Lamictal      0.875 Celexa    0.11 Xanax      1.5 Valium

Feb 15 2016:   47.5 Lamictal   0.75 Celexa      0.0875 Xanax    1.42 Valium    

2/12/20             12                       0.045               0.007                   1 

May 2021            7                       0.01                  0.0037                1

Feb 2022            6                      0!!!                     0.00167               0.98                2.5 mg Ambien

Oct 2022       4.5 mg Lamictal    (off Celexa, off Xanax)   0.95 Valium    Ambien, 1/4 to 1/2 of a 5 mg tablet 


I'm not a doctor. Any advice I give is just my civilian opinion.

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  • Administrator

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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  • Moderator Emeritus

Hello MC13,


I'm also one of the xanax victims but have the additional complication of having antidepressant in the story.


I was doing similar things with Xanax for many years and only now realise that it was this that made things so bad for me.


Start a thread on the benzo subsection here and then we will address our Xanax issues there ;)




Current: 9/2022 Xanax 0.08, Lexapro 2

2020 Xanax 0.26 (down from 2 mg in 2013), Lexapro 2.85 mg (down from 5 mg 2013)

Amitriptyline (tricyclic AD) and clonazepam for 3 months to treat headache in 1996 
1999. - present Xanax prn up to 3 mg.
2000-2005 Prozac CT twice, 2005-2010 Zoloft CT 3 times, 2010-2013 Escitalopram 10 mg
went from 2.5 to zero on 7 Aug 2013, bad crash 40 days after
reinstated to 5 mg Escitalopram 4Oct 2013 and holding liquid Xanax every 5 hours
28 Jan 2014 Xanax 1.9, 18 Apr  2015 1 mg,  25 June 2015 Lex 4.8, 6 Aug Lexapro 4.6, 1 Jan 2016 0.64  Xanax     9 month hold

24 Sept 2016 4.5 Lex, 17 Oct 4.4 Lex (Nov 0.63 Xanax, Dec 0.625 Xanax), 1 Jan 2017 4.3 Lex, 24 Jan 4.2, 5 Feb 4.1, 24 Mar 4 mg, 10 Apr 3.9 mg, May 3.85, June 3.8, July 3.75, 22 July 3.7, 15 Aug 3.65, 17 Sept 3.6, 1 Jan 2018 3.55, 19 Jan 3.5, 16 Mar 3.4, 14 Apr 3.3, 23 May 3.2, 16 June 3.15, 15 Jul 3.1, 31 Jul 3, 21 Aug 2.9 26 Sept 2.85, 14 Nov Xan 0.61, 1 Dec 0.59, 19 Dec 0.58, 4 Jan 0.565, 6 Feb 0.55, 20 Feb 0.535, 1 Mar 0.505, 10 Mar 0.475, 14 Mar 0.45, 4 Apr 0.415, 13 Apr 0.37, 21 Apr 0.33, 29 Apr 0.29, 10 May 0.27, 17 May 0.25, 28 May 0.22, 19 June 0.22, 21 Jun updose to 0.24, 24 Jun updose to 0.26

Supplements: Omega 3 + Vit E, Vit C, D, magnesium, Taurine, probiotic 

I'm not a medical professional. Any advice I give is based on my own experience and reading. 

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