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  1. Free from Zoloft and Benzos After 25+ Years of Use One-year post taper “success story” – http://survivingantidepressants.org Elbee (male) - August 27, 2020 At the time of this success story post, I have passed the one-year mark (15+ months) living drug-free. I am speaking to you from “the other side” of hell to let you know I made it through the nightmare of psychiatric drug withdrawal -- and so can you. I want to start by saying that everyone’s withdrawal from psychiatric drugs is going to differ – no two paths are the same. While there will be commonalities in what we each experience, there will also be differences. I also believe that none of us are uniquely or irreparably “broken,” and that each of us can find a path to living much fuller, healthier lives in greater freedom. To be clear, I had doubts throughout this process . . . believing that somehow, I was MORE “broken,” and that I wouldn’t find my way out of the darkness. But the natural, innate healing power we each possess is profoundly AWESOME, and it quietly, patiently works in the background in each of our lives. . . even if we can’t see it, and even if we don’t trust it. For me, the psychiatric drug withdrawal / tapering process turned out to be an invitation to learn how to live my life differently. It became clear to me in this journey that I could never go back to some idealized place I vaguely imagined myself clinging to . . . I could only move forward to somewhere I had not yet been. I need to be honest: It is still hard to revisit and write about just how painful this drug withdrawal process was. Now that I’m feeling so much better, a part of me wants to forget the whole ordeal . . . as if looking in a rear-view mirror, driving ever-further away. And the reality is that this rear-view mirror perspective is very much real -- I’m SO grateful not to be suffocating in such intense pain anymore! But it is also true I will carry the scars of this experience with me for the rest of my life. It is clear to me now that some of me died through this drug withdrawal process. It is also true that the most precious parts of me came back to life. And I am still healing. I was very much disabled through the most intensive parts of the drug taper. I was on these psych drugs for panic attacks, anxiety, and depression my entire adult life, over 25 years. Additionally, I was drinking alcohol abusively, and relying on multiple pots of coffee and a pack of cigarettes to get me through each day. Even before I had decided to get off the meds, I was utterly exhausted most of the time, barely functional, and unconsciously stumbling through life like a zombie. I knew I had to fundamentally change how I was living. The first step in my detox efforts was to quit alcohol in April of 2014, 30 years after taking my first drink as a kid. Thankfully, I was able to release alcohol from my life relatively easily. Whatever boost alcohol had given me previously was gone, and it was clear to me as a 44 year old man that the devastating hangovers I experienced were getting more difficult. Then, over that following summer and under doctor supervision, I “tapered” entirely off both the Lorazepam and Zoloft that I had been taking for 24 years. I experienced tons of anxiety in the process, but I did it, and after the 4-month ordeal, I thought I was in the clear. Unfortunately, about six weeks after taking my last dose of Zoloft, what I now know to be protracted withdrawal hit, and my life spun into a depth of hell that words cannot describe. Instead of re-instating the same drugs I had been taking, the doctors took me on an 8-month “trial-and-error” roller coaster ride of psychiatric drug experimentation. I finally ended up on higher doses of the drugs I had originally quit, plus Remeron added in for good measure. Through all of this, I landed in a very bad place – exhausted, functionally disabled, unable to work, and unsure what to do next. I had some savings in the bank I could live on for a few years, so I decided to “hole up” to do a new taper, following the much slower tapering protocol of the SurvivingAntidepressants.org website. But my savings were limited, so I used the 10% reduction protocol as a baseline, and pushed the taper as fast as I could without killing myself in the process. I’m not sure I would suggest this approach to anyone else, but in my situation, that’s what I did. Note: I’m going to refrain from listing out all the symptomatic horrors I experienced (there were many) as I write this success story. Here is the link, if you’re interested, to my introductory thread which details my four-year psychiatric drug withdrawal process: https://www.survivingantidepressants.org/topic/11862-%E2%98%BC-elbee-25-years-of-meds/ And I want to take a moment here to say how incredibly grateful I am to @Altostrata, @Shep @brassmonkey, @bubble, @apace41, @Gridley, @Rhiannon (her writings), @JanCarol, @KarenB, @ChessieCat, @Petunia, @scallywag and all the folks at SurvivingAntidepressants.org who helped save my life. I also came across Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic around the same time I found this site, and from these resources, I knew I had stumbled into truth. It became clear to me that so much of what the mainstream medical establishment had told me about these drugs, and about my so-called “chemical imbalance,” was false -- I had been lied to. SurvivingAntidepressants.org helped me anchor into this truth and set me on a new course. THANK YOU! With these new resources, I came to understand that getting off the drugs wasn’t just a simple matter of refraining from ingesting chemicals, or even about waiting for those chemicals to dissipate out of my body. I learned that my brain had restructured itself around the presence of the drugs all these years and that by removing the drugs, my brain would have to, very slowly, restructure itself again to a healthy state. The metaphor of a plant (my brain) growing on a trellis (the drugs) for support is so profound to me. How can I expect to abruptly rip out the trellis and think that it won’t damage the plant in devastating ways? This metaphor was such a clear illustration to me of how a neuroplastic human brain builds tolerance, and how we can so easily become entangled in the physiological mechanisms of addiction. And to be very clear, our brains develop tolerance to psychiatric drugs just like they do street drugs, and the mechanics of addiction and withdrawal in each are the same. Gaining this knowledge and allowing it to sink in was probably one of the most important early milestones in my healing process. In preparing for writing this success story, I re-read my entire introductory thread. Several pivotal posts stood out to me as other milestones in my healing process, and while this testimonial might go long, I think it could be useful to touch on some of them . . . In my very first post, I am already talking about the value of meditation. Sitting with myself quietly and focusing on my breath helped me slow down my mind and learn to relax. As I continued with the practice, though, I began experiencing periods of discomfort. I had initially taken the psychiatric drugs to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings, and as I practiced meditating space was again created for those feelings to arise. Learning to slowly sit with and tolerate whatever thoughts and feelings arose began to nullify my need to run away, and therefore, lesson my urge to drug the discomfort. Meditation became a cornerstone of my self-care practice, and self-care is what I ultimately found to replace the drugs. Next milestone -- about a year later, I wrote an entry about a decision I was struggling with on whether to consult with a renowned psychiatrist. A relative was able to get me an appointment for a psychiatric medication evaluation from a “leader in the field” (at the bargain price of $2,000). Looking back, it was then I decided I no longer believed in the efficacy of psychiatric drugs, nor the system that deals in them. I wrote: Next, in the summer of 2016, still early in my tapering and recovery process, I went on a 111-day, 9,000-mile solo road trip across the U.S. In retrospect, I was probably looking for something “out there” that was missing “in here.” I did a four-day vision fast in the wilderness, hiked a 14,000-foot mountain, roamed Death Valley, did a week-long silent meditation retreat, camped under redwoods, hiked numerous National Parks, etc. Was it really a good idea to take this pilgrimage in such a compromised state? I can’t say for sure, but it’s what I did, and I think it cracked through defenses that needed to open. In the Hoh Forest of Olympic National Park in Washington state, I experienced a release of emotions like I had never felt before. It was in that moment I finally realized that releasing stored emotional blockages could ease my anxiety: Another milestone: Upon returning home to Florida later that fall, I dove more deeply into my involvement with the Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) 12-Step program. In conjunction with doing EMDR with a skilled, compassionate trauma therapist, ACA helped me crack through layers of protective childhood denial that I had carried into adulthood. Some people advise NOT deliberately digging into the unconscious too much while going through psychiatric drug withdrawal, but my path has been that of heavy digging. I accepted living in a disabled state for a period of time and felt that if I was going to get off these drugs, I needed to address what drove me to take them in the first place. By early summer of 2017, my commitment to this recovery approach had strengthened. Along with addressing the trauma associated with childhood family dysfunction, I opened another door . . . into the shame and terror I experienced hiding as a closeted young gay boy and gay teen. I had initially come out 25 years earlier at age 20 (the same time I started taking the psych drugs), but that was only part of my truth I was hiding. The secrets of my sexual orientation were built upon the secrets of having grown up in family dysfunction: Homophobia turned out to be compounding trauma, and I had been living in a closet within a closet. I had more inner work to do. Perhaps one of my most significant milestones was realizing how important it was for me to take the lead in my healing, and how easily I had deferred to the “expertise of authorities” in my life. By June of 2017, I had navigated my way off the benzos completely, and I recognized the importance of building an internal sense of trust – connecting with my more authentic self to discover a new inner compass. Despite appearing outwardly confident most of my life, inner trust was something I lacked. By allowing myself to fully feel, I had opened to recognizing my own authentic needs, to directly and respectfully communicating my needs, and to setting healthy limits and boundaries. By learning these important skills that I had missed earlier in life, I discovered greater internal trust with myself, and greater discernment in trusting others. By January of 2018, I had another important insight: I more fully recognized I was going through an internal chemical withdrawal process in addition to detoxing from the drugs I was ingesting. Behavioral (or process) compulsions and addictions all have physiological and neurological correlates, and I had been heavily “dosing” throughout my life using my own “internal drug store.” This realization profoundly shifted my perspective on my psychiatric drug withdrawal process, seeing it in a more comprehensive context. A lot of my recovery has involved working with an “inner critic” that had been driving me most of my life, born and sustained from a lack of unconditional love. Ironically, this harshness was so pervasive that I had never consciously known it was there. My inner critic constantly pushed me into the extremes of all-nothing thinking. Again, meditative practices more than anything helped me identify this was going on, and ACA reparenting (inner child work) has allowed me to soften it. By the end of 2018, I started discovering something that had evaded me my whole life – moderation, and a general sense of “OK-ness.” By April 2019, I had found a new pace in life to accompany my new inner compass, and I was nearing the full completion of my psychiatric drug taper. I was one-year benzo-free at this point, and at times, I was overwhelmed with heights of new sensations and emotions. I was feeling things I hadn’t experienced since I was a teenager because I had been drugged my entire adult life. It was overpowering in many ways, but I was so grateful to be “awakening” to a much more fully human life. On April 28, 2019, I was finally free from Zoloft, and my psychiatric drug taper was complete. I had found a way out of the darkness, and I had survived. I couldn’t remember having ever felt so alive. So, while this isn’t my entire recovery story, I’m fulfilling my promise to report back and share my continuing journey with others. Where do things stand today, 15 months after taking a psychiatric drug for the last time ever? No need to panic. I’m not experiencing depersonalization, derealization (DP/DR), or panic attacks in frightening ways. I do still feel what I might call different states of consciousness, but often there is a positive, expansive quality to these experiences. Perhaps some might call this bliss? I haven’t really found ways to talk about it yet clearly, but I don’t experience panic attacks in the ways I used to. I still have fears of them returning, but less so with time. I also get “eerie” feelings now and again, but I have found ways to work with that when it happens, and it doesn’t usually last long. Scariest weirdness has ceased. Most of the “unexplainable” adverse reactions I experienced don’t happen anymore. I would get terrible flu-like symptoms for days at a time . . . hot flashes and chills, body aches, cramps, twitches, headaches, fogginess and disorientation, exhaustion, etc. Sometimes my heart would start racing for no apparent reason, or I would have trouble breathing. I had chronic digestion issues. I had intense agoraphobia, even paranoia at times. I had problems making the simplest decisions. All of this, for the most part, has subsided. Consistent rest. My sleep has changed dramatically, and I’m so grateful. I have struggled with sleep my entire life . . . unable to fall asleep at night and feeling anxious and “hungover” with crippling anxiety each morning. For as long as I can remember, I wanted nothing more than to sleep “normally” from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and wake-up feeling well-rested. Today, more times than not, my sleep resembles very much what I used to wish for. I wrote an entry summarizing what I’ve done to address my sleep issues here. Keep gently working with triggers. I still have intense anxiety at times and find myself in hypervigilant states. I’ve come to understand this as a trauma response, and I can usually identify what has triggered me and/or how my inner critic has become activated. I’ve developed self-care routines that help to reduce these reactions, and that help me come out of this state much more quickly and easily. Some old wounds have healed permanently – some things that used to trigger me no longer do. AND I want to emphasize there are days now, thankfully, I live virtually anxiety-free. Self-care (reparenting) is my new drug. I had SO much resistance to doing self-care my whole life (for many reasons I won’t get into here). And by self-care, I don’t mean treating myself to a spa day (though that probably doesn’t hurt). I mean the day-in and day-out routines of physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually tending to myself like I’m the most precious being in the world. Self-care is what got me to where I am today, and it will be the practice of my lifetime. Don’t overdo it. As my life continues to get fuller, I can easily start “checking-out” again. If I stay dissociated for too long, I will pay for it. If I overcommit while on autopilot, I will have adverse reactions when I reconnect with myself. If I try to shortcut too much on the self-care, I will most definitely feel it, and I will struggle. Moving forward, I have to be very careful not to take on too much too quickly, and simply take next best steps. The worst is over. I’ve come to accept that I will never know how much of the excruciating symptoms I experienced these past years were due directly to the psychiatric drug withdrawal, versus how much was due to all the “inner work” I was doing. What I can say is that the symptoms from folks going through psychiatric drug withdrawal and folks doing inner transformative (trauma) work tend to be very much the same. It’s uncanny really, and I can’t explain it. But these two processes seem to very much mirror each other. What I can say is that while there will still be “windows and waves” as my brain keeps healing, and while I still have more “inner work” to do, I’m confident the heaviest lifting for me is done now. Perhaps most indicative of the healing I’ve experienced, I’m feeling well enough now that I’m back in school earning a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) – I’m going to become a therapist. While I’m a bit uneasy stepping towards healthcare systems that betrayed me so deeply, I also feel this is how I can be of most benefit. I’ve come to fully believe that my wounds are intrinsically linked to my gifts, and as I continue to heal my wounds, my gifts will become increasingly available. I’ve been doing volunteer work for some time now, which has helped me to “move back out into the world,” and I hope to transition into paid work soon. I’ve been meeting with people in support capacities, and I envision “coaching” people at some point until I more formally earn my credentials. I plan to be very open about my history with psychiatric drugs, as well as my recovery process. I journaled extensively all throughout my recovery process, and perhaps I will share the “long version” of my story in the future (yes, this is the short version). For now, writing this success story is an important next step in my “coming out.” Thank you for witnessing my healing. Elbee-Success-Story_Free from Zoloft and Benzos After 25 years on them.pdf
  2. ADMIN NOTE: Read this entire topic before attempting a switch to fluoxetine. Be sure to read details and cautions below . Consult a knowledgeable medical practitioner before changing medications. Also see Tips for tapering off fluoxetine (Prozac) Switching or bridging with another related drug, usually of a longer half-life, is a medically recognized way to get off psychiatric drugs, particularly if you find tapering your original drug to be intolerable. Many people with failed tapers from venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), paroxetine (Paxil), and duloxetine (Cymbalta) find they need to bridge in order to go off the drug. For many doctors, a switch to Prozac to go off a different antidepressant is routine. Because of the risks of switching drugs -- see below -- we recommend attempting a very gradual direct taper from your drug, with bridging with a different drug only a last resort. There are a lot of unknowns in bridging. Fluoxetine (Prozac) has the longest half-life of any of the modern antidepressants. Because it takes more than a week for a dose to be metabolized completely, a careful taper off fluoxetine is easier for many people -- see information about Tapering off Prozac. And, at least fluoxetine comes in a liquid. (Do not assume fluoxetine is "self-tapering"! We have many people here with Prozac withdrawal syndrome. While going off fluoxetine usually has less risk, one might still develop withdrawal symptoms going off fluoxetine. No bridging strategy is risk-free.) Citalopram (Celexa )and its sibling escilatopram (Lexapro) have half-lives of about 35 hours, a relatively long half-life among SSRIs, and are other candidates for a bridging strategy. They also come in a liquid form. You must find a knowledgeable doctor to help you to with a bridging strategy. The cross-taper method discussed below is probably the safest way to make a change in drugs. You might wish to print this post out to discuss it with your doctor. For most people the switch goes smoothly but for some it doesn't. The drawbacks of switching to another drug to get off the first drug, described below, apply to ALL bridging strategies for ALL drugs, including benzodiazepines (where people often want to bridge with diazepam per the Ashton method). Risks of bridging A bridging strategy has the following drawbacks for a minority of those who try it: Dropping the first antidepressant in the switch may cause withdrawal symptoms even though you're taking a bridge drug. Adverse reaction to the bridge drug, such as Prozac. Serotonin toxicity or adverse effects of a drug combination. If withdrawal symptoms are already underway, switching to a bridge drug may not help. A cross-taper requires a number of careful steps. Difficulty tapering off the bridge drug. All of the bridge drugs can be difficult to taper themselves. So, like anything else, a drug switch is not guaranteed to work. When to switch or bridge "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know". A direct taper from the drug to which your nervous system is accustomed carries less risk than a switch to a new drug. You may have a bad reaction to the substitute drug, or the substitution may not work to forestall withdrawal symptoms. The risk of a switch is justified if you find a taper from the original drug is simply too difficult. Usually people will do a switch when they find reducing the original antidepressant by even a small amount -- 10% or even 5% -- causes intolerable withdrawal symptoms. (I have heard doctors say they don't even try tapering off paroxetine (Paxil) or venlafaxine (Effexor ), they switch to Prozac at the beginning of the tapering process.) If you are having intolerable withdrawal or adverse effects from an antidepressant, it may be worth risking the worst case, which is that a switch to a bridge drug doesn't help and you have withdrawal syndrome anyway. If you're thinking of switching simply as a matter of convenience, you need to weigh the risks against the amount of convenience you would gain. Generally, switching for convenience is a bad idea. CAUTION: A switch to a bridge drug is not guaranteed to work. It's safer to slow down a taper than count on a switch. A switch really should be used only when a taper becomes unbearable or there are other serious adverse effects from the medication. You must work with a doctor who is familiar with bridging, in case you develop severe symptoms. Overview of cross-tapering method For drug switches, many doctors prefer cross-tapering, where a low dose of one drug is added and gradually increased while the first drug is reduced. For a period, both drugs are taken at the same time. Here is a graphic representation of cross-tapering: If you are making a switch to Prozac, the second antidepressant is fluoxetine (Prozac). Given fluoxetine's long half-life, it may take a couple of weeks to reach full effect. The effect of the amount you add at each stage of the cross-taper will build throughout the process. As it is possible to overshoot Prozac dosage, it's best to be very conservative about increasing fluoxetine throughout the cross-taper, you could end up with serotonin toxicity from too much fluoxetine (see below). Also see this discussion about cross-tapering with Prozac: Serotonin toxicity and serotonin syndrome You run the risk of serotonin toxicity if you are taking too much serotonergic. Most antidepressants (and some other drugs, such as triptans and MDMA) are serotonergics. Serotonergic effects of antidepressants are added when you take more than one of them, particularly if you add an SSRI (such as Prozac, Celexa, or Lexapro) to an SNRI (such as desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor), venlafaxine XR (Effexor XR), milnacipran (Savella), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima)). (Other types of antidepressants should not be combined with tricyclics or MAOIs.) Symptoms of too much serotonergic can be: Nervousness, anxiety, akathisia, sleeplessness, fast heartbeat. Symptoms of serotonin toxicity can be these plus disorientation, sweating, and others. Serotonin syndrome is even more serious. See Serotonin Syndrome or Serotonin Toxicity Reduction of the drug dose should resolve serotonin toxicity. Note that if you cross-taper, you will be taking 2 drugs at once for part of the time. Because of the potential of serotonin toxicity by overdosing SSRIs as well as in combination with SNRIs, it's safest to err on the lower side of a Prozac dose "equivalent" -- such as 5mg -- to your original drug. This is why doctors familiar with the Prozac switch will cross-taper by adding an initial LOW DOSE of Prozac to an SNRI. Start low, the effect of fluoxetine will increase over several weeks. Another concern: Escilatopram (Lexapro) is several times stronger, milligram for milligram, than the other SSRIs. If you add 10mg escilatopram to the high dose of 60mg duloxetine (Cymbalta), for example, you run the risk of serotonergic toxicity -- 10mg escilatopram is equal to approximately 20mg-30mg duloxetine. How much fluoxetine (Prozac) to substitute for my drug? Since fluoxetine's half-life is so much longer than those of other antdepressants, its effect is a little different. It's not a stronger antidepressant, but the effect of each dose lasts much longer. This may be the reason a lower dose of fluoxetine often seems to adequately substitute for other antidepressants. For an idea of equivalent doses of your medication to fluoxetine (Prozac) read this post (January 7, 2018) in this topic. It compares fluoxetine 40mg/day (a fairly high dose of Prozac) to other antidepressants. Source of that data: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25911132 If you have tapered to a lower dose of an antidepressant, an even lower dose of Prozac may be more tolerable. If you are about half-way down, you might want to try 10mg Prozac. If you have decreased further, you may wish to try 5mg Prozac. If you have substituted fluoxetine for your drug and after two weeks, you feel you have withdrawal symptoms, you may wish to gradually the fluoxetine dosage. After each change in fluoxetine, wait at least 2 weeks to see the effect before deciding on another increase. More is not better for nervous systems sensitized by withdrawal. EXAMPLES OF THE PROZAC SWITCH Below is information I've gathered from doctors about how to do the Prozac switch. You will see there is no standard protocol. Healy 2009 method for the Prozac switch From Healy 2009 Halting SSRIs withdrawal guidelines: Phelps-Kelly 2010 method for Prozac switch From Clinicians share information about slow tapering (2010) Jim Phelps, one of the authors of the above, posted in 2005 in some detail about the so-called "Prozac bridging" strategy. He said it is described in Joseph Glenmullen's book, Prozac Backlash, maybe in the chapter titled of "Held Hostage." The technique Dr. Phelps described in this post skips doses and finishes with alternating dosages, which we do not recommend for people who are sensitive to withdrawal symptoms. Given that fluoxetine liquid is available, this is completely unnecessary. Foster 2012 method for Prozac switch Dr. Mark Foster, a GP whose mission is to get people safely off psychiatric drugs includes this in a presentation he gives to doctors. http://www.gobhi.org/spring_conference_powerpoints/safewithdrawal_of_psychotropics%5Bautosaved%5D.ppt. His method involves overlapping Prozac with the other antidepressant -- cross-tapering. Prey 2012 method for Prozac switch Another knowledgeable doctor (whom I trust) explained his technique to me (this is the technique I personally would prefer if I had to do it, it seems much gentler) For a "normal" dose of Effexor (150mg per day or more) or Paxil (20mg) or Cymbalta (20mg), he would switch to 10mg Prozac with a week of overlap. In other words, take both medications for a week and then drop the Effexor. Lower doses of Effexor or other antidepressant require lower doses of Prozac as a "bridge." The lower dose of Prozac reduces the risk of excessive serotonergic stimulation (serotonin toxicity) from the combination of the two antidepressants during the overlap period. Do not stay on the combination of the first antidepressant and Prozac for more than 2 weeks, or you run the risk of your nervous system accommodating to the combination and having difficulty tapering off both antidepressants. Later, taper off Prozac. He acknowledged Prozac can have its withdrawal problems, but given Prozac's long half-life, gradual tapering should be easier than tapering off Effexor. Smoothing out a transition to fluoxetine Even with a cross-taper, your system might feel a jolt after you finally drop the initial antidepressant, particularly if it is an SNRI, such as Effexor, Pristiq, or Cymbalta, or other drug that is not an SSRI like fluoxetine. (Other SSRIs include Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, Lexapro). If you go through a rough patch after the transition, patients find they can take a tiny chip of the original drug (or a bead or two, if it's a capsule containing beads) for a week or two to smooth out the transition. Eventually, you'd take a chip as needed only when you feel a wave of withdrawal from the original drug, and then finally leave the original drug entirely behind. (A gelatin capsule might make a tablet fragment easier to get down, but it is not necessary if you can wash it down with a good swallow of water. The gelatin capsule quickly dissolves in your stomach.) Here's an example. There is no shame in doing this. Whatever works, works.
  3. A big hello to anyone reading, I'm grateful for a place to find answers and to log what's going on in the process. Happy to be here and to find resources. I'm coming off of lamotrigene and Halcion, just recently started (an apparently too big of) a taper. Relevant hx: After major surgery involving my CNS (major neck surgery/fusion)last year, my brain has been "worse" - with sx of a major concussion. (I had a major concussion in '99 so I know how that feels) My neurosurgeon denied any anesthesia/apneic complications at both my 3 month and 6 month checkups, when I asked him why I felt as if I had a major concussion post-/intra-operatively- my memory is worse than ever, things that *should be* general knowledge in my brain area are not accessible for recall, just struggling with real life functions, very poor cognition, (worse than it was to the point I don't even want to tell anyone, because how my mind works/thinks is scary to me) like I'm inebriated and can't think or focus, can't remember recent conversations- even of earlier today- and have zero focus/ability to concentrate. Constant pressure in my head, feeling really dizzy like I've been spun in circles and then stopped, vision changes (bad eye is now the good eye and the good eye is bad) seeing double, have zero filter when I talk and things don't make sense, can't recall simple words and frequently mix them up. Vertigo. Dizziness. Lightheadedness. That was Before I started weaning off of meds. I've recently (3 weeks ago) read about post operative cognitive disorder and 2 wks ago saw my Dr (Dr H) review past brain MRI's and he is at a loss after several bloodwork panels. Referral made to out of state University Hospital Neurology dept. He mentioned low blood sugar but nothing otherwise remarkable with labs. He brought up "medications I take contributing to these things-- that the confusion and poor cognition been an ongoing complaint. I also read on drug interactions between each of the meds listed and realized this may be a huge part of the cognitive problems and CNS issues, so lets stop taking what's not working! I've been on lamotrigene for 10 years, 150mg Daily for the past year anyway. I've been talking Valium 5mg at bedtime, as well as Halcion (triazolam) 0.25mg-@HS for probably closer to 14+ years and don't feel it helps with sleep anyway.. It has been ineffective. Also taking an antihistamine at bedtime for allergies... But it potentates the effects of the other meds. Also pain medication A few times a week. Lots of autoimmune, neuroimmune diagnoses and chronic, debilitating nerve, muscle, skin and joint pain that adds to the depression. I won't go into all of that. *Lamotrigene brand change 6 weeks ago Really messed with my brain and systems, so I had to go from that 150mg tablet back to the "good" brand 100mg tablets I had an extra bottle of; (The "good" brand I used has been permanently discontinued.) So- 4 weeks ago my dose was cut to 100mg, trying to get out of the position of needing this med since it has become impossible to get the brand that has been effective. I started weaning from the Halcion 2 weeks ago, cut the dose in half after seeing my doctor and reviewing needs and MRI's etc. Both of these were done as the pharmacist and doctor instructed but I'm seeing much of the withdrawing sx mentioned in this website- And it is only compounding the feeling that I'm completely losing my mind that I have dealt with post-operatively since about March 2018. Low blood sugar has been ruled out as a causative factor for poor cognition over the past 2 weeks. NOW ....I'm noticing worsening cognition, memory and concentration, back pain and muscle spasms(back locked up in me- can't walk/sit past 2 days), fatigue is worse, no motivation, but also anxiety and a need to get out of the house, (manic?) do something besides hide in bed half the day feeling no purpose. The sx wax and wane a bit, afternoons are the worst. I see these are common withdrawal reactions after some browsing of this site, that helps me feel like I'm not totally losing my mind! I appreciate what this site offers- I'm glad to find it. I'm seeing information here that I know it's useful, but I'm already a month in on my lamotrigene dose decrease, don't know that I want to go back up on that. Do I???? I know I've only skimmed the very surface of material here, can't absorb any more right now. At least I've found help. I think. HS: Lamotrigene 100mg Valium 5mg Halcion 0.125mg Clemastine 1.34mg Thx for reading... Cat from USA
  4. Hi, You need a taper plan for your antidepressant(s) or benzodiazepine(s) and you don't know how to start? How about create by yourself your own taper plan? If you want to see how your possible taper plan may look like, have a look to the following online planners: - For antidepressants users: http://antdep.alwaysdata.net/ - For benzodiazepines users: http://benzo.alwaysdata.net/ and the related video: Have a look to the Help section first. Hope it can help.
  5. Hey I have been on lexapro since 2012 after a lot of trials and errors I was prescribed mirtazapine 7.5 mg (half dose) and lexapro 10mg . I was on mirtazapine 7.5 for a couple of years until switching to amisulpride 50mg . Stayed on lexapro 10mg and amisulpride 50mg until last December I 'relapsed' and the psychiatrist started experimennting with different drugs . I decided to quit drugs and tapered off for the first couple of weeks took both the drugs in full dose and than for next couple of weeks half dose of amisulpride and full dose of lexapro. For the next couple of weeks I didn't take even a single dose amisulpride and slowly weaned off lexapro too. I remember I took my last lexapro pill on 13th Feb 2016. Right after stopping it started feeling like a zombie and days from 6-10were complete hell . Felt suicidal . However somehow I managed to stay afloat by telling myself it's just WD and I will soon get better . ilIstarted feeling better after the time passed . Yet I was not able to feel any emotion . No anger , no happiness ,no sadness , just felt like a zombie . Out of nowhere somewhere in late March I wioke up and felt like my old self . I was excited ,yet somewhere ilI newbie won't last long . THAT night had an anxiety attack and from than onwards started feeling foggy . it was extremely difficult to understand or feel anything. HOWEVER. in May I started running and somewhere near 21st of May I felt like myself again but it too didn't last long enough. And than after a month after exercising and sweating it out in gym I felt like returning to my old self again but than something really simple made it really worse . My college exams too played a role in it . Even after runningg miles and sweating it out in gym I was not able to sleep. I got 4-6 hours of sleep . And my cognitive functions have only worsened so far . I haven't been able to enjoy stuffs that I once enjoyed. I felt suicidal and went back to psychiatrist .He gave me a cocktail of drugs including lexapro , I attempted suicide just the next day . I again came off and after seeing no improvement in my cognitive abilities alwent back on drugs . Currently I am on Desvenflas 50mg and some benzodiazpine. Found about this sit recently and related to the people on them I would love to know our all's opinion on the mqtter
  6. I've been actively tapering klonopin for over a year now. I have been taking benzodiazepines for the last 26 years...yeah. About five years ago, I tried zoloft. It was amazing, and it helped my anxiety a lot. It helped it so much, that I realized how little tranquilizers were doing for me. Well, I switched because of side effect and for the last year I have been taking Pristiq, with pretty good effects. Last week, I took some migraine medication, called maxalt, and basically caused a mild seretonin syndrome. I stopped the pristiq for a day and my seretonin syndrome symptoms went away, but a whole new bunch of stuff started, which I realized was pristiq withdrawal. I didn't really want to come off the pristiq until I was done getting off the klonopin, but this is how it is going down now. So I've been breaking my pristiq pill up with a pill cutter into fourths, and I now take 1/4th a pill 3X a day. I feel better when I have just taken a dosage and dizziness, nausea, and a loss of balance are my biggest symptoms to date of pristiq withdrawal. I'm really only five days in, so I'm not sure how much worse this may get.
  7. Hi all! I have been reading these forums for months and finally decided to share my story in the hope that perhaps it will help others and also that some may have some good advice. I was prescribed Xanax 0.5 mg about 4 years ago after experiencing severe insomnia due to stress of starting a new job (new grad critical care nurse working night and day shift). I took it roughly 2-3 times per week for approximately 3.5 years. I occasionally took it a little more and slightly higher doses (up to 0.75 mg) if I felt like I needed to be knocked out to sleep. I never took it during the day. I got a new doc, who switched me to Lorazepam 0.5 mg last year after stating Xanax was too addictive. I found that I needed to take two pills and sometimes add a glass of wine in order to achieve the same sleep-inducing effect. A few times I experienced "brain zaps" or high levels of anxiety when the drugs wore off, but I never quite attributed this to interdose withdrawal. I went on vacation, May 2015, and I took both Xanax and Lorazepam at the same time due to being low on Xanax for about 4 days straight. I experienced terrible rebound insomnia and did not sleep for about 3 days straight. I did not associated this with the benzos and had a friend prescribe Lunesta 3 mg to help me sleep. I began taking this on top of Lorazepam 1 mg for about 2 weeks. After my first few days mixing these drugs, I began to feel very strange. Things did not look quite right (I now realize I was having depersonalization) and I began to get severe head pressure in the evening (very tight band around the head) and almost blacking out in the shower. I began to feel a sense of impending doom and constantly felt anxious. Caffeine and alcohol made things ten times worse. My GP had me wean off Lorazepam over 2 weeks and then stop altogether. My DP/DR became very severe and lasted approximately 3 months, slowly improving over that time. However, my original insomnia + withdrawal insomnia came back full force and I would be working 12 hour night shifts after days of no sleep. It was not safe for me or my patients, obviously. I had to work a reduced schedule for over a month. I felt depressed and highly anxious and could not function. Desperate, I found a psychiatrist and she suggested trying Lexapro and Trazodone for the anxiety/depression. After a few weeks of benzo withdrawal, I broke down and started Lexapro 5 mg/day and Trazodone 50-75 mg per night. Within a week I felt a little calmer and started sleeping better. I felt confused and spacey on the Lexapro but was willing to put up with it since I was sleeping better. Within weeks, my doc increased my dose to 10 mg Lexapro. I started feeling like I couldn't sit still and was constantly "buzzing" and felt restless just sitting down. I had increased hand tremors (these started after quitting benzos) and felt very out of it. I started having trouble with my eyesight and had to start wearing my glasses at all times. My most concerning symptom, though, was development of constant, dull head pressure and a clicking/grating/popping noise in my ears/forehead about 50-100 times per day. I felt like I could not think straight, as if there was literally something "blocking" me from focusing and concentrating. I was a straight A college student and graduated top of my class and was on the road to pursuing my graduate degree, so having difficulty with my speech and concentration was very concerning. I stayed at 10 mg for two weeks, waiting for the "side effects" to subside, as everyone assured me they would. They did not, and I went back down to 5 mg. However, decreasing the dose did not diminish any of the side effects I had been experiencing and I felt worse than ever. Every day I felt like I was living in a dream and it took all my energy to understand complex patients concepts at worse that previously were never a problem. After three months, I decided to start weaning off 5 mg with liquid Lexapro. I weaned off very slowly, over 3 more months. As I weaned, occasionally I started to feel a little more "normal" and less "numb." It has been 3 months since getting off Lexapro and Trazodone and my main issue/symptom is that I am having head pressure similar (but more intense) than what I had on Lexapro to some degree every single day. The clicking/popping/grinding noise is also still there and seems to occur any time the pressure changes in my head. The popping doesn't hurt, it's just annoying. The head pressure feels like someone has my head in a vice at all times, but occasionally cranks on it and increases the squeezing sensation. It is unlike anything I have ever felt in my life, and certainly not a normal headache by any means. Whenever I have intense head pressure, I have extreme trouble concentrating, thinking, and focusing similar to what I had while on Lexapro. My other symptom is shakiness and restlessness (trouble sitting still, body feels like it's vibrating). This comes and goes. So, I'm asking you guys....Could I still be in benzo withdrawal or is this probably more related to the Lexapro? I have seen reports of head pressure and weird head sensations from both benzo and AD forums. For those with severe head pressure, when did you start feeling better? Did anyone experience popping or clicking noises in their head? I am concerned because I would like to start graduate school this fall to become a nurse practitioner and I need to be able to think clearly. I feel devastated that I have gone from a highly capable and intelligent person to a depressed insomniac with cognitive impairment. Looking for a silver lining and some encouragement. I've been taking Melatonin and Lemon Balm to help combat the insomnia. Thank you!
  8. Hi all. I have been reading many post on this excellent forum for a while now. Time to say hello and start my own journal thread. A bit about me Don’t know if my story is very unique... I am broken. I have been on meds for a long time. I have tried to quit several times, failed and failed again. Struggle with low self esteem and dysthymia for as far as I can remember, but somehow still manage to keep my life together (at least it looks like that from the outside). There is a lot of negativity and dysfunction in me, and I have a have been in different kinds of therapy on and off. No real problems with anxiety before starting to taper the meds. During my more brighter moments I’m also very very happy for having a decent career at work, an loving girlfriend, a few really good friends, my cats, basic health and many other things that are important in life. The medication I was put on Venlafaxine in 2000 at age 33 after a separation that triggered both my first panic attacks and clinical depression. I needed the medication then, for perhaps 1 year it saved my life. Continued taking it out of habit and lack of good support from any doctor that knew something. During the 14 years on meds my life was actually quite ok. Most things worked fine, I was balanced and sane. No anxiety, no depression, stable mood and a quite active life. So why change a winning team? I wanted to try to stop taking meds when I realized that I had not cried at all for ten years, not even when one of my beloved cats died, that my life simply was not containing any real highs and no real lows. I somehow missed out on important emotional parts by taking SSRI/SNRI. The more I read on the subject, the more convinced I got that I really have to quit. Still, depression runs deep in my family, and I might end up having to take a low dose for the rest of my life. The plan is of course to not take any meds at all and deal with my problems in therapy instead. I have much more faith in talk therapy than in long term medication. Others probably see me as a rather calm person, but I’m also very restless, uncertain and often not patient enough for the slow pace that discontinuing psych meds demand. Sometimes do to to big drops or other drastic changes in meds or life. I know it's not good for me, but I can't help myself. SSRI is clearly the devil and benzodiazepine is his/hers evil partner in crime! The antidepressants keep my demons in their cages and benzo soothes my restless soul like nothing else. I have very mixed emotions to the medication. I don’t like to be dependent on them but the last 14 years I have always felt better on meds than off. Perhaps that has to do with the lack of patience. My current tapering project I started my current tapering from 150 mg Venlafaxine (Effexor) in April 2014. Have tried to follow all the tips on keeping it slow, stable and safe. There has been a lot of stress with traveling, new job, major illness in the family, big changes in my important volunteer engagement and a new love relationship during this year. So far I have managed to handle all these changes and the withdrawal effects without falling apart. There is still too much stress but compared to before tapering I’m trying to keep my ambitions fairly low and try to limit all activities and persons that generates stress. If withdrawal becomes worse I guess I will have to lower my ambitions even more. As you all know, lots of time and energy goes into dealing with waves, new emotions, mood swings and increased anxiety. In March 2015 I was down to 30 mg Venlafaxine per day, with some very clear withdrawal issues. This might be a too fast taper, but that was the way I did it. The withdrawal got a bit worse, and I slowly started started self medicating Diazepam (Valium) on a daily basis. However, I wasn’t feeling bad enough to reinstate or increase the Venlafaxine dosage. Two months later, in May 2015, I felt stable enough to start bridging to liquid Fluoxetine (Prozac) during 1 month. Hope that the long half life of the Fluoxetine will make the final steps down to zero manageable. I had to increase the dose a bit and now, in June 2015, I’m on 12 mg Fluoxetine (3.0 ml) which equals about 40 mg Venlafaxine. Not sure that this was the right move, but all previous attempts to go lower than 40 mg Venlafaxine has failed miserably and resulted in reinstating. The main drawback with Fluoxetine compared to Venlafaxine, is that it makes me very tired. The fatigue is constant and the energy levels way below normal. I feel like sleeping all the time. To deal with the lows I occasionally self medicate with the pain medication Tramadol, that clearly boost the serotonin levels. Try to not take it more than once a week, since it's easy to get dependent. I occasionally take other substances too, but never with such a frequency that they become problems. I know my limits in that area. I drink alcohol but not more than once a week and never more than a few glasses. To handle the anxiety i self medicate with Diazepam (Valium) or Alprazolam (Xanax). The last 2-3 months I have been taking between 2 and 5 mg Diazepam every other day. This is way to too frequent, and I’m clearly become dependent on the benzo now. This has happened before and I am slowly tapering the Diazepam. Currently taking about 1 mg per day. My main non-chemical weapon against the anxiety is the meditative relaxing audios from excelatlife.com and the headspace.com meditations, that I do on a daily basis. Recently I have started doing the “mixing the cake batter” anti-anxiety exercise that seem so help. I am not into supplements. Have tried both Vitamin E, Omega 3 and Magnesium at different occasions, but not found that it makes any kind of difference at all. At the moment I’m suffering quite a bit from both anxiety (mostly in the morning), mood swings, general nervousness, fatigue, memory loss and lack of motivation. Not sure what is related to the meds and what is new emotions emerging from the low dosage of SSRI. Sleep is one of the things that works fine though. I’m not giving up this time. I will follow through even if it takes several more years. Not sure how often I will update this journal or if I will get involved in the discussion on this site. Based on all my failed attempts to taper I do however believe it is very important to both give and receive support from others in the same situation. A big thank you to all the people who contribute to this site! You save lives.
  9. I am tapering off clonazepam. I was taking (3) 0.5mg pills a day. I told my doctor I wanted to try to cut back by one pill a month. The first month was fine. But now, month two, she has me taking (2) half pills a day, which is 0.25mg twice a day. It seems too sudden. I will let her know about the recommendation of taping off by 10% every 3 to 4 weeks. She is happy that I want to stop taking it and I think she will allow me to follow the 10% reduction plan.
  10. Hello everyone. I am glad this place exists. I am currently trying to get off antidepressants and have read many posts on this forum. I would appreciate any advice on my current situation. Here are the basics: March 2001 At age 18, tried marijuana and a high dose of coricidan cough & cold (dextromethorphan) along with alcohol on spring break. Experienced a 'bad trip', freaking out and thinking I was going to die. For the next couple weeks I felt 'off': experienced dissociative feelings, derealization and anxiety (feared I would never feel back to normal) April 2001 Returned to "normal"June 2001 Developed a cold, and upon taking cough medicine, the dissociative feelings returned and I had a panic attack, fearing I had brain damage from taking the drugs which was causing the feelings, along with heart palpitations, minor chest pain and shortness of breath. Went to the ER and they gave me Valium to calm down. The next day the dissociative feelings were still strong. Went to my PCP and he prescribed Paxil 20mg to anxiety. I was also given Xanax to use when the panic feelings were too strong. Along with anxiety symptoms, noticed ringing in the ears after starting Paxil. July 2001 After 6-8 weeks, the dissociative feelings lifted. I felt more normal.August 2001 Although feeling better, still had problems with anxiety and depression at night, so PCP increased Paxil dose to 30mg. After increasing dose, noticed ringing in the ears again, along with mild dizziness/vertigo and dissociative feelings. PCP assured me that these symptoms would subside in a few weeks, and that every negative feeling was a result of the anxiety disorder, while the medicine was making them go away. January 2002 Felt better and under doctor's advice, began tapering from Paxil.February 2002, Ringing in ears got worse after stopping Paxil, as did dissociative feelings and anxiety. Doc prescribed Xanax as needed. (can't remember if I went back on Paxil) December 2002 Overwhelming anxiety, dissociative feelings, depression and panic attacks return. PCP placed me on Prozac 20mg January 2003 Experiencing chest pain and tightness, panic attacks, and extremely high heart rates when exercising. Higher than normal. Anxiety still bad. Doc reassured me I would be fine and this is normal. Taking xanax almost daily to control anxiety Panic attacks became intense, and anxiety was 24/7. No relief. Had to drop out of college and come home. A few weeks later, went to PCP and he took me off Prozac and put me back on Paxil. April 2003 Anxiety, dissociative feelings and panic attacks have gotten better, but still 'on and off'. Feel okay for a week then feel bad for a week. Doc puts me on Paxil CR 50mg. August 2003 Things have improved. Feeling more 'normal.' Able to enjoy things. Went to the doc wanting to lower dose of Paxil. He put me on 12.5mg. October 2003 Switched to Zoloft 200mg because symptoms were returning Felt back to "normal" after a few weeks and able to enjoy things again. January 2005 Lowered dosage to 200mg Zoloft because of weight gain and feelings of fatigueOctober 2005 Dissociative symptoms, anxiety and depression returning. Doc takes me off Zoloft and puts me on Wellbutrin XL 300mg May 2006 Diagnosed with sleep apneaOctober 2006 Symptoms return. Doc places me on Effexor XR 150mg. After a few weeks feel back to "normal". Able to enjoy things again. September 2008 Wanted to get off medication for good. After getting my wisdom teeth out and being on Vicodin, I thought that would be a good time to do it. 2 weeks later, I freaked out and things were AWFUL. Went to the psychiatric ER and immediately restarted Effexor XR. Felt back to "normal" after a few weeks. July 2012 Begin having "episodes" where i feel lightheaded, and a "wave" feeling comes over me. This is accompanied by a significant raise in pulse and blood pressure, extreme panic and anxiety, and dissociative feelings. The episodes last about 10-15 minutes. Often times I vomit. They seem to happen after a lack of sleep, drinking lots of caffeine, or smoking too many cigarettes. Attack becomes so severe I head to the ER. They do tests, all come back negative. Over the next few months, these episodes become more frequent, and anxiety in between these episodes goes up. November 2012 Wake up in the middle night. Extreme fear and panic. Heart RACING. I call 911 and an ambulance has to come pick me up. At ER, all tests are negative and they give me xanax. Go to a psychiatrist who takes me off Effexor XR and puts me on Lexapro. Anxiety gets worse over the next two months. January 2013 Anxiety is worse than it has ever been. It is absolutely unbearable. Like a 24/7 panic attack from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. Psychiatrist puts me back on Effexor XR 150mg, and Klonopin 25mg 3x daily to keep me from freaking out. Things are AWFUL. Like a mental pain and anguish as iff someone is constantly shaking my head. I can't even describe how awful it is. March 2013 Things have not improved. Pdoc raises my dosage to 225mg of EffexorXR. After a few days, things get even WORSE. They are so bad I have to go to the ER and we decide to put me in an inpatient facility. After a couple days in there, I realize there is nothing they can do for me other than mess with medications. I got out of there after a couple days.May 2013 Things have not improved. I decide to enter a partial hospitalization program where I go in for half the day. They do all sorts of classes about mood and attitude and stuff but this is a physical feeling of mental anguish and pain, not a state of mind. They try to convince me it is a state of mind and I can talk my way out of it. Pdoc tries to increase Effexor XR dosage again. Symptoms get even WORSE. My heart rate races up to 150bpm just walking down the street. BP is up to 140/100. (normally 120/80) June 2013 We finally decide to taper me off Effexor XR and back on to Zoloft. It takes about 2 months, but I finally get off Effexor and onto Zoloft. The transfer was HELL. I would have episodes of extreme anxiety and mental pain, and moments where it felt like my brain was being electrically 'charged up.' Every night I went to bed thinking I was going to die in my sleep. I wish there was a way to describe my anguish. Now taking 200mg Zoloft and 25mg Klonopin 3x daily August 2013 Not getting better. Discover benzobuddies.org. Decide I need to get off the Klonopin. It is making me feel drugged and fatigued and unable to live life. And makes me feel like my legs are tingling and asleep all day. Begin my slow taper from Klonopin. Every time I make a cut it SUCKS... November 2013 Finally get off the Klonopin It's rough for a while, but SLOWLY gets better February 2013 At this point I am able to have moments where I'm not thinking about the anxiety/mental pain. This is a step forward. I still have dissociation and derealization, no 'clarity', mental fog, confusion, unable to organize thoughts, feeling ADHD all the time... but slowly improvingApril 2014 Feeling better. No 'painful' anxiety. Only taking 200mg Zoloft daily. Still have dissociation and derealization and anxiety and depression. Can't feel excitement, love, passion, sex drive, etc. I want to get off all medications. I have felt better since getting off effexor and Klonopin, although it has taken so long. I want to get off Zoloft, but I'm not sure when to begin. Because I am not completely better, I am afraid I will get worse if I try to taper now. But I am ALSO afraid that if I do not taper soon, I will get worse and need more medications to help. Advice??? Thank you :-) Edit: I have always been told that all these symptoms are from my anxiety disorder. After years of research, I'm wondering if the original anxiety was from the imbalance, but all these other problems are from the medications. Do I need medications to get better? Or do I need to taper off them to get better. That is my fear :-(
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