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hopefulinpa: Year from hell...tapering Elavil and Ativan


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Hello All,  Thank you in advance for your help and support.  I’ve had the worst year of my life and am praying to God that I can heal from this nightmare.


In March 2017, I experienced my first panic attack regarding a physical injury, which brought on anxiety and insomnia.  I tried for six weeks to not take medication, but eventually caved in and began Celexa and Trazodone. I had bad side effects from both and was switched to Lexapro. The Lexapro was very activating and I could not sleep at all. I was weaned off the Lexapro and Trazodone in July 2017. Ativan was added to help with sleep.


In August, I tried Seroquel and Remeron, but also had bad side effects. In September 2017, I was switched to Elavil and then Nortriptyline per the results of genetic testing.  At this time, I was diagnosed as having a single, current episode of MDD.  The Nortriptyline seemed to helped a little, but gave me Tachycardia.


I decided in January 2018, that I was going to taper down as none of these drugs gave me real relief and only added to my anxiety. I got down to 20 mg of Nortriptyline and .5mg of Ativan.  I unfortunately decided to try TMS therapy, but gave up after 25 sessions - too much to bear.  To make matters worse, I was switched to Doxepin and then back to Elavil.  


I have had ENOUGH of conventional medicine.  It has taken a horrible toll on my body and mind.  I was in good health before this happened and now I am in a lot of physical pain.  As of April 2018, I am down to 12.5mg of Elavil and .5-1mg of Ativan (both at night).  I try not to take the Ativan during the day.  


I want to get off the Elavil and am contemplating a cross taper to Valium to get off of the Benzo.  I plan to do that very slowly.  I’ve only been on the Elavil for a few weeks.  


All in all, this has been too much for a human to go through. It has greatly impacted my marriage, family and most likely cost me my job of 20 years as I am on long term disability.  I am working not change my diet, exercise, meditate, supplementation and detoxify my body.  I also found out I am heterozygous for the MTHFR mutation.


I just want to know that it is absolutely possible to heal.  All I want is to be able to sleep again naturally, organically.  My mother warned me not to take these medications, but I did not listen.  She was on the highest dosages of Lexapro and Wellbutrin and got off of them cold turkey and is totally healed.  She also got a divorce and is happier than she has ever been.  I guess that helps. 


I welcome any advice about tapering and would love to hear success stories.


Thank you!

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  • ChessieCat changed the title to hopefulinpa: Year from hell...tapering Elavil and Ativan

Over the past 4 weeks since stopping and starting 3 different tricyclics, I’ve begun to experience morning cortisol surges that leave my body in aches and pain.  I feel like I have fibromyalgia!  I’m trying to taper off the Elavil first and then Ativan.  Do these surges eventually go away??  I read high dose vitamin C can help, as well as exercise.  

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  • Moderator

Hello, hopefulinpa and welcome to SA.  I am sorry you have been having a hard time.  You have made a lot of drug changes, which accounts for the withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing.  It's not clear from your post the rate at which you tapered, but the symptoms may also be stemming from a too-fast taper.


To give members the best information, we ask them to summarize their medication history in a signature -- drugs, doses, dates, and discontinuations & reinstatements, in the last 12-24 months particularly.  Please include the rate of your tapers.
  • Any drugs prior to 24 months ago can just be listed with start and stop years. 
  • Please use actual dates or approximate dates (mid-June, Late October) rather than relative time frames (last week, 3 months ago) 
  • Spell out months, e.g. "October" or "Oct."; 9/1/2016 can be interpreted as Jan. 9, 2016 or Sept. 1, 2016. 
  • Please leave out symptoms and diagnoses. 
  • A list is easier to understand than one or multiple paragraphs. 
  • Link to Account Settings – Create or Edit a signature.
At Surviving Antidepressants, it is recommended that a person taper by no more than 10% of their current dose with at least a four week hold in-between decreases.  The 10% taper recommendation is a harm reduction approach to going off psychiatric drugs.  Some people may have to taper at a more conservative rate as they are sensitive to even the smallest drops.  
To help you understand what you are experiencing, here is some information on withdrawal:


When we take medications, the CNS (central nervous system) responds by making changes over the months and years we take the drug(s). When the medication is discontinued, the CNS has to undo all the changes it made. Rebuilding the neurotransmitter production and reactivating the receptor and transporter cells takes time -- during that rebuilding process symptoms occur.  
Please be aware that sometime withdrawal symptoms don't appear immediately after a too-fast taper.
Healing isn't linear.  There will be ups and downs.

We recommend tapering only one drug at a time.  Otherwise, if problems develop, it would be difficult to pinpoint which drug taper was causing the difficulty.  


SSRI's are activating drugs (known as accelerators), and benzos are sedating drugs (known as brakes), and we recommend tapering the activating drug first to act as a cushion to minimize withdrawal symptoms.  However, tricyclic antidepressants such as Amitryptiline are, like benzos,  brakes.  Are either of these drugs causing you problems?  That might point to which drug to taper first.
We don't recommend a lot of supplements on SA, as many members report being sensitive to them due to our over-reactive nervous systems, but two supplements that we do recommend are magnesium and omega 3 (fish oil). Many people find these to be calming to the nervous system. 




Please research all supplements first and only add in one at a time and at a low dose in case you do experience problems.
While it is often a first response to stress to take a B-Complex, in withdrawal it can be overstimulating.
Many members have found the techniques in the following two links helpful in coping with withdrawal.  
For success stories, please Google "SurvivingAntidepressants.org success stories"
This is your introduction topic -- the place for you to ask questions, record symptoms, share your progress, and connect with other members of the SA community.  I hope you’ll find the information in the SA forums helpful for your situation.  I'm sorry that you are in the position that you need the information, but I am glad that you found us.
Edited by ChessieCat
removed white space

Gridley Introduction


Lexapro 20 mg since 2004.  Begin Brassmonkey Slide Taper Jan. 2017.   

End 2017 year 1 of taper at 9.25mg 

End 2018 year 2 of taper at 4.1mg

End 2019 year 3 of taper at 1.0mg  

Oct. 30, 2020  Jump to zero from 0.025mg.  Current dose: 0.000mg

3 year, 10 month taper is 100% complete.


Ativan 1 mg to 1.875mg 1986-2020, two CT's and reinstatements

Nov. 2020, 7-week Ativan-Valium crossover to 18.75mg Valium

Feb. 2021, begin 10%/4 week taper of 18.75mg   

End 2021  year 1 of taper at 6mg

End 2022 year 2 of taper at 2.75mg 

Current dose as of Feb. 25, 2023 2mg

Taper is 89% complete.


Imipramine 75 mg daily since 1986.  Jan-Sept 2016 tapered to 16mg  

Held until Aug 2021, tapered for 4 weeks to 14.4mg

March 22, 2022: Begin 10%/4 week taper

Aug. 5, 2022: hold at 9.5 and shift to Valium taper

Taper is 87% complete.  


Supplements: omega-3, vitamins C, E and D3, magnesium glycinate, probiotic, zinc, melatonin .3mg

I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice but simply information based on my own experience, as well as other members who have survived these drugs.

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  • Moderator Emeritus

There are many existing topics and discussions on this site.  You can use the site search function on the main page of the site at the top right, or use a search engine and include survivingantidepressants.org in your search string.  Example:  survivingingantidepressants.org vitamin C


This is SA's topic about cortisol:  waking-with-panic-or-anxiety-managing-cortisol-spikes


How do you talk to a doctor about tapering and withdrawal?

What should I expect from my doctor about withdrawal symptoms?


Brain Remodelling

Keep it Simple, Slow and Stable

Keep Notes on Paper


Rate Symptoms Daily to Check Patterns and Progress

Tapering Calculator - Online


This is your own Intro topic where you can ask questions and journal your progress.  We suggest that members visit each others Intro topics so that can support and encourage each other.

Please DO NOT TAG me - thank you

PLEASE NOTE:  I am not a medical professional.  I provide information and make suggestions. 

  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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