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Marlowe92: Effexor and Zolpidem - desperate to stabilise


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I am in a very dark place right now and in urgent need of some support.
I have some history with Xanax and Escitalopram. I've managed to taper Xanax through trial and error, but hit a wall with Escitalopram. I was bridged to Effexor by a believer in the "chemical imbalance" myth. My original dose was 150mg 3 years ago. I didn't know any better at the time, so I tapered to 112,5 2 years ago (it went okay, or at least I attributed my WD symptoms to my life situation at the time and it eventually calmed down), and then again to 75mg 1 year ago. It was a bit rough but again, I attributed it all to my life situation as I didn't know anything about WD syndrome (I had experienced it with Xanax but it was much more instant and I thought it was a benzo-only problem because of the "there's no tolerance with AD" trope in medical services). Anyway, this summer, here I am trying again to taper to 37,5mg. Needless to say I hit a very hard wall 5 weeks in. I tried to hold on for 2 weeks and then reinstated to 75mg.
My current crisis is as followed : when I was in acute WD in early September, I was given Zolpidem 10mg to help me sleep (or at least knock me out for the night). It worked but I was very worried about dependence so I tried to stop 15 days in. This fired me up and I felt WD symptoms again harshly. So I kept the Ambien, waiting to stabilise again before attempting to quit. One month ago, I tried to cut the Ambien pill to start a slower taper (it still amounted to a 25% taper, as I removed 1/4 of the tablet, didn't know what I could do with such a small tab). WD symptoms again - intense headache to the point of vomiting, foggy brain, derealisation and depersonalisation. I couldn't take it anymore so I've taken the full dose of Ambien for a week. I've obviously destablised my CNS and I'm currently acutely terrified of everything (I cry, I feel so tense, I have very dark intrusive thoughts that make me so afraid and I rely intensely on my Mom reassuring me constantly because I'm terrified of what I might do with my brain in such a disarray). I've never had these intrusive thoughts before and they scare the hell out of me.
I really really need some reassurance that this will settle down a bit and that it's mostly my brain panicking about my med changes. I cannot live like this. I don't even know what to ask my psychiatrist as she thinks my condition is "my anxiety coming back" and not WD-related and she's upped my dose back to 150mg (while I'm sticking to 75mg) and for her, my dropping of 1/4 of Zolpidem shouldn't have affected me back then. I've scoured a bit some benzo websites and they suggest switching to Valium to help taper the Zolpidem because it's very short half-life is probably causing some of my anxiety interdose. But I'm afraid of precipitating a worsening of my situation if I change anything. This is such a mess and I don't know what to decide but I obviously can't stop taking the Z if it's making me so much worse than before.
Thank you so much for your help and support.
Edited by ChessieCat
added spacing

2011 - Alprazolam 1,25mg + Seroplex 10mg (don't remember how and when I weaned, but I identify WD symptoms of depression with intense crying in 2013)
2015 - reinstated Alprazolam (1,5mg) and Seroplex (10mg then 15mg) after a "crash"
2015-2016 - tapered Alprazolam (noticed I was going too fast and identified WD phenomenon, something I wasn't aware of)
2016 : tapered Escitalopram too quickly and crashed. Reinstated at 10mg.
June 2017 : was bridged to 112,5mg Venlafaxine
October 2017 : dose was upped to 150mg Venlafaxine
July 2019 : tapered to 112,5mg V.
July 2020 : tapered to 75mg V.
July 2021 : tapered to 37,5mg V. and crashed in August
September 2021 : reinstated 75mg V. + was given 10mg Zolpidem (tried to stop 15 days in)
October - November 2021 : tried to taper to 7,5mg Zolpidem
December 2021 : reinstated 10mg Zolpidem and had an intense flare of intrusive thoughts - adverse reaction ?

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  • ChessieCat changed the title to Marlowe92: Effexor and Zolpidem - desperate to stabilise

Welcome @Marlowe92

I am sorry you are going through this and are suffering, but relieved you have found us. I am also relieved that you know so much already about these drugs (WD, chemical imbalance myth, CNS etc). So at least you have a good understanding of what is going on here. Thank you also for creating a drug signature.


How has taking a full dose of Ambien for a week affected your symptoms? Any improvement?


We have this thread about Z drugs. It seems you will need an even slower taper from Ambien though.

Tips for tapering off Z drugs for sleep (Ambien, Imovane, Sonata, Lunesta, Intermezzo, etc.)


Yes, things do settle down. There will usually be times of feeling OK mixed in with times of feeling bad.  This is called windows and waves.

The Windows and Waves Pattern of Stabilization  

How Psychiatric Drugs Remodel Your Brain  

Many find magnesium helpful for sleep:

Magnesium, nature's calcium channel blocker

Tips to help sleep -- so many of us have that awful withdrawal insomnia


This is your Introductory topic, where you can ask questions and connect with other members.  If you need any advice specific to you and your situation, please ask it here. Otherwise, feel free to join discussions on other threads. To make sure I or someone sees your question, tag them by writing @ and then start typing their username. A drop down menu will appear. Click on their username and it will turn blue.


In the meantime, take care of yourself, and take heart.  We in this forum have been through this, and we understand first hand the pain and discomfort you are going through. Please know that the brain is amazing in it's healing abilities. It takes time, but healing can and will happen. 



Edited by Kiasofia

These are my opinions based on my own experience and what I have learned, not medical advice.


Drug history

2002-2019 Citalopram/Escitalopram, Lamictal
2019 April Escitalopram, quit at 10mg (withdrawal), Oct Escitalopram 10mg reinstated, quit after a few days (adverse reaction)

2019 Oct Lamictal cut from 200mg to 100mg
2019 Dec Lithium 83x2 mg

2020 Aug-Nov Lamictal tapered to 50 mg

2020 Nov 24 Lithium taper started, 30 Jan off Lithium

2021 15. March-31. May Lamictal tapered to 32.5 mg (holding)

2022 10. Jan started taking 25mg+5mg+2mg+0.5 liquid, 22. Jan went back to taking 25mg+5mg+half 5mg

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