BenzoNewsgroup Newsletter # 1
This first Benzo Newsletter is dedicated to two darling human beings who passed away a few months ago. Both gave years of their lives to help others who had been prescribed benzodiazepines and suffered withdrawal problems as a result. Although words can never suffice, we wanted to let them know they may be gone, but they will never be forgotten. We mourn the loss but give thanks that there will always be those who turn their own pain into action to help others. ---
Dr. Reg Peart passed away on October 4, 2009. His story is located here:
Steve and Val Bell, good friends of Reg’s, sent this tribute:
“Val and I were extremely privileged to have known Reg so very well. We became close in the last 6 years of his life and fortunately we were able to visit him on a few occasions. Not only were we great friends, he supported me and got me through many dark hours with Val coming off benzos. I don’t think Val or I could have got through it without him. I also learned so very much from him about benzos. We talked at least twice a week and though we talked about anything and everything, we also talked a lot about benzos. For many years he researched thousands of papers on benzos and built up a huge archive, which we hope will be preserved for everyone. His one wish in life was to get the drug companies to court, but this sadly was not to be.
Reg was the most amazing, caring man and adorable, as Val puts it. Though very sick with cancer, something he kept to himself, he was always there for benzo sufferers. We sent many people to him for help. He was ready and willing to advise and encourage people in distress, saving many lives over the years.
We miss him terribly as the whole benzo world will. He definitely was an unsung hero. Rest in peace, Reg.”
On November 25, 2009, we received the news that Colin Downes-Grainger had passed away. His story and the important work he did for the benzo world is located here:
Ray Nimmo wrote this tribute:
“It is with profound sadness and an overwhelming sense of shock that I report that Colin Downes-Grainger passed away suddenly on Wednesday, November 25, 2009. Over the years Colin and I had become quite close friends and I had nothing but great admiration and respect for his dedication to the benzo cause and all that he achieved. I am indebted to him for all the kindness and constant support he showed me. I shall miss him terribly.”
Lastly, this tribute would not be complete if we failed to mention those members, Moderators, and Owners of the different support groups who hung around to help others, long after they were well. This newsletter is dedicated to you, too.
We wanted to mention one in particular, Glyn Thomas. He was a Moderator on the Yahoo Benzo group and was a kind, gentle man, who quietly helped support people in benzo withdrawal. He didn’t write any important papers and he didn’t write any books. What he wrote were encouraging and knowledgeable posts to suffering members. Unknown to us, Glyn was suffering from ALS. And typing those lovely, supportive posts was excruciatingly difficult for him. Glyn passed away in February 2009, just a few weeks after he could no longer type or speak. Those of us who knew him still miss him a lot. Like Colin and Reg, he was the consummate English gentleman. And like them, he wanted to help others and he went about it in a way that was meant to bring no attention to him, but only to the problem of benzo withdrawal syndrome.
Thanks for reading this first-ever newsletter. If you prefer to see it online, the link is located here:
By Malcolm Lader
OBE, DSc, PhD, MD, FRC Psych, FMedSci
Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology,
Institute of Psychiatry, University of London,
London SE5 8AF, England
(Author of Tranquillizers and Antidepressants: When to take them, how to stop)
I here present some general guidelines for how to prepare to withdraw from tranquillizers and sleeping tablets. First a few points: every person is an individual with their own hopes, worries, personal circumstances, loves and dislikes. Everyone has their own individual psychological and bodily constitution. Some can put up with pain and discomfort that would reduce others to total desperation. Conversely, other people are acutely aware of any bodily twinge or emotional swing: they find it difficult to cope with even minor problems and setbacks.
Secondly, your feelings are subjective. No-one can feel your internal emotions - you have to communicate them. Some people are very adept at this and give graphic accounts of their innermost feelings. Others find this embarrassing and clam up.
Thirdly, readers will be in a range of different situations regarding their use of medication and their wish to stop. Many worry about what will happen when they try to stop. Others know that symptoms may ensue, because they have already tried to withdraw and have suffered alarming symptoms. Yet others, the unfortunate few, are wracked by acutely severe withdrawal symptoms or have protracted withdrawal symptoms that they despair of ever being free of.
Fourthly, personal circumstances will vary immensely. One woman may be surrounded by a loving coterie of family and friends who are prepared to spend time and energy in supporting her through withdrawal. Another may have an abusive partner who mocks her attempts to stop her tranquillizers and may actually prefer to have her taking medication so he can taunt her with being a “Looney”. Material circumstances will also vary. Some people can afford to take time off work when the symptoms peak; others find work takes their mind off the symptoms, and cannot afford to take a break anyway.
Why should I stop?
It may be that you should not. If you are getting a great deal of symptom relief, and you have been taking your tranquillizer or sleeping tablet for a long time, it may be too late! This is particularly so for the elderly. They have relatively few years of quality life left, and they do not want to spend a substantial proportion of those years battling with withdrawal symptoms. Most of these people have tried to stop and have developed painful, upsetting symptoms. Some, nevertheless, have never tried to stop so they cannot know whether they will have problems. After all, the chance of developing a withdrawal reaction, even in long term users is only about 1 in 3. This group should try a gradual reduction. If symptoms do come on, then at least they are aware of potential problems; if they do not, they can withdraw uneventfully.
If it is decided, perhaps in consultation with a specialist, that more harm than good would come of attempted withdrawal, there is still a need to monitor the user for the rest of her or his life. This is to detect problems that might arise from a build-up of medication effects.
For most long term users of benzodiazepines, the risks of usage outweigh the benefits. In most people the benefits wear off. Although a person taking a tranquillizer or sleeping tablet regularly may believe they still derive benefit, all the medication is really doing is suppressing withdrawal symptoms. Conversely, the risks are ever-present. Impairment of intellectual performance and blunting of emotions will continue. The risk of dependence increases steadily but this is only uncovered when attempts are made to stop.
General reasons include a boost to one’s self confidence when managing to cope without a ‘chemical crutch’. Self respect returns as the ex-user meets challenge after challenge, stress after stress, without popping a pill. Psychological functioning improves on withdrawal. Appreciation of the outside world becomes heightened as the drug-induced fog is lifted. Emotions become more acute, pleasure as well as pain. The grass is greener, birds sing more tunefully. Loving feelings return for family and friends and are felt properly instead of being dulled.
The bottom line is: as far as tranquillizers and sleeping tablets are concerned, almost everyone gains from stopping chronic usage.
What is my present status?
If you are already on a benzodiazepine, then you need to review whether there is any suspicion that you have become dependent. Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms develop even while the medication is continuing. This is because tolerance is occurring producing a discontinuation by default. Some people know they are dependent because they have tried to taper off their medication and typical symptoms came on. But a few are so concerned about withdrawal, that any symptom, perhaps a stress headache, is immediately interpreted as a withdrawal symptom. The person panics and may increase the dose unnecessarily. This is sometimes called ‘pseudo-withdrawal’. In day-to-day clinical practice, a long-term user has usually tried to taper off, and developed typical symptoms. If that has happened then they are very likely to be dependent, and careful withdrawal is essential.
Will I cope?
Think back to how you have coped in the past. Withdrawal from tranquillizers is a pharmacological stress with two components. First, there are the bodily biochemical changes that will develop as the medicine is tapered off and leaves the body and the brain. Secondly, the whole process is a general stress, like bereavement, or a divorce, or redundancy. If you coped before with major stresses, you will emerge from the process of withdrawal. If, on the contrary, you find it difficult to manage in a crisis or if anything that happens to you is magnified into a crisis, you will need to mobilize all the family, friends and medical help you can find. Make sure that all this is in place before you embark on this withdrawal enterprise. You may even keep some forces in reserve, for example, only calling on a friend when the going gets too tough.
Set up alternatives
Everyone should learn ways of dealing with as much of the anxiety and insomnia problems as they can. At the minimum, the person should be taught relaxation, or attend Yoga classes, or learn controlled breathing. Family and friends should be taken into the person’s confidence. They can help immeasurably by instilling confidence and providing encouragement. They can help in practical ways, for example, by doing the shopping, if some agoraphobic symptoms become troublesome.
What about my doctor?
Most doctors are very sympathetic to helping their patients withdraw. Many actually start the whole process. I have encountered numerous examples where a patient has changed their doctor, perhaps on moving house, and at the initial review has been urged to consider tapering off the medication. If you are unfortunate enough to be saddled with an unsympathetic, unhelpful doctor, change your doctor. You can withdraw without the help of a doctor, but it is preferable that you do so under careful medical supervision
Some doctors will on their own initiative review their patients’ prescription records, which are now usually computerized, and ask to see chronic users to discuss the situation. Some send out letters suggesting methods of tapering off the medication. Such a letter is surprisingly effective, and is often enough to motivate someone to withdraw.
Your doctor may refer you to other sources of help. A support group may be functioning in your neighborhood, and joining such a group can be very helpful. Be very cautious about being referred to the local Drug Dependence Services, unless you have a drug addiction problem as well. Nor are alcohol services appropriate unless you recognize that you suffer from alcohol as well as benzodiazepine dependence, a not uncommon combination.
General health and lifestyle
As I repeatedly state, coming off tranquillizers is a stress. Any stress is best confronted when your general health is good, and your lifestyle is optimal. Exercise is an important aid to successful withdrawal. Regular exercise particularly in the afternoon helps you relax and sleep well. You will wake up more suited to facing another day, which might become a bit of a struggle. The best exercises are those recommended for the heart – jogging, brisk walking, cycling and swimming. But do not exhaust yourself, two 20 minute periods every day is about right.
Keep to a regular routine, right through the week, weekends included. It is pointless having a beneficial regime, and lazing about on Saturday and Sunday. This means getting up at the same time, and going to bed as the same time. This helps lower anxiety and consolidates sleep rhythms.
Alcohol must be avoided. The tranquillizers and alcohol act by similar mechanisms on the same structures in the brain. It is pointless trying to come off a benzodiazepine when all you just substitute alcohol as an alternative. If you have a problem with alcohol as well, seek help to stop drinking.
Caffeine is also a complication. It is present in coffee, tea and cola drinks to varying extents, and theobromine, a similar chemical, is in cocoa. Both are mild stimulants and in excess can cause anxiety, panics and insomnia. Many people think coffee or tea has little effect on them. This may be true in some cases, but in most people caffeine is over- alerting: it can lighten sleep and even induce anxiety. If you want to maximize your chances of stopping your tranquillizer or sleeping tablet, first taper off your coffee, tea, cola over 2-3 weeks. If you develop a headache, slow down the rate of withdrawal. Otherwise keep your intake to moderate limits, and keep it constant.
Cigarettes are even more difficult to give up permanently than tranquillizers. The best strategy is to postpone giving up smoking until you have been free of your medication for a few months. But make sure you set stopping smoking as a definite target so that you end up with a healthy lifestyle.
Diet and fluid intake are also important in helping withdrawal. However, faddish diets are unhelpful. A “good” diet comprises vegetables and fruit, with a minimum of junk food. In the worst part of withdrawal, the sufferer may not feel like doing much shopping and cooking. If so, let someone else take over. An adequate fluid intake is important, especially as your appetite for solid foods may lessen for a week or two. But be careful with sugary fluids because the fluctuations in your blood sugar may be associated with vague symptoms that may be confused with withdrawal symptoms.
The withdrawal process
Finally, you are all set to withdraw by slowing tapering off your medication. Best of luck!
For many of us the New Year brings hope and for some of us it will bring resolution to a journey that provided hardship, suffering, mental and physical illness, the loss of jobs, relationships, finances, and perhaps faith and hope. As a benzo survivor marking my third year I can only speak from my own experience, that it has indeed been the greatest challenge in my life, but one that can be won!
During my recovery I searched for the magic potion, only to find out after thousands of dollars spent that nothing worked for me. I swallowed hundreds of vitamins, supplements, and powders, most making me sicker and some setting me back a ways. I found only two supplements that have helped my body which I won’t mention because we are all so different. I tried NAET, acupuncture, cranial sacral therapy, magic powders, bio-feedback, and even brain machines - none had any effect.
This led me to believe that I could not attack this horrible syndrome directly. My central nervous system and brain could not handle anything the least bit foreign or stimulating. My blood brain barrier had been decayed from the high cortisol levels and constant stress of living through this nightmare. What I thought I could do or least try to do was to insure that my brain and body would and could heal. I read every self help brain book I could find and this is what I realized. I needed to make my body strong and healthy so it could heal. I needed to avoid all stimulates so as not to excite the nerve endings that were fried by valium.
My new journey began on the way to health. This is what I did, and yes, I made progress.
I learned that water was great for hydration but it also had many other healing properties. Our brain needs lots of water as well as our immune system and central nervous system to work. After reading the book “I am Not Sick I Am Thirsty,” water became a big part of my new routine. When I was hydrated I felt better so I continued to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. One knows when they are hydrated; their urine is very, very clear!
I added bulk to my diet – eating food high in roughage to help the bowels work properly. I incorporated oatmeal, oat bran, wheat bran, and flaxseed with every meal. The high fiber foods increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are effected by benzos in a negative way. I was now getting more vitamin B, tryptophan along with the two antioxidants for the brain, and Vitamin C and E.
Omega 3 reduces inflammation while omega 6 increases metabolism and healing. One may eat 3-4 ounces of cold water seafood, like salmon, sardines, or scallops per week and 3 Tbsp of flaxseed oils each day. When the ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 are not balanced it can increase inflammation. The benefits when taken right are amazing.
I learned in my research that we need vitamin C and Vitamin E to regulate and assist the brain, but I could not take them. They sent me right back into withdrawal. I could not drink orange juice, a great source of vitamin C, so I began drinking tomato juice, an even better antioxidant with a 100% value of vitamin C. I also take ½ cup of sunflower seeds daily to increase tryptophan, serotonin, and vitamins E and B - high iron levels are in sunflower seeds and almonds, which we need to help with brain repair and healing!
I also began to exercise. I found that my serotonin levels and dopamine levels were really out of sorts. I had weird thinking, morbid intrusive thoughts, depression, anxiety, crying episodes and anger. I researched how to naturally change these levels and this is what I found - dopamine and serotonin rise within 30 minutes of intense exercise. Exercising 3-4 times a week will change the brain chemistry to a positive shift. After 30-45 days serotonin will rise and dopamine will even out. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain building stronger receptor sites.
All this removed my depression and my head became clear. There are four chemicals that affect our thoughts and moods. They are: serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine and norepinephrine. They become depleted when we endure chronic stress, anxiety, a low carbohydrate diet, and drugs, namely benzodiazepines! When these neurotransmitters are out of balance they cause mental fog, morbid thoughts, depression and anxiety. Slowly build yourself up. Don’t run the marathon today but set goals and go slow! One doctor recommends learning to dance to increase GABA. I just bought some tap shoes!
I learned very quickly that everything I put into my body affected my brain! I could eat and take just about anything before benzos. NOT ANY MORE! I learned about every nutrient and how it affected my body both in a positive and negative way. I changed my diet to green vegetables (deeper the color the better). I incorporated protein, beans, and eggs. I ate fish and chicken daily. Most importantly, without grains we do not make neurotransmitters nor does our brain balance well without them. I began eating more brown rice and foods with high grain consistency. Without grains we do not get the benefit of protein in making neurotransmitters –we need both to balance the brain. Did you know neurotransmitters are made on the spot and nowhere else in the body? If you eat an egg, in 30 minutes your acetylcholine levels will be increased!
I no longer eat prepared foods. I began reading labels and so many foods are high in MSG and sugar, which yes, affect our brains. I established a routine because some days I was too sick to cook or prepare. I made a list of foods on an index card that were necessary for my healing. I taped it to my cupboard so I could remember what I needed. Of course I had lost my memory too! I prepared my food every couple days. I would make a large pot of brown rice; gather fresh greens, peppers and onions. I baked whole chickens or fish in casseroles so they were ready to be eaten. This also helped me not to eat anything other than what my body needed. I used olive oils, flaxseed oils, and flaxseeds on salads with almonds or sunflower seeds.
Building up my body from its beginning is what I needed to do. Benzodiazepines cause infliction on every cell in our body. Our body is made up of 75% GABA receptors – so now you may understand where those crazy strange symptoms come from - in fact our gut has more benzo receptors than our brains!
There is a lot of research on Amino Acid Replacement. The theory suggests that if we replace our amino acids we will more than likely heal much quicker and enhance our neurotransmitters as well. I thought I’ll just start taking whey protein and my body will do the rest…wrong! For many of us our central nervous system cannot tolerate the amino combination in whey protein and most amino acid powders. The body needs the 4 amino acids which include tryptophan and tyrosine to make neurotransmitters, create actual cells and body tissues, promote growth and repair, create production of hormones, and make the proper intricate communication within the brain to the central nervous system.
The essential amino acids can be found in foods such as meat, chicken, eggs and soy. Partial amino acid foods include quinoa, brown rice and legumes .The best way to absorb most of an amino acid is when combining a partial amino acid with a complete amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks in cell repair and growth. They are responsible for secretion of insulin, growth hormone and glucagons. They are the precursor of creatinine (kidney function) and GABA, along with dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. They are the major players in neurotransmission and brain function. What decreases the bioavailability of amino acids? Poor digestion, liver function, genetics and age. A healthy and inclusive diet will not only begin to heal your benzo crisis but will also increase your overall well being and health.
A diet rich in protein and partial amino acids such as brown rice and other grains will help the body absorb the right compliment of amino acids to repair and heal itself. Good nutrition is without question necessary for overall healing of the central nervous system and brain. A diet rich in grains, protein, vegetables and legumes and seeds is essential in getting well.
Good health and nutrition are the beginning steps in reversing what had been accomplished by benzodiazepines. We can all do this, many have before us and many will follow us. Doing all the right things just makes the journey a lot less difficult. I wish each of you wellness and the belief that you will return to your natural state of health. That you will be comforted in your strength and endurance to move forward each and every day. Always remember in your darkest hours that benzodiazepine withdrawal has a Beginning and an END! God Bless. CV
This is a great healthy recipe to make ahead and keep in the refrigerator - it is a wonderful meal!
In crock pot put:
1 Package of lentils with 8 cups of water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
Ham or Kielbasas sausage may be added for flavor. Also, a cooked cup of brown rice or barley but add extra cups of water. Cook according to directions.
[Lentils contain high levels of proteins, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish. Lentils are one of the best vegetable sources of iron.]
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this website was not compiled by a doctor or anyone with medical training. The advice contained herein should not be substituted for the advice of a physician who is well-informed in the subject matter discussed. Before making any decisions about your health or treatment you should always confer with your physician and it is always assumed that you will do so.
Last updated 29 July 2012