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Getting a Doctor to Help you Taper

Some ideas from a Group member

"Here are some suggestions based on MY experiences with getting a doctor to help me taper off psych drugs.  There are exceptions to everything I say here but hopefully, there will be something here you can use.  I hope this helps anyone looking for a doctor.   

1)  I, personally, do not recommend looking for a “benzowise” doctor amidst the psychiatrists or 'addiction' specialists.  These doctors generally seemed to want to use other drugs to help with the problems I was having rather than trying to get me off the drugs I was already on.  Even the 'addiction' specialist wanted to simply substitute one drug for another. Another one I talked to wanted to pull me off quickly and he felt that there was no withdrawal after 4 weeks.  In other words, he will say there is NO withdrawal after a few weeks and it is all in your head. 

PLEASE do not read this to say NO psych doctor has ever helped someone off the drugs!  That is not true.  I am just giving you advice on hopefully increasing your chances of finding and getting a doctor to help you so I wouldn't recommend these guys as the 1st source. 

2)  You might try an Osteopath.  These doctors have the initials D.O. after their names. (in US)  They are sometimes more inclined to help as they are trained more with a 'holistic' approach that isn't so 'medically' centered.  The other choice is the old fashioned 'family' doctor and older 'might' be better.  A lot of the resistance we see is from the newly trained doctors. 

3)  Believe it or not, I found a Nurse Practitioner who helped me during part of my taper so don't discount these people.  Some of them are more open to new information, and they may be able to talk to the doctor they work for on your behalf.

4)  The next thing I strongly advise is that you get Dr. Breggin's book, "Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Your Psychiatric Medications".  Most libraries are now carrying this book.  Try to Xerox a page or so of something that shows that Dr. Breggin backs the 10% method of slow tapering.  You can also look at this link: http://www.breggin.com/benzodiazepine.pdf where he has a document that mentions the long-term course of benzo withdrawal.  

Rather than take in Dr. Ashton's entire manual, you might want to take a couple of pages that hit the gist of benzo withdrawal and especially the 'Why Valium?' section (Chapter 2). 

It is critical that you understand why Dr. Ashton recommends the Valium taper as most doctors are resistant to prescribing Valium.  Valium has a half-life of 200 hours allowing for a ‘smoother’ taper AND is delivered in 2mg, 5mg, and 10 mg, doses making it possible to do the smaller cuts necessary.

Do not take a million tons of paper.  Take just a few pages where you have highlighted with a marker the high points you want to cover. 

If you think your doctor would rather have the entire manual, then go ahead and take it with you.  These are suggestions, not laws. 

5)  When you get into the room with the doctor, keep a few things in mind.  These guys do not want to hear a long drawn out story.  They are very pressed for time.  You need to approach the doctor loaded with all the knowledge you can, but keep your presentation simple and precise.  Something like this (and you make it fit you):  

Hello Dr. Smith, 

I have been doing some research and would like to stop taking my Xanax. There is a doctor in the UK who has become world renown in the field of benzo withdrawal.   Her name is Dr. Heather Ashton and I have her Curriculum Vitae if you should like to see it.  It's quite impressive.  

Here are a few pages of her manual for helping patients successfully stop taking benzodiazepines.  I am really excited to have found this.  It seems Dr. Peter Breggin and some other doctors in the US have been lecturing about the difficulties of benzo withdrawal for quite a number of years. 

Dr. Ashton's manual even has sample taper schedules for doctors to use.  I went ahead and made one that will work for my medication, and I would like to know if you could help me do this.   

(This is important, folks.  Doctors have been known to say "NO" because they are too busy to mess with stuff, so have your suggested taper schedule ready!)" 

More helpful hints: 

#1 Go in there and be positive.  Don’t hem and haw a lot. Don't get hostile or angry or upset. Never react negatively.  If the doctor says something you don't like, listen and state your objection firmly but nicely.  

#2  If the doctor seems hesitant offer to come in weekly if he thinks it would be needful.  This will often calm the doctor's fears about prescribing Valium.  I think this offer of being monitored was one of the things that got one doctor on my side.  By the way, if you agree to this, then do it.  The faster you show him you are willing to submit to his care, the faster he will be inclined to trust you and let you go longer between visits.  

#3 Be sure you have absorbed as much information as possible about the advantages of the Valium taper, or tapering slowly off benzos in general, if you are going to attempt coming off your current drug.  You want to look like you are indeed smart and knowledgeable and might actually have something important to say here! 

If I had not understood why Ashton says Valium, the following conversation would not have gone well, and I would have ended up on Klonopin: 

Doc: "Well, of course I'll help you taper but here in the U.S. we give Klonopin for that." 

Patient: "Yes, I think that can be a good choice, and I see why that might be done.  One drawback that Dr. Breggin and Dr. Ashton mention is the inability to taper Klonopin because it is not delivered in the appropriate doses for making small cuts.  That is one of the reasons they believe Valium is the better choice, since it is delivered in 2mg, 5mg, and 10 mg doses. Also, those can be halved for even smaller cuts.” 

My doctor allowed me to crossover to Valium.   

Also, please, if your doctor helps you, try to get an Ashton Manual and Dr. Breggin's book into their hands.  It's an investment to help someone else coming into this doctor’s office on these drugs and maybe saying "I am crazy and don't know what to do." And the doctor saying, "I think I do". 

Note:  Any physician may also be referred to Dr. Steven Gressitt with the Maine Benzodiazepine Research Group, should they desire more information about benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and the appropriate way to approach getting a patient off these drugs.  

The website is here: http://www.mainebenzo.org/ "

 

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.

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Last updated 23 May 2013