The truth about benzos (Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, etc)

In The Guardian today:

motherThey used to be called ‘mother’s little helpers’, pill prescribed to stressed suburban housewives as a miracle pick-me-up. Now benzodiazepines are proving popular again, this time as an alternative to heroin.

The tranquilliser boomed in the Sixties and Seventies as a supposedly safe alternative to barbiturates. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones immortalised it in ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, their 1966 song about a housewife addicted to prescribed drugs because of the pressures of domestic life. Prescriptions peaked at 30 million in 1979, but evidence grew that ‘benzos’ could lead to addiction and horrific withdrawal symptoms, prompting a backlash.

However, their use is on the rise again because heroin is in short supply in some parts of the country or its purity is compromised, according to drugs campaigners. They say that benzos such as diazepam can be far more addictive than heroin and potentially lethal if withdrawn abruptly or mixed with alcohol and methadone. But there is a dire lack of provision for addicts seeking help. (read the rest of the article here)

Benzos were the first highly addictive and highly abused drug of the psychiatric industry. There are dozens of withdrawal groups online. More than for any other drug, even though, contrary to popular belief, neuroleptics, mood stabilizers and antidepressants can produce equally vicious withdrawal syndromes. I’ve lived through all of them now, tackling the benzos now as the final drug I come off of.

People haven’t figured out how bad antipsychotics and mood-stabilizers are yet, though it’s pretty well understood that antidepressants can be a nightmare. But they will. Give it another decade and there will be hundreds of withdrawal groups for all these drugs.

Our cultures are creating hundreds of thousands of “accidental addicts.” People who unwittingly become hooked to drugs they have no idea can destroy their lives when they are told that they will help them. And some do for a short time for some people. In general they don’t help forever, and often they makes matters worse. We all have to do what we can to learn what these drugs can do to us before we start taking them. And we can’t rely on our doctors. They truly still, in general, have no clue what they are doing.

More info on benzos HERE — this is a good list of resources and information on benzodiazepine use and withdrawal information as well. BENZODIAZEPINE INFORMATION

Please do not attempt to discontinue psych drugs without first very carefully educating yourself on the risks involved so that you might minimize the chances of developing grave iatrogenic illness if you decide to withdraw: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up

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36 thoughts on “The truth about benzos (Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, etc)

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  1. Thank you for work work in the area of psychotropics. I am working to get the word out about benzodiazepines on my blog @ It is a pretty new site, not nearly as far along as your site. I hope to get some interest going in a letter writing campaign to the FDA and also having people report their doctors to the medical licensure board with regard to their prescribing practices for benzos. You know how resistant doctors are to learning about benozs. And it may end up requiring a legal remedy to get them to stop prescribing benzos for long-term treatment of anxiety, epilepsy, depression, insomnia, muscle spasms, etc. Please visit my blog for my story. And contact me if you would like to join us. You have a wonderful site!

  2. Hi, i’m sorry for commenting before I read the entire article or all of the comments.

    I just want to express that there is so much stigma surrounding benzodiazepines that term “accidental addict” doesn’t do justice to most of us who became dependent upon benzos.

    Most assume if you had a problem with benzodiazepines, it means you had a drug problem, and people WILL NOT HEAR YOUR STORY no matter how many times you try to tell it because they have already pre-judged you by their stereotype of addict.

    My “drug problem” came in the form of not knowing a half a milligram of Klonopin prescribed every month for eight years by the same prescriber was causing a psuedo mental illness and tolerance withdrawal (which doctors chalked up to “psychosomatic illness” because they are very, very stupid when it comes to a drug that HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 40 YEARS.)

    Bottom line: I was prescribed a drug that made me unwell for 8 years because this is profitable, not only for the pharmaceutical manufacturer, but for the entire medical and mental health system. This isn’t really accidental, and THEIR SYSTEMS ARE DEPENDENT UPON DOING THIS TO US. (The addiction is theirs.)

  3. i Would have to agree with giannacali on that one the valium last longer than the klonopin and i have used them both. Just so you know if trying to taper off them you MUST MUST take extra vitamins like extra omega 3s which are great for the brain and vitamin e and c and a multi vitamin i swear they help your brain and body need the extra nutrients during those times and continue after they do wonders. good luck to everyone i hope everyone does well.

  4. You guys got your math all messed up….. It all depends on the half-life of the benzodiazapine. Xanax and Klonopin are by far the strongest. Ativan and Valium are not as potent. 2mg Klonopin = approximately 1-2mg of Xanax
    Valium and Ativan have a low half-life, which means they don’t last very long. I am on Klonopin because it stays in your system longer, and the half-life is longer than that of all the others. In conclusion, it is nearly impossible to compare one benzodiazepine to another…. and for those posts of people that take 10mg of Klonopin at a time, that is a severe overdose. Klonopin comes in .5 mg, 1mg, and 2mg being the strongest. Xanax comes in .25mg, .5mg, 1mg, and 2mg. In addition, heroin is by far more addictive than a benzodiazepine. I can’t believe that this article says benzodiazepines are more addictve than heroin. I would like to see how credible your resources of information are. That just makes no sense.

    1. you’re wrong willie…Valium has a much much longer half-life than Klonopin..

      Xanax has the shortest half-life….and is the hardest benzo to get off of…

      Klonopin’s half-life is longer than most of them but still much shorter than valiums…

      look it up…I promise you I’m right.

      and yeah, I’ve also talked to people who have been addicted to both heroine and benzos…some people do find it much harder to come off benzos…do some research…

  5. You guys got your math all messed up….. It all depends on the half-life of the benzodiazapine. Xanax and Klonopin are by far the strongest. Ativan and Valium are not as potent. 2mg Klonopin = approximately 1-2mg of Xanax
    Valium and Ativan have a low half-life, which means they don’t last very long. I am on Klonopin because it stays in your system longer, and the half-life is longer than that of all the others. In conclusion, it is nearly impossible to compare one benzodiazepine to another…. and for those posts of people that take 10mg of Klonopin at a time, that is a severe overdose. Klonopin comes in .5 mg, 1mg, and 2mg being the strongest. Xanax comes in .25mg, .5mg, 1mg, and 2mg.

  6. just for people’s information, most of the people I’ve talked to who have done medical detox’s have lived to regret it profoundly…

    here is one bad story that someone wrote about:

    (this is a woman who in the end detoxed just as I’m doing and made it…she completed her journey and is doing wonderfully well now)

    but I’ve heard many others…coming off benzos in 20 days can be nightmarish and dangerous for some people.

    a friend of mine in a group did a medical detox and committed suicide when it was over, again because it was way too fast…

    anyway, glad it helped you shaaak…but not everyone finds it safe or helpful..

    slow tapering takes a ton of discipline and it’s a rough road…I wish there was a quick fix I felt safe with…

  7. This tapering business is very very hard.
    And cold turkey can be fatal. I used to do 4-5 mg. of benzos each day +alcohol through the day for over 2 years. Several self-administered tapering experiments failed miserably. Ultimately I checked in for a 20 day medical rehabilitation program.
    It worked. I haven’t done any pills what so ever in over a year and six months since.

  8. Don,
    did you taper?? cold-turkey withdrawal is dangerous…

    I’m planning on taking about a year to come off my Klonopin…I’m down to 1.9 mg.

    I was on 3 mg…

    I’m tapering .1 mg (point one mg) every couple of weeks…and I may have to slow down!!!

    It’s not something to mess with…

    if you cold-turkeyed it’s very likely you’ll need to reinstate and taper slowly if you don’t want to be sick as hell…

    there are lots of benzo withdrawal boards that can help. send me a note if you want some direction…

    I have a ton of info on tapering slowly on my about page too…

    there is info on how to do water tapers so that you can cut down in minute amounts…

    also most likely you’ll need to address issues that brought you to take the drugs in the first place..
    good luck.

  9. Just to let those out there who think they are more powerful than addiction a note of warning. You are not stronger than the addiction brought on by Clonazepam or Valium or any other Benzo. Doctors should be more aware and cautious on prescribing these quick fix remedies. I’ve been taking up to 2mg. of Clonazepam daily for almost 5 years. Am trying to withdraw and experiencing a living hell. Can’t sleep and it’s really getting to me. Been off the stuff for 6 days and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. How long can I expect the withdrawal to last? 2 or 3 weeks….maybe longer?? Does anyone know?

  10. hello everyone i take lexapro and klonopin actually .5 mg 4xs a day and i still get my ocd panic attacks but when i tried someones valium it helped me alot more calm down and not stress as much on my issues. But i felt more sedated on the valium and klonopin i just dont care for as much . Hope everyone does well and gets better soon .

      1. actually you can’t count on anything. it’s different for everyone.

        some people have virtually no withdrawal effects and have no problems whatsoever and others remain sick for years.

        what you stated is a common approximation that tries to average everything out…but there really is nothing that can be counted on.

  11. I came across your blog when I was looking up some pills I stole from my grandma. Taking pills from my family has become a habit now days, whether given to me by choice, or not. I only take them when I drink beer and always have a great time–wake up feeling fine and do it all over again. When I stopped for a few days I felt horrible. I couldn’t get out of bed, I felt like I could sleep all day, and did for about 2 days. I didn’t realize it was probably from withdrawls. Thanks for the wake up call. I think I’ve taken my last pill.

    1. Jenni,
      I hope you did find this in time!
      best wishes on staying healthy.

      You know drinking alcohol daily, if you’re getting drunk is addictive too. Be careful.

      You might also want to think about why you’re stealing.

  12. Gianna and Susan,
    I believe that this equivalence 1 mg = of 10 mg of Valium is for using diazepam to help withdraw other benzos.
    But it does not mean that the “effect” is the same.
    I agree that 10 mg is a lot.
    But it’s not as if you were taking 100 mg diazepam.
    For my experience with both:
    I could “feel” sedation with diazepam.
    But clonazepam that I was prescribed years before made me feel nothing.
    I started having panic attacks after being prescribed clonazepam but never felt less anxious.
    I was prescribed when it was an drug for epilepsy.
    Psychiatrists claim that diazepam is too light.
    I remember that the panic attacks lasted the same time with or without clonazepam.
    It’s really hard to understand it all!

  13. Sloopy those are powerful lyrics, and sad too.

    All I know is xanax is awful to withdraw from, I cannot even go down .12mg without feeling the awful flu like symptoms.
    I’m down to 1mg of generic alprazolam now (going to generic was awful itself) and this week did a .12mg reduction (split a .25mg) because I ran out….and felt sick for 24 hrs. got the rx filled for my regular .25mg and felt better within a few hours, honestly I cannot believe we all have to suffer so much and the doctors do NOT understand.

    PS–Sloopy hope you are doing fine!

    Gianna thanks for this post as usual, thought provoking.

  14. That reminded me of another song about mummy’s little helper..

    It comes from the two-tone reggae band, UB40, and is called One in Ten..

    One in Ten is a reference to the number of people unemployed and on the scrap heap in 1980.. More like One in Three nowadays, given the millions more people drugged senseless by psychiatry.

    YouTube – UB40 – 1 in 10

    UB40 – One In Ten

    I am the one in ten
    A number on a list
    I am the one in ten
    Even though I don`t exist
    Nobody Knows me
    But I`m always there
    A statistic, a reminder
    Of a world that doesn`t care
    My arms enfold the dole queue
    Malnutrition dulls my hair
    My eyes are black and lifeless
    With an underprivileged stare
    I`m the beggar on the corner
    Will no-one spare a dime?
    I`m the child that never learns to read
    `Cause no-one spared the time

    I`m the murderer and the victim
    The licence with the gun
    I`m a sad and bruised old lady
    In an ally in a slum
    I`m a middle aged businessman
    With chronic heart disease
    I`m another teenaged suicide
    In a street that has no trees

    I`m a starving third world mother
    A refugee without a home
    I`m a house wife hooked on Valium
    I`m a Pensioner alone
    I`m a cancer ridden spectre
    Covering the earth
    I`m another hungry baby
    I`m an accident of birth.

  15. I have long felt my doctor keeps pushing the Valium to just shut me up. Better I be sedated than complain about not getting better and be frantic that my life is spinning out of control…..

    I stopped taking them for months, but a recent tragedy sucked me right back in and I have taken them for three days. Your post is a wake up call! Thanks you

  16. Susan,
    I’ve never heard of anyone prescribed that much…I’ve heard of people taking up to 25 mg when they are recreational drug abusers, but psychiatrists in general don’t prescribe that much—certainly not for daily use.

    I worked in mental health for years with psychiatrists and now I am in multiple benzo groups with people withdrawing from benzos….

    I can count on one hand people who take 10 mg of Klonopin daily…

    I really don’t know what to say.

    From what you’ve told me before you weren’t taking whatever you were taking daily…if you don’t take it daily you won’t get addicted…but it really needs to be infrequent to avoid addiction…it has a long enough half life that you might get into trouble even taking it every other day.

    anyway, yeah, I’d be very concerned…but I don’t ever feel it’s right for me to make treatment suggestions…

    You might want to get a second opinion.

  17. Diazepam was used as Tylenol during my adolescence and my mother used to take it.
    I took it too.
    I don’t understand why clonazepam became the benzo for every ill.
    You have no idea how many people are addicted to this drug.
    I can tell you that whenever I go to a pharmacy if I stay there for half an hour someone will ask for it.
    Just the other day I asked a pharmacist and he told me that half an hour is too much. A box every ten minutes.
    It was prescribed to me.
    When I spend three days without taking it and had a withdrawal symptoms that led me to stay sat at the floor without being able to wake up and had to phone many people to help me I decided I had to find some help to take it out.
    It was when I was prescribed the first antidepressant – Tofranil – to help the clonazepam withdrawal
    I became so anxious that another psychiatrist didn’t realize and changed Tofranil to another antidepressant.
    This was the beginning of my psychiatric saga.
    It was an alert on the difficulty to withdraw clonazepam was of great help for me to start to understand what has happened to me. I don’t know where to find it now but it claimed that it was harder than opiate to withdraw some benzos.
    I’m writing it to help other people see that this tiny little pill is really dangerous and requires time to withdraw.

  18. Gianna, you just said,

    “1 mg of Klonopin is the equivalent of 20 mg of Valium…so when women used to get prescribed 2 mg of Valium, they now get the equivalent of 20 mg right off the bat making the tolerance and addiction all the worse…”

    I do not doubt you. I am currently on 10 mg of Klonepin. So by your reasoning ( I am terrible at math) I am getting 200 mg of Valium?

    Should I be scared s**tless now??

  19. the thing with benzos are they are all generic now…so this is not a pharma thing…

    it’s definitely a doctor not wanting to deal with a patient thing though…

    my Klonopin (clonazepam) costs me 18 bucks for 90 one mg pills!!

    I bet I could make a fortune on the street though!!

  20. Ana,
    you say several important things that I will address:

    the first…benzos are “gateway” drugs for many people precisely because they are so hard to withdraw from…doctors start prescribing left and right and imagining mental health disorders that don’t exist…and so yes, some people end up on multiple drugs because of a benzo trip gone bad…

    also Klonopin being the very popular drug of the day is right on too…and Klonopin is Valium on steroids…

    1 mg of Klonopin is the equivalent of 20 mg of Valium…so when women used to get prescribed 2 mg of Valium, they now get the equivalent of 20 mg right off the bat making the tolerance and addiction all the worse…

    And yes, many people have said that it’s worse to come off benzos than heroin…and I’ve met some of these people on the internet…who have withdrawn from both…

    I might do a post on this stuff!!

  21. The doctors truly don’t know what they’re doing or they just don’t care. Keep the drug companies happy. Keep the kick-backs coming. Doctors are like politicians. The drug companies, lobbyists.

  22. that’s a very interesting thing to take a look at Bev.

    I know that we have drugs handed out much more frequently and to a much larger population than ever before now….but I’m sure looking at the evolution of it all would be quite interesting…

    Mad in America by Robert Whitaker takes that on to some extent…

    but this casual drugging of “housewives” phenomena that was common with the benzos is not what that book looks at…it looks more at people who were seriously disturbed and how they were and are treated

    it would be interesting to look at the phenomena of treating “normal” emotions which has certainly ballooned and we can see that it probably began with benzos and now extends to just about every class of psychotropic…


  23. Hi Gianna,

    interested to draw connection between the drugging patterns by medical establishment in the 60s,70s and what you and I and many have faced…

    Blessing and love, Bev

  24. hi all…thanks for coming by…

    I’m not sure there is an equivalent…there are patient inserts for information on drugs..but it’s not all organized like the BNF appears to be and certainly there are not decent guidelines for withdrawal for ANY class of psychotropic drugs..

    the best compiled info specific to benzos comes from your side of the pond, a manual written by Professor Heather Ashton…

    unfortunately she too errs on the side of a too regimented withdrawal without enough flexibility among other things, but she is by far the most informed professional out there…

  25. I don’t really know much about Benzoes other than the withdrawal ‘guide’ given in the BNF. It’s far more ‘detailed’ than the one given for SSRi’s. Hopefully, that’s all about to change. What is the equivolent of the BNF over there?


  26. Dear Gianna:

    Thanks for the shout out!

    Great post and it’s so sad! I remember all too well what that withdrawal was like and how the medical establishment turned their backs on me, and walked away once they had me hooked. Then they tried to give me the label of addict, by taking medication as prescribed by their own doctor.

    The whole system is so screwy and upside down at this juncture in its doctrine and practice of mental health care. I don’t at this point believe it can be fixed in all sincerity. It’s either going to have to be torn down or we start from scratch, or they will take this whole society down the tubes with the psychiatric myth and model.

    Yours Truly,

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