Brief benzodiazepine withdrawal update

As most of you know I’ve withdrawn from 50 mg Seroquel, 400 mg Lamictal, 84 mg Concerta, 11 mg Risperdal and 200 mg of Zoloft in the last 5 years.

I’m down to getting rid of the Klonopin that I was on up to 6 mg a day, but only addicted to 3 mg. (only, ha!) 3 mg of Klonopin is equivalent to 60 mg of Valium. Some people take 2 mg of Valium and it kicks their butt–just so you get how powerful Klonopin is.

In any case I cut down to 2 mg of Klonopin a while back and then got horrendously stuck. After much panic and fear and RESEARCH (thank god for our brains and the ability to educate ourselves) I decided to do a crossover from Klonopin to the equivalent dose of Valium which has proven to be really, really awful as well, but not as bad as continuing to taper the Klonopin alone and the idea with the crossover is that it’s easier to come off of Valium because of the very very long half-life and people, in general, if the crossover is done really slowly and carefully do get accustomed to the icky aspects of Valium, which I can assure you there are many.

Some people, do, however, curse the day they tried a crossover. It doesn’t work for everyone, though, even as I suffer I do believe it’s working for me.

I have not been able to do crossovers more than every 10 – 20 days because it’s horribly hard on my body. This last time it took me about 3 weeks to even be able to stand long enough to leave my house for 1/2 an hour but in the last three days I’ve gone out into the wonder of SPRING twice! I do eventually start recovering between crossovers! And this gives me great hope for the future.

The other day I was talking to one of my close friends who is a survivor and who also runs a detox center to get off these drugs. I’ve visited the place. It’s one of a kind place that gets great results and my friend is great. He also acknowledges that my circumstance stumps him. Nonetheless we chat on the phone often.

The other day he made a suggestion that had crossed my mind already so it was ripe to jump on it. I have made it slightly past the half-way point in the crossover. So I was telling this to my friend the other day and saying how awful it’s been, how debilitated and crippled I’ve been. He told me that at his center in situations like mine where high doses of Valium are concerned he just does half the crossover then resumes the taper with the Klonopin (or other original benzo). And so I jumped at the chance of resuming my taper as doing the crossover feels so stagnant. The thought of a few more months to just get to an equivalent dose of Valium before I could again withdraw has been making me feel stuck.

I want this poison out of my body and now. My body needs it out to really start healing as far as I can tell.

I’ve made great strides in healing emotionally and spiritually but my poor body if suffering so. And so last night I TAPERED again!! YAY!! I was at .875 Klonopin and 22 mg of Valium. For simplicities sake we cut 1/2 mg of Valium about a week ago because I have 10 mg pills and 2 mg pills. So I did do a tiny withdrawal a few days ago.

And last night I did another 1/8 mg of Klonopin down so I’m down to .75 mg of Klonopin and 22 mg Valium. Progress!!

Here’s a good post that covers a lot of issues on benzos. And there are a whole bunch of links to more info on benzos at the bottom of the page that is linked to.

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28 thoughts on “Brief benzodiazepine withdrawal update

  1. I found this blog randomly, just decided to share some of my personal experiences for what it’s worth. I’m currently in the process of withdrawing from Klonopin, and my hair on head has thinned remarkably over the years I was using it. I’m only 21 years old so I don’t think it should be happening just yet. I’ve also heard comments that my hair has gotten grayer, but I’m not so sure about that.

    However, the interesting part is, my body hair seems to be now growing at an accelerated rate now that I’m far into withdrawal! In places where I had no previous hair growth as well. It has sort of reached funny and scary proportions too, I have an almost 10 centimeter long nipple hair…

    From my general experience, the withdrawal symptoms for me are exactly the opposite when compared to what was happening to me while using the drug. Increased anxiousness instead of anti-anxiolytic properties and so on. Perhaps the supressed/increased hair growth falls in to the same category too.

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    1. Hi thanks for sharing…
      hair loss is common with benzo withdrawal…

      the body hair growth I’ve not heard of. If you’re a woman you might want to get checked out for PCOS. (polycystic ovary syndrome)

      there is lots of info on psych drug and benzo withdrawal on this site if you want additional info or support.

      best to you.

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  2. I am in the process of cycling through doctors, and this is because the last three have swore that there is no such thing as “withdrawal” coming off of Gabapentin and Lamictal and that a taper is needed simply to avoid seizures (they are really “sure” this all of the other things have been all in my head- especially with Lamictal). All of them suggested tapers that would get me off of 900mg Gabapentin a day in 10 days- Even back then, I thought that was way too fast. I finally won the fight for much, much longer process- but it was not easy. They do acknowledge benzo withdrawal; however, at this point it is hard to believe much that they are telling me about these sorts of things- so my last doctor told me Tuesday that there is no way I was going to have problems with the Ativan…well, I just did not trust this claim.

    Thank you for the comment on Gabapentin, as well as the dose of Ativan. I am going to ask my neurologist if I can get lower dose Gabapentin pills (this drug was for a pain issue and not for mood). While he was “positive” that with my low dose and duration on the drug that I would have no problems with the 100mg to 0mg a day, he has always been good about dealing with discomfort issues so I think he will go along. Before I found this site, it never even occurred to me to go up in dose, get stable and then taper much slowly. I actually did this with Lamictal and it has gone better than before. I was so determined to get off all medications and was getting the green light from doctors that I trusted at the time; therefore, I was going way too fast.

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  3. if you’re not addicted to .25 mg of Ativan it is a relatively low dose…if someone is addicted it is a large enough dose to cause severe problems for some people…

    the thing is I just don’t know how severe your gabapentin withdrawals might get…I don’t feel comfortable giving any advice…

    my cautious advice and the only truly safe thing I can recommend is considering reinstating some gabapentin and going off it slower this time…

    you may do alright not doing that, but I wouldn’t’ encourage it.

    have you studied my ABOUT page?? it’s really very helpful

    https://bipolarblast.wordpress.com/about/

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  4. Thank you for that fast reply!

    I had tapered down to 100mg a day and was at 100 for three weeks. I went down to that from 400mg a day, which had been at for about two months. I had zero problems with that cut. I started with a 900mg a day program and that was only for close to three months before I started the reduction. It has only been a week since I stopped completely, which I know is not much time. I am 99.9% sure that the attacks are related, but still much nicer to deal with than the Gabapentin (nasty stuff). Is .25mg of Ativan a low dose? I have no idea if it is or not. If it is, then I am ready to suffer through them for a few days to see if it really matters all that much- if at all. I don’t have any obligations for the next four days, have my husband at for support and it would feel amazing to know that I am off another drug.

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  5. I have been taking Ativan for about 9 months. The highest dose that I took was 1mg a day and it was not on a daily basis. I do not notice any problems if I don’t take them for three or four days. My goal is to not take them at all; however, I just stopped Gabapentin and the panic attacks have been less than fun. I take .25mg when they hit and this is only once a day. I think this is a pretty low dose, but I perhaps not??? Here is my question…When I think that the Ativan is helping, is this just a placebo effect? The attacks are more jolting than normal, and this is the only reason I take the med. If they were not so severe, then I would just ride it out. After reading some of the posts, I am starting to think that it is not the drug that is helping and that they are going away before the Ativan even gets into my system.

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    1. Tamara,
      it’s hard to say…
      the best lesson I learned about my anxiety is that it passes without my taking anything for it. As I started tolerating the anxiety I stopped being afraid of it and once I stopped being afraid of it I stopped having anxiety…

      of course I do lots of other things too…I eat super well, I meditate and I practice other forms of self-care too…

      see how you do without it…it can’t hurt and it may help profoundly.

      I don’t know how quickly you came off the gabapentin or how recently…you could be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from that…if you were on a large dose and came off quickly and if it hasn’t been a really long time it may make more sense to reinstate a bit of gabapentin and withdraw more slowly…that might take care of your issues altogether…but I don’t know enough about your circumstance to say that with any confidence…

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  6. (sorry accidentally hit submit)

    I learned that TAKING THE DRUGS WAS CAUSING MOST OF MY PROBLEMS!!

    There metabolization of many drugs besides SSRI’s are affected by the Cytochrome P450 enzymes. Don’t forget to pay attention to these too.

    The Mayo website is:
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cyp450-test/MY00135/RSS=1

    I’m not sure I inserted that right, but hopefully it will work.

    I HIGHLY recommend having this test done if you can get to a facility that provides it. It has provided me with so many answers to questions I had for years.

    Peace and good health to all!

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  7. The Mayo Clinic website offers information on the Cytochrome P450 test. I went to the Clinic and had my blood tested last fall. I don’t think you have to go there to be tested, but it would take some investigation to find out how to get the test done unless you are a Mayo patient. I would think other places do it, but I’m not sure.

    My test result indicated that I was an “intermediate” processor. The psych explained to me that if I took SSRI’s or other antidepressants, which she didn’t recommend, it would take six to eight weeks for a subclinical dose to show signs of working. Obviously, SSRI’s aren’t in my future, much to my relief. Unfortunately, when I got this result I’d been taking them for about 20 years. As with many people, I learned that TAKING

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  8. I support you in your decision Ari…I’ve said before that it’s a kind of calling to get off all this stuff…AND I had no idea what I was in for…god knows I may not have made this choice had I known…but now it’s really too late to turn back…so I will see it through.

    your plan sounds healthy and sane and just right for you!

    by the way…I am not a Buddhist, I study all the worlds religions and I practice Vipassana…but I do not call myself anything…

    of course it’s clear I DO like Buddhist philosophy!

    cheers!

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  9. Hey, Gianna,

    Yes, I’d say you’re pretty right on the risperdal. I tried this, once zyprexa stopped working, and was over 11 mgs risperdal. My doctor recommended seroquel over risperdal, based upon lower incidence of tardiv dyskensia. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but she did not like me on that level of risperdal.

    You now met someone! I believe I took almost exactly 11mgs. Yes, and also my doctor recommended 1200mgs this winter, on Seroquel and I’m so glad I didn’t do that, not only for my health but this issue with the samples would be way more a crisis if I were talking about two extra pills per day instead of one.

    Gianna, doesn’t it have to do with what you’re willing to go through? I’m not willing to dedicate years of my life to withdrawal. My alternative strategy and one that I like a lot better, is to not get metabolic syndrome through extreme health food, extreme exercise, and I truly enjoy going out and about and doing these things I love, and not being as I was with my withdrawal, curled up on my couch unable to do anything.

    I guess I have to balance how active I want to be, with getting off of this stuff. I’m willing to spend months, but not years.

    I believe I may have been starting seroquel while on my risperdal as well. I think I also got started at about 100mg, and moved quickly to 200mg.

    Well, I certainly won’t give up. I’m just a person who tends to worry a lot, and do reduce worry, I don’t try to peer into the future too much. So, I’m looking at a short term goal of getting onto 800mgs and then hopefully 600mg.

    Then, at 600mg, I’ll worry about whether I will get to 400mg.

    You are Buddhist and so know about impermanence. The tornado was a great teacher of this! There you are, watering your orchids, one second, and running for your life the next. Then your house gets ripped apart. That could have very easily been the end of my life and was the end of Nathan Prindle’s life, age 2. Then that storm went over to Iowa and killed 7 more people, and injured around 70, all on May 25, 2008.

    The two quotes that I like, are these, first a zen saying:

    “My barn burned down today, now I have a better view of the moon”

    My second saying that I like is:

    Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! -Neizsche

    What the tornado taught me is that we have to regard the future, but to try to take control of the future, is kind of futile, because things like tornados happen, and things may not go as planned. I’m sure you know Buddhism is about balance, and so we need to balance our view of the future, vs. for me, getting obsessive and worrying about the future.

    So, for now, not knowing what the future truly brings, who knows, maybe another tornado! I have a hope for 600mgs. At 600mgs, I will reassess.

    Your journey is truly inspirational, though and your blog is fantastic as well!

    Hey off to private yoga instruction.

    Best,
    Ari

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  10. Ari,
    I was on 11 mg of Risperdal which is the equivalent of about 1200 mg of Seroquel, I believe…I’m pulling that out of my rusty memory…

    As a social worker working with the “severe and persistant” mentally ill I never met anyone on more than 3 mg of Risperdal AND in general they took only one or two meds and I was on 6.

    in any case…I got off of it…all of it…except the last bit of Klonopin I’m working on.

    I also took up to 100 mg of Seroquel in conjunction with the Risperdal…

    I’m not pressing you to go off it at all…just suggesting it’s possible…

    I’ve met a couple of other people who were on doses like ours who have been much more successful than I have been (so far) as well.

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  11. Oh, gosh, I’d hardly know where to start on how drugs are metabolised.

    The “theory” I have heard for myself, is that I may have a “super liver” that detoxes everything out of my bloodstream before it has a chance to take effect. I am uncertain about P450, but I believe the reaction involving P450, is about metabolism in the liver. I am not sure. I have not worked for 5 years, and am getting cloudy on some science!

    When I smoke something, on the other hand, it works great.

    Yes, I read your stuff on Seroquel. Like you, I’m pretty much on so much medication that when I was on bipolar support lists, people freaked out on how much medication I’m taking.

    I am uncertain whether I can ever really, truly be off Seroquel, but I do know that I can get down to 800mgs (pre-tornado amount) and I’m hoping 600 mgs. I’ll take it from there.

    Gianna! Let me tell you my recent Seroquel story!

    As you know, Seroquel will lose patent, in early 2013 (pretty sure). My insurance only pays for 800mgs and no more. So, the extra 200mgs, I get in samples from my pdoc. So, I call up my pdoc, and remind them to get samples, they call back and say that the sales reps are no longer handing out samples!

    Now, they want you to take Seroquel XR, which I believe has a patent expiration of 2017 (?). So, Seroquel XR is all that is available as samples.

    I entirely freaked out, and called Walgreens to see how much it would be to buy the one extra pill. It was $295 for 30 x 200mg Seroquel! OMG! That is $9.80/pill if I’m doing my math right. In Seroquel alone, I am paying AstraZeneca around $17,500 per year! (5 pills per day)

    However, I don’t mind paying the $9.80 per pill, because, after all, they want to take the profit and invest it on even more drugs that will be for medical cures — NOT!

    What we ultimately came up with, was to just break apart an XR, and then it will be like taking a regular Seroquel. The other problem with the XR, why I don’t just switch is that I had tried it once, and it did not work. I also take the stuff at night and by mid-morning it’s mostly out of my system. WHo the f*** wants to have an XR so it lasts all day? I don’t want to be groggy and drugged all day!

    My other reason, is that I want to be on something that is generic. If I am still on some, by 2013, I want to be on a 50c pill and not a $9.80 pill. This is a personal satisfaction issue and not anything really rational. I personally don’t want to get on a “try a new drug every 5 years” wagon. I want off the wagon of me being a piece of meat to make a profit on – whether my insurance pays for it or not.

    My doctor assured me that I will get my extra pill. My insurance will pay for it, but it requires extra paperwork from the pdoc, which she said she’d be willing to do.

    Argh. Pushers!

    Best,
    Ari

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  12. Ari,
    yeah we all do metabolize stuff differently…I was on two and three times the maximum usual “therapeutic” dose of most of the shit I was on…just like you…massive doses…

    and yeah, there are some tests that test some of this stuff but I don’t actually know much about it…or really nothing at all…would love to know more if you want to do the research!

    the thing is by the time I got off most of the drugs I’d become extra sensitive to it…and I am now the opposite that I was at that time!!

    I no longer metabolize like I did when I was on enough drugs to make an elephant pass out, so I don’t know what the story is on that one…I can take a tiny fraction of a dose of a antipsychotic now and I’m completely out of my mind out of if for 24 hours…

    so we change too…and I don’t know how they would explain that.

    so sorry, I’m really no help on this one.

    I wrote about this once with Seroquel:

    https://bipolarblast.wordpress.com/2008/02/16/seroquel-is-satans-favored-poison/

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  13. OK, Gianna,

    The only thing is that I’ve been taking Xanax XR since 2006 and have not changed my dose. Maybe my body’s tolerance for them has gone down.

    I’m going to have to go with perimenopause as an issue, as I am now 47 and should be well into perimenopause.

    I also want to find out more about this theory my doctors have about why I have to take so many drugs, yet, do not have any metabolic syndrome. They have a theory that I may be metabolising them, before they hit the brain. I believe the test they want to do is the P450. Do you know anything about this?

    I don’t mean “anecdotal” in a bad way, and only refer to it, for my own self. I have the right to negate my own experiences with words like “placebo” and “anecdotal” but that would be rude to call someone else’s experience those things!

    I will never call another person’s experience anecdotal.

    And, on top of that, I’d call SSRI’s working as anecdotal! 🙂

    Best,
    Ari

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  14. oh…and valium has knocked me out for a loop…and it is routinely switched out for klonopin BECAUSE it has a much longer half life then K…there is no doubt that in my body this is the case.

    it’s much much more sedating and soporific than the Klonopin as well has a ton more active metabolites that stick around for months and years in your fat cells if you’re on it for decades.

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  15. well, Ari,
    it’s all anecdotal but I’ve “met” several women now on benzo boards who report losing hair.

    otherwise the guilty drug is usually depakote…

    but definitely it’s been associated with benzos on my boards, but I can’t tell you which ones exactly so who knows if it’s any benzo or just some…

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  16. Hey, G, for me, I found a wide variety of what the half life of Klonpin is. The lowest half life I saw, was 18 hours. The highest level of half life was 3 days! I also asked my psychiatrist about this, and she agreed with me, that it is 3 days. I believe I have personally experienced 24 hours.

    Whatever, it’s my point was that even if the half life is 18 hours, the minimum I saw, that is a good thing to know, as you are looking at having a pretty high level of klonopin still in your system, long after you’ve forgotten about your bout with insomnia! I jump horses and need to know when I’m drugged and when I’m not drugged! 🙂

    I am not sure what to make of this variation in half lives, and find other half lives of various drugs I’m on to be much more consistent.

    Hey, G,

    I know I’m straying way off the thread, here, but

    I find that my hair has thinned. I have checked very carefully, on the pharmacy inserts, and also on the internet, and also checking with my psychiatrist, and they state that no drug I am on will cause thinning hair. I can’t find a connection.

    I take seroquel (1000mgs), Neurontin (something like 2400mgs), 2 Xanax XR, Chloral Hydrate, Atenolol and Ambien CR.

    You seem like you’d be the super expert about this kind of relationship between drugs and health. My stylist said your hair can stop growing based on stress, and certainly a tornado ripping your house apart while you’re inside of it, is kind of stressful. All I know, is that it’s not falling out, but is so thinned that I am having a kind of emergency or about it!

    We eat mostly healthy food, and I take a lot of vitamins, including ones marketted for hair. I have only noticed it being very thin, in the last 3 months but I have not made any major medication changes. I’ve been on the same amounts of medications for over around 3 years. My hair is not falling out, but seems to just not be growing. I guess it could be, I’m turning 47. Don’t know.

    Best,
    Ari

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  17. thanks val,
    but frankly I didn’t have the stomach to read it…people just don’t know what’s happening all around us and sometimes I just reach a point where I can’t take in certain things about it all…

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  18. Mostly off-topic [but I’m glad you’re feeling somewhat better G], but I stumbled across this post in my round of blog-surfing:
    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/
    I’m not clever enough to link directly to post, but if you scan down, it’s the entry for 3/22/09…
    I can’t help wondering if most of this poor woman’s suffering was pharmacologically-based – esp when AM refers to “rotting teeth, hair falling out, failing liver” – but I don’t want to add to his pain by commenting…

    Like

  19. LOL yes, I’ve definitely got benzo brain … but as I’ve gotten lower in dose the tapering is more precise. I’m water tapering now so I can keep cuts small and uniform. So, used thinking in minutia, I wasn’t sure if you were going to *stop* the crossover and begin tapering again or *continue* the crossover and also begin tapering the Klonopin at the same time. It wasn’t quite clear the way it was written.

    How are you feeling?

    S

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    1. crappy…I’m basically housebound and have been for a while…but so far this taper hasn’t made me much worse than usual…but the last crossover took about 4 days to kick in and make me feel really bad…so we’ll see…

      I’m hoping I can start really moving along…

      you know I tried water tapering and using a liquid from a compounding pharmacy as well…for some reason the liquid form in my body made the withdrawals much much worse…I’ve talked to one other person who found the same thing…but for most people water tapering is a great solution…

      I guess my metabolism is such that once it’s been dissolved it somehow effects me totally differently.

      Like

  20. no Ari..K’s half-life is about 18 hours..it varies and can be up to about 30 hours…IT”S NOT 3 days..

    Valium’s half-life is 200 hours…that’s why it’s easier to withdraw from…

    I feel a taper from Klonopin within 12 hours…

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  21. Ah, but Klonopin has a half life of 3 days, and I don’t remember with Valium, as I’ve never taken it, but I think at least 20 days.

    The thing about Klonopin for me, is that I am totally pissed off at my elite, Eden Prarie pdoc, who did not warn me that it had a half life of 3 days! Xanax, I believe, is less than 8 hours, seroquel is around 6 hours (from memory, so excuse inaccuracies).

    I jump horses. This requires me to be very focused and not drugged.

    Well, say you took a Klonopin to help with insomnia. So, you take your dose, Monday night. That means that you have almost the same amount of Klonopin in your body on Tuesday night, and have quite a bit of Klonopin still in your system! By Thursday, you have lived out the half life, but still have half the amount of Klonopin in your system. It’s not realistically out of your system for a week.

    So, there I am, jumping horses, where I’ve fallen and bruised ribs, fallen on my head, etc. and my doctor doesn’t inform me of this fact about Klonopin! OMG! I’m riding horses while drugged out on Klonopin! Not to mention little details like driving!

    I just figured it out one day, as after a particular Klonopin dose, I felt drugged the second day, and went OMG is this from the klonpin still? Then I checked it out on the internet and found out this half life.

    Excuse any inaccuracies, I’m going by memory, and am ballparking figures, but suffice it to say, Klonopin has a very long half life!

    Best,
    Ari

    Like

  22. Hi Gianna,

    I’m direct tapering from Klonopin, and am now at .5 mg per day from a high of 4 mg per day. Your idea of continuing the taper is a good one.

    What could be an option, too, is to stop your crossover at this point, continue to taper the .75 Klonopin until you are finished and then taper the remaining 22 mg Valium. Does that make sense? You would finish up on a Valium only taper either way.

    I’m really gald you’re doing this “publicly” on your blog here. Fifteen years ago, I was prescribed Xanax and, later (what I asked for help in stopping te Xanax), was given Klonopin. It’s been the most destructive thing that’s ever happened to me. I will definitely be following your experiences in tapering.

    S

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    1. What could be an option, too, is to stop your crossover at this point, continue to taper the .75 Klonopin until you are finished and then taper the remaining 22 mg Valium. Does that make sense? You would finish up on a Valium only taper either way.

      that’s what I’m doing Selene…that’s what this post was about! anyway! my brain misses stuff all the time too…it’ benzo brain!

      best of luck on your continued journey…hope you stick around and share what it’s like for you. thanks for sharing a bit of your story, hope to hear more.

      Like

  23. I’m not sure that last link is working or it doesn’t for me. Can you recheck? I’m definitely intrigued to hear about the idea of continuing the taper partway through the crossover. I admit to having had that thought at one time but didn’t feel I had the background to bring it up. Delighted to hear you’ve made some progress and also gotten outside! Cheers!

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