Monday, December 29, 2008

Discontinuing Valium - Cold Turkey

**Note: I am NOT condoning anyone go off Valium this way. From what I have read it can be dangerous, even life threatening, to do this if you are on a high dose of any of the benzodiazepines. (Although for the life of me I never could find out Why...If anyone knows I'd like to know too) Please work out a schedule with your pdoc if you want to stop any of your medications.

I am not exactly sure, but I think I am on my 8th or 9th day of no Valium. I tried to go off it by slowly lowering my dose, but as soon as I had any side effects I would take more Valium and eventually I ended up taking more than prescribed, just so I did not have to deal with the stress of stopping it. I don't know if I feel psychologically afraid, or if physiologically I was becoming more tolerant of higher doses. Probably both. I always seem to have this pattern after having been on Valium, or any other Benzodiazepine, for a while.

Valium definitely helps me in a number of ways, but it also makes me tired and (I think) apathetic. Dr. X and I have decided I slowly go off all my medications as he says it is not clear they are helping me. To some degree I agree. I am not sure if they help or not.

I still seem to have mood swings/unstable moods and much of the time I feel extremely depressed and anxious, sometimes I feel moderately depressed and anxious, sometimes I feel only depressed and sometimes only anxious and some of the time I feel hopeful. This is the best I have ever been in 7 years, so it is hard to say my medicine is NOT working. I think at best it is sort of, at times helping. Other times I think it is my changing life and therapy that has lifted me a bit. If it were the medication wouldn't I feel hopeful at least most or much of the time?

Anyways... I discontinued Valium cold turkey about 8 or 9 days ago. It has been both uplifting and brutal, but I simply could not manage to lower the dose slowly.

The uplifting part is that I seem to have an increase in energy and, at least part days I have had more energy. The brutal part has been and continues to be (maybe even worse now than the first few nights) the withdrawal side effects I have been experiencing:

  • Not sleeping. The first 4 days I did not sleep more than a couple hours, in increments of a few minutes here and there, each night. By Christmas Eve my mood was great...probably due to sleep deprivation. However, by 1:30 am that night, having gone to bed at 10:15 and finding myself at 1:30 am increasingly wired, twitching and clenching my teeth and more I broke down and decided I needed to take something to help me sleep. I took 50mgs of Trazadone and at least I slept part of the night. The next day I felt so much better, except for feeling like I was dazed. I have continued to take Trazadone as it is at least partially helping me sleep.

  • muscles are twitching and my hands shaking. The twitching seems to be getting worse and is really annoying. It is almost like the feeling of reflexes when someone taps your knee, except it is all my hands, arms, legs, torso...very annoying.

  • Mouth movements are back with a vengeance. I began taking the Valium to stop these mouth movements that began shortly after I started taking Prozac. I was getting extremely stressed because I was worried it was tardive dyskenesia. The Valium really helped them slow down and mostly go away (at least I wasn't noticing them as much). Now they are back full force...My mouth is making weird semi-controllable movements. If I focus really hard I can stop them, but the second I stop focusing on stopping them they come back...the movements are things like sucking motions, pursing my lips tightly, my tongue is moving in my mouth to the point that it is sore in numerous places from rubbing up against and pushing on my teeth and my jaw is clenched so tightly (especially in the evenings) that I have been getting massive headaches from the tension in my jaw and neck muscles. I have had to take 600mgs of Advil a couple times a night to lessen my headaches.

  • Toes tapping/moving It is like they are beating to a different drummer than me. "Tap, Lift, Tap, Lift, Tap, Lift...quickly, then slowly, then quickly, then ploddingly. They do not seem to want to stop (at least when I am noticing them). I can stop them if I focus on stopping, but a few minutes/seconds later I notice I am doing it again.

  • Anxiety/Bad Energy: Tight chest/back/jaw. Difficulty getting to sleep because I feel like I can't breathe. More energy, but it feels bad, like agitated energy, feel overwhelmed by small things, or things that are even the least bit difficult for me.

  • Irritability: Noises are annoying. It feels like sensory overload if the music at home is too loud, or it isn't the music I want to hear, or the t.v. is too loud, or people are talking to much. It is almost like the auditory equivalent of bright, relentless sunshine in your eyes when you are not wearing a hat or sunglasses.

  • Increased eating: (not sure if this is a side effect, the holiday season, or if it is happening at times my mood is down), but I have gained more than 12 pounds in the last 3-4 weeks...and I can't seem to stop eating bad food.

  • Balance problems: Falling, tipping, slipping. It may be the weather conditions (snow and ice), but I feel completely off balance, even inside.

  • Memory problems: Not sure I can remember the bizarre things I have been doing, but I remember saying "huh" to myself numerous times a day...Let me think...

  • spending a lot of time staring at things I pull out to do and wondering why I have them in my hand or on the counter. (Eg: pull out vodka and juice to make a drink and I keep looking at them both unsure of what they are and unsure of what I am to do with them, or find myself in a room and not knowing why, or putting the juice in the microwave instead of the fridge etc...
  • forgetfulness/carelessness

  • Stuttering/word finding: I have a phrase or sentence in my head. I go to speak and different words come out. Sometimes it takes me 3-4 tries to get the right statement out. I have done this numerous times while speaking with my husband. The words that come out wrong are usually associated in some way (they rhyme or have something to do with the topic is strawberries and the word "tomatoes" comes out instead ...both are fruits). The other example of this problem is pure stuttering...where I have to try numerous times for the entire word to come out of my mouth correctly. I can't remember exact examples, (despite meaning to each time it happens), but my husband is making fun of me when I do it, because it is happening regularly.

  • Depersonalization/dissociation...I am "disappearing" a lot.

    cbtish said...

    "...never could find out Why"
    I found a summary in this article.

    It mentions rare cases of coma and death. There are also, of course, secondary risks associated with severe depression, and accidents caused by shaking, lack of balance and confusion. But it looks like after 8 or 9 days things are unlikely to get worse now.

    Jazz said...

    Good luck with it! Thinking of you and hoping you come through this okay!

    Anonymous said...

    Good luck with coming off valium. Al the symptoms you listed sound hidious. Medication witdrawal coupled with mental illness is a horrid combination. Hope you had a good christmas and have a happynew year. Hannah X

    jcat said...

    You are such an amazingly strong person! Although I have noticed you feeling better some of the time over the last year, I really think it is more you and what you have been doing, especially with the art and the therapy with Dr X.

    I think that with MDD, the most important thing the meds can do for us is to pick us off the floor long enough to be able to take a couple of small steps towards doing the things that we value. And you have definitely used them to do that, so maybe tailing off to reduce the symptoms is going to help you to enjoy your progress even more.

    I've been cutting down slowly from the megadose of Tofranil, and have dropped the beta-blocker and sedatives completely. I know there will still be future times that I'll probably need more meds again, but for now, they lifted me enough to cope, and to allow the whole dude-relationship to happen. And I'd like to try run with the good stuff without the side effects. A year ago, I would have willingly taken any side effect if only the meds could get me off the ocean-floor. They did, and I think somehow they have done a bit of that for you too?

    Aqua said...

    Thanks each of you. I really have been doing okay getting off Valium. I know the side effects sound bad, but at least with the trazadone helping me sleep they are manageable.

    Anonymous said...

    The medical risk of stopping is seizures. It's not as dangerous as alcohol withdrawal.

    I also twitch a lot from meds (it's most likely not the same pathology as TD which is similar to many other movement disorders and dopamine related)...and sometimes it doesn't really go away after I stop...the benzos help, but mostly, I've discovered I'm the only one who notices.

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    Anonymous said...

    I stopped four days ago and have gotten about four hours sleep since and I was at 10mgx3 a day. I'm really glad I looked at this information I really didn't realize how tired it was making me but now that I'm off of it I have a lot of the symptoms. I'm wondering if I should call my doctor and tell him that I just forgot to have him call in my refills, it feels a little much for me but I want to see if I can break it down slow so when he fills my script tomorrow I'd like to try 5mg 2 or three times a day just as needed. I'll have him write for extra just in case I think but I think cold turkey is just a little too much for me right now. Anyone have any other ideas, besides continuing to take my original dosage

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