Notoriously, the most difficult of any drug withdrawal is benzodiazepine withdrawal and heavy metal toxicity plays a crucial role.
Benzo withdrawal inherently has the risk of seizure associated with rapid withdrawal. This is due to the up-regulated (more sensitive) glutamate receptors overstimulating the neurology once the benzo (or drug, alcohol, etc.) is removed.
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Up-Regulation, Down-Regulation of Glutamate, GABA, & Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Glutamate is a stimulating neurotransmitter.3
During the course of a person’s drug use, glutamate receptors have up-regulated in order to provide a satisfactory level of stimulation to the brain. The benzo was depressing the system, and the natural plastic response of the brain was to try to re-increase stimulation by up-regulating glutamate (to stimulate, to compensate).
GABA is a main inhibitory neurotransmitter.4
The benzo was working to enhance the effectiveness of GABA at the inhibitory GABA receptors. This is thought to be the sedating effect of benzodiazepines. However, prolonged use of a benzodiazepine will cause the GABA receptors to down-regulate and become less receptive to the drug. This is the nature of benzodiazepine addiction. Actually, the phenomenon is observable in all drug addiction. It is down-regulation of the receptor for the drug that precipitates increased use. The result is that it takes more to get the same effect.
When Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), or Valium (diazepam) is suddenly removed, the GABA receptors have already down-regulated to the drug. The receptors will be undersupplied by the body’s natural GABA. The receptors to that natural GABA will be less sensitive to any inhibitory influence from the drug, or natural sources. This is why simply using a GABA supplement usually will not calm the person, as they already have “numbed” GABA receptors.
In rapid withdrawal, the up-regulated glutamate will now continue to overstimulate with no regulation from the inhibitory side. The person could well experience a seizure, hence the reasoning for a slow a deliberate taper. Readers and followers of Ashton’s Manual are familiar with this approach.
But what about the symptoms that arise even with a benzodiazepine withdrawal slow taper. What about the underlying anxiety? Is there anything that can be done about that? And what about the cases where Orthomolecular Medicine does not seem to be able to quell the anxiety?
How about those persons who have had every hormone test, addressed their adrenal and cortisol function, thyroid, done glutathione IV, and taken every vitamin in the naturopath’s arsenal and is still having panic attacks?
What Is Going On With Them?
At Alternative to Meds Center, we have been practicing Alternative Mental Health on the most damaged individuals in a Residential Treatment Center setting. By far, the most common underlying factor in chronic anxiety thus far has been toxicity — particularly, heavy metal toxicity. Benzodiazepine withdrawal and heavy metal toxicity are best addressed in tandem.
The Alternative to Meds Center Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Program & Heavy Metals Toxicity Testing
The most reliable type of test we have used is the Genova Urine Toxicity test. We perform this after administering 250mg oral DMPS, EDTA, 1200mg NAC, 400mcg selenium, Orme Zeolite, 10 to 20g vitamin C, 20 drops of cilantro tincture, and freeze-dried garlic. We have used oral methods as well as IV. In this way, we can compare documented effectiveness for a person seeking to do this without the availability of IV chelation.
The urine is collected for three hours. The person exercises for 20 minutes, drinks at least 64 ounces of water and sits in a 140° sauna for up to two hours with breaks for cool-off during that 2-hour period. Of course, this process would need to be modified for persons with severe anxiety with respect to the length of time, and the use of chelators such as the DMPS, EDTA, NAC, and cilantro. They may have to gradually work the time up from 15 minutes sauna and then begin to add the chelators in gradually once they show progress.
Toxins & Mental Health Concerns
The neurotoxins, particularly heavy metals and mercury, act as excitotoxins stimulating the nervous system. A common example of these sorts of toxins is pesticides. Pesticides kill the pests by overstimulating the insect’s neurology. The mechanism of a pesticide is to keep open the acetylcholine channels in the synapse of the insect. These forced open channels are unable to block the acceptance of acetylcholine. This results in over-firing of the neurology and then progresses to catatonia, and then death. The same process applies to human beings. These toxins are of concern to every living person on the planet, most especially pregnant women and children.1,5
Heavy Metal Toxicity & Insomnia, Anxiety
These toxins also disturb the naturally occurring processes within the neurology and the body in general. Mercury debilitates the ability of serotonin to convert into melatonin, resulting in sleepless states. Mercury toxicity also debilitates the ability of norepinephrine to convert to epinephrine. This results in a build-up of norepinephrine. Elevated norepinephrine means anxiety, as norepinephrine is a chemical marker for anxious states.
We expect that as the future unfolds, more and more physicians will begin to utilize testing for various toxins that could be interfering with normal neurochemistry and causing the types of health and mental health concerns that are currently overmedicated, rather than actually corrected at their source.
Notes on Cleansing Heavy Metals
Mercury also is most problematic in that it interferes with the body’s ability to cleanse itself from toxins. One of the important ways in which the body conjugates a toxin and converts it to non-toxic is thru what is called methylation. Methylation is where a methyl group (CH3) gets added to the toxin, making it water-soluble. A water-soluble molecule can now flush out of the body through normal excretion in perspiration, urine, etc. Mercury impairs the compounding of methionine to form Sam-E. Sam-E is a methyl donor for cleansing processes. In other words, the cleansing out or releasing of toxic molecules is impaired by the presence of mercury.2
Use of Sauna & Organic Diet to Clean Out Toxins
To really help a person return to the tranquility they desire, cellular body detoxification needs to occur. The neurochemical balance will then follow. We have been using a neurotoxin removal process that combines oral chelators with neurotransmitter repair and sauna to remove toxins and to return wellness. It has also been effective for persons experiencing psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices and delusional thinking.
We have been documenting the clearing rates and amounts as a person goes through the program. Our process is comprehensive and the cleansing part of the program lasts 20 to 40 days depending on individual factors, tolerance levels, general health, age, etc. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is a much easier prospect once the cleansing aspect is resolved. Following an organic diet also is a key supporting factor, as are the targeted nutritional regimens that are drawn up for each client.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Heavy Metal Toxicity Cleansing
At Alternative to Meds Center, we understand that toxicity can be a lifelong concern. Heavy metal toxins can take many months—even years—to fully clear. By doing the 20- to 40-day program, a person then learns how to utilize cleansing measures ongoing in their life so as to maximize their mental and physical health. Once these toxins are cleared out of the body, a person can enjoy increasing levels of natural calm. Removing heavy metals, pesticide residues, chemicals from household and industrial cleaners and other toxic exposures is of great importance in returning our clients to what we call natural mental health.
The process of benzodiazepine withdrawal is greatly eased when using the above protocols. We invite you to contact us directly for more details on our program at Alternative to Meds Center specifically addressing and safely resolving benzodiazepine withdrawal and heavy metal toxicity.
This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.
Dr. Samuel Lee
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Diane is an avid supporter and researcher of natural mental health strategies. Diane received her medical writing and science communication certification through Stanford University and has published over 3 million words on the topics of holistic health, addiction, recovery, and alternative medicine. She has proudly worked with the Alternative to Meds Center since its inception and is grateful for the opportunity to help the founding members develop this world-class center that has helped so many thousands regain natural mental health.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.