As the benzo crisis continues on its path of destruction, more people than ever are looking to Alternative to Meds Center for help with safe and gentle benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Benzodiazepines are especially difficult to taper from and the difficulties may increase the longer they are taken. However useful the drug may have been in the beginning, eventually someone taking benzodiazepines will be looking for a safe exit route.
Does Your Diagnosis
Alternative to Meds is the expert on benzodiazepine withdrawal for more than 15 years now. Our published evidence documents the successes of our clients. We understand that underlying issues in a vast number of cases could be resolved using less toxic methods than drugs. Perhaps there was an overlooked medical condition or some other reason that a diagnosis was in error. We can sort it out properly to get our clients back to robust health.
Typically, benzodiazepine users expect dreadful, lingering withdrawals. This is not the case at Alternative to Meds Center, as we use a vast number of safe and effective, clinically proven ways to reduce and eliminate side effects and symptoms that otherwise often accompany benzodiazepine withdrawal, making it extremely hard to tolerate. We know it doesn’t have to be that way.
15 Years Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
After using benzodiazepine drugs for relief from insomnia or anxiety or other issues, the body compensates for the changes that the drug has imposed and this is what leads to dependence or addiction. It happens quickly. In contrast, the body has a much harder time returning to normal function once benzodiazepine drugs have altered the natural chemistry of the nervous system and brain, and this dysfunction creates further shock and even injury if the benzodiazepines are withdrawn too fast.1,12
After a runner runs a mile, there is a phenomenon known as “oxygen debt.” Deep breathing will naturally compensate after the race. Similarly, one of the most debilitating factors of benzodiazepine use is the fact that after taking it for a while it creates what could be called “GABA debt.” The drugs have artificially purged and used up every available molecule of GABA and this leaves the person in a bad way. But there is no quick way to bring the GABA levels back up to healthy normal. During treatment, there is a slow way, which involves diet and supplements and other ways to help the body rebuild and restore these and other essential elements needed for robust natural mental health. Dietary therapy has been shown highly effective in building up GABA in the body.10
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Drug-Induced GABA Deficiency
GABA deficiency is, at least in part, one reason why the drug will “stop working” after a week or two or perhaps a bit longer. What can happen is the person then experiences “paradoxical effects.” This means if the drug was meant to calm you down, it will now intensify your anxiety. If you took it to get to sleep, it will now keep you awake. But if you stop taking it altogether, your body reacts with a harsh vengeance. Stopping benzodiazepines abruptly can cause death.1,2,12
This is a horrible trap to find oneself in and needs well-planned strategies to successfully escape without further harm. This is our specialty at Alternative to Meds Center, and we have helped thousands of our clients to return to good health after benzodiazepine use. There is a road to recovery and it is authentically provided at Alternative to Meds Center.
The Quick Fix is a Fake Fix
There is no real quick fix when it comes to health or mental health. Benzos may help in a crisis of unusual stress or anxiety. However, the tendency toward giving patients a quick answer to anxiety or insomnia, or other conditions has led to the number of benzo prescriptions doubling or worse over the last few years.3
A good gardener knows there is no such thing as a quick fix. A good mechanic also knows. It takes getting into the guts of the situation and digging around and testing to find out what the actual problem is, and then you can have a real resolution to the problem. That is our prime goal at Alternative to Meds Center.
Using an arsenal of diagnostic tools such as lab testing for deficiencies or the presence of toxins in the body, and even testing genetic factors that can be relevant, we work out solutions to the symptoms that likely lead to seeking a prescription of benzodiazepines in the first place. Non-physical contributory factors are also explored in counseling and life coaching and other therapies for authentic relief. Drugs can only mask symptoms, numb unwanted feelings, make a person less aware of their pain or discomfort. They do nothing to cure or resolve the source of the problem. We aim to do just that, find the root cause(s), and address those using environmental medicine, orthomolecular medicine, and other therapies for lasting relief. That way, coming off benzodiazepines will not leave a person in dire straits because their symptoms will start to reduce markedly as early as during the pre-tapering phase of the program.
Benzodiazepines are primarily used for lessening anxiety and promoting sleep. The most recent advisories both in the US and abroad recommend short-term use only, no longer than a number of weeks. Benzodiazepines are the most common category of prescription medications that Alternative to Meds Center addresses since an unsupported benzodiazepine withdrawal process could be considered close to impossible.4
However, these are powerful drugs and can alter neurochemistry even after short-term use, and especially when used long-term may end up causing more side effects than they were targeted to address. Never abruptly stop taking benzodiazepine drugs, as to do so may lengthen the withdrawal symptoms considerably. Alternative to Meds Center specializes in relieving benzodiazepine discontinuation syndrome and the protracted symptoms of withdrawal which individuals who taper at home may unfortunately face. At the center, we focus on correcting the causes of anxiety or insomnia so that an individual can be free of these symptoms, and also free of benzodiazepine side effects, and free from benzodiazepine withdrawals.
We have found that in many cases of chronic anxiety, the individual has in fact accumulated neurotoxins and heavy metals in the body, which can overstimulate the CNS. In fact, this overstimulation could well have been the reason for a prescription of benzodiazepine medication in the first place. Food additives should be better understood and avoided where sensitivities to these have the potential for compromising mental health.11
Clearly, a person who experiences constant anxiety may suffer from a burden of neurotoxic accumulations, such as mercury, aspartame, industrial cleaners, or even pesticides. For long-term relief, the toxic burden has to be removed. A study authored by O’Neal and Zheng, published in Current Environmental Health reports that toxic exposure to manganese can resemble the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Manganese, like many toxic substances, tends to build up in the fatty tissues, hair, and bones until it can be purged from the system through chelation or other means for relief.16,17
Can Pesticides Create Anxiety?
Consider how pesticides work. A grasshopper may encounter a toxic insecticide that is designed to kill it.13,14,15 The following describes how the process works:
The toxin gets absorbed through the grasshopper’s exoskeleton.
The toxin moves through the body and enters the nervous system.
The poison (pesticide) molecules cause the acetylcholine channels of the grasshopper’s nervous system to stay in the “open” position longer than normal, causing hyperexcitability and tremors.
Acetylcholine is a neurochemical with stimulant or excitatory properties, causing the grasshopper to jump, twitch, or convulse.
The continued influx of acetylcholine causes catatonia (repetitive motions) to the point of exhaustion and a comatose state.
The grasshopper eventually dies.
Humans and grasshoppers have some similar neurochemicals. They also share reactions to toxins that have invaded the CNS. If the toxic load in a person is potent enough, the excitatory effects of the toxic material can cause similarly unbridled overstimulation, which we may recognize as chronic anxiety. Studies have shown the toxic effects on neurons by exposure to metal nanoparticles as an example. 5
Individuals who have been exposed to environmental poisoning have developed certain immunological syndromes and neurological conditions and cognitive decline as a result.17
Similar to the grasshopper, an over-accumulation of acetylcholine in humans also causes neurochemical overstimulation. Our nervous systems use acetylcholine for stimulation. We are subject to exposure to many types of toxins that can inflict this excitatory property.
We are commonly exposed to toxins:
Mercury * (some dental amalgams), lead, other heavy metals
Aspartame (toxic to the myelin sheath, neuron disruptor) 6
MSG (toxic to brain cells) 7
Mycotoxins (microfungi which can cause disease and death in humans).
Manganese in foods, in the environment, or workplace, i.e. welding16,17
Chemicals in cleaning products. i.e., phthalates (endocrine disruptors) 9
Chemicals in personal products
Chemicals in processed foods
Water treatment residues, i.e., chlorine, fluoride, dioxins, PCBs, etc.
Laundry products, i.e., naphthotriazolystilbenes, EDTA, nonylphenol ethoxylate, etc.
And many more common household products.
*According to a study by Ganser and Kirschner, mercury can damage the myelin sheath, a potentially life-saving discovery from their neurotoxicity research.
Toxins can significantly impact endocrine glands and can cause hormone imbalance, such as adrenal burnout, and elevated cortisol levels.
Often, the source of anxiety is the build-up of neurotoxins over the lifetime of the person. This is because these toxins and heavy metals are fat-soluble, and they tend to accumulate in fatty tissue over time and have properties that can overstimulate the central nervous system.5
The good news is that these toxic elements can be removed safely, and health can be restored once again. It is possible to investigate and discover and correct the root causes of anxiety. We also provide counseling that can help overcome anxiety and its negative impacts that may have affected a person on so many levels of their life.
These residual toxic effects will likely continue to negatively impact neurology until they can be removed. Other therapies, such as counseling or Equine therapy or life coaching may be enhanced in their effectiveness after this unburdening.
How Do Benzodiazepines Affect the Body?
Clinicians and researchers continue to search for more clarity on why benzodiazepine withdrawal is so difficult. Coming off these drugs is undoing the disruption to the entire CNS and affects the amazingly complex relationships between neural connections, glands, muscles, etc., throughout the entire body. It must be done precisely, with compassion. Many therapies are provided during the process at Alternative to Meds Center to assist.
We do know that benzodiazepines affect GABA in the body. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the body’s primary inhibitory (calming, dampening) neurotransmitter. One of the effects of benzodiazepine drugs is to make nerve synapses in the brain more permeable to GABA. This means that GABA’s dampening effects are strengthened, and therefore more able to slow or inhibit more excitatory nerve impulses traveling along the CNS. Hence the sedating effect of benzo drugs. However, the presence of benzodiazepines causes the body to use up available GABA. When the GABA has been spent, the result is that everything can become overstimulating.18
Removal of Toxic Load Helps Restore Neurochemistry
GABA is available for purchase as a natural supplement. However, GABA can be rendered ineffective because of the presence of toxic elements that impair the body’s ability to use it. Alternative to Meds Center programs are designed to remove this toxic load to enable the body to utilize natural substances like GABA, and others, to normalize neurochemistry. Restoring neurochemistry by cleaning out toxins typically decreases anxiety and other symptoms. This significant marker informs us when we can begin to help our clients comfortably reduce anxiety medication. Given proper support, one does not have to decide between continuing medication or continuing symptoms.
How Does Benzodiazepine Tolerance and Dependence Develop?
Despite the enormous popularity of benzodiazepines, prescribers have been strongly cautioned by regulatory bodies to restrict the dosage levels and the length of time a patient is prescribed these drugs. Also, doctors are advised to carefully monitor the patient – in person – before refills can be given for anti-anxiety drugs.
After as little as two to four weeks, tolerance can begin to develop. Tolerance occurs when the body begins to adapt to the presence of the drug. After establishing a degree of tolerance, stopping or reducing the drug can be expected to produce withdrawal symptoms.
The brain and central nervous system are incredibly complex in their structures and interactions, so much so that only a small percentage of this knowledge has been discovered so far. But we do know that it takes careful tapering to reduce benzodiazepine drugs without initiating harsh withdrawals.
What Are Benzo “Rebound” Symptoms?
When a person begins taking benzodiazepines for anxiety, for example, there will likely be immediate relief for a period of time. However, when the drug is discontinued or reduced, the anxiety can “rebound,” or reappear, often more intensely than was experienced before the prescription began.8
This can be quite disturbing for the person who intends to gradually reduce their medication, as it can make withdrawal seem daunting, unpredictable, and impossible to tolerate.
In addition to rebound symptoms, on reducing the medication, there can also emerge a set of new symptoms – ones that were not present before starting the prescription. These withdrawal symptoms can be crushingly harsh. Sometimes a person will be suffering from rebound symptoms and withdrawal symptoms concurrently, which can become so extreme as to be nearly impossible to tolerate without medical assistance, as would be available in an inpatient setting.
What is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome?
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is a medical term that covers the effects of stopping benzo drugs. These physiological symptoms typically present in “waves” or phases, starting with the acute or immediate effects, which can include the rebound symptoms as discussed in the previous section.
The next phase of withdrawals is the full-blown set of withdrawal symptoms, which can last for a number of weeks. These symptoms are listed below.
The next phase is often termed protracted withdrawal, where the symptoms such as anxiety, akathisia, and others listed below may return and linger until treatment can be utilized to lessen these symptoms. Protracted withdrawal can last for many months or even longer without treatment.8
Withdrawals from benzodiazepines are known for their potentially intense, harsh characteristics.
Akathisia (relentless compulsion to stay in motion, repeating involuntary motions, pacing, marching, rocking, accompanied by intense feelings of restlessness and profound unease.)
Extreme sensitivity to stimuli, i.e., lights, sounds, motion, etc.
Anxiety, irritability, emotional outbursts, bouts of crying, etc.
Paranoia, panic attacks
Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Aphasia (full or partial loss of language, loss of ability to form words or sentences)
*Drug-induced Tardive Dyskinesia is usually considered irreversible; however, curtailing benzodiazepine use as early as possible, as well as genetic research insights have shown some promise in preventing the condition.
There are many other benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms:
Gastric problems, cramping, nausea, vomiting, dry heaves, etc.
Derealization (feeling disconnected from reality, surroundings, or concept of self)
Muscle spasms, movement disorders
Muscle pain or stiffness
Loss of appetite
Loss of ability to focus or concentrate
How Can Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome Be Eased?
At Alternative to Meds Center, we utilize methods that can soften the discomfort of benzodiazepine withdrawal using diverse methods that we have found most helpful.
The cleansing of neurotoxins out of the body is a foundation for success, and typically provides relief from insomnia and can lessen anxiety, provide calmness and improved appetite. This can include heavy metal chelation, sauna cleanse, clay packs, and many other techniques for neurotoxin removal. Once stabilized, the gentle taper process can begin at a pace that the person feels they can easily tolerate. Bridge medications may be desirable for some, along with natural supplements for maximum possible neurochemical support.
Along with a clean nutrient-dense diet and supplements, sauna therapy and many other adjunctive therapies are provided including massage therapies, acupuncture, Reiki, mineral baths, ionic foot baths, nebulized glutathione, bentonite clay packs, relaxation therapy, a number of genres of counseling, Life Coaching, art therapy, meditation, Yoga classes, trainer-led exercises, and many other methods to improve and support well-being and recovery. In addition to these protocols, a comprehensive educational component is given to ensure that each client has a thorough understanding of neurochemistry and knows how to use healthy protocols after leaving the program, for sustainable natural mental health.
These methods are designed to provide relief while focusing on the fundamental goal of restoring healthy neurochemistry holistically. Your neurochemistry can be adjusted naturally through the withdrawal period and afterward so that you can achieve keep the relief that benzodiazepines did not provide.
Why Does My Doctor Not Know How to Help Me?
Our clients have often gone to their prescribing physician and asked for help, but no help was available beyond switching medications, and sometimes even upping the dosage to “relieve” (mask) symptoms.
It is an unfortunate fact that most physicians and psychiatrists do not receive any training at all on how to help taper a patient off medications. The guesswork method often leads to other complications, all of which can be avoided if proper care is given.
We understand these sorts of complications and how to avoid them. We provide the gentlest, safest route possible back to healthy neurochemistry and relief of symptoms – ideally without relying on more drugs. Sometimes bridge medications may be needed for a short time. For some clients, it is not possible to get to absolute zero within the eight weeks of the program, but the client will leave the program with a plan to follow under medical guidance back home, to continue the taper and achieve full success. A client may opt to stay longer than 8 weeks, and we can provide aftercare resources if needed to assist the client to reach their goals.
To summarize, the benzodiazepine taper program will begin with lab testing, to discover what corrective actions we can use to begin to normalize neurochemistry. There may be toxins, there may be deficiencies, and there may be genetic factors that show up that can be eased with properly targeted supplements or other protocols. Hormone or other imbalances, allergies, blood sugar levels, all play a part in designing the program for a successful and comfortable benzo taper.
While the cleansing process is ongoing, and throughout the remainder of the program, the body will be flooded with needed nutrients via supplements and a clean, nutrient-dense diet prepared by our gourmet chef using mostly organic produce, organic meats, and preservative-free and chemical-free raw ingredients.
Therapies continue throughout the program to provide comfort, and the educational components provide a deeper understanding of maintaining vibrant and energetic mental health naturally. Housed in our luxurious, warm, and friendly center, there are many highly trained and compassionate staff close by to help you in any way possible. Your success is our success.
How To Find Help For Benzodiazepine Withdrawals?
Often, medical doctors who prescribe benzodiazepines do not have the training or experience to help their patients to withdraw from them. In fact, some physicians may express disbelief or lack of true comprehension of the difficulties that you are facing. They simply lack the training and that is why they have not helped you.
There is hope. There is help.
If you think your situation is hopeless, as is the case with a significant percentage of our clients before they come to us, please reach out to us. At Alternative to Meds Center, we are here to help you safely, gently overcome the difficulties of benzodiazepine withdrawal and regain natural mental health.
Find Out More Information
We have been helping our clients for many years and have worked out the best, most gentle and effective treatment protocols for coming off drugs with the least discomfort. But the other side of the coin is that health issues can also be fixed so that whatever the source of the symptoms may have been they are no longer able to be so vexing and drugs become unnecessary. Physical health and mental health go hand in hand, and taking a holistic approach, using effective therapies, much can be done to promote higher levels of sustainable good health, naturally.
Please call us for more information about our world-class benzodiazepine withdrawal program.
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.