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New to board -- on ativan, now tapering using valium


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Hi!    :D


I want to thank this group for being here.  I guess I was supposed to post my "story" here -- I didn't read the welcome email and jumped right in and posted in the "general health" area by mistake.  Thanks to those of you who responded to my post there already.  I am re-posting it here (it might be a little too long, sorry about that):


I am 54 years old, and have had a problem with anxiety disorder since I was a child.  As a teenager I took librium, and then later I think I used marijuana for a similar purpose (although I have not smoked pot in about 20 years now).  However, I have been on low dosages of ativan for years now.  I started taking ativan on a semi-regular basis in 2003 when my partner suffered a massive heart and kidney failure and he was in the ICU for over six weeks.  Over the next four years my partner had numerous health issues, including dialysis, heart surgeries, and other issues as his medical condition deteriorated.  My partner finally died from complications due to a fall in March of 2007.  I had taken ativan (1 mg) before my partner's health problems began in 2003, but only rarely.  While he was unconscious in the ICU, his physicians presecribed ativan to help with my stress, so I began to take it more regulary, probably about 1 - 2 mg a day.  When my partner came home from the hospital I managed to reduce, but never eliminate, the ativan dosage.  The problem was my partner was always on massive dosages of ativan -- he was taking about 16 mg a day when he had his initial cardiac arrest in 2003, which caused great problems getting him to respond while in the ICU.  They got his ativan down some over the next four years, but it always slowly inched back up.  He was taking about 8 - 10 mg a day when he died, plus he was on lots of other psychiatric and pain meds.  As I had to deal with his daily care and his various medical issues, both crises and routine, I would occassionally borrow his aitvan to help me deal with the stress.  I usually took only 1 to 2 mg a week, and never if there was a chance of his running out first.  However, after he died, and I was left with his huge prescription of ativan just sitting there, I started taking it regularly -- 1 mg a day at first and then up to 2 mg some days.  I really feel that the ativan helped through the death and all it entails, as well as the funeral, etc.  He died in March 2007, but by July I was sick of taking the ativan (I was taking around 2 mg a day by then) so I tossed out all that was left (about 20 - 30 tablets).  I didn't have any problems that I can recall from going cold turkey like this.  Usually, when I had stopped taking the ativan before it would bother me for 3 -4 days and then I was fine, so that is how it went down last July.


In September I saw my primary care physician for my routine physical and he prescribed an anti-depressant, remeron, as he felt I was experiencing situational depression from my partner's death.  I welcomed this at the time, as I was very worried about the upcoming holidays and not being with my partner for the first time in 26 years.  The remeron really helped at first, especially through Thanksgiving, but by Christmas it wasn't doing anything at all.  On top of that, I had gained around 15 - 20 pounds from the remeron, which only made me feel worse about everything.  None of my clothes fit me and I felt just wretched.  After consulting with the doctor, we decided to discontinue the remeron and take welbutin instead.  He had me switch from one to the other overnight, but I hated the effects of the welbutin (I was really nasty to people!), so I just stopped it abruptly one day in January of this year after only taking it for a few days.  Then all hell broke lose!  My blood pressure, which had been well controlled for years on only 10 mg of lisinopril, shot up to 175 over 120;  I had severe chest pains and thought I was having a heart attack.  I went to an urgent care center and my EKG was normal, so the thought was I was having a panic attack.  I had these before, begining in 2004 on the one year anniversary of my partner's first cardiac arrest, but I had never experienced such a rise in blood pressure back then.  The physician at the urgent care center prescribed xanax, which immediately reduced my blood pressure and helped out, so it must have been a panic attack.  My doctor raised my lisinopril and added a diuretic for my blood pressure, and he decided I needed to go back on the remeron and to taper off of it more gradually.  He also prescribed ativan (1 mg) to help with the anxiety of the remeron withdrawal.  The ativan did help, and I took my last remeron (after slowly tapering down) in early March.  But of course, now I was stuck back on the ativan!  Unlike before, even last July, I seemed totally unable to get off of the ativan this time!  I would get it down to .5 mg a day, then every other day, but then I would go nuts and up it back to 1 or even 2 mg a day.  I now understand that I was experiencing tolerance withdrawal due to its fast action, based on what I have read here and on the Dr. Ashton website.  After reading about Dr. Ashton's plan, I asked my doctor to switch me over to valium so I could taper off, which he did (5 mg of valium).  I started taking maybe up to 2 valium (5 mg tablets)  a day, but got it down to a quarter tab (which should be 1.25 mg) which I took daily for about two weeks through May 1st.  Then I didn't take any till May 3 (1.25 mg), then none again till May 8th (1.25 mg), but then I had a hard time on my partner's birthday, May 11th, so I took half a tab (2.5 mg) and then again for no reason I can think of I was a mess on the 13th, and I took an entire tab (5 mg)!  I was terrified that I was going the wrong way, so I threw all the rest of my valium out, as well as some opiate pain meds that I had, and the four remaining 1 mg ativan tablets I had been keeping (I had not been taking these, but was keeping them in case of some future anxiety attack).  I did this on the 14th (my last valium was on the 13th), but now I am going nuts!  Yesterday I had severe chest pain, rib pains, aches all over, my head feels terrible, like a hangover sortof, and I am dizzy and very depressed.  I had gotten so low on my regular dose of valium (1.25 mg) that I thought it would be okay to just stop.  In ativan terms as I understand the charts, that is only 0.125 mg of ativan!  That seems like nothing to me.  I am thinking a lot of the problem has to do with how long the valium stays in your system?  I was used to the ativan that clears out much faster, but of course I understand that is what causes the withdrawal symptoms being so harsh.  Anyway, although I do feel a lot better today than the past two days, I called my doctor earler today and asked him to write a prescription for 2 mg valium tabs.  I didn't want to be going nuts over the weekend and end up in the hospital without anything.  I figured I could taper those down even further, to .5 mg a day, and then stop altogether (I hope). 


My questions to your group are:


Should I have re-filled the valium like that -- or should I have asked for ativan and tried the direct taper method instead?  I hate the way the valium makes me feel the next day, all groggy and out of it.  I also hate the way it feels like it is building up inside of me.  I much prefered the way I felt on the ativan -- when it was working right I usually felt awake and alert the next day, not groggy at all.


Why shouldn't I be able to just stop taking it all together now -- I have only been on a low dose of the benzos all along, at least compared to others I see on this board or to the amount my partner was taking.  So why can't I just stop taking it now when I could in the past?


What is the role of exercise in withdrawal from benzos?  I read on the "Road Back" website that they were not recommending starting an exercise program while tapering off, but I know exercise helps me a lot with my anxiety issues.  Also, what is the opinion of others here about the "road Back" program -- it seemed to me that they were trying to sell a lot of supplements, but if the supplements work I would certainly like to try them.


Any help anyone can give me would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks again for allowing me to share all this with you!

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Hi again! I posted a reply to this somewhere else already. I'll go find it. 


Oh, never mind, you already saw it, lol!



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