How2Quit : Sleeping Pills and Benzodiazepines

Use the following guidelines alongside our How to Quit Action Plan in Part 4 of the How To Quit book.

Please note all page and chapter references in this article are from How to Quit.

You need to have proper medically supervised slow drug withdrawal, but your symptoms will be greatly reduced by following our How to Quit Action Plan. Usually this gradual tapering of the more addictive and potentially dangerous benzos such as Zanex or Clonopine involves gradually replacing them with a less addictive and longer acting benzodiazepine such as Valium and then slowly reducing the Valium over a period of two to six months. If you are originally addicted to Valium, this is usually tapered off, again over a period of months. It is very important that you do this with the supervision of a doctor well experienced in taking people off benzodiazepines.

WARNING Never under any circumstances quit taking them abruptly (‘cold turkey’) because this can be life threatening. Many doctors are experienced in prescribing benzos, but not taking people off them. Tapering off these drugs is so important that it is perfectly acceptable to ask your physician to take you off gradually over a period of months. If he or she is not experienced in doing this, ask if they would refer you to someone who is, or contact CITA who specialise in helping people to come off these drugs.

  1. One week before beginning to reduce your dosage, take the Basic Supplements
  2. Take the Chill-out Prescription (see pg420). This provides vital nutrients for you, including GABA, which is what is depleted in the brain by benzodiazepines. GABA is available over the counter in the US, but in the UK you will need a prescription. Start with 500mg twice a day and build up to no more than 1,000mg twice a day, as much as you can take without feeling nauseous. Tingling in the fingers or face has been reported when exceeding this dose. An alternative to GABA is taurine, which encourages the brain to make GABA. Start with 1g, which will probably mean 2 x 500mg of taurine, increasing to 1g three times daily if needed for anxiety, tension or sleep. Some people respond well to glutamine, the precursor of GABA. All these nutrients are part of, and clearly explained in, the Chill-out Prescription , which includes niacin, thought to have a similar relaxing effect, and magnesium. Niacinamide (a form of niacin that does not make you flush or blush), has a benzodiazepine-like effect in large doses, but is not addictive.  Our Chill-out Prescription (see pg420).  provides 1,000mg niacinamide or inositol hexanicotinate a day. In truth, you can triple this amount if you need to. More than 4,500mg of niacinamide daily is associated with stomach upset and offers no extra benefit above this dose anyway.
  3. You need sleep, and during withdrawal from benzos, sleeping becomes even harder. Be kind to yourself. Don’t do anything or take on anything that is stressful for you because, as you detox, your ability to deal with stress and anxiety is vastly compromised. Create a low-key and stress-free life, pampering yourself as much as you can through the detox phase.
  4. Glycine is another calming amino acid and neurotransmitter. If you feel a panic attack coming on, take glycine under the tongue. Break two to four capsules of glycine 500mg and swill it under your tongue for at least one minute before swallowing with water. You can do this three to five times with five-minute intervals if you continue to panic. Don’t exceed 10g of glycine a day.
  5. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider taking the well-known anxiety-relieving sleep aid, standardised valerian, but only under medical supervision. As we’ve said, valerian is a great help in the process of withdrawal. A GABA enhancer, it will have similar actions to benzos, but is much gentler and doesn’t have the same addictive...
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