If you have decided that you wish to withdraw from your drug then you should get as much information and advice as possible. It is difficult to lay down hard and fast rules about withdrawal because the benzodiazepines react in unpredictable ways and individuals differ greatly. On this page we have laid out certain principles which we feel are important for you to know.
Some factors which will affect how quickly you can cut your dose are:
- The dosage. Higher dosages need longer to withdraw.
- The type of drug.
- Previous experience of withdrawal symptoms.
- Your personality, physiology and personal situation.
- Current levels of stress in your life.
Important things to know about benzodiazepines:
- Varying the dosage, even by quite small amounts, may produce unexpected effects.
- The time between a reduction in dosage and withdrawal symptoms can vary from a few hours (with short acting drugs) to several weeks (with long acting drugs).
- Withdrawal symptoms can vary. What you experience after one reduction in dose may be quite different next time.
- These drugs dissolve in body fats and are retained in the body for long periods (they have been detected five years after coming off).
- If you are on a short acting drug you need to transfer to a long acting drug (usually diazepam). Short acting drugs tend to have more severe withdrawal symptoms. Diazepam is made in 3 strengths and also comes in liquid form. This makes it much easier to cut slowly and accurately. Note that the transfer should be gradual and the dosage needs to be worked out using equivalence tables. However make sure you do complete the transfer and don't end up taking two drugs instead of one!
- Before cutting down you should stabilise on a level dose (this can be difficult for those who are not having their benzos prescribed. Avoid habits such as taking an extra pill when you feel stressed or cutting back on a good day. Keep your intake as regular as possible. It helps to spread your pills throughout the day rather than taking them all in the morning or evening.
- Some people find it helpful to have a schedule for cutting the dose but don't feel obliged to stick to it. If you are particularly stressed when a cut is due it may be wise to postpone it.
- Other people find it better to make a cut and then wait several weeks to assess the effects before making the next cut. We would recommend that, whatever method you adopt, you keep an eye on the effects and make appropriate adjustments.
- Make very small cuts in the dose rather than large ones and take your time (cut one tenth of the dose you are on at any given time. You need to be patient. As you get down to lower doses the cuts need to become smaller and smaller
to ensure they are still one tenth of your dose.
- Pill cutters can be bought from any Pharmacy. Don’t pay a lot for fancy extras, a cheap one is just as good.