Lorazepam ----My Story (otherwise entitled ĎAs neededí)----November 2011.
For those who are trying or wanting to get off of benzodiazepines. My story
begins with a heart attack near the Detroit Lakes area in Minnesota on Long Lake
in June 2009. I was in Minn. on a fishing trip when I started having shortness
of breath and to make a long story short; according to the docs I had a heart
attack. Also the docs diagnosed me with arterial fibrillation. It was then suggested
by the docs that they find out why I had a heart attack so I was then
transported to Fargo, North Dakota where 2 stents were inserted because a 90%
blockage in one of my arteries. I still am not convinced why medically I had the
heart attack. The a-fib or the blockage, maybe both or maybe neither.
Spiritually, I know some reasons why, but that is another story all together.
(See ďLessons Iíve Learned from My Heart AttackĒ) I give all the glory to God
because whether or not it was the blockage or the a-fib, if it wasnít for me
going to the hospital in the first place, the blockage would have never been
discovered and I might have died anyway. ďIn everything give thanksĒ according
to the Bible. And I do thank the Lord Jesus Christ for all this. I have been
told by doctors that I am a lucky man, but I tell them, ďIím blessedĒ.
After I got home to Louisville, Ky. a few days went by and then I had my first
anxiety attack. I didnít feel right so I thought I was possibly having another
heart attack so I went to the ER and they told me that it was pretty common for
heart attack victims to experience this. Up to this point I had never taken any
medication at all except a blood pressure med that I had started four months
earlier. So, I think my body may have been reacting to all the meds they put me
on in Fargo; coreg, aspirin, lisinopril, plavix, lovenox, spironolactone, and
amiodarone, and the fact I heard the words Ďheart attackí in relation to me, and
not someone else. Anyway back to the ER room. They said I was having an anxiety
attack and then the bomb. They gave me a 1.0 mg. of Lorazepam, a Benzodiazepine
(benzo for short). That was the beginning of a long and terrible road. Donít get
me wrong, I was grateful for the lorazepam at the time. It took care of my
anxiety and after a couple of hours was on the way home. A few days passed by
and another anxiety attack and another lorazapam etc. After 4 months went by I
noticed my heart started pounding and shortness of breath started happening. A
reminder of what happened to me in Minn. So I thought another anxiety attack so
I took another lorazepam and so on and so on. I was now hooked and in a loop.
One thing called for the other. What was used to stop my anxiety was now
actually causing anxiety and with it other symptoms, pounding or surging heart
beats, a feeling of knots or tightness in my chest and some chest discomfort,
sleeplessness (going to sleep and waking up after about 3 hours wide awake),
nausea, momentarily headaches, little aches and pains in my limbs, muscle
twitching, some trembling and many many days of feeling yuky, almost if I was
coming down with something. These symptoms were not caused from taking lorazepam
but from going two, three, or more days without it. My body started craving it
and even at this point I still didnít realize that I was hooked on this stuff. I
was blaming it on my other meds and my heart procedures (stent implants and a
Wolf-mini maze procedure that I chose to have done in Cincinnati for my a-fib
about year after my heart attack. (You can read about the Wolf-mini maze
procedure on line under afib treatment.
Anyway--- after nearly two years and after coming off of some of my meds and
after doing some research online about lorazepam and other benzos and their
withdrawal symptoms I had come to the realization that I was hooked. [I was],
and didnít even know it. I wish the doc that started me on this stuff back at
the ER would have told me, ĎMr. RC this drug is addicting and not only is
it addicting, but it is highly addicting. So be extremely careful not to take it
more than once or twice in a week. You can be hooked on it in two weeks time.í
But after talking to counselors at rehab centres they say it is common practice
that docs donít warn you about the addicting effects and the withdrawal symptoms
of benzos. After I knew what was causing me so much discomfort I knew lorazepam
and I had to part company. Itís been very very difficult and at times, I have
been tempted to go back but to what? To start the mess all over again? No No No.
But I had to taper off, not go cold turkey. With the Lordís help and the prayers
of family and the saints at my wonderful church, I now have managed to be off of
this stuff for nearly 3 months. But here is what I have been going thru.
Depressing thoughts from time to time, heart pounding which as you may or may
not know, is hard to go to sleep with this going on, waking up after 3 or 4
hours of sleep, days I just felt sick, (Ďyukyí), chest discomfort, some numbness
in face and arms, muscle twitching, and the worst of all, shortness of breath or
breathing difficulty. I understand that it may take many many months for the
withdrawal symptoms to go completely away. Thatís what I have been told.
Depending on the dosage, the individual, and the length of time on lorazepam it
could be a few weeks up to 2 years. I have read some horror stories where it can
take up to five years. I read one story where a person still had withdrawals
after 10 years and may never get completely over all of the withdrawal symptoms.
(Perish that thought!) This is not to discourage you by any means but to prepare
you for what you may be up against. But it is not a mission impossible. You can
do it with the Lordís help, prayer, and support of friends and family. By the
way, I thought maybe it was my heart, so to be on the safe side, I went to my
heart doc and he said he didnít think it was my heart since my ultrasounds was
good and 2 stress tests were good also. I am active and I walk whenever I can
without any chest pain at all. My blood work is good, so no problem there. But I
have talked to others that know of these common symptoms with benzos. My prayer
is that you donít give up and that you hang in there. After 3 months of being
off of lorazepam some of my symptoms seem to be receding, however, I have
experienced times when I think they are about gone but then they seem to make a
come back. Itís like this drug is holding on to you, (much like cats do if you
pick them up and hold them over water.) It doesnít want to let go. But you can
beat this drug with Godís help.
Hope this has been a help.
P.S. I have read that you donít measure your recovery by days or weeks but
months. I have found that to be true in my case.
Please read on if you want to see my monthly progression.
1st month Aug.
Many withdrawal symptoms.
Pounding heart beat, sleeplessness, slurred speech, chest tightness like a knot
in my chest, aching muscles and stiffness. Legs feeling like lead. Some muscle
twitching. Shortness of breath. Some depressing thoughts. Some days of just
feeling sick, (yuky, blugh!) No energy. Some flushing. Some days my body would
crave the drug to the point that it was like my body was saying, ďI want some
drugs, and if you donít give them to me I will go into an anxious rage in order
to get them!Ē A couple of times I almost gave in. Thank God, I didnít.
2nd month Sept.
Most of the same symptoms as the 1st month. Not really a whole lot of
improvement. On one occasion I almost gave in to the anxiousness that the drug
was creating. But I didnít with Godsí help.
3rd month Oct.
Still shortness of breath but to a lesser degree. Still some heart pounding but
only about once a week. Still get aches and pains in my limbs and have one of
those sick feeling yuky days about 3 times in the month. Still have trouble
sleeping for more than 4 hours. Will wake up in the middle of the night and not
be able to go back to sleep. I am making this entry at 2:40 am Friday the 2nd of
Dec. 2011. However all this being said, I am now having a few days where I am
feeling like my old self again.
4th month Nov.
Still have some difficulty breathing, shortness of breath but to a lesser
degree. Still have sleeplessness most nights. Still have aching muscles in legs
and arms at times. Pounding heart beats down to about once a week or maybe a
little less. However my good days seem to be more frequent. I have read that I
will have some good days but also some bad days during withdrawal. That seems to
be what I am experiencing.
5th month Dec.
Going into the 5th month still have some shortness of breath, small aches in my
limbs, and still have a hard time sleeping. Still, on
some days I feel not too bad but not too good. One night after church I had a
pounding heartbeat and couldnít sleep. Not sure if it was lorazepam or possibly
a sugar high. Started about 9 pm and it is 1:30 now and I still have my problem.
Finally got to sleep around 4:00 am and slept about 3 Ĺ hours. Then later that
week on Friday and Saturday I had some discomfort in my chest and a little more
difficulty in breathing. Also one of those yuky days. I did started feeling
better around 3 or 4. Pm. Sunday morning woke up with a little shortness of
breath. Maybe it was what woke me up, but not sure.
6th month Jan.2012
As I am entering into the 1st week of the 6th month so far have not been
experiencing any major withdrawals. However the week before I experienced some
pretty bad breathing difficulties 5 or 6 days straight. I still experience some
momentary aches in my arms and legs. (Minor though) And also some twitching in
various parts of my body; sides, arms, legs, etcÖSome cramping in my feet at
night. One thing I have noticed just in the last 2 wks on a couple of instances
slurred speech or having difficulty in trying to say certain things. (Just a
couple of instances). My memory seems to be a little better at least it seems
that way. 11, 12th, have had some short periods of breathing difficulties, not
as long as the month before. The 13th breathing difficulties all day till around
1:00 pm then ok. The 14th moderate morning breathing problems till 10 or 11 am
after that ok. The following week was not a real good week. Short of breath all
week then Fri. a little better and Sat. the 21st, hardly any breathing problems
at all but woke up at 12:30. Finally got back to sleep. Sun the 22 breathing
problems till Wed. then it starting easing up Thurs., and Fri felt great. Sat.
felt real good with hardly any breathing problems at all. Hope Sunday will be
good also. Seems that the breathing problems can last for almost a week then I
get a couple of good days, then back to the breathing problems again. If I could
just get over the breathing problems I would feel like my ole self again much of
the time. The last full week of Jan. was rough. Shortness of breath continuing
but the 26th of Jan. it started easing up for the whole next week. This is
Friday night the 3rd and no shortness of breath for most of the week, thank God.
I suppose that is one of those Ďwindowsí I have read about. Today the 3rd have
felt a little weird. Almost like Iím coming down with something. Just one of
those yuky days, (a little). Not real bad but not a hundred percent, say, 90
percent. Headaches, and a slight discomfort in the chest, not pain, but just
uncomfortable. Not able to sleep. Oh yeah, earlier this week had a couple of
bouts of anxiety but they didnít last long. But all in all not a bad week at
all. This next week I will be entering into the 7th month without Lorazepam. It
has not been easy.
7th month Feb. 2012
This is the 7th month now, about the 9th of Feb. and this week has been a week
of breathing difficulties which started last Fri. but not to the extent of last
month. (At least so far.) Still have the insomnia and an off day every now and
then. This entry is at 12:30 am. There is one thing I canít deny, and that is I
am having more good days than I used to. That is a fact. But it still seems like
I have a week or so of pretty good days followed by a week or so of not so good
days just as others have experienced in the articles Iíve read. Still have
periods of anxiety a couple times of week. I suppose my body still wants the
drug. So for now, my major withdrawal symptoms seem to be breathing
difficulties, some yuky days, some memory problems, muscle twitching down to a
minimum, insomnia, and some discomfort in the chest which I think much of that
has to do with my heart surgery nearly two years ago. A nurse told me after
surgery at the hospital that it may take 6 months to a year or maybe 2 full
years to get back to feeling normal again. I believe it. She knew what she was
talking about. NOTE: Thru all of this I have been belching a lot, not from heart
burn, stomach problems, or bowel problems. This thing started aprox. 4 months
after my heart surgery and the week after my eye surgery in August of 2010. Have
been belching off and on thru out the day ever since. There is one thing I have
been forced to face. This is either the result of the heart surgery which I am
more inclined to believe or the lorazepam. The heart surgeon said that he moved
some things around during surgery. After my heart surgery I have had a numb spot
about the size of a golf ball just under my left rib cage about 2 inches from
the solar plexus (where my ribs meet in the center of my chest.) I have read of
some gastric problems extending from lorazepam as well. Maybe one day I will
wake up and all the symptoms will be gone including the belching. This has been
an interesting week to 10 days. It is the 18th of Feb. and it seems that my
breathing difficulties have been short periods, just coming and going for much
shorter periods. Have not experienced this so far. This maybe a sign of better
days ahead. In my last week of the 7th month I still am having difficulty
breathing just enough to be bothersome and it persists though not as severe as
the previous months. Thatís a good thing! The 23rd I experienced one of those
yuky days in the morning and it wore off by the early afternoon. Another good
thing. Of course there is always that doubt, is it my heart? I intend to have a
heart cath if I donít get some noticeable relief by this fall just to be on the
safe side but I want to give my self a chance to heal of these symptoms if they
are truly withdrawal symptoms. Surly by a year I will notice a difference. On
the few days I donít have the breathing problems I feel great, like my ole
self.---- I miss my ole self. This is the last couple of days of the 7th month
and I have felt pretty good these last 3 or 4 days with hardly any shortness of
breath. Thatís a good thing.
8th month. March
Well, as I am entering my 1st week of this month it has been pretty good so far.
An improvement over last month. I definitely notice that I have memory blanks.
The breathing difficulties have been much less in magnitude or intensity.
However on the 8th I experienced one of those Ďyukyí days. What are ďyukyí
days? This is hard to explain but you feel kind of like you are coming down with
something without all the flu symptoms, periodic slight chest discomfort, small
aches and pains in various places, slight head ach at times, a little warm in
the face or head, some very slight numbness in the face at times, muscle
tightness almost to the cramping stage, fatigue and just not feeling like doing
anything. Lying down seems to be the best relief if any. And the durations vary.
One day I had this feeling about 2 days and one time I had this feeling about 6
hours when it wore off around lunchtime at work. Felt bad all day so much so
that I barely made it thru work without just coming home. Thought about it
numerous times. When I did make it home I thought perhaps it was something maybe
more serious so I went to the hospital just to be on the safe side. Everything
checked out alright. In the hospital I started feeling better but didnít get
completely over my bad day until sometime during the night. Took one Excedrine
pm and slept all night. Sleeping all night without having to wake up after 3 or
4 hours was good for a change. The day before I felt great and the day after I
felt great. StrangeÖ! That Saturday I felt good but not so good Sunday evening.
Felt great Monday and Tuesday but a little afib set in possibly after taking
some Melatonin and went to the hospital for 2 days and was sent home with a good
bill of health after they got my heart back in rhythm. Then went to work Friday
and was weak from I think, a little allergy drainage etc. Wed. the 21st a little
short of breath all day but not real severe as the earlier months. Felt better
the next day. Well, itís the 24th of March and I am having one of those yuky
days. Hope it doesnít last all day like it did before. I am going into my last
week of the eight month and still having some breathing problems and some small
amount of heart surging. Havenít had that for a while. Still having insomnia.
Hope I finally get over that as well. Well, today is the 30th of march and I
have had a yuky day. It started at work and went down hill from there. Breathing
problems and just feeling bad. Low blood pressure causing no energy. Has lasted
most of the day.
9th month April
Well it started out pretty good much better than last month however still having
the breathing problems and insomnia. These symptoms are still staying with me
this month. This is the 14th and woke with some breathing problems but as the
morning wore on they pretty much went away. Hope these problems go away soon. I
talked to someone online that said they knew someone like me that had breathing
problems that lasted a year and a half. Hope that wonít be my case. Itís not a
pleasant thing to experience. Its going to be interesting to see just how long
my symptoms last. But at least no yuky days yet this month. Well, it is the end
of the 9 the month and it has been better than last month. Still experiencing
insomnia and only a couple of yuky days.
10th month May
Well I started out pretty good and it has been pretty good so far at least up
till today, the 19th. Some breathing problems but not to the extent that it was
the last month. However one particular day this month I literally had to stop an
sit down and take some deep breaths. That was a first. This happened on 3
occasions that day. The worst single episode Iíve had as far as my breathing is
concerned since my being off. But overall perhaps the breathing problems are
gradually going away but I do have my guard up because I know what can happen.
Still have insomnia and memory blanks. Have experienced a couple of yuky days I
guess this is to be expected. At least for a little while longer. As I am coming
to the end of the 10th month I can say it has been much better this month. My
breathing episodes seem to come in spurts, that is, they last for an hour or two
and then go away, not just all the time like they used to. My yuky days seem to
be less and less and thatís a good thing. My belching is still present although
it seems to be a little better. At least at times it seems to be better.
11th month June
Well the 11th month started real good with the exception of the breathing
issues. If I could just get over them I would be pretty much like my old self.
Of course I still have my belching issues, insomnia, and a yuky day every now
and then. I think that will get better also with time. God has really blessed
me. I could be much worse. My heart goes out to anyone that is on drugs and is
trying to get off. This is the 2nd week and the breathing issues were not bad at
all this week. It definitely seems to be getting better over all. This is the
3rd week and it went pretty well with the exception of the breathing issues. I
still have them. A few days of hardly no breathing difficulties at all and then
3 or 4 days of breathing problems. It just seems to go back and forth. Well,
going into the final week I had some breathing issues, about 4 or 5 days then
the last 2 or 3 days I have had very little breathing issues. Weird. I have had
also some small amount of heart surging. Iíve heard it might return once in a
while even after months have passed by. Well as I have ended my last week of the
11th month I can say it was just ok over all. Still the breathing difficulties.
The 3rd is today and this morning had breathing problems but then levelled off in
the afternoon. Hope the 12th month will be better.
12th month July
The 1st week started up and down. The first few days there were some pretty bad
days of breathing problems but then mellowed out towards the end of the week.
Now this is Thur. the 12th and hardly no problems at all, yesterday, was the
same as well. The 3rd week there was some breathing problems and low energy and
of course insomnia and belching. This is the final week of the 1st year being
off of lorazepam and it wasnít too bad over all. My breathing issues were less
intense and a few days with hardly no issues with breathing at all. I now have
spurts thru out the day. Periods of no breathing issues and later some
difficulty with breathing. It seems to go back and fourth. Maybe that is a good
sign! I had one great day the on the 2nd of aug. where I had plenty of energy
and no breathing issues. But for the most part I still have low energy levels
and get tired fairly rapidly, but one good thing; no yuky days this month that I
can recall. This month has been pretty good over all with the exception of the
insomnia, and breathing issues.
2nd Year Off
1st month, Aug.
Well, I am at the one yr mark. 1st week probably the best week Iíve had in 3
years. 2nd week great but had one yuky day followed by a good day and then a
just ok day but the w/s seems to be not so intense or last as long. (keeping my
fingers crossed). So in the 3rd week it has been pretty good with only minimal
breathing issues and they seem more sporadic and now they donít last so long of
periods of time. So that is a good sign.