I have had a successful experience weaning off of klonopin (clonazepam). To make a long story short- I was on effexor xr for 7 years and wanted to try and come off to see if I still needed it. Under the advice of a doctor (who I never should have listened to), I came off the effexor virtually cold turkey. I was OK for a little while and then in conjunction with my body being in complete shock and withdrawal from the effexor- I returned from my honeymoon to find out that my grandfather who raised me had passed away, which spun me into a state of constant anxiety. I could not function-couldn't eat or sleep or go to work and I felt in a state of panic 24 hours a day- it was a nightmare. I found a new doctor who put me on Zoloft and gave me klonopin. I have to say that klonopin was a life saver for me. I mean I was worried from the beginning about getting addicted and how hard it would be to come off- but at the same time I was so relieved to have something that took me out of my nightmare even if it was for only a few hours a day. I was given 0.5mg pills and I took 3 of them a day about 6 hours apart. I ended up being on the dose for 4 months. When I had been on both the klonopin and Zoloft for four months my doctor decided it was time to wean off the klonopin. She suggested that I take 1/2 of a 0.5 mg pill away every 2 weeks. So the first week I took 1/2 a pill out of my middle of the day pill. And every 2 weeks after that I kept taking away another 1/2 of a pill. Of course it was not that cut and dry, there were several things that helped me succeed.
I had a goal. I wanted to be off of the pills in 3 months. However I was flexible with myself. Like losing weight if you put too stringent goals in place your likely to fail. As I got closer and closer to being off the pill I would take less away each week. Even if I took a tiny little bit away it was still less in my system and I was getting closer to my goal. I was on the full dose for 4 months and it took me 4 months to come off-GIVE YOURSELF TIME AND BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.
I did experience some withdrawal symptoms. Pretty much every time I took some of the pill away I would experience some mild headaches and mild digestive issues for the first 4 days- then once I got past feeling "yucky" for a few days the rest of the two weeks I would feel pretty good. So every time I cut back on the pills I knew my body would take a few days to adjust. Believe it or not the physical symptoms from withdrawal actually helped me overall. I have a lot of anxiety and the worst part of a panic attack for me is the physical sensations (the tingly and heightened feelings etc....). So being exposed to physical sensations every 2 weeks that I had to deal with forced me to just accept them and realize that I could handle them. Whenever I felt like the symptoms were stronger than usual I would slow my weaning schedule. If you are feeling intolerable physical symptoms you need to wean slower. I never felt like I couldn’t handle what I was feeling. (*All through the process I felt brain zaps occasionally that most people weaning off of anti-depressants experience, but they were mild and I knew they weren't physically harmful).
I have been and continue to be in therapy with a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. I have had issues with both depression and anxiety my whole life which means I have been in therapy on and off for years. However, a year or so ago I realized that I needed to see someone who specialized in anxiety- not just a general therapist. I had to go through a few different therapists before I found the right one-but it was really worth it. I cannot begin to express the difference that the cognitive behavioral techniques my therapist uses has helped me. I believe that I do have a chemical imbalance that strongly contributes to my depression and that I will most likely be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. I am OK with that. But my anxiety is different. I know that it is not chemical it is situational and with the right tools I can control it on my own without medication. So my point is that you can’t have drugs like klonopin to bail you out long term. They are a life saver for short term recovery from some bad situations- but long term you have to learn to control your anxiety. I’m not saying that I don’t ever experience any anxiety anymore ever- but therapy has really helped me to effectively deal with my anxiety without the klonopin.
OK this next one sounds cliché and corny but it is more than true- STAY POSITIVE. If you scare yourself into believing that you are going to have a horrible withdrawal experience and that you will never get off of klonopin then you won’t be very likely to succeed. You need to celebrate small successes and cut yourself some slack. This is where being flexible can help-if it taking you longer to get off than you had wanted it is OK, be kind to yourself and realize that any step no matter how small still has you on the road to being completely klonopin free.
When I spoke to my doctor about weaning off I wanted to know what I could do to make it easier and she told me that exercise was the best thing. My doctor advised that I do a cardio activity for at least 25-30 minutes 4-5 days a week. I am one of those people who detest exercise and I couldn’t imagine how that would help-but I did it and it helped tremendously. The endorphins or whatever feel good chemical your body releases when you exercise made a big difference in how I felt both physically and emotionally. In addition I took up yoga. I was not doing power yoga or anything crazy. I started doing Iyengar yoga which is a gentle, relaxing form of yoga that helped me learn to stay in the moment and to relax.
The psychiatrist I was seeing on a bi-weekly basis in the first few months of my desperate months was a wonderful person. Whenever I walked into her office I felt immediately more calm and relaxed. She was spiritual but not in a kooky way and her office always had candles burning etc…She turned me on to other more “natural” ways to take care of myself during the difficult times. I thought she was crazy when she talked about aromatherapy, massage and reiki. But when I was going through some really rough patches in the beginning I was willing to try anything. So I started taking baths using lavender scented products (for whatever reason lavender was my calming scent). To this day the smell of a lavender candle or lotion relaxes me. Aromatherapy didn’t do any miracles for me-but it was just another thing I did that helped. I also treated myself to a massage every few weeks and I tried reiki therapy a couple of times. You don’t have to do any of the things I did-but taking care of yourself and finding those little things that calm you down are helpful.
Besides having a therapist I had a very supportive family to help me through. Surrounding yourself with people who are caring and will listen to you is so important. Before I started the klonopin I was at rock bottom and there were many moments when I just wanted to give up. But because I had people to call who were supportive and loving, I made it through-and you will too. I have been off the klonopin for a long time and feel great. I successfully weaned off and you can too.