Glossary of Benzo Terms

 

 

Acute….a time during which all symptoms intensify and can last from a few days to a few months. It’s a period of major readjustment of the brain. It is possible for this to happen towards the end of a slow taper but more often strikes soon after the final jump.  In the case of a short acting benzo such as Xanax acute may occur a day or two after stopping while for a longer acting benzo such as Valium it may take a few weeks to appear.  After the acute phase symptoms usually become a little easier although healing will continue for as long as necessary for each person.

 

Addiction….having no control over taking a drug and craving more. A disorder of the brain’s reward system which causes compulsive behaviour and repeated desire for the stimulus in this case a benzodiazepine. Maybe the result of using benzos recreationally and not as prescribed.

 

Air Hunger....shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, the feeling that one cannot breathe well enough.... chest tightness and shallow breathing. Air hunger in Benzo withdrawal is the feeling of not enough oxygen sometimes a result of anxiety.

 

Akathisia….a movement disorder and possible symptom of benzo withdrawal or of any psychiatric drug. It’s characterised by a feeling of inner restlessness and inability to stay still. Examples include rocking backwards and forwards, pacing, shuffling, and restless legs. Generally confined to the lower half of the body and to the legs.

 

Antihistamine….This works by preventing the release of histamine from the mast cells and blocking any allergic reaction. Sometimes used for sleep as an antihistamine drug causes drowsiness.

 

Benzo Rage…inability to control outbursts of anger towards even minor events. May also give rise to uncharacteristic anti-social acts such as shoplifting or sexual offences or violence. A loss of control causing irrational behaviour. Very occasionally it can be the result of a vitamin or other supplement causing a bad reaction in the brain.

 

Benzo Belly…. A term used for gastrointestinal problems sometimes accompanied by a swollen belly. It’s bloating of the stomach area and is worsened by a loss of muscle tone in that area. Some say they look pregnant when suffering this.

 

b.i.d…..(Latin bis in die)….seen on a prescription and means twice (two times) a day.

 

Brain Zaps….a feeling of a sudden jolt, tremor, electric shock or ‘zap’ in the head. The brain feels as if jolted by a sudden electric charge. This is a symptom of anxiety and a disturbed nervous system.

 

Brain Fog….a feeling of persistent fatigue in the head so sufferers are unable to think clearly or to focus as the brain is shrouded in a fog. It’s a symptom of inflammation, elevated stress, and anxiety often found in the withdrawal from psychiatric drugs.

 

Burning Brain….a painful headache with a sensation of burning which is closely linked to cluster headaches or sinus problems but in withdrawal its generally due to the disturbance in the central nervous system. Burning can be felt in any part of the body and may be known as neuropathy with tingling, and numbness as well. 

 

Client Centred Tapering….a doctor works closely with their patient to devise a slow taper plan taking their desires into account.

 

CNS….Central Nervous System….this consists of two parts the brain and the spinal cord. It controls most of the functions of body and mind.

 

Cold Turkey….c/t or CT….stopping a benzo suddenly without tapering which may cause severe symptoms including seizures. It is never advised to do this as it can result in a longer recovery due to trauma to the brain.

 

Compounding Pharmacy….makes up drugs as prescribed by a doctor for specific patients with needs that can’t be met by commercially available drugs. Individual ingredients are mixed together in the exact strength and dosage required by the patient.

 

Controlled Breathing….used to help panic attacks and anxiety. It is a technique used by Yogis (people who are proficient in Yoga) for centuries and is believed to change the response in the body’s autonomic nervous system to stress. Basically just slow, steady breaths so that the brain gets the message that all is well and calms the mind and body. It can be done to different counts such as in to the count of 5, pause, then out to the count of 6. Different counts for in and out breaths can be used according to which is the most comfortable.

 

Crash….Feeling well and then suddenly experiencing a worsening of symptoms when withdrawing from benzos. Sometimes these have a known cause such as another ingested substance, a stressful situation or may occur for no obvious reason.

 

Crossover….c/o….the change from one benzo to another. This is usually done over a period of time as per the Ashton Manual and from a short lasting benzo to one with a longer life.

 

Cross Tolerance….tolerance to one drug causes tolerance to another drug being taken alongside if the two drugs have similar functions and act on the same cell receptors. This will affect transmission of certain neurotransmitters. It can happen when alcohol is taken alongside a benzo or one benzo is taken alongside another or any GABA influencing drug, herb or supplement is taken with a benzo. If tolerance develops to one drug then it’s likely there will be tolerance to the other so that difficult symptoms are increased rather then lessened. 

 

Dependence….caused by changes in the body as a result of constant and regular exposure to benzos, often due to a repeated doctor’s prescription for anxiety or sleep. The body adapts and decreases its own production of GABAa in the brain and excites the glutamate system. It develops over long term use of benzos usually after 2 to 4 weeks on the drugs (even at low doses) and sometimes sooner. It’s important to distinguish between addiction and dependence. Regular doses of the drug, as little as once or twice a week, can lead to dependence.

 

Depersonalisation….d/p or DP….a  feeling of unreality, detached and unable to feel emotions or emotional numbness. Basically it’s a disconnection from the self and a feeling of operating in a void.

 

Derealisation….d/r or DR….an alteration in the perception of experience of the external world so that everything seems unreal. A dissociation from the real world like living in movie or a dream. Everything can be blurred or distorted and a bit surreal.

 

Discontinuation Syndrome….d/c or DC – all the many symptoms of stopping benzos either suddenly or after tapering (see symptoms list). This is time limited according to the individual rate of brain recovery and can be lessened with a gradual taper. 

 

Dry Cutting….a practice used to taper off by cutting the pills. This can be done by cutting with a pill cutter or shaving off a small amount. It may be used in combination with a jeweller’s scale to weigh the dose each time.

 

Dyskinesia….also known as Tardive Dyskinesia….random movements often seen in the face, arms or trunk. Whereas Akathisia mainly affects the lower part of the body Dyskinesia is more often seen in the upper limbs and face. People suffering this are not always aware of what is happening as these movements are involuntary i.e. grimacing, sticking out the tongue, jerking arms, head and neck twisting….

 

Dystonia….another movement disorder characterised by involuntary muscle contractions. The muscle spasms can be painful. It’s another type of Dykinesia with symptoms often seen in the face or mouth such as involuntary eye closure, voice problems, involuntary neck twisting and contortion of the trunk or limbs.

 

EFT….Emotional Freedom Technique, a psychological acupressure technique using the same energy meridians as in traditional acupuncture but without needles. It involves a simple tapping technique using the fingers on specific meridians on the head and chest while voicing a problem that needs solving.

 

EMF….Electro Magnetic Force. The amount of electromagnetic radiation caused by televisions, computers, smart phones and so forth. When sensitive from benzo withdrawal this radiation can be felt in the form of increased symptoms. The damaging wavelengths may penetrate the body and further disturb the CNS. It’s all around us so can’t be escaped but can be minimised by turning off WiFi devices in the home and unplugging electrical devices for some time each day.

 

Equivalence….the equivalent milligram dose of one benzo with another e.g. 1mg of Klonopin is equivalent to 20 mg of Valium. An equivalency chart for all benzos is available in the Ashton Manual. The measure of the potency of one benzo with another.

 

Fast Taper….FT….refers to the speed of the taper from a drug which is faster than the recommended 5 to 10% every two to four weeks. 

 

F….following. Usually seen when somebody wishes to follow a post being discussed for information so they receive notifications for that post.

 

GABA….gamma-aminobutyric acid, the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian nervous system. GABA receptors on nerve cells throughout the body receive the chemical messages that help to inhibit or reduce nerve impulses. It controls most of the functions of the body and mind. 

 

G.I.....gastrointestinal. This relates to anything pertaining to the digestive system. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs that are connected in a long tube starting with the mouth then through the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. The liver, pancreas and gallbladder as solid organs that are part of this as well.

 

Grounding….connecting to the Earth’s electromagnetic field by walking outside on the earth (not concrete) especially with bare feet or using a tray of earth to stand in. This may reduce anxiety, relieve any feelings of ‘buzzing’, regulate the heart and improve sleep by discharging the electrical energy within the body/.

 

Half-Life….A numerical expression of how long it takes the drug to leave the body. It’s usually expressed as the time for half the dose of the drug taken to be eliminated from the body. A drug with a longer half-life can make withdrawal easier.

 

Histamine….a chemical found in the body’s cells which causes the symptoms of allergies when released such as runny nose or sneezing. It’s part of the body’s natural response to substances such as pollens and is involved in an inflammatory reaction which often causes itching.

 

Hold….the term used when a taper is interrupted and the dose of the drug held for longer than the normal taper period.

 

Interdose Withdrawal….the effect experienced when the drug wears off prior to the next scheduled dose. It’s caused by the lowering of the amount of drug in the blood before the next dose and may result in symptoms.

 

Kindling….refers to the phenomenon of increasingly severe withdrawal symptoms, including an increased risk of seizures, that occurs with a repeated withdrawal from benzos even if many years apart. It happens once the drug is completely stopped for a period time, from weeks to years, then restarted.

 

Liquid Suspension….the medicine is mixed with a liquid usually water in which it can’t dissolve and therefore remains intact in the form of small particles. 

 

Liquid Titration….LT….enables a slow withdrawal from any drug by decreasing the drug in a suspension to minimal amounts over time. If the drug doesn’t dissolve well in water adding a very small amount of alcohol may be suggested. Any liquid can be used. It requires a cylinder and syringe for removing 1ml amounts then drinking the rest. The process is repeated withdrawing more of the drug each time until the taper is completed.

 

Magnesium….an important mineral for bone structure and is available in several forms including trans-dermal. It’s a GABA antagonist, meaning it adheres to the GABA receptors and activates the receptor. Plays a role in biochemical reactions throughout the body and is sometimes used to control stress. It can cause a reaction similar to benzo withdrawal symptoms, for some people, due to is action on brain receptors. Should be tapered off.

 

Mast Cells….The cells in the body that store histamine. In an allergic reaction most of these release their histamine causing the symptoms of allergy. This release of histamine is known as activation of the mast cells as the body fights off what is believes to be a poison. This can cause a range of symptoms involving the skin gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological systems.

 

Monoamines….refer to the particular neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin.

 

MAOIs…. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. The first class of antidepressants to be developed but they are not popular because they interact with certain foods and numerous drugs. They may be used for panic disorder and social phobia. Rarely used nowadays unless everything else has failed.

 

M.R.I…..Magnetic Resonance Imaging…a medical scanning technique using strong magnetic fields and radio waves to generate detailed images of organs in the body.

 

Nightshade….A family of plants which occasionally cause an inflammatory reaction. The most common of these are white potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines (egg plant), bell peppers, cayenne pepper, paprika and goji berries.

 

O.C.D….Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. An anxiety disorder with obsessions, unwanted thoughts and urges to do things repeatedly e.g. repeating a specific phrase in the mind or checking in on how your body feels or actions such as checking over and over if a door is locked.

 

Pacing….inability to keep still. The need to constantly move and a symptom of Akathisia. It causes walking around or pacing the floor to relieve the feeling of restlessness.

 

Pacing Yourself….this has a different meaning from the above. When feeling well its all too easy to want to get back into life. However, there is a period of adjustment when the CNS remains fragile from the experience and can quickly suffer a setback if faced with too much activity and stress. It’s essential to pace yourself when first returning to life. 

 

Palpitations….a disruption in the rhythm of the heart and a feeling of unevenly spaced heartbeats.

 

Paradoxical….the drug produces the opposite effect to that intended so instead of calming, a benzo would cause increased anxiety, rage and sleeplessness.

 

PAWS….Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. The period immediately following the acute stage of withdrawal once off the drugs and symptoms continue before full recovery. This should not be confused with ’Protracted’ withdrawal which is the time remaining unrecovered after 18 months off benzos.

 

Polydrug….the use of two or more psychoactive drugs. They can interact and cause more or worsening symptoms.

 

PRN….(Latin pro re nata)…as the situation demands. In other words as a benzo is needed.

 

Protracted….in a minority of people withdrawal symptoms are slow to reverse and continue beyond the 18 months considered the maximum average time frame for withdrawal from benzos. These symptoms continue to include a variety of sensory and motor neurological problems. There’s no proven reason why this happens but a cold turkey and long term use may be a likely cause.

 

Po….take by mouth, found on a prescription.

 

q.d.….dose once daily.

 

q.i.d…..dose 4 times daily.

 

Recovery…. A time when all symptoms have disappeared and life can be resumed to the full. Also referred to as the time that symptoms change and lessen proving recovery is happening.

 

rx….prescribe or prescription.

 

Search Function…at the top of a Facebook page there exists a function to search for any person or any word related to the group i.e. if you wish to search for posts on magnesium just type in the word ‘magnesium’ and a list of older threads will appear all related to a discussion of this topic.

 

Script….prescription

 

SSRI….Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitor, an antidepressant used to treat depression.

 

SNRI….Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, an antidepressant used to treat major depressive disorders, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic neuropathic pain etc.

 

Tachycardia….when the heart rate exceeds 100 beats a minute. A normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

 

Tapering….gradual discontinuation or reduction of any prescribed drug over a prolonged period of time.

 

t.i.d…..dose 3 times daily.

 

Titration….same as Liquid Titration and the process of mixing the pill with water to allow a precise measurement of the dose. This can then be used daily and allows the body to adjust to the reductions in a more subtle and gentle way rather than cutting pills every two to four weeks. It allows greater control over the rate of tapering.

 

Tolerance….receptors in the brain become habituated or used to the drug so that more of it is required to reach the same effect. This is related to becoming physically dependent on a drug and a sign for the need to taper off as tolerance symptoms can be difficult. Sometimes the term is referred to as tolerance withdrawal as in both cases the symptoms are those of withdrawing from a benzo even while still on it.

 

Tolerance Withdrawal….the state of withdrawal that happens after being on the drug for some time. The body in tolerance craves more of the drug and symptoms, often between doses, are now caused by both tolerance to the drug and interdose withdrawal.

 

Waves and Windows….Waves are a time of healing when the nervous system is struggling to regulate itself. During these periods, which may last hours, days, weeks or even months, adjustments are being made resulting in various symptoms ranging from the physical to mental. These are the most difficult times. On the other hand Windows are periods of relief when the nervous system has found some balance after the corrections of a wave. Windows may or may not still have some symptoms but nevertheless bring respite for awhile. Eventually the windows last longer until waves become just a memory. The nervous system is complicated and repairs itself in patches causing the window/wave effect.

 

Weighing Pills….using a jeweller’s scale to weigh the pill and cut accurately when tapering. The scales should weigh down to 0.001g = 1mg

 

Weight of Pill….The weight of a pill includes the active ingredient and inert filler substances. Different generics might contain different fillers.

 

Withdrawal….w/d….In relation to benzos it’s the time when tapering is commenced until the time when fully recovered and no longer on the drugs. Sometimes, when off the drug and still with symptoms, the following period is called Recovery.

 

 

 

                                                                                              Rosalind Jones

                                                                                for Beating Benzos, October 2018