I used to dread waking up every morning in benzo withdrawal. Besides the terror and anxiety that waited for me to open my eyes, I had to cope with what I called the “bee stings,” painful tingles that started at my waist and went all the way to the bottom of my feet. My hands also tingled and burned. They felt as if they would explode. These are common benzo withdrawal symptoms called neuropathy. Neuropathy simply means, “problems with the nerves.”
There are three types of nerves that can be affected by benzo withdrawal: sensory, motor and autonomic. Sensory nerves control sensation. Problems with them would cause tingling, pain, or numbness. Motor nerves control movement. Problems with them would cause weakness. Problems with the autonomic nerves that control the body’s systems would cause changes in heart rate, sweating, and blood pressure. Most of us in withdrawal experience some nerve problems.
We all discover things that make our neuropathy worse. For me, I had a surge in the tingles after every meal, no matter what I ate, but salmon and garbanzo beans were exceptionally strong triggers. The tingles are one of the symptoms that remain after my cold turkey off of clonazepam June 23, 2011. There is healing slowly taking place, and I expect more healing over the coming years. My neuropathy doesn’t slow me down, and it’s not painful as it used to be. Like my tinnitus that is 24/7, it just an annoyance. If you have neuropathy, know that over time, it will get better.
As with most things in benzo withdrawal, there are no cures or procedures that will cure neuropathy. Doctors who are uneducated about benzo withdrawal like to prescribe Neurontin (Gabapentin) or Lyrica for the tingles or pain. However, we know from reports of people in withdrawal who have taken these medications that they often do not help, they often make things worse, and they have a rather nasty withdrawal syndrome as well. The Z drugs, (Zolpidem) can make neuropathy worse, as can anything that works on GABA receptors. Valerian, Kava Kava. Chamomile, Phenibut (Kavinace) Progesterone, etc. have all been reported to increase benzo withdrawal symptoms.
What can we do when we have pain, tingles, and weakness in benzo withdrawal? We practice extreme self-care. We eat healthy foods, and we avoid medications that will either flare up our nerves, hamper our healing, or create yet another chemical dependency. We take warm baths, apply heat or ice, get soothing massages, rest, and avoid stress. Like everything else in withdrawal, the best way to cope with neuropathy is with acceptance, patience, and distractions. Find ways to take the focus off of your problem nerves and you’ll feel better immediately.