How I Got Off Klonopin and Depakote

Over the past couple of years, I have discontinued many medications. Most of them were antibiotics. Those were easy to go off of. The hardest so far has been Klonopin (clonazepam). The second hardest was Depakote. I was on both for migraine prevention. I didn’t even know that Depakote had a psychotropic effect until I struggled to get off it.

Klonopin, and to a lesser extent Depakote, are commonly prescribed to people with CFIDS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis), fibromyalgia, and migraines. I wanted to post about my experiences of withdrawal because I am guessing that other people who recover from chronic illness with neuroplastic approaches might also want to get off unnecessary medications. I am hoping that reading about my experience might be useful to them.

What Is Klonopin?

Klonopin is a heavily prescribed benzodiazepine in the US and many other countries. Most people take it for anxiety, but it is also an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure drug). It is often prescribed to people with CFIDS/ME for trouble sleeping, cognitive impairment, and sometimes pain reduction.

What Is Depakote?

Depakote (divalproex sodium) is an anticonvulsant and “mood stabilizer.” It is most commonly used for bipolar disorder, depression, migraine prevention, and seizures.

How I Started Taking these Drugs

I started taking 0.5 mg of Klonopin, as needed, for insomnia in the midst of a trauma, in 1998. I was displaced suddenly from my home, staying with family, which was already stressful, when my best friends’ house — where my cats were staying while I was away — burned down. My best friends became homeless and one of my cats was never seen again.

For several years, I took Klonopin only occasionally, when I couldn’t sleep otherwise. However, within a couple of weeks of taking Klonopin intermittently, I discovered I was habituating to it. Habituating means that your body adjusts to the drug, and you need to take more for the same effect as previously at a smaller dose. Habituation is not the same thing as addiction or dependence. Habituation with Klonopin is the rule, rather than the exception. Most people who take Klonopin habituate quickly to it, which is why people keep bumping up their dose over time.

Later that year, I moved to the country. Within a couple of years of that move, I was getting migraines more and more often. (Many years later, we discovered that these migraines were due to Lyme disease.) Eventually I had migraines almost all of the time. In desperation, I started seeing a neurologist who specialized in migraines. She put me on drug after drug to try to find something that would prevent the migraines. Almost all of these drugs were anticonvulsants. Most of them caused adverse reactions. Some of them did nothing.

During this phase, I noticed that on the days I took Klonopin in the early morning to get back to sleep, I was less likely to have a migraine that day. When I told my neurologist, she suggested that I take Klonopin every day, twice a day. Because I had habituated to the drug by then, I ended up taking one 1 mg tablet at bedtime and one on waking. I stayed on this dose until 2013, which was about ten years, I think.

The only other drug that seemed to help the migraines at all was Depakote, which also caused a great deal of weight gain. My first neurologist prescribed it. I gained about 30 pounds within a few months. Almost all anticonvulsants cause weight gain, but Depakote is notorious for being particularly likely to cause a large of amount of weight gain very fast.

Depakote messed up my sense of hunger and satiety, so even when I was full, I still felt hungry. My guess is that it acts on the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that controls hunger and satiety and is part of the limbic system. I went off it and tried other drugs, none of which helped.

Eventually, I gave up on this neurologist and tried another. He also prescribed different drugs, but for longer periods to test them out. Again, Depakote helped migraines moderately, and I stayed on it. I was on it till 2013. Because of the extreme weight gain, and because Depakote only seemed to help somewhat with migraine prevention, I tried to go off it several times over the years. I would reduce the dose somewhat, and all would seem well. I would reduce it more, and then I’d get hit with a cluster of severe and relentless migraines. My doctors and I thought this meant that the Depakote had been helping my migraines, and without it, they were returning, so I would go back on a full dose. I gained over 60 pounds in the years I was on Depakote.

The Migraine and Lyme Connection

The first time I had relief from migraines was after I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2007. I went on amoxicillan, and during that first month of treatment, I had only about three migraines, which was unheard of for me at that time. (I usually had migraines at least two-thirds of the time.) I told my neurologist about it, and he said, “There is no connection between Lyme disease or antibiotics and migraines.”

I thought this was a pretty silly response to a very exciting and hopeful development for me, but the migraines did come back after that first blissful month of almost none. A few months later, I switched to a different antibiotic, cefuroxime, and again I had a month with just a handful of migraines. Then they came back again.

I spent several years aggressively treating Lyme and other tick-borne diseases with antibiotics and antimalarials. During this time, when I was herxing (experiencing symptoms from microbial die-off), my migraines would get much worse. Eventually, as I started to recover from tick-borne infections, the migraines got less frequent and less severe. I went through menopause at age 42, which further reduced migraines.

How I Got Off Depakote

In 2012, I decided to go off Depakote. By then, I had learned a lot more about drug withdrawal. (If you want to learn more about psychotropic drugs and how to withdraw from them, I recommend the book, Your Drug May Be Your Problem.) I also researched online. I learned that if you are on Depakote for migraines, you will likely get rebound migraines during withdrawal. (If you are taking Depakote for seizures, the most common symptom from withdrawal is to get seizures, and so on.) Other common withdrawal symptoms that I experienced were anxiety, agitation, and mood swings.

The main thing I had learned about drug withdrawal — especially for any drug that is psychotropic (has mood-altering effects) — is to go off them much more slowly and gradually than you think you have to. THIS IS TRUE FOR ANY MEDICATION THAT LIKELY AFFECTS MOODS, EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT ON IT FOR A MOOD DISORDER!

I’m going to repeat this because I think it’s so important:

Go off mood-altering medications
much more slowly —
at lower dose reductions
and at longer intervals —
than you think you have to.

Go off very, very GRADUALLY!

When migraines were worst, I was taking 1500 mg of Depakote a day, which was one 500 mg tablet three times a day. When I was ready to start reducing, I was taking 1000 mg a day. I thought that the smallest pill available was 250 mg. (That’s what I was told, but it turns out there are 25 mg tablets. Let this be a lesson to you: Google is your friend. If you’re not sure you’ve been given accurate information from your doctor or pharmacist about the smallest available dose for a medication, do an internet search with the question, “what is the smallest dose of [your medication]?”)

Anyway, what I did was this:

  • I read what I could find about common withdrawal symptoms of Depakote.
  • I told my partner and my personal care assistants that I was going to start reducing the drug, and I asked them to let me know if they noticed any of these withdrawal symptoms. I also asked them to have extra patience and understanding if my behavior or moods were erratic, and to know that it was nothing to do with them!
  • I made a list of things I could do to take care of myself if my moods got wonky. The most important thing was to remind myself that these difficult moods were NOT real! That they were just a side-effect of the drug, and that it would pass. Other strategies were mostly ways to distract myself, like playing with the dog, watching DVDs. Another important strategy was getting empathy from my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) community.
  • I reduced the drug in the smallest increments I could and much more gradually than seemed necessary.
  • I NEVER cut or crushed the Depakote pills because I was on an extended-release formula (Depakote ER), and I had been instructed never got cut or crush the pills.

I was taking 500 mg twice a day in the beginning. Then I went down to 500 mg at night and 250 mg in the morning. I stayed at that dose for a couple of months. At first I had no withdrawal symptoms, then they would arise and peak, then they would fade.

Then I reduced to 250 mg twice a day, and stayed there a month or two. Each time after a reduction, I would have days or weeks without withdrawal symptoms, then they would arise and peak, then fade. I always waited to do another reduction until after I was feeling totally normal for at least a week or two before I reduced again.

When I got down to the smallest dose I knew about, it was still a pretty big dose — 250 mg — so I took one every other day for a couple of weeks, and then stopped. I had learned this strategy for going off of Prednisone. I recommend this strategy if you need to go off something for which you cannot take a very small dose.

How I Got Off Klonopin

After I got off Depakote, I wanted to go off Klonopin. After all, I had started taking Klonopin every day for migraine prevention, and I was no longer having chronic migraines! In fact, after I started my neuroplasticity recovery program, I stopped getting migraines altogether, which increased my desire to get off all unnecessary medications.

I had heard from other people how hard it is to get off Klonopin, so I was determined to go as slowly as possible. I wanted to be kind to myself. I also wanted to be kind to the people around me because I had learned that I was a difficult person to be around when my moods got really screwy.

When I started reducing Klonopin I was taking one 1 mg pill in the morning and one in the evening. I cut the morning pill up so that I was taking 3/4 mg in the morning and continuing to take the full dose in the evening. That was a 0.25 mg reduction.

In the beginning, I was reducing the dose by 0.25 mg (1/4 pill) every two weeks. I found that a couple of days after I’d reduced the dose, I would have anxiety most of the time, and it was very unpleasant! This rebound anxiety lasted anywhere from one to four weeks after the reduction.

I soon changed this strategy. This rate of reduction was too steep for me.

I decided I wanted to reduce the dose more slowly. I asked my doctor to prescribe the smallest dose pill, which is 0.5 mg. That way, if I cut a pill in quarters, I could reduce by 1/8 mg instead of 1/4 mg.

I also reluctantly decided to change my reduction schedule from two weeks to four weeks. At that time, I usually had the worst anxiety for one or two weeks, starting three to five days after the reduction. I wanted to have some time of normality (non-anxiety) after each reduction before I did the next one.

After I started my recovery from CFIDS, MCS, and chronic Lyme, I also exercised — swimming, yoga, and walking — and meditated to help with withdrawal. These strategies helped a LOT.

  • Walking the dog was good because it was an hour of gentle exercise out in nature and interacting with my beloved dog. So I got a dose of dog love (oxytocin pump), a dose of nature, and a dose of exercise all in one. Also, the dog NEEDED to be walked, so it felt productive, too, and it was something I’d do even if I didn’t feel like it.
  • Swimming helped because I LOVE swimming, because it was continuous exercise, because it was in a novel and relaxing environment (a pool), and because I could focus on things like my stroke, my kick, number of laps, etc.
  • Yoga was particularly effective because it combines the positive effects of meditation, stretching, and exercise. Also, if I went to a class, I just had to follow along. I didn’t have to THINK at all. At the end of every yoga class, I always feel way, way more relaxed than I did in the beginning.

Eventually, the schedule I came up with was to reduce by 1/8 mg (1/4 of a 0.5 mg pill) once a month.

However, I did keep the schedule flexible. For one thing, there were differences in how severe or how long the withdrawal symptoms lasted. Some weeks, the anxiety only lasted seven or 10 days. But, if I was having a very stressful month — such as the month I got my driver’s license and was car shopping — the anxiety could linger for a month! Then I would wait for six weeks or even two months to do the next dose reduction.

Suggestions for Klonopin Withdrawal

  • Adjust your attitude: This is a marathon, not a sprint. This is a long-term process of supporting your health and wellbeing. You support your health and wellbeing when you are KIND TO YOURSELF. You don’t get any points in life for suffering more, being tough, or going as fast as possible. Go as slowly as you need to feel OK.
  • Get support. Tell your partner, friends, family, care providers or other people you TRUST that you are starting a long and gradual withdrawal process. Ask them to be supportive.

    I find that people really appreciate it and find it helpful if you give them specific information about HOW to provide support because not everyone has the same idea of what “support” looks like.

    ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. Say, “I would like a hug,” or “Can you remind me that this isn’t forever, and eventually I will feel relaxed and happy again?” Or, “When I’m feeling anxious, will you rub my back and tell me your proud of me?”

    Ideally, give people written information ahead of time, before you are in withdrawal, letting them know what you might experience and giving them specific suggestions or requests for what you will find helpful. You can send a group email to your supporters with this information so they can refer back to it.
  • When you experience anxiety or other unpleasant symptoms, remember that THEY ARE NOT REAL. The thoughts and feelings are not really yours! They are just drug effects. Before the symptoms are bad, make a list of things you can do to connect with what is real and true when your perceptions are chemically altered. Reminders to put on your list might be things like, “This is a temporary state. I will feel better when I am done withdrawing from this drug.” “These people love me and want me to be well. They told me to call them if I’m feeling bad: [list the people].” “When I am having a hard time, I feel better if I do [activities that make you feel better.]” Keep this list somewhere easy to find.
  • Reduce the dosage in as small increments as possible, especially as you get farther along. In the beginning, reducing by a small amount will be a smaller percentage change than as your dose gets smaller. In this “middle stage,” cut the pills into smaller doses, and you might also want to ask your doctor for pills in lower strengths, so you can cut some of the dosage even smaller. This post explains percentage reductions clearly.
  • Give yourself time to feel “normal.” To do this, you have to go slowly and gradually and give yourself a “honeymoon” period before each new dose reduction. Ideally, you will want to give yourself a week or two of stabilization — a week or two when you feel NORMAL — at each dose before you reduce again.
  • EXERCISE every day! If you have CFIDS/ME, you may think this is impossible. But if you have used or are using DNRS to recover from CFIDS/ME, the more you exercise, the better for your recovery as well as for withdrawal symptoms. Even if you can only exercise a little, it will help. Exercise is effective for several reasons: It reduces stress and anxiety, releases brain chemicals that make you feel good, such as dopamine and endorphins, and unless you are overtraining or getting too intense in your workouts, gets cortisol out of your system (the stress hormone associated with fight/flight and limbic activation) and improves sleep. Also, if you are focused on exercise, it gives your mind a rest from thinking about anxiety or other unpleasant thoughts or feelings.
  • Do YOGA. I know I just said to exercise, but yoga is specifically shown to be calming and relaxing to body and mind, and you don’t need to go at it intensely or vigorously. You can even do it in bed. Yoga has specifically been shown to reduce cortisol. Yoga combines relaxed, mindful breathing with a focus on what you’re doing with your body, and gentle stretching and movement, which is healthy and feels really good!
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness. It may be hard to meditate during the worst throes of withdrawal or anxiety, but if you practice meditation when things are a little easier, it will eventually help you to have more awareness and acceptance of mental and emotional states as just things you can witness that you don’t have to DO anything about.

    One morning, as I was driving to the YMCA to swim, I was simultaneously aware of my body being awash in anxiety and also feeling really happy and calm that I was able to drive, that I was able to be out in the morning, that I was able to see the trees and the sky and the birds. These twin awarenesses were a gift from practicing meditation. It makes it much easier to deal with withdrawal symptoms when you can experience them as a phenomenon that doesn’t mean anything about you….

    Here’s a beginner’s guide to meditation. I found Metta (lovingkindness) meditation the easiest and most beneficial practice when I got into meditation. Here’s a beginner metta video. Or, here’s a good written beginner’s guide to metta. Some people prefer Vipassana (insight) meditation. Here’s a beginner’s guide to insight meditation.
  • Be aware of, and adjust around, stress. My experience is that withdrawal-related anxiety was worse when something stressful was also happening. If you have something stressful coming up, hold off on your next dose reduction until it’s over. Or do your next dose reduction earlier, so the withdrawal period will be over before the upcoming stressful event.
    You probably have more control over how much stress you have than you realize. For one thing, stress takes different forms — distress (unhappy stress) and eustress (happy stress). Any big change is stressful — moving into a wonderful new home, starting a relationship, recovering your health, having a baby, or getting a puppy are all wonderful and stressful events. Hold off on getting the puppy or planning your wedding until you are finished with withdrawal. It’s something to look forward to!
    Also, busy-ness and rushing cause stressful responses in our bodies. When my withdrawal anxiety lasted a month after a reduction, I decided I needed to lighten my schedule. Even though I love writing and my writing groups, I quit both of them until I was done with withdrawal. I added a one-and-a-half hour yoga class in one of the slots where I’d had a three-hour writing group. That was a really helpful change.
    You might think, “Work is stressful, but I can’t work less AND pay rent and feed my pets and myself,” but maybe there’s a food pantry you could use for a little while. Some animal shelters also donate food to food pantries or community organizations to help prevent pet homelessness. These are not permanent changes. These are things to do to ease up on your stress until you are done withdrawing.

One day, it will be over! You’ll be off the medications, and you won’t be having unpleasant side effects anymore.

I did it, and you can, too!

Right now I am newly off Klonopin and having the last of the withdrawal symptoms. Yay! Three weeks from now, I’m having a “happy rebirthday” party for myself because it will be one year since I started DNRS, which was the cornerstone of my recovery program. I expect to be done with the withdrawal symptoms by then, and I’m really looking forward to that!


How I Got Off Klonopin and Depakote — 32 Comments

  1. So thankful for all you are sharing about your journey!! I’ve been learning so much, and it’s making a difference in my life.

    • Oh, wow! Lisa, it’s so good to hear from you! I was JUST talking about you to someone, after having previously talked about you with our mutual friend, and I was going to write you to tell you I HAVE RECOVERED. But now you know.
      And it’s WONDERFUL to hear it’s making a difference in your life. You have recovered from so much, yourself, I wouldn’t have guessed that! I’d love to know more if you want to drop me a line. (It’s now swachsler at gmail…).

  2. I am so proud of you.
    My experience withdrawing from Depakote wasn’t as smooth as yours sounds. One thing I have learned is Drs and Vets even often recommend withdrawals at too fast and too large dosing. I have come to take their info as a recommendation that usually needs to be altered for me or my dogs specificc needs.
    I am just so proud of you for being able to get off BOTH of these drugs WAY TO GO!

    • Thank you! I keep meaning to email you. I have been so busy!
      You are right. That’s a good point. I have had doctors or other medical providers give me problematic suggestions on drug withdrawal. The worst was someone who worked at my doctor’s office (maybe a nurse? Someone who should not have been giving advice on drug withdrawal), who told me, when I realized I was allergic to Oxycontin, that I could just stop the drug without withdrawing from it. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to that advice!
      But yes, I think generally it is better for me to go off slower than most doctors advise. I think that so many people go off so dangerously fast that doctors may advise a time that is still too fast for optimal wellbeing during the process without realizing it because they are focused on people not endangering themselves, first and foremost.

  3. I so appreciate reading your “process”. It is inspiring me. I started a free 8 week MBSR program and am going to restorative yoga. Your writing is sooo readable and real. Thank you for your willingness to share. 🙂

  4. Pingback: What & How I’m Doing (Am I Still Recovered? Yes) | Sharon Wachsler

  5. I am so glad for you Sharon! I have witnessed a psychiatric doctor discontinue depakote in a patient who was on it as a mood stablilzer (because of increased lethargy secondary to illness), but without tapering it, and actually caused a seizure disorder in a patient who never had a seizure before in his life! The work you are doing to raise awareness is wonderful! kudos!

    • Thank you, Amy!

      OMG, that is terrible about the patient developing seizures due to abrupt dc from Depakote! I did read, when I was preparing to go off it, that going off it can trigger seizures, but it always said it triggers seizures in people who are susceptible (triggers migraines in those who tend toward migraines), etc.

      I am learning more and more about the lack of education among many health professionals about the dangers of sudden drug withdrawal — with many commonly prescribed meds. I am now going through withdrawal from Elavil, which I am tapering off of. I started it in 1995 for insomnia because I stopped sleeping after I got sick. I am remembering now how two different doctors had me go off it suddenly, without tapering, at three points during my 19 years on this drug, and I felt so awful and didn’t know it was withdrawal! (Each time I went back on it, partly because I felt so bad off it and didn’t know that was due to withdrawal.)

      • There is so much we don’t know about the effects of prescription drugs. And it seems we as consumers cannot blindly turn ourselves over to the professionals. It is a very difficult spot. When you are experiencing over the top anxiety and need relief, what do you do?

        Educate yourself and reframe ones thinking.

        • Hi Pandora.
          Yeah. There’s not an easy solution. I am becoming more and more excited for all the possibilities that behavioral strategies offer.
          I’m actually working on a post right now about what I do when I’m dealing with anxiety and other unpleasant symptoms from psych med withdrawal. I hope it is helpful to others. Or were you talking about over-the-top anxiety as a reason to seek out psych meds? (Either way, it can be quite challenging.)

  6. Depakote is neuroprotective and enhances neuroplasticity.

    There is a lot more research out there suggesting potential positive effects of valproic acid, in spite of negative side effects experience by many.

    Also, if you do not supplement with a good folate supplement when on Depakote(valproic acid) you might be more at risk to suffer some common side effects, as all anti-convulsants medications deplete folate stores.


    • Hi Morgan.

      I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment. I did read the links you give.

      I’m not sure how your comment relates to this post. This is a post to provide “how to” information for people who already know they want to get off Klonopin, Depakote, or other psychotropic medications. Its focus is on providing strategies to make withdrawal as safe, pleasant, and healthy as possible. It is not a post about whether Depakote is a good or bad drug.

      But since you raised these topics, a couple points I’d like to raise in response:

      – Klonopin is also prescribed because it’s “neuroprotective.” One of the reasons I decided to try Klonopin was because Dr. Paul Cheney, a respected doctor in the CFIDS community, has promoted Klonopin for its supposedly brain-protective qualities.

      – Neuroplasticity is not necessarily a good or bad thing. There are many positive changes that can occur because of neuroplasticity, but there are also many negative changes that can occur. (Tinnitus and PTSD are both disorders that result from neuroplastic changes.) The key to applying an understanding of neuroplasticity is to maximize positive changes and minimizes negative changes. Taking a drug simply because it promotes neuroplasticity makes no sense to me. If you were trying to make a major positive change in your brain at the time, it might help that change happen faster, but if you were to have a traumatic incident at that time, it would likely therefor also have a much greater negative impact.

      – There are many ways to maximize positive neuroplasticity that have NO downsides. Meditation has been shown, in numerous studies, to promote positive neuroplasticity. The “side effects” of meditation, for example, are improved concentration, improved mood, reduced emotional reactivity, increased attention and focus, reduced anxiety and stress, increased hippocampal size, and much more, all positive. It is also FREE!

      – The idea of “side effects” of Depakote being entirely remediated by a folate supplement doesn’t make sense to me. For one thing, I was on a folate supplement the entire time I was on Depakote. It did not prevent side effects for me. I also think the term “side effects” is a bit of a euphemism. I would say weight gain on Depakote is not so much a “side effect” as an “effect.” If you take Depakote for migraines, it may or may not help control migraines. If you take Depakote for migraines, it may or may not cause you to gain a huge amount of weight. These possible outcomes are both effects. I started gaining weight on Depakote right away and gained about 60 pounds (165 to 225) in the years I was on it. When I stopped taking it, I immediately started losing weight. I had a friend who was on it for a few months and went from 130 to 165 pounds. She stopped taking it and lost the weight. If you are severely underweight, it might be a good idea to take Depakote because weight gain is an effect of the drug.

        • Hi Jonathan.

          I emailed you in response to your comment but don’t know if you got it, so I’m posting it. I definitely don’t recommend just stopping these drugs. For one thing, these are not drugs you should just stop cold turkey. If you do want to go off them, go off of them one at a time and withdraw slowly as I described in my posts.

          But also, it’s very important that if you do go off of them that you have other sources of support, especially if the drugs are helping, for the challenges that led you to get on the drugs in the first place. It varies a great deal as to how much they help. Often with psych drugs, they start out helping in the beginning, and then as your brain adjusts to them and alters its chemistry to compensate, they stop helping. So, that’s a consideration. If you are getting some relief from them right now, that might help you to gather the support you need to change your life so you have the internal and external supports you need to consider getting off the drugs.

          Finding sources of support is crucial. We do not live in a society where it is easy to find all the support we need. But there are a wide variety of ways to cope with and get relief from PTSD, anxiety, bipolar, etc. Some things that often help are exercise — especially things like taking walks outdoors in nature — as well as yoga, meditation, being able to really express your feelings, getting support and caring from other people, etc. For me, spending time with animals also helped.

          There is also some really interesting and important stuff being discovered now about the ways our brains change due to our experience, which is what neuroplasticity means (neuro = brain + plasticity = changeable). PTSD is caused by the brain changing, and we are now learning that people can use the mind to change the brain and reverse some of these changes. The DNRS program, which I used to recover from MCS and CFIDS, also allowed me to recover from PTSD, though my PTSD was not as severe as many people’s. If you want to learn more about DNRS, it’s at

          Some avenues for support I know about include the Mad movement, the mental health self advocacy movement, Nonviolent Communication, and more.

          Here are some resources you might find helpful:

 (and related books such as Your Drug May Be Your Problem)

          NVC resources sometimes are a great way to get empathy from others or learn how to give yourself empathy and step away from judgement: or

          I wish you luck in your journey, Jonathan. You are not alone. Other people have gone through what you’ve gone through and have made it through to the other side. It can be hard to find people, sometimes, but if you are persistent, you will find people who will help you figure out your way, as well.

          Wishing you peace and health,

  7. Valproic acid (Depakote) was available in liquid form when I went off. I went off so slowly I had virtually no side affects. It took a long time, but I was willing to trade off long time discontinuation in favor of no withdrawal symptoms. It has been my experience with going off meds in general. Remember, even heavy coffee drinkers have bad withdrawal if the stop to quickly. Side note: if possible, I also START taking meds in the same fashion, no side affects going on. Also, do your research….I took Xanax for years, but was told Klonopin was a better choice because it had a longer half life. While that’s true, it is also what makes it extremely difficult to get off for some folks. God Bless, good luck, stay healthy! Thank you Sharon Wachsler for all of the excellent information!

    • Hi Carrie.
      I just saw this comment. YES, I agree that a long time of discontinuation with fewer side effects has been very helpful for me. I am going off my last medication now and have been tapering off it for 2 years. But I have been on it over 20 years, and for me it has been important to do it in a way that is sustainable and not brutally punishing! Good for you for your hard work and taking good care of yourself. Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Hi ….I was on DEpakoe and yes I got off it very very slowly…..after being on 125 mg for a little over a month only taking it once at night I stopped…..Can you get withdrawals a month later??? I did get some withdrawals about 2 weeks later than all was good…….Is this possible???

  8. Hello my name is rouse . So I was just coming across this thread and I was just wondering so after you stop depakote I am now having seizure will that be permenent ???!

    • Hi. I really cannot say what will happen for you. I was not on it for a seizure disorder. This is something you should discuss with your doctor. I am in no way qualified to offer you advise.

  9. Hi Sharon,
    Thank you so much for your blog. I am an ‘accidental addict’ in addition to having limbic issues I think. Did you have long term difficulty after you got off klonopin? How long was your total taper?
    Unfortunately I stopped cold turkey bc I was not given any advice… I reinstated, tried again and failed (again no proper info). Did you experience akathisia at all?
    I firmly believe in limbic retraining. However, with benzo withdrawal and kindling it seems it’s a different beast…or is it?
    Was your elavil taper ok and how are you doing now?
    You are an inspiration!
    Bravo! I wonder if you have seen Jennifer Brea’s ted talk — I wonder if your work could be useful for her as well.
    I was put on gabapentin and remeron to assist in this nasty benzo withdrawal. Thanks

    • Hi DS.
      I’m sorry for the delayed response.
      I JUST finished getting off of Elavil 2 months ago. I am now completely drug free. I started going off meds in 2012, so it took 5 years.
      Some of it is a blur now, but I believe getting off Klonopin was a little under a year. Somewhere between 9-12 months. If I had to do it again, I’d probably go slower. Getting off Elavil took me over 2 years. I had been on it for 20, so it was really challenging to get off.
      I am not a doctor, so I can’t give medical advice. The best I can say is that the keys for me were 1. To go as slow as possible and 2. to have lots of internal and/or external support for the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
      What I mean by “slow” is that you reduce by the smallest reduction you can, and then when the withdrawal symptoms are over, you allow yourself at least as much time to feel normal and good before you do another reduction. So, for example, if you cut your dose, and you feel like hell for 2 weeks and then still feel moderately crappy for another 6 weeks, that is 8 weeks before you feel normal. Then you wait another 8 weeks before the dose reduction! This is much slower than physicians generally recommend, but I think this is because they don’t understand how very awful and even debilitating withdrawal can feel and how challenging to work and function that way. Also, from a behavioral perspective, if you know every time you reduce that it will be a punishing experience, and you are in a continual loop of misery, you are less and less likely to keep putting yourself through that. To be successful, most people need time to feel good and recharge for the next foray.
      What I mean by internal and external support: for me, meditating every day and especially lots of exercise (walking, swimming, etc.) and yoga really helped. Also being able to get emotional support from people who were understanding. And for me to keep reminding myself that what I was feeling was caused by withdrawal, and so it would pass. It would not be forever. That all helped.
      I combined benzo withdrawal with limbic retraining. For me, limbic retraining was incredibly helpful for the withdrawal.
      I am doing great now! It took about 8 weeks for me to start to get more normal amounts of sleep again after this final amitriptyline reduction, but I was at such a tiny dose and had gone 6 months since the previous reduction, so it was a lot less brutal than most of the previous reductions had been. Now I am DONE! 😀

      • I was prescribed Depakote to come off kolonapin. I was on 1mil twice a day and now im on only .5 in the morning. Ive been on 500 mils of Depikote for 4 months now and its been making me feel weird, i get vertigo all the time and don’t like it. I was in the hospital and the ER Dr said i could just stop it and they didn’t give it to me for the first 3 days until i read your story and it started making me think twice about it. My primary care Dr prescribed it for detoxing of kolonapin but if im going to have the same problem with it as kolonapin then whats the point. Anyway i was wondering if being on it for just 4 months if i could just cut my pills in half as im not on a timed release dose? Thanks for your story i appreciate you warning people from potential harmful detox.

  10. Hi. I went off of Depakote about 2 years ago. I was sporadically taking Ativan at that time, but about 9-10 months ago increased the Ativan because my anxiety was so horrible and I wasn’t sleeping. I feel the Depakote withdrawal was extremely hard. I had been on that medication around 1000 mg for probably 20 years and I feel it took over a year or more to recover from the withdrawal process. I kept telling others it was a hell of sorts. I increased my Ativan about 3/4 through that long withdrawal process and then went through a hell of sorts with my body becoming tolerant and needing more of it. I knew I had a problem before long and I began a weening process of the Ativan about 3 months ago and just jumped off 5 days ago! So, I’m off both, but still nervous about the Ativan and I’m OK but edgy, tired, feel weird, like arms detached, etc. I applaud your success with these meds and really am just curious if all the horrible symptoms I had for more than a year was my Depakote withdrawal? Can it last that long?? I was on that med from probably 22-42 years old and the last two years have been the hardest years of my life with anger, anxiety, a small relapse of my Bipolar (on Lithium again now and doing well), insomnia, nerve pain, etc. I know you probably aren’t an MD, my current ARNP didn’t think it was a big deal going off of the Depakote and thought I could stop my Ativan cold turkey as it was only .5. But, I knew better!! Do you think it could have been my Depakote withdrawal causing my hell?? I would love to read up more on that because the last 2 years have been very hard!!

    • Hi Amy.
      I don’t know. As you say, I’m not a doctor, and in my experience, most doctors also aren’t familiar with withdrawal symptoms and experiences of most medications. There is a book called Your Drug May Be Your Problem that has information on withdrawal effects from various medications, but I don’t know if Depakote is in there.
      At any rate, it’s been a year since you posted this comment, so I hope now you are doing much better.
      All the best,

  11. Why the hell would you put yourself through 15months of acute benzo withdrawal. You made it so much worse. Cut dose in half right off the bat, don’t be a wuss, sweat most it out, then cut in half. Then maybe to a 1/4 if you have to. It’ll pretty much be a few weeks of hell and then a few weeks of minimum withdrawal symptoms. I’ve kicked opiates and klon at higher doses than you were at this way. The longer you drag it out the worse it is. You want to just barely ride the edge of withdrawal. Which if you actually try you’ll see requires very little.

    • I suppose I should say this requires a lot of will power. Serious, unwavering, brute force will power. If you can’t let thoughts just be thoughts then I definitely do not recommend what I just said lol. I have a lot of experience with withdrawal from from almost every type of drug 😛 and been through some of the worst mental meltdowns you could probably imagine.

  12. Thank you I have terrible insomnia went off pristique 50mg&300mg seroquel for 2years still on 100mg seroquel but its not helping want to start Cbd oil have u heard anything good about it

  13. Dear Sharon, I’ve been scouring the internet to find both encouragement and safe ideas for getting off Depakote. I take a variety of drugs for bi-polar disorder, which I think might have been wrongly diagnosed. But for the sake of keeping this simple, I am totally ready to get off Depakote. I am a large woman and my usual weight is 240 lbs and I look good. However, once taking Depakote, my weight sky rocketed to 304 lbs. I’m working with my doctor to lose this weight safely and see her again in 2 weeks. I’m going to insist we find a way to wean me completely off this drug. Your blog was SO helpful to me! Thank you so much. If you’d like, I can update you on my progress… just let me know.