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Planning to Stop Taking Benzodiazepine: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Doctors prescribe benzodiazepine medicines to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep problems, and seizures. You may know them by their generic and brand names. These include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax).
  • Diazepam (Valium).
  • Lorazepam (Ativan).

When you plan to stop taking one of these medicines, make sure to work with your doctor. Don't stop taking it all at once. Stopping all at once can make you sick. And don't try to do it on your own. Follow your doctor's plan for slowly lowering your dose.

When you start to lower your dose, you may have some symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal is an uncomfortable physical or mental change. It happens when your body stops getting a medicine that it is used to getting. Follow your doctor's plan to help your body adjust more easily.

When you start to take less medicine, you may feel some changes. They may start right away or after a few days. You might feel anxious or depressed. You may have an upset stomach and trouble sleeping. These changes are common. They may last a couple of weeks or longer, but they will get better. If you have trouble dealing with them, your doctor can help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Follow your doctor's plan for slowly lowering your dose.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Don't drink alcohol.
  • Don't take over-the-counter sleep medicines unless you talk to your doctor first.
  • Think about seeing a counsellor for help dealing with stress and anxiety. Your doctor can recommend one.
  • Know that some discomfort is common. It will get better.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, or feeling hopeless, get help right away. Call your provincial suicide hotline or Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566, or go to for more information.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have serious withdrawal symptoms such as confusion, hallucinations, or severe trembling.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • You have been feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless or have lost interest in things that you usually enjoy.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.