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Old 12-19-2008, 10:02 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 4
Switching from Xanax to Ativan - How long do I have to wait ?

Hi everyone,

I've been taking xanax daily for a few months, "as needed". The ones I've had are 0.5 mg, and I generally break them in half.

So on average, in a given day I take between 0.25 mg and 1 mg, 0.5 is about the average, most of the time I take half a pill twice a day, just more sometimes if it's a really bad anxiety day.

I'm just about out of the xanax, I have 2 half-pills left, but I have Ativan that I can take after these are gone. I've taken both of them in the past, been a while since the ativan, but it seemed to work better for me without making me feel as "dopey" as the xanax does.

Anyhow, my main question is, how long do I need to wait, after finishing the xanax, before it would be safe to take the ativan ?

I understand that they are both in the "benzo" family, and I have heard others mention that you can just switch over to one with no big deal.

I was hoping to get a more specific answer though. For example, I will probably take the other two xanax tomorrow, and I'm a bit anxious as to how long I might have to wait to take the ativan, if I were to need it.

When people say you can just switch over, are we talking about hours, or days, or what ? lol, not sure if this makes sense what I am asking.

I have to take a car trip tomorrow so, I'm a bit keyed up, more than likely I will end up taking both of the xanax tomorrow before I leave, so I'm just a bit concerned say what if I have big panic attacks tomorrow night etc, will I be able to take the ativan at that time, if I need to ?

Also one other quick question, I've heard that you have to taper off the xanax just like other things, otherwise you can have seizures etc ? When I read things like that it scares the crap outta me lol. I think from what I recall, that is mostly a concern if you are taking a larger dose of xanax ?

Like I said above, I have generally taken .25 up to 1 mg per day for a couple of months, the average being .5 mg.

Thanks in advance for any advice/answers !

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Old 12-20-2008, 05:50 AM   #2
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Re: Switching from Xanax to Ativan - How long do I have to wait ?

If you've been taking a benzodiazepine daily for more than two weeks, I absolutely recommend that you taper off extremely slowly. There's no exact time for when a person develops a physical dependency - it can certainly happen in as little as two weeks, or it can take longer.

Since xanax especially (but also ativan) is a very short-acting benzo (like paxil is a very short-acting SSRI), be aware that you can start having some symptoms of withdrawal while you're still taking it, and that manifests as rebound, which is a worsening of original symptoms, making it appear that one is " getting worse" and needs to take it more often.

I was addicted to xanax - a full therapeutic dose - I don't remember the exact dosage since I went off (much too quickly) almost twenty years ago. Xanax helped me initially (I was put on a succession of benzos for a seizure disorder, actually), but in about two or three months my seizure symptoms (original condition, in my case) got worse four hours after taking the xanax. You could set a clock by it, even though I was usually so engrossed in my fast-paced job that I had no idea what time it was until I looked at a clock when I started sensing that there was a patter to this, which had never been the case before.

I suggest that you taper off it to avoid becoming even more physically depend on it, and not switch to ativan, which is another short-acting benzo which doctors feel is safer but I think that's due to marketing. From what I've read (I've never used that particular benzo) it's just as addictive as xanax and any other benzo. You might be better off switching to a long-lasting benzo like valium (I do not recommend klonopin, which was the "benzo of the month" when I had to be put back on a benzo to be "slowly" weaned off. (Unfortunately back then no one knew about doing the kind of very slow taper like what's recommended here for SSRIs and which also has worked best for most people going off benzos, which some of the members of this group have done. I tapered off xanax over two weeks, since I was taking it as an anticonvulsant and I had always been told to taper over two weeks going off other anticonvulsants and also things like prednisone. Believe me, that is wa-a-a-ay too fast, and so is the w/d schedule most doctors will give - same as with SSRIs. I wish so much that I had done a very slow taper off the xanax but I didn't even realize I was addicted to it then (I had been assured by doctors that it wasn't addictive due to it's very short-acting qualities - turned out short-acting meds like xanax and paxil and similar ones cause the most havoc with the nervous system). I'm NOT trying to alarm you, just to help you avoid what I went through (which ultimately caused doctors to put me on paxil, which just added another dependency I had to deal with later; like with xanax I was told that it couldn't possibly be addictive like xanax because paxil just corrected an imbalance in my biochemistry... most of us heard that one, it turns out...).

There are people on this board who have had to go off benzos after being put on them to ease paxil w/d, who can probably give you better information on how to do it. There's an excellent reference online called the Ashton manual, but it's a lot of information and a bit overwhelming to read at first. But if I'm ever well enough to go off the last half mg. of klonopin (the benzo I was put on for what they called a slower taper, but done in four increments and not nearly slow enough, and I'm still on that last half mg., unfortunately), I would switch to valium instead, if possible, based on what I've read in the Ashton manual, and certainly reduce dose in minute amounts with compounded or water titration to go very slowly.

If you haven't been on benzos a long time like I was, you may not have the extreme problems I did and may not have to consider switching to another drug or go quite as slowly as I would (I've been on benzos for decades), but I would still do the kind of slow taper like the one recommended for paxil here, to avoid worrying about potential problems since your post mentioned that's a concern.

As for the immediate problem, if you're going on a long car trip, can you get an emergency refill on the xanax since that's what your body is used to. I suggest you call your doctor and/or pharmacist on this and see if they can help you on this.

If not, I expect someone with more experience with ativan or with benzo issues in general will probably have advice for you on that. I've just never taken that particular one. And if you can't get more xanax, I'd suggest you do take the ativan pills with you, since it is in the same benzo family as you mention.

I hope that's some help. I wish I knew exactly what to tell you. But do have a benzo supply with you (ativan if you can't get more xanax), if only for your peace of mind, if there's no way you can postpone the car trip.
5/93 - Started paxil after 6 years sensory distortions from benzo WD/low-dose reinst.+chronic medical problems/pain -
20 mg/day; yrs later 15 mg
3/30/06 - 20 mg
4/21/06 - 15 mg
4/27/06 - 10 mg
5/17/06 - 5 mg (none 5/20)
5/21-24/06 - 2.5 mg (5/22 - none)
5/25/06 - d/c’d paroxetine
Felt better than in years, then gradual WD symptoms
6/17/06 - Bolted awake in blind terror, started E-ticket ride to hell
2010 - Leaving hell for balmier climate!
(Still on my pre-paxil 0.5 mg clonazepam)
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Old 12-20-2008, 06:37 AM   #3
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Re: Switching from Xanax to Ativan - How long do I have to wait ?

Johnny, you need to talk to whoever is prescribing these. 1mg of Xanax a day is a hefty dose of Xanax and there will be some dependence at this point. I'm not informed on benzos as much as ssri's and wouldn't feel comfortable giving any advice on switching since there can be serious repercussions with to much benzo in your system.
Call whoever prescribed these.
AKA Laurie

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
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Old 12-20-2008, 08:33 AM   #4
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Re: Switching from Xanax to Ativan - How long do I have to wait ?

Originally Posted by johnnyquest View Post
Also one other quick question, I've heard that you have to taper off the xanax just like other things, otherwise you can have seizures etc ? When I read things like that it scares the crap outta me lol. I think from what I recall, that is mostly a concern if you are taking a larger dose of xanax ?
No, .5 mg Xanax is not a tiny dose and you should taper it very, very slowly. I switched from Klonopin to Valium without any trouble but I did it gradually, not all at once. If you do switch to Ativan, remember that 1 mg Ativan does not equal 1 mg Xanax. I think Xanax is twice as strong as Ativan, but please do confirm that before you take it.
Trying to get off Paxil since 2007. Current taper:
August 2012 - August 2013: tapered from 5 to 3 mg, generally .2 mg every 5 or 6 weeks
August 2013 - August 2014: tapered from 3 mg to 1.8 mg. Slowed to .1 mg drops every 4 weeks.
Sep 21 - 1.7 mg
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Old 12-20-2008, 09:33 AM   #5
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Re: Switching from Xanax to Ativan - How long do I have to wait ?

.5 mg Xanax = 1 mg Ativan

1 mg of Xanax is actually quite a large dose, and it absolutely needs to be tapered slowly. I spent 8 months tapering off 1 mg of Klonopin. Seizures are an immediate concern with dropping too quickly or CTing off large doses of any benzo, but some the more likely side effects you will encounter by trying to quit too fast are rebound anxiety/panic, agitation, akathesia, and insomnia.
Adverse reaction to Lexapro led to Paxil, 10 months use, 2005. One month taper.
Benzos (Xanax, then Klonopin), 2-1/2 years use, 2005-2007. 8 month taper (via compounding).
Completely free from psychiatry since 8/5/07

Face. Accept. Float. Let Time Pass. — Dr. Claire Weekes

We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same. — Carlos Castañeda
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Old 12-20-2008, 09:43 AM   #6
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Re: Switching from Xanax to Ativan - How long do I have to wait ?

I hate benzos...

Please follow the advice given above.
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