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Suggest ways to wean off of Clonazepam

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 1991
Answered : 2836 Questions
I had been taking 2 mg of clonazepam per day for more than 20 years for anxiety. What is the recomended schedule for withdrawal from this situation? My doctor has me currently tapering off the medication at .5 mg per 5 days I am experiencing further decline in my memory and getting only 5 hours sleep at night instead of the usual 8-9. Is this consistent with this change in meds, or is something else going on? He said the current use of citalopram at 2 mg per day would handle the anxiety issues. Is this something I need to get back to him immediately on or should I wait until after Christmas? Thank you.
Wed, 30 May 2018 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Slow down withdrawal from clonazepam and introduction of citalopram.

Detailed Answer:
Hello and welcome,

Different people handle withdrawal from medications differently, and given the duration (20 yrs) that you have been on the clonazepam, I would recommend slowing down the withdrawal schedule by several weeks for each decrease in dosage (3 weeks), unless there is a significant reason for needing to get off of this medication sooner.

When starting an SSRI medication such as citalopram, it is a good idea to overlap the use of benzodiazepines such as clonazepam, because
1. It takes the SSRI about 4 weeks to fully kick in, and,
2. Some SSRIs such as citalopram can cause a bit of agitation at first in some people (or insomnia).

The memory decline you are noticing during this time could be from the diminished sleep if you are only sleeping 5 hrs a night. That will affect short term memory.

Finally, if you are just starting the citalopram and having side effects, some people tolerate it's daughter compound better (escitalopram). It has all of the same benefits without some of the side effects such as, for some people, diarrhea.

You wrote that you are taking 2 mg of citalopram and I am wondering if you meant 20 mg. If it keeps you awake, consider asking your doctor for you to take half of it for the first couple of weeks until your body gets used to it. Slowing this down may delay when you start to get maximal benefit from it, but if you aren't sleeping well, it is worth it.

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