Supplements & Stimulants

Ah, the differing opinions…  What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander when it comes to taking supplements during withdrawal. Why? There are a million conflicting reports regarding  their usefulness and the outcomes - well, maybe a few thousands. Some report a noticeable negative reaction and others have found that some supplements seem to help. If you notice that you are sensitive to stimuli during withdrawal, it is best to be cautious and wait until recovery before taking supplements that may affect the nervous system. There really is no magic potion when it comes to recovery.

This podcast is about the taking of supplements during withdrawal:

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Magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, 5-HTP, taurine, melatonin, homeopathic remedies, GABA, valerian, kava – all these supplements may be beneficial in non-withdrawal situations but they cannot accelerate the repair of the GABA receptors. There is no evidence suggesting that they cause symptoms to disappear. If your withdrawal is not problematic then at best they will supply added nutrients. In terms of affecting the duration of withdrawal, anecdotal reports confirm that it can prolong the process in those who are sensitive. The use of supplements during withdrawal continues to be a highly debatable topic.

Of special note is oral GABA which some regard as the obvious cure. Orally ingested GABA cannot be transported through the blood to the brain. Furthermore, the post-benzo problems are not due to GABA deficiency but rather to the inefficiency of the damaged receptors in attracting the GABA that may be already present. Even if the orally ingested GABA crossed the blood-brain barrier and one ended up having more than adequate GABA, the temporarily incapable receptors would not be able to attract it, and so the nervous system would still be in overdrive.

If you are already taking supplements and feel that they are making you feel better, there is no need to stop taking them. No flare-up of symptoms is a good indicator that it is okay to continue. If, however, you are having persistent symptoms it could be that the supplements you are taking are stimulating your nervous system. Eliminating them may help to confirm whether or not they are complicating the withdrawal process and hindering your recovery. A hyperexcitable nervous system does not need additional stimulation.


Caffeine is a stimulant which, if you are already hyper-excitable and are experiencing sleep difficulty, you may want to avoid or consume only early in the day. Those who are having a difficult withdrawal are advised to completely omit caffeine. If you are accustomed to having several cups of coffee or tea daily, it is best to gradually reduce your intake rather than suddenly abstain. Remember too, that decaffeinated beverages also contain a small but notable amount of caffeine.


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant which acts on the same receptors in the brain as benzodiazepines. During withdrawal it affects the damaged receptors and interferes with the recovery process. If you are still taking a benzo then the combination can be dangerous, and in some cases, fatal. If you have already tapered but are still going through withdrawal, having even half a glass of alcohol is known to intensify symptoms.

Look out for hidden alcohol/ethanol in medicines including herbal tinctures and other preparations. Although this level of alcohol will be minuscule and under normal circumstances would have no effect, with a hypersensitive nervous system do not be surprised if you react. As tempting as it may be, having alcohol during withdrawal is not worth the risk, especially if you are having troubling symptoms. It is advisable to avoid it at this time. The poor GABA receptors are already struggling to function and any interference in the process will be detrimental. Unless you eliminate it from your diet, you won’t know if it is affecting your recovery.


Eating sugary foods during withdrawal can make symptoms worse. Many people who use our website have reported that once they cut out or reduced their sugar intake, their symptoms lessened in intensity. The same goes for chemical sweeteners like aspartame and ketchup. If you have a sweet tooth, stevia and yacon syrup are good and safe sugar substitutes. Yacon syrup is a natural, raw, low-calorie sweetener made from the root of the yacon plant. Stevia is another natural sweetener made from the leaf of the stevia plant. They both have negligible effects on blood glucose.

Other reported culprits during withdrawal are mono sodium glutamate (MSG), chocolates, which contain both caffeine and sugar, and very strong spices. Eliminating wheat is recommended if you are having to cope with constipation or benzo belly and watch out for processed ready meals which contain chemicals.


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