Good News For Turtle Taperers: Ashton’s Taper Schedules are General Guides

Bristol Tranquiliser Project Manager Confirms The Ashton Protocol Sample Schedules May Be Too Fast For Some

Recently, a reputable acquaintance who administrates one of the benzo support groups of which I have been a member for a while, contacted the Bristol Tranquiliser Project organization regarding the taper rates contained in the Ashton Manual– a book written by Professor C. Heather Ashton, a Neuropsychopharmacologist who conducted research and treated patients in a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic for over a decade. While most people seem to do quite well with Ashton’s proposed sample withdrawal schedules (some people may even tolerate faster taper rates than that, such as the drug manufacturer’s suggested rates), a sizable minority of sensitive and highly dependent members of the support groups over the years, have found that these schedules may be too fast for them. In the Ashton Manual, Prof. Ashton encourages patients to adjust the withdrawal schedules to suit their individual needs, however, this important part of the Manual often gets overlooked by patients and doctors alike. And these sensitive people have found that tapering even more slowly than what Dr. Ashton recommends is necessary to keep their withdrawal symptoms from becoming severe. The purpose of tapering slowly is to allow the GABA neurotransmitters to heal, and this process can take a long time.

Without further ado, some reassuring words to turtle taperers–

The response to the inquiry from the BTP manager contained the following message:

1242802935485432633Quote-right-cs.svg.hi“However for the rest of us who are struggling with the taper, this has been received from the Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project, where Heather Ashton is currently a patron and will be updated on their site in the near future:

“In regards to Ashton’s manual, this taper for home use is too fast. We now recommend leaving a gap between reductions at least four weeks. We would perhaps suggest the last 1mg to be reduced by eighths if you wish to go slower. This may make the withdrawal symptoms less severe and will not lengthen the whole recovery period. If you have any more enquires, let us know.

Yours sincerely,
Jayne Hoyle
Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project

Professor Ashton is a patron of the Bristol Tranquiliser Project, and she also encourages patient controlled taper rates in her Manual; many doctor controlled tapers often do not take into consideration these individual needs.
In Chapter II of the Manual where the sample schedules are displayed, Professor Ashton states that “A variety of withdrawal schedules from several benzodiazepines are illustrated below. Schedules such as these have worked on real people, but you may need to adapt them for your own needs.” —  As time has passed and more patients have used the  example methods as a general guide to gauge how fast or slow their bodies tolerate a taper, and other taper methods such as liquid titration were developed, some just simply found that a slower rate suited them. Others did not. YMMV – (Your Milage May Vary), and Dr. Reg Peart has described tapering benzodiazepines as a bit of a “black art” rather than a science.
Additionally, Professor Ashton agrees that her Manual is not the “last word” on benzodiazepine withdrawal. The words of a true scientist, Professor Ashton (who is now retired, but still passionate about the cause) quite obviously wishes for there to be more and continued research into benzodiazepines and withdrawal methods.

*NOTE: I feel compelled to note that this post was NOT criticizing Prof. Ashton’s work– rather, sharing correspondence confirming that some sensitive folks might need to adjust their taper schedules to a slower rate.

New Research into the Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome

Geraldine Burns, who helped Professor Ashton write and construct the Ashton Manual, is currently in the process of working with Dr. R. Shoemaker on further research into patients experiencing the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Sooner or later, the new research that doctors like Ashton, Lader, Peart, etc., and patients like you, have been pining for, should be developed. The following post here on the BWS Blog will contain further details on how you can participate in Dr. Shoemaker’s study.