Sensory Deprivation and Benzo Withdrawal

  1. chupamivergaguey
    Male, 30s, ~160lb. When I went in for my first float I was in bad shape. I had detoxed from alcohol and other drugs and was just beginning the detox for benzodiazepines. My latest run went on for about six months of almost daily use of a variety of benzos and other drugs. Although benzo doses did increase during this period, they didn’t increase beyond anything therapeutic and even at the end I was only taking around 2mg of flubromazalam at night. I know this is vague but I can’t really give better details of how much of what I had in my system for a variety of reasons. I can only give a general timeframe of more or less daily use.

    Having detoxed from alprazolam before, I assumed I was in for a good 10-14 days of anxiety, fear, insomnia, and another symptom that can only be described as “feeling turned inside out,” one that only those who have detoxed from these kinds of drugs would understand. After stopping all drugs (except ~300mg tianeptine per day), I had one sleepless night followed by a day of mild anxiety, followed by a night with a couple of hours of very poor sleep, followed by most of another day of mild anxiety. At that point I went to a float center and stepped into an isolation tank.

    My first floating experience was ninety minutes but it didn’t seem that long. I had no visions, hallucinations, or anything other than a tranquility that I have rarely experienced. At a few points I had a sense of moving quickly through water as if being pushed by a river, but I now understand that to have been my brain trying to impute sensory data in the absence of sensory data. Mostly, it felt so good to escape existence for a little while and let my mind take off on its own, unbound by obligations, social structure, and the other things that often inhibit us from attaining our full potential as human beings.

    Toward the end of the float, I sensed that my time was about to be up but I enjoyed the final minutes completely cut off from the rest of the world. When I emerged from the tank I was incredibly relaxed (as if I had taken diazepam). Not only did this relaxed state persist for around five days, it seems to have completely short-circuited the benzodiazepine withdrawal process. I presume it had something to do with the upregulation of GABA receptors, but I have neither the medical nor the neuropsychopharmacological background to understand what happened and why I was able to get out of the horrors of the withdrawal process.

    Now let me be clear: the tank didn’t cure me of being me and the complete lack of benzodiazepine withdrawal (after six months of vaguely therapeutic doses) symptoms could also be partially attributed to better health and social habits. I am, however, convinced that ninety minutes in the tank played a powerful role in alleviating what I was certain would be a nightmare. This is important because it gave me a sense of well-being and put me in a clear state of mind in which I was very open to getting help with problems such as my impatience, perfectionism, obsessive-compulsions and other defects of character that result in problems such as addiction to substances.

    With that in mind, an isolation tank should never be seen as a panacea nor should it serve as a substitute for professional medical advice – especially when our biochemistry is at stake. I, however, am sold. There’s something to it; I may not understand it, but there’s definitely something there worth exploring repeatedly.

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