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The Pain of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

What is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

Benzodiazepine withdrawal – abbreviated as benzo withdrawal for ease of reference – includes a group of specific symptoms when a person addicted to benzodiazepine undergoes rehab. During this process, the person experiences the pain of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Depending on the severity of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening.

People who go through the pain of benzodiazepine withdrawal describe the process in “waves.” The term refers to the way that the signs can wax and wane in severity. This means that the process of benzo withdrawal manifests in a non-linear manner. It does not progress in a straightforward way.

Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Since one ought not use benzodiazepines long-term, people who take benzodiazepines for longer than six months have a higher risk of addiction. In fact, around 40% of people who use benzodiazepines for longer than six months develop moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms. The remaining 60% experience mild symptoms.

Below, find a list of some of the most common symptoms that a patient can experience during benzodiazepine withdrawal:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Severe anxiety attacks
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Sudden panic attacks
  • Hyperventilation
  • Depression
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Difficulty in recognizing reality
  • Seizures

Take note that not everyone experiences the same symptoms or pain of benzodiazepine withdrawal. The patient may also experience strong cravings for benzodiazepine during withdrawal, which leads to a high risk of relapse.

What to Expect During Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Three phases comprise benzodiazepine withdrawal. You can estimate each phase with a timeline and look for certain signs to determine the progress of the patient. A licensed healthcare professional must monitor a person undergoing benzodiazepine withdrawal. Entering a Nashville rehab also helps increase the chance of success.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms usually depends on the half-life of the benzodiazepine. Patients who take short-acting drugs such as Xanax quickly develop symptoms. But those who take long-acting drugs such as Valium endure a slower onset of symptoms.

Early Withdrawal

Patients suffer early withdrawal shortly after they stop taking benzodiazepines. During this phase, a client’s original symptoms start to return. It may feel like these emotions “rebound.” Hence, researchers call this the rebound phase.

While we use medication to help manage the symptoms of early withdrawal, moderated tapering of the benzodiazepine can also help reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal symptoms begin a few days after early withdrawal. Depending on the length and degree of the benzodiazepine use, these symptoms can last anywhere from 5 to 28 days.

Most physical and mental symptoms will occur in this phase. Consequently, withdrawal sufferers generally find this the most difficult and painful phase of benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Protracted Withdrawal

After the acute withdrawal phase, most symptoms will subside, however some lingering side effects may remain. We call this the protracted withdrawal phase. According to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, severe benzodiazepine addicts can experience protracted withdrawal symptoms lasting for 12 months or longer.

Often called post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), these can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration (“fuzzy brain”)
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Sudden mood swings

Coping with the Pain of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

To help prevent benzodiazepine withdrawal, providers should implement a medically-supervised slow weaning process. Going “cold turkey” can become dangerous. Likewise, it has a low success rate. Find a Nashville rehab center that knows how to treat the pain of benzodiazepine. Such treatment proves critical.

Inpatient Treatment

For patients who undergo severe symptoms of withdrawal, inpatient treatment seems the best option. Inpatient treatment offers round-the-clock intensive care under the direct supervision of experienced drug treatment counselors. This treatment offers a stable, secure, and private environment where the patient can recover from their addiction. Furthermore, the patient needn’t worry about outside distractions. This environment also offers the patient a way to avoid any stressors that can trigger a relapse.

A structured and scheduled daily routine forms the heart of a successful inpatient treatment program. This program can also include individual and group therapy, as needed by the patient. On average, an inpatient program can last from 30 to 90 days.

Outpatient Drug Treatment Programs

For patients who only undergo mild withdrawal symptoms or who seek for long-term support, an outpatient drug treatment program represents a good option. Healthcare providers tailor these treatment programs to each patient’s needs. Additionally, these programs provide a healthy dose of flexibility. Providers recommend outpatient programs for patients who have responsibilities at home or at work. Patients who look to down-step their rehab treatment program might also find it ideal.

Patients in outpatient drug treatment programs only need to visit the Nashville rehab facility for supervised medication sessions. Staff members schedule these sessions according to the patient’s available time. Outpatient treatment programs can also include referrals for post-rehab support groups or finding long-term coping mechanisms for the patient.

How to Help

If you or someone you know suffers from benzodiazepine withdrawal, you must get help as soon as possible. You must find a licensed drug treatment councilor or physician who has experience treating patients who suffer from benzodiazepine withdrawal. It will further help if they know how to manage benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. A familiarity with these symptoms will help in creating a tailor-made program for each patient.  

After diagnosing the stage of benzodiazepine withdrawal, the supervising medical personnel will recommend the right course of treatment. Medical personnel might check the patient into inpatient treatment. Or, they may decide to create the right outpatient program. Finding a reputable treatment center can seem difficult, so you can check the National Institute on Drug Abuse for resources.