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What Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

Benzodiazepine withdrawal is the dangerous process of detoxifying the body from the toxins left behind by benzos. This can be physically and emotionally painful.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos” are a class of depressant drugs. This means that they slow the speed of the central nervous system and the communication between the brain and the body. While they are called depressants, they rarely make an individual feel depressed, they often make them feel relaxed and tranquil. 

In many cases, they can be effectively used as a prescription medication to help mitigate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, they are more often used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. 

Benzodiazepines are a very highly addictive class of drug and can create physical dependence rapidly and without long-term use. They also constitute a significant portion of annual prescription-related drug overdoses. The CDC, Centers For Disease Control, reports that in 2019-2020 there were more than 31,000 benzodiazepine overdose emergencies where an emergency room visit was needed.

Some Common Benzos

There are dozens, if not hundreds of benzodiazepines available to patients currently. While they may all be part of the same classification, there will be differences in both effects and side effects, between most drugs on this list. 

Some of the most common benzodiazepines and their generic names include:

  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Versed (midazolam)
  • Dalmane (flurazepam)
  • Seizalam (midazolam)
  • Zetran (diazepam)

What are the Signs of Benzo Dependence or Addiction?

The signs of benzodiazepine dependence and addiction are best diagnosed by a professional clinician. There are some potential indications that you can watch for in yourself and others, though. 

Some of the signs that dependency or addiction has developed include:

  • Spending an increasing amount of time getting, using, or recovering from benzodiazepines
  • Continuing to use benzodiazepines even when there are obvious negative consequences to relationships
  • Feeling like you want to quit using but are unable to
  • Feeling signs of withdrawal when you don’t consume more benzodiazepines
  • Engaging in risky behavior while under the influence of benzodiazepines
  • Continuing to take benzodiazepines despite negative effects on your health
  • Diminishing performance at school or work 
  • Becoming defensive when addiction or treatment is discussed

The Dangers of Benzo Withdrawal

There are many potential dangers associated with benzo withdrawal. Most of them come from not using a professional inpatient treatment program. Stopping benzodiazepines suddenly once your body has developed a dependency on them can cause dangerous medical complications. 

Since many of these complications can be life-threatening, it only makes sense to detox somewhere that medical staff can ensure your safety. Contacting a local rehab center today can be the first step toward a safe and lasting recovery. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

The symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can vary from person to person. The potential duration of the withdrawal process can be influenced by many variables, as well. While some individuals may be able to complete withdrawals in 5-7 days, others will find that their experience is considerably longer. 

After the initial detox and acute withdrawal period are complete, FDA Drug Safety Communication indicates that an estimated 10-15 percent of patients that are dependent on benzodiazepines will experience what’s known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. This consists of a protracted withdrawal that stretches into a post-acute withdrawal stage. 

The causes behind benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome aren’t yet known for sure. However, what’s known is that there may be a genetic component to it. Those who take benzodiazepines long-term may be at an elevated risk of developing the syndrome.

Another factor that seems to be a determining factor of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is how the person detoxes. Those who detox abruptly tend to be more likely to develop the syndrome than those who leverage professional treatment.

In most cases where the addiction has developed from misusing legitimate prescription benzodiazepines, the first symptoms of withdrawal are going to be what is known as “rebound” symptoms. This is a sudden resurgence of the symptoms that benzodiazepines were initially prescribed to manage. 

Additional symptoms of withdrawal from benzodiazepines will commonly include:

  • Sleep disruption and insomnia
  • Muscle spasms, charley horses, or tremors
  • Tension and muscle pain
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Intense drug cravings

Additionally, there is a portion of those in benzodiazepine recovery who experience more severe symptoms or side effects related to withdrawal. 

These symptoms can include:

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations or blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Development of psychosis or psychotic episodes
  • Elevated risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation
  • Heart attack or heart failure

How is it Safest to Withdrawal from Benzos?

The safest way to detox and withdrawal from benzodiazepines is to get professional help. Trying to detox alone by stopping benzodiazepine entirely can cause significant complications, some of which can even be fatal. Medically assisted detox is the safest way to ensure that the withdrawal period is completed safely. In some cases, doctors may even decide to keep you on a benzodiazepine regimen, while tapering off your dosage, so that the shock to the system is lessened.

What is Medically Assisted Detox?

Medically assisted detox is the process of eliminating substances from the body while under close medical supervision, and often with the assistance of other prescription medication. No matter how severe the benzodiazepine dependence is, getting professional help is the best way to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal. The detox stage will be made as comfortable as possible. Medical staff will be on hand to help prevent potential medical complications, as well. 

If you or someone you care about is battling a benzodiazepine addiction, the most crucial step in the recovery process is asking for help. There are treatment options available locally. If you reach out today you can discuss your treatment needs in a safe and private setting, while you get information about different treatment options and components. Benzo withdrawal can be dangerous and even deadly, don’t go through it alone when you don’t have to.