Benzodiazepines Withdrawal and Detox

Benzodiazepines are complicated medications that have the capacity to help people suffering from a variety of unpleasant disorders but may cause physical dependence and addiction if taken regularly or misused. If dependence occurs, trying to abruptly quit or cut back benzodiazepine use will result in benzodiazepine withdrawal.

 

A likely scenario plays out as follows: Someone who suffers from anxiety might be prescribed Xanax to help reduce the anxiety. Several months go by and repeat use of Xanax causes dependence. The user might become addicted and if they attempt to quit or cut back they experience heightened levels of anxiety from the resulting benzodiazepine withdrawal which takes place when they attempt to quit.

 

Another likely scenario goes something like this: You’re going through a stressful time at work or at home and a friend offers you Valium to “take the edge off.”  As time progresses you realize that the Valium really seems to reduce the stress that you’re feeling, so you take it more frequently. Several weeks later you cannot get through the day without taking at least a little Valium. You realize you’re walking a dangerous path, so you try to quit. When you do, benzo withdrawal stops you. You turn back to the Valium to mask the discomfort you feel from the withdrawal and, before you know it, you’ve embarked on a difficult journey known as addiction.

 

Benzodiazepine withdrawal is complicated and requires medical treatment for your safety and health. Benzo detox will help you overcome the symptoms you’re experiencing with minimal discomfort. Contact SJRP at 833-397-3422 for Benzo detox in Florida or for help finding an addiction recovery center local to you.

 

What Causes Benzodiazepines Withdrawal?

 

Benzodiazepines are responsible for slowing down the activity of the brain so that it becomes less excited or exasperated by the surroundings. They work by activating the gamma-Aminobutycric acid (GABA) to reduce brain function and elicit a calming effect. This is why benzos are so useful in the treatment of anxiety and seizure disorder.

 

Repeat use of benzodiazepines causes the brain to naturally respond by acting more profound or more strongly in an attempt to compensate for the medication-induced GABA activation. The user doesn’t recognize the underlying changes taking place in the brain because they continue to take enough benzodiazepine medication to cover up or mask the activity and excitable behavior of the brain.

 

When you try to stop taking the benzo suddenly, or you reduce your dose, your brain responds in a hyper-excitable, rebounding manner. Remember how we said that the benzos reduce the excitable activity in the brain to produce the sedative, calming effect? Benzo withdrawal symptoms are the result of the brain being hyper-excited and you’re not taking any medication to block the excitement. Benzo withdrawal is caused by the brain overreacting, becoming hyper-excitable, trying to rebound from the calm effects that benzodiazepines provided.

 

Benzodiazepine withdrawal begins either from a reduction of the medication or complete discontinuation of the medication. The slow and steady reduction of benzodiazepine intake over a period of weeks or months may reduce withdrawal but will not eliminate the risk altogether.  “Quitting cold turkey” will most certainly lead to strong benzo withdrawal symptoms that require professional treatment. Cold turkey benzo withdrawal is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted without the 24-hour care of a medical professional.

 

Diagnosing Benzodiazepines Withdrawal

 

Benzo withdrawal is similar to the withdrawal process of many other controlled and uncontrolled substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or alcohol. There are often “tells” or signs that can be observed objectively. Symptoms may range from moderately uncomfortable to extremely difficult to cope with.

 

Benzo withdrawal can sometimes replicate mental illness, although this may not actually be what the individual is experiencing. Symptoms could potentially appear identical to mania, hysteria, or anxiety that heightens almost immediately. Not all withdrawal signs are extreme, though.

 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms vary per user. There are many different factors that can impact someone actively using a controlled substance. The withdrawal experience can be drastically different from person to person. It is important to keep in mind that the recovery process isn’t necessarily immediate. Recovery times from benzo withdrawal and dependence vary based on different factors.

 

Benzo withdrawal symptoms can include:

 

  • Sleeping disorders such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), and frequently disrupted sleeping patterns.
  • Increased aggression or abrupt changes in attitude or mood swings.
  • Heightened levels of anxiety.
  • Panic attacks or hysteria.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Loss of muscular control and motor skills.
  • Impairment of cognitive function: changes in vision, memory, comprehension, and retention levels.
  • Unusual changes in appetite or extreme weight gain or loss.
  • Hallucinations that are either auditory or visual (or both).
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

 

Acute Withdrawal from Benzos

 

Acute benzo withdrawal is the first stage of withdrawal for a person in recovery. The acute  stage can begin 1 to 4 days after terminating or reducing the use of a benzo depending on the half life of the medication, how much was used, and how frequently the drug was used. During the acute benzodiazepine withdrawal stage the brain and the body begin to experience the sudden shock of no longer having the benzodiazepine to rely on. Various physical and psychological symptoms occur.

 

The severity of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are dependent on the quantity of the benzo dosage and frequency of use prior to quitting. The higher the dosage or frequency the more quickly withdrawal can begin. Keep in mind that the acute benzo withdrawal stage has an undefined timeframe. Acute withdrawal may last several weeks or several months depending on individual factors relative to each patient.

 

Acute benzo withdrawal can have many different symptoms including:

  • Manipulation of cerebral function- vision distortion, memory loss, and processing capability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and pain

 

Acute benzo withdrawal is considered the most physically intense benzo withdrawal phase to impact the body. This is generally the time that someone addicted to a benzo such as Xanax, Valium or Ativan would seek professional help from a benzo detox center. SJRP offers safe, reliable benzo detox in Florida at our drug and alcohol addiction recovery center

 

Protracted Withdrawal from Benzos

 

Protracted Withdrawal is the second stage in the withdrawal process and begins immediately after the acute withdrawal phase is completed. The individual in recovery might experience mild to severe physical symptoms of withdrawal. Even in protracted withdrawal syndrome, which is experienced by 33% of benzodiazepine users, anxiety and insomnia continue to interrupt the client’s ability to comfortably cope with benzo detox.

 

Protracted withdrawal symptoms may include:

 

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Psychosis

 

This stage of benzo withdrawal can be intense both emotionally and psychologically. It is not uncommon to experience:

 

  • Insatiable cravings
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies toward self-harm

 

Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal

 

The symptoms a person can experience from benzo withdrawal can be widespread and at times might be difficult to associate directly with withdrawal. Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome may be experienced in each stage of withdrawal but most regular physical symptoms are experienced during the acute withdrawal stage.

 

Physical symptoms of benzo withdrawal may include:

 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Changes in appetite (loss or increase)
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Vision loss or trouble seeing
  • Memory loss

 

Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal

 

The psychological impact of benzo withdrawal can be intense but manageable under the care of licensed treatment providers and recovery specialists. Psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawal may include:

 

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

 

Benzo withdrawal psychosis is one of the most difficult symptoms for patients in recovery to cope with. If suffering from benzo withdrawal psychosis, it may be incredibly difficult to determine the difference between what is reality and what is a figment of imagination or a hallucination.  Because of the potential for several psychological withdrawal symptoms, benzo withdrawal is best experienced with the 24 hour care of a benzo detox center.

 

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Timeline

 

The withdrawal timeline for any benzo user relies on the amount and type of benzos that were taken. Fast-acting benzos such as Xanax have a shorter half life than longer acting benzos such as Valium. The half life of a benzo or any drug is the amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body after use.

 

The benzo withdrawal timeline for someone taking fast acting benzos will begin as soon as six hours after the last dose and may continue for 5 to 7 days. Benzodiazepine withdrawal times could vary slightly based on the frequency or amount of use.

 

The withdrawal timeline for longer acting benzos such as Diazepam may be extended significantly as the person taking the benzos may not begin to exhibit symptoms of benzo withdrawal for up to 7 days after the last dose. They will then experience symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal for a period of several days or weeks while the drug metabolizes slowly through their body and all traces are gradually eliminated.

 

There is no standard Benzo withdrawal timeline. Every individual in recovery responds differently to withdrawal, detox, and the treatment that is provided.

 

Benzo Seizure Timeline

 

Suffering from a benzodiazepine withdrawal seizure is one of the most dangerous risks in benzodiazepine detox and recovery. During the first 15 days that pass after quitting or tapering benzos the risk for seizures is highest. Patients may experience grand mal seizures that could result in coma or death in the early days after terminating regular benzo use.

 

Benzodiazepine related withdrawal seizures are less likely in cases that include a benzo taper or a gradual reduction in benzodiazepine use over time rather than abrupt discontinuation and cold-turkey withdrawal.

 

If you or someone you love has recently quit using benzodiazepines after many months or years of repeat use, it’s important to seek professional treatment for your own safety. The benzodiazepine withdrawal seizure timeline is most significant during the acute  benzo withdrawal phase which takes place in the days immediately after you quit using benzos and will peak about 1 week into the detox period.

 

Benzo withdrawal seizure risks are reduced gradually as time without benzos expands. However, it’s important to note that even people who took benzos short term (for 15 days) had risk of seizure with abrupt, cold-turkey discontinuation. Epilepsy symptoms could occur after 1 week or less of benzo use and should be carefully monitored in anyone that is experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal.

 

Factors Affecting Duration of Withdrawal

 

When it comes to the length of time it takes for an individual to experience withdrawal there are many factors that must be considered. Duration of withdrawal should also be considered when developing treatment plans. The amount of time it takes for benzo withdrawal to subside may be influenced by several factors.

 

How long do benzo withdrawal symptoms last?

It really depends on the following:

 

  • Age of the individual in recovery: Senior citizens or elderly members of society may experience a full recovery-however the process might take longer than that of a 20 or 40 year old in recovery.
  • Time frame: The amount of time that an individual was regularly taking benzos. Was it over a period of weeks, months, or over a time span of several years?
  • Polysubstance abuse: Were the benzos abused alongside any other substances such as narcotics or alcohol consumption? If there was a pattern of multi-consumption of substances… How much of what was being consumed and for how long?
  • Dosage: What was the quantity level of benzo being taken? Was it a higher strength benzo such as Klonopin or lower dosage benzo such as Antivan? How many milligrams .5 /1.0 /2.0 and at what frequency?
  • Genetics: Variables like genetics can have a large influence on the way an individual responds to the dependency of controlled and uncontrolled substances. A history of addiction in the family can make an impact on the withdrawal process as well as one’s personality as a whole.
  • Co-occurring Disorders: Is the individual in pre-recovery suffering from other underlying mental health disorders such as high anxiety levels, depression, bi-polar disorders, and so forth.
  • The Environment: This is an incredibly important element that can have a huge impact on the withdrawal process. It is imperative to assess the environment that the individual in pre-recovery is inhabiting. Are they in a calm, safe space that promotes healing and improved well-being? Or does their current living situation promote chaos and extra stress? This is a thought to ponder as one researches treatment plans and considers the differences between inpatient and outpatient care.

 

 

Treatment for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome

One of the most prevalent approaches to treatment for benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome  is to slowly wean the person off the drug. Also called tapering down the dose, this practice is conducted by a medical professional who evaluates the benzo intake and helps to manage the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal and ease one through the detox experience by minimizing the impact of withdrawal.

 

Medical Detox

 

Medical detox is often considered the best place for a person in recovery to spend their time in treatment. Medical detox for benzodiazepines provides the patient with the best medical care possible while offering privacy and a customizable treatment plan that’s right for them. Choosing to attend a medical detox center like St. John’s Recovery Place of Florida, whether close to home or in a distant location can allow you to take time in a drug and alcohol-free environment with no distractions to focus solely on rehabilitation and healing. Benzo detox typically must take place in a center that provides medical detoxification services to ensure the safety of the client. Any level of care that provides less is not consistent with client safety.

At SJRP we provide benzo detox in Florida to clients in various stages of recovery. Our medically monitored Benzo detox center features 24-hour support from doctors, nurses and staff while delivering exceptional quality treatment that minimizes withdrawal symptoms allowing you to focus on your recovery. We firmly believe that suffering should not be part of the recovery process and we’ll do what we can to ensure a comfortable benzo detox with minimal side effects to our clients. Call our admissions department to learn more about our benzodiazepine detox center in Florida.

 

Outpatient Detox

 

It is possible for benzo detox to be completed outside of a medical or detox facility but only if recommended by a doctor and monitored by a healthcare professional.  Outpatient detox allows the option to stay at home or in a safe space. This option allows the individual in recovery to stick to their daily routine with work or education while they are going through the benzo detox process. The person remains in close contact with a medical professional throughout the treatment process.

 

How to Detox from Benzos at Home

 

While it is possible to begin a benzo detox at home, it is important to consult a medical professional before proceeding. There are varied risks that can arise when a patient is not under the 24/7 supervision of doctors during this stage. St. John’s Recovery Place does not recommend detoxing at home due to the underlying risk of benzo withdrawal seizures which can arise without warning and may result in serious side effects, including coma or death, if left untreated.

 

Dangers of Quitting Cold-Turkey

 

While it is admirable to attempt instant termination of benzos. It is important to recognize the dangers of quitting benzodiazepines cold turkey. Unlike quitting nicotine where you will experience unpleasant symptoms for a time and eventually those will calm down, benzodiazepines are not generally recommended to be discontinued immediately.  Unless under the supervision of a licensed medical professional it is not recommended to quit benzos cold-turkey without professional treatment in a medical detox unit.

 

The effects of quitting a benzo taper cold-tukey can be dangerous. Common dangers of quitting cold-turkey include:

 

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Escalation of anxious thoughts and feelings
  • Lack of concentration

 

In the most extreme cases, cold-turkey discontinuation of benzodiazepines may cause the following risks:

 

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • A return to benzo abuse
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

 

According to the FDA, benzodiazepine detox should include a slow benzo taper that consists of reducing the daily dose by no more than 0.5 mg every 3 to 5 days. Symptoms of benzo withdrawal should be closely monitored during the taper and, if symptoms persist, a reduction or pause in the benzo taper should take place to ensure patient safety.

 

Ideally, a slow benzo taper takes place allowing the body to gradually adjust to the reduction of benzodiazepine medications from the system. As you stabilize, more of the benzo dose can be reduced with fewer impacts on your health and well-being. Only a medical detox center like SJRP or similar Benzo detox centers in Florida or elsewhere have the appropriate understanding of benzo withdrawal to initiate a safe, controlled,  medically monitored benzo taper that ensures your comfort and safety in recovery. DO NOT TRY TO DETOX AT HOME ALONE!

 

Can You Die from Benzo Withdrawal?

 

Benzos are incredibly powerful drugs that manipulate the neurochemicals in your mind. Seizures, hallucinations, and psychosis can have an incredible impact on the brain and body. There are potential dangers cited in medical journals as a result of benzodiazepine withdrawal. According to a report published by the National Library of Medicine, benzodiazepine withdrawal seizures that go untreated could be deadly. Benzo withdrawal deaths have not been recorded in cases absent benzo related withdrawal seizures.

 

Generally, seizures that occur in benzodiazepine related withdrawal are non-life threatening. However, significant risks arise if you suffer from a seizure alone without medical intervention. That’s one of many reasons why benzodiazepine detox should take place in a medical detox center. Your safety depends on it.

Finding a Detox Center

Finding the right benzodiazepine detox center can be one of the biggest life-changing decisions that you make. There are a few elements to consider and questions to ask when conducting research for the right benzo detox center. Determining whether a benzo detox center is right for you or a family member or friend requires careful research and consideration.

 

When looking for benzodiazepine detox, consider the following:

 

  • Location: Close to home or a destination location that provides privacy and serenity? There are benefits to both. Contact our benzo detox in Florida to learn more.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Will you and or your family be able to afford treatment? Are payment plans available?
  • Insurance: Will insurance cover the cost or provide some coverage for treatment? What insurance does the detox center accept? Is the center in-network with your insurance company?
  • What is the treatment plan like? 24/7 care? Nutrition plans? Medical care?
  • What therapy plans are provided? Individual? Group? Animal Therapy? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

 

How Long Does Benzo Detox Take?

 

The amount of time it takes to detox from a benzo depends on a number of factors.  Benzo detox times vary based on the person, his or her background, the level of drug use, and severity of drug use and the methods of detox.

 

Initial Withdrawal Process

  • Quick-acting benzos such as Alprazolam can cause withdrawal effects as soon as six hours and they may continue for 5 to 7 days in total.
  • Long-acting benzos like Diazepam can take up to 7 days before the user will exhibit signs of withdrawal and the withdrawal symptoms may last several weeks before improvement is recognized.

Detox Process

This is contingent on several factors such as dosage, frequency, and length of use. The detox process for benzos can last approximately 3 to 6 months. Medical detox is typically completed in a period of 7-14 days. Continued monitoring for safety is recommended.

Medications Used in Benzodiazepines Detox

Some of the benzo detox medications that might be used include:

  • Phenobarbital
  • Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and valproate.
  • Sedating antidepressants such as trazodone.

 

Antihypertensive medications such as clonidine or propranolol may also be used in benzo detox for those who experience severe autonomic consequences as part of benzo withdrawal syndrome. This includes symptoms of racing heart, hypertension, profuse sweating or other underlying symptoms which can make benzo withdrawal uncomfortable.

 

How Detox Helps

 

Detox can be life-changing. It provides individuals suffering from benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal a chance to break free from unwanted dependence. Benzodiazepine detox reduces the symptoms of withdrawal that clients feel when they enter treatment so that they can begin focusing on therapeutic approaches to finding new ways to cope with day to day struggles that may arise.

 

Benzodiazepine detox treats the physical symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction so that the client can begin therapy to get to the root cause of their addiction. Understanding what caused them to use drugs such as Xanax or Ativan in the first place is vital to learning how to avoid those drugs in the future.

Understanding Benzodiazepines Withdrawal & Detox

 

Benzodiazepine detox can be a scary experience without having full knowledge and understanding of the withdrawal and detox process. From the diagnosis of substance abuse to withdrawal and choosing a detox center. There are so many resources to help promote a positive and successful recovery experience.

At St. John’s Recovery Place we provide benzodiazepine detox in a safe, medical detox center that includes 24-hour monitoring for client safety. Our medical detox center in Florida specializes in benzodiazepine taper for comfortable, controlled benzo withdrawal. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to a benzodiazepine like Xanax or Valium and needs help, call SJRP today to find out how you can take back control of your life.

 

References:

 

Pétursson, H. (1994, November). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841856

 

Pagel, J. F., & Parnes, B. L. (2001, June). Medications for the Treatment of Sleep Disorders: An Overview. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181172/

 

American Addiction Centers Editorial Staff. (2019, July 12). Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline: 6 Things You Need to Know. Retrieved from

 

O, C., & Osborn, K. (2020, April 1). How Long Does Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines Last? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-4588452

 

Guarnotta, E. (2019, December 9). Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms and Getting Treatment. Retrieved from https://drugabuse.com/benzodiazepines/withdrawal

 

Lautieri, A. (n.d.). Clonazepam Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline: Klonopin Withdrawal. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/clonazepam

 

American Addiction Centers Editorial Staff. (2019, July 12). Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline: 6 Things You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://drugabuse.com/7-things-about-benzo-withdrawal-you-might-not-know/