Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Detox

Benzodiazepines are habit-forming prescription drugs that are indicated for the treatment of several stress-related conditions, such as anxiety disorders, sleep problems including insomnia, seizure-causing disorders such as epilepsy and even alcohol withdrawal, which can result in side effects including seizures and anxiety. Often nicknamed “benzos,” benzodiazepine drugs can cause dependence and even addiction, especially if they are used for extended periods of time.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal may seem daunting, but there are many ways to make it more tolerable. The best way to ensure your comfort during the detox process is to arrange a medically-assisted withdrawal at an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Benzodiazepine drugs are habit-forming, and they can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if users suddenly stop using benzos. This is because the drugs act on certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In particular, they impact the gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, receptors.

These receptors are not meant to respond to artificial GABA receptor stimulants like benzos, so your brain may “believe” that it no longer needs to produce its own natural gamma aminobutyric acid. But when you stop taking benzos, your body is suddenly without this necessary acid. Thus, you crave benzos. This is how you develop a physical and psychological dependence to benzodiazepines.

There are many different formulations of benzodiazepines, and consequently, many different brand names of the drug. Some name brand benzos are:

•Xanax (alprazolam)

•Klonopin (clonazepam)

•Ativan (lorazepam)

•Valium (diazepam)

•Librium (chlordiazepoxide)

Since benzodiazepines impact mind and body alike, the drugs’ withdrawal symptoms do as well. The severity of these symptoms depends on the duration of a person’s use, their dosage amount, and the method of ingestion they employed when taking the drugs. Their level of physical dependency and emotional addiction also comes into play when determining the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Some common mental and psychological symptoms associated with benzo withdrawal include:

•Irritability – You may feel uncharacteristically short-tempered or angry. This can cause you to snap at someone.

•Psychosis – Some people lose contact with reality during benzo withdrawal. They may experience hallucinations wherein they see, feel or hear things that do not really exist.

•Anxiety – It is very common to experience feelings of anxiousness during the detox process. Since benzos are designed to reduce anxiety, their absence can cause a recurrence of this symptom.

•Memory Loss – Fortunately, this symptom only impacts short-term memory. You may eat lunch, forgetting that you already ate, or you may forget the topic of a phone call you had just a few minutes prior.

•Confusion – Mental fogginess often accompanies benzo withdrawal. Because benzos interfere with your brain chemistry, you may even experience unusual paranoid thoughts.

•Depression – Feelings of depression and despair are not uncommon during withdrawal from benzos. Some people may have suicidal thoughts. If you experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm, seek help immediately.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms extend past the mind and impact the body. Here are some common physical symptoms associated with benzo withdrawal:

Sleep difficulties

Restlessness

Impaired vision

Sensitivity to sensory matters

Flu-like symptoms

Difficulty with speech

Diarrhea

Tinnitus, or perception of ringing in the ears

Hair loss

Tremors

Nausea and vomiting

Headaches

Full body aches

Sweating

Dizziness

Seizures

Intense abdominal pains

High blood pressure

Intestinal and digestive problems

Numbness or tingling in extremities

Heart palpitations

Tremors

Muscle pain

Vertigo or other balance problems

Like other drugs of abuse, benzos go by nicknames when sold on the black market. If someone you love mentions any street names for benzos and says that they are weaning off of that substance, this is a sign they may be undergoing benzo detox. Some of the drugs’ most popular street names include the following:
Barbs

Downers

Georgia home boy

GHB

Grievous bodily harm

Liquid X

Nerve pills

Phennies

R2

Reds

Roofies or Rophies

Tranks

Yellows

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Street Names
Though it is rare to die during benzodiazepine withdrawal, people have died while detoxing from benzos combined with alcohol or opioids. Alcohol withdrawal in particular is closely tied to benzo withdrawal, since up to 40 percent of alcohol addicts also abuse benzos.

In such polydrug abuse cases, symptoms may include the following medical issues. Though these are not always fatal withdrawal symptoms, they indicate a severe level of withdrawal that can lead to death.

•Delirium Tremens – Delirium tremens is a medical emergency that occurs suddenly and involves full body tremors and a delirious state of mind. The condition is caused by drastic changes within the nervous system when a person’s detox includes alcohol withdrawal. It can also occur during benzo withdrawal. The condition may begin within 24 hours of substance detox but can take up to a week to occur.

Grand Mal Seizures – Severe forms of seizures may occur in 5 percent of people who undergo alcohol detox without professional medical assistance. If a person is detoxing from benzos as well, the risk of complications is even greater. Almost all alcohol withdrawal-related seizures happen less than two days after the person’s final drink.

There is no single timeline that outlines the withdrawal experience of every person who detoxes from benzos. Benzo withdrawal lasts for variable amounts of time, depending on several factors, including:

•Extended Release – Benzodiazepines are produced in two different forms: short-acting and long-acting medications, and this matters. Long-acting drugs like Valium are released in the body for extended periods of time and often increase the duration of withdrawal.

•Dosage – Higher dosages are associated with longer detox periods, and lower dosages are associated with shorter detox periods.

•Length of Addiction – Similar to dosage, longer time periods of addiction are associated with longer detox periods, and shorter time periods of addiction are associated with shorter detox periods.

•Individual Chemistry – Some people are simply more heavily impacted by benzos than others. This has to do with an individual’s body and brain chemistry.

•Professional Setting – Addiction treatment professionals agree that the safest way to detox from benzos is to do so under the supervision of a team of medical professionals. While this can be done at a hospital, doctors will have the most experience with benzo withdrawal at a detox center or rehab facility.

•Tapering – Because an addict’s body is accustomed to a consistent supply of benzos, professional rehab facilities often utilize tapering methods. This allows the person to detox slowly and avoid more severe symptoms. Tapering off of a drug can involve a doctor prescribing increasingly smaller amounts of the drug over time or prescribing a different benzodiazepine that is less potent. Tapering may extend the withdrawal timeline, but it allows for a much more comfortable experience.

Even though no two detox timelines are exactly the same, withdrawal treatment guidelines indicate that most people follow a general timeline during benzo withdrawal.

•First 24 Hours – Withdrawal usually begins within 24 hours of your last dose. Some people begin to feel withdrawal symptoms within just 6 – 8 hours without benzodiazepines. At first, the symptoms may include trouble falling or staying asleep, nausea, vomiting or dry heaving, and other medical problems of moderately intensity.

•Days 2 – 13 – You may start experiencing further physical symptoms as well as psychological symptoms like anxiety and irritability. Mental discomfort peaks around the fourth day, for most people. Also, this is when people who are addicted to long-acting benzos start feeling symptoms, as the drug is now beginning to leave their body. The intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person.

•Week 2 – Month 3 – Most of the time, people make it through withdrawal after just a few weeks without a benzo. However, some patients continue to experience symptoms for months. Symptoms may come and go during this time, but they can be quite intense when they do occur.

It is best to do a benzodiazepine detox under medical supervision, where addiction professionals have established safety protocols. Our medical staff at The Recovery Village is highly experienced and implement best practices among our protocols. As an accredited detox and treatment facility, we are also dedicated to following all legal protocols to ensure our patients are comfortable and well cared for.

At The Recovery Village, detox from benzodiazepines involves three steps:

1.Evaluation

In order to enter our benzodiazepine detox program, our staff will first evaluate you, your addiction and your medical needs. Because there are so many variables that impact the detox process (like your body chemistry, how long you have been addicted to benzos, how much you take, etc.), this evaluation is important. The information that our staff gathers during this evaluation will help craft your recovery plan.

It may sound uncomfortable, but our professionals are experienced, kind and understanding. They have spoken to many other people with addiction disease, and are here to listen and understand your situation.

During the evaluation, our staff may engage you in some or all of the following tests and screenings:

Blood test

Co-occurring condition screen

Medical health assessment

Psychological assessment

Risk assessment

Social assessment

2.Detoxification

To put it into literal terms, detoxification is the body’s natural process of removing toxic substances. The ultimate goal of benzo detox is to stabilize your physical body. Detox is notoriously difficult, and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be severe. The whole process of withdrawal is even harder without the help of an addiction treatment professional.

While undergoing detox at The Recovery Village, your treatment team will work together to help you combat withdrawal symptoms such as drug cravings. We offset discomfort through various means, including the amenities we offer to you in our state-of-the-art facility. Most importantly, you receive careful monitoring and supervision to ensure your safety.

3: Further Treatment

Detox is a great step toward recovery from addiction, but successfully making it through detox does not guarantee a sober life. Many addicts fail to remain sober following detox without additional help from substance abuse professionals and substance abuse recovery programming. Addiction is a mental illness that poses a continual battle. Once you are stabilized, it is time to move on to further treatment. You will transition into a program in which you can focus on developing recovery skills and regaining a life away from substance abuse. Your treatment team will decide whether you should undergo inpatient or outpatient treatment after detox. Benzodiazepine addiction treatment at The Recovery Village includes a rigorous counseling program.

Undergoing detox at a rehab facility such as The Recovery Village is important for your recovery because it means you don’t have to worry about being without a doctor if you encounter an unexpected medical issue. Instead, while detoxing in rehab, you can receive immediate treatment, entrust your safety to your doctors and focus on recovery. Also, a treatment facility provides other resources that improve your level of comfort during detox and assist you in reaching a stable state more quickly. For example, you can have access to helpful medications that are not habit-forming and can make you much more comfortable during the detox process.

Doctors may use certain medications to help manage drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms during a medical detox. Our benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment guidelines at The Recovery Village allow for the use of medications for some patients. Though there are no specific medications designed expressly for treating benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, there are several drugs that help relieve the discomfort and/or pain of some symptoms and assist in recovery.

Some commonly used detox medications are:

•Buspirone – This non-addictive drug helps to relieve anxiety, a symptom that is very closely tied with the stoppage of benzos. This medication can take several weeks to kick in, and not everyone is willing to wait it out. In many cases, your doctor may decide to use buspirone after you have already gone through the primary, most uncomfortable stages of detox.

•Flumazenil – Although flumazenil is more often used as an overdose remedy, this fast-acting drug may be able to assist in detox as well. It blocks the chemical actions of benzos by attaching to your brain’s GABA receptors, where benzos themselves attach. You might even say that this medication “tricks” your body into thinking that you are still receiving doses of benzodiazepines when, in reality, you are receiving something much less harmful. Flumazenil takes over the GABA receptors, ridding your body of the existing benzodiazepine drugs that remain.

•Acamprosate – Although this medication is used primarily when treating the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, that condition shares multiple similarities with benzodiazepine withdrawal. Both alcohol and benzos are central nervous system depressants. Acamprosate may be able to treat benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness and jitteriness.

Alternatives – Some medical professionals may recommend unregulated supplements (such as vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies) that have shown fruitful results in a clinical setting but have not been proven scientifically. These substances may help you regain physical healthy and lessen your withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodizaepine Detox and Withdrawal
“Acamprosate.” MedlinePlus – Health Information from the National Library of Medicine, 15 May 2016, www.medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604028.html. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Ashton, C. H. “Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines.” Benzo.org.uk, Comprehensive Handbook of Drug & Alcohol Addiction 2004, 2004, www.benzo.org.uk/pws04.htm. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

“Buspirone.” MedlinePlus – Health Information from the National Library of Medicine, 16 Apr. 20, www.medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a688005.html. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

“Delirium Tremens.” MedlinePlus – Health Information from the National Library of Medicine, 8 Feb. 2015, www.medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

“Drug Fact Sheet: Depressants.” DEA, Drug Enforcement Administration, www.dea.gov/druginfo/drug_data_sheets/Depressants.pdf. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Jaffe, Adi. “Alcohol, Benzos, and Opiates—Withdrawal That Might Kill You.” Psychology Today, 13 Jan. 2010, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201001/alcohol-benzos-and-opiates-withdrawal-might-kill-you. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Roche Laboratories Inc. “Romazicon (flumazenil) Injection.” FDA, Feb. 2007, www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/020073s016lbl.pdf. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Trevisan, Louis A., et al. “Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal.” Brochures and Fact Sheets | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), www.pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Have more questions about Benzodiazepine abuse?
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Detox was last modified: April 5th, 2017 by The Recovery Village