How to detox from benzodiazepines
Table of contents
What are benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines drugs are considered sedatives or tranquilizers, and they minimize the body’s “fight or flight” response. These psychoactive drugs are meant to reduce anxiety and panic while calming and suppressing functions of the central nervous system, such as heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and body temperature.
Benzodiazepine drugs are thought to act on the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. With regular use of an artificial GABA stimulant, you can develop a physical and psychological dependence to benzodiazepine drugs, as you may no longer produce GABA at the same levels.
Commonly abused benzodiazepine medications, often called “Benzos” for short, include:
The first step that needs to be taken for a benzodiazepine addiction is to filter the remaining amount of the drug out of the patient’s system. While your body has grown accustomed to receiving these drugs, it is common to experience withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts to the absence of the drug. Depending on how severe the patient’s drug addiction was will determine the severity of these withdrawal symptoms.
Medical professionals do not recommend that you stop taking a benzodiazepine drug suddenly, especially if you have been taking it for a long period of time. A more serious benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can occur if your body is highly dependent on the drug, and you may experience mental confusion, psychosis, and even possible seizures. In order to safely remove benzodiazepines from your system and manage difficult withdrawal symptoms, detoxing at a specialized facility is the best option.
The withdrawal symptoms of Benzodiazepines have both physical and emotional side effects on an individual. Depending on how long you took the drug, how large your doses were, your method of abuse and level of dependency, as well as other physiological factors, will determine the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.
Common Benzo withdrawal symptoms include:
- Body Aches
- Anxiety / Panic Attacks
Rebound anxiety and insomnia
Your body will expect the drugs in order to maintain a chemical balance in the brain. If these medications are then suddenly removed, a rebound effect can occur, which may be characterized by a rapid return of the symptoms Benzodiazepines are intended to suppress, such as anxiety, panic, and a surge of activity in the central nervous system, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature. You may have trouble sleeping and feel restless and agitated during Benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal duration
Benzo withdrawal symptoms are subject to last anywhere from a week to a few months depending on the severity of the addiction as well as the total time length of the abused substance. Benzodiazepines are produced in two different forms: short-acting and long-acting medications. Short-acting Benzos are known to produce more intense, abrupt withdrawal symptoms, while long-acting medicines tend to cause less acute symptoms that develop at a slower rate. People who commonly abused short-acting medications, like Xanax, can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms from early as ten to twelve hours after stopping the drug, while those who mistreated long-acting Benzos, such as Valium, could go as long as a few days before experiencing any negative side effects.
In certain withdrawal cases, symptoms have been known to last up to three months for those who participated in heavy Benzo abuse, in which the person must then be tapered off of the medication as “cold turkey detox” is an unsafe practice in detox recovery.
Tapering benzo usage
Tapering off of a drug is common when walking through a detoxification program. After some time of continued drug abuse, the brain grows used to the chemicals being ingested and continues to expect these substances, which makes quitting cold turkey difficult, as well as dangerous. Tapering from a drug could either mean prescribing lesser amounts of the drug over a period of time or prescribing another Benzo of lesser potency. With the proper knowledge of which Benzo was abuse and the severity of the addiction, physicians are able to determine a healthy tapering strategy for individuals.
Medications for benzo detox
Medications may be used during medically assisted detox in order to manage drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. There are no specific medications approved for benzodiazepine withdrawal, although there are several drugs which help alleviate specific symptoms. Acamprosate is mostly used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which may have several similarities to benzodiazepine withdrawal, as they are both central nervous system depressants. It has shown promise in treating the anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness components of withdrawal during benzodiazepine detox.
Vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements recommended by a medical professional may also help you regain healthy physical balance and reduce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Benzodiazepine withdrawal may begin within eight hours of your last dose, and some of the symptoms may last months or even years. Fortunately, a well-managed detox program can make withdrawal more manageable overall.
Addiction treatment for Benzodiazepines typically follows the following process:
- Evaluation. All of our patients are required to go through an evaluation process to determine the severity of their drug addiction allowing our staff to determine the care they’ll need to live a life of recovery.
- Detoxification. A professional medical detox program is suggested for patients to filter out remaining drug toxins from your body, as quitting cold turkey or performing at-home detoxes are more dangerous practices than not.
- Residential treatment. Residential treatment programs are designed to help patients develop recovery skills, life skills, and begin their 12-step program inside a safe, substance abuse free environment, as they fight to continue to overcome temptations.
- Aftercare program. Transitioning from back to the real world from detox and residential treatment life can be difficult. We strongly recommend in participating an aftercare program to keep you accountable, as this is not the end of your recovery, but rather the beginning.
It is important to avoid places where you used to do drugs during and after detox, as they can increase or intensify potential drug cravings. Keep busy, and set small and attainable goals for yourself. Reward positive behavior with a trip to the movies or dinner with a friend. Finding a hobby or creative outlets, such as writing, drawing, or painting, can help keep your mind off drugs also.
Understand that you are not alone, and join a peer support group that can provide you with a safe place to share and be understood by others who can relate to what you may be going through. Be sure to attend all meetings, therapy, and counseling sessions and complete any homework that may be assigned. Educate yourself on the specifics of benzodiazepine dependency and withdrawal so that you know what to expect and are better able to understand the stages of recovery. Work to rebuild personal relationships that may have suffered. Family counseling and therapy sessions may be a great option during detox and recovery.
Be careful not to get complacent or overconfident as well. Detox is the first step in benzodiazepine addiction treatment and should be followed with a comprehensive treatment plan in order to ensure a lasting recovery.
The Recovery Village is a full-service substance abuse treatment facility, providing a range of detox services and a seamless transition to comprehensive care programs. Contact an admissions specialist today for more details.