Benzodiazepines Withdrawal and Detox
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that fall into the category of drugs referred to as minor tranquillizers. These drugs boost the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter responsible for inhibiting nerve excitement. When the effects of this chemical are enhanced, they cause hypnotic, sedative, and euphoric feelings in whoever is using them.
Benzodiazepines are a valuable medication used in treating certain conditions such as restless legs syndrome, panic disorder, epileptic seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. However, there are concerns associated with using this type of drugs due to their high potential for abuse and addictive properties. You can become addicted to a benzodiazepines after long-term use and quitting can be difficult, as a result of the withdrawal symptoms that may take hold.
Apart from getting high and recreating the euphoric effects of these drugs, one of the reasons people continue to use these drugs over a long time is the fear of withdrawal. If you or a loved one are willing to quit but are afraid of the discomfort and pain of withdrawal, you can get through this phase safely via a medically assisted detox programme. It’s never advised to continue abusing any benzodiazepines for any reason as there’s a likelihood that you can suffer permanent mental or physical health damage, or even death.
What Is Benzodiazepines Withdrawal?
Benzodiazepines withdrawal is a series of symptoms that occur when a user attempts to stop using one of these types of drugs after becoming dependent on it. Withdrawal symptoms come in various forms and can be discomforting or excruciatingly painful depending on the person’s level of addiction to the benzodiazepines they have abused.
Withdrawal from a benzodiazepines serves as a discouragement for quitting. If you abuse a benzodiazepines for a while and learn about the dangers of continued abuse, discontinuing your use will not be easy, as symptoms, which could take the form of the condition you tried to treat with the drug, will flare up, causing you to use again.
Benzodiazepines withdrawal can also manifest when you decrease your regular dosage of the drug, especially when your body has built up a tolerance to it. This is mostly the case with long-term users who have continued to increase their dosage from time to time to maintain and increase the effects of the drug.
If you use a benzodiazepines repeatedly, beyond your prescription, your body will, at some point, begin to fight the effects of the drug by increasing excitement in the nerves that GABA is meant to inhibit. This will result in a reduction of the drug’s effects. Increasing the dose of the benzodiazepines you’re on may reinforce the effects you’re after but tolerance is bound to occur again. This could cause you to continue increasing your dosage to the point where you may suffer an overdose.
Tolerance is one of the reasons why dependence and addiction happen. It’s also one of the associated dangers of benzodiazepines use. If you’re prescribed any benzodiazepines, tolerance may begin to occur in a week or two depending on your personal situation. Recreational users also experience tolerance, as they may continually need to up their dosage to feel the rush of euphoria they’re after. In some cases, they go as far as combining other drugs to boost the effects of the benzo that they’re abusing.
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Causes of Benzodiazepines Withdrawal
When you use a benzodiazepines according to your doctor’s instructions, you’ll be less exposed to the risks of withdrawal. In fact, in the majority of cases, sticking to your prescription will not lead to tolerance and withdrawal. The issue of withdrawal mostly occurs when you quit or reduce your dose after consuming larger than prescribed doses over a long period.
Recreational users who abuse benzodiazepines to achieve euphoric highs and relaxation face higher risks of withdrawal because they take these drugs without consulting a physician. Abusing benzodiazepines recreationally means your body will become reliant on the drug for those feelings of sedation and relaxation, resulting in withdrawal when you abruptly discontinue using the drug or reduce your dosage drastically.
Withdrawal occurs because your brain and body have grown accustomed to the presence of a benzodiazepines and have become dependent on the drug to work normally. Dependence happens as a result of long-term use of the drug, typically for a couple of weeks. Whether you choose to discontinue using, or temporarily don’t have access to the drugs, your body will begin to show signs of withdrawal after a while.
The Phases of Benzodiazepines Withdrawal
Going through recovery from benzodiazepines dependence and addiction will see you experience withdrawal in two phases. Most addicts will likely go through these phases despite differences in their duration and severity. While going through a medical detox may reduce the severity of symptoms, there’s a high possibility that you may witness symptoms across different stages of your recovery.
Withdrawal phases include the acute phase and the post-acute or protracted withdrawal phase. These phases come with different symptoms and varying levels of intensity. The onset and severity of symptoms across these stages will depend on the level of your addiction and other personal situations including your health. Without help, there is a higher risk of relapse.
Acute withdrawal phase
The acute withdrawal phase includes symptoms that flare up during the first few days to weeks after the last dose. This stage is the most difficult and daunting because it comes with severe symptoms that peak in intensity during the first few days. The phase mainly consists of physical withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, and headaches, with a number of psychological symptoms like cognitive impairment, confusion, and anxiety.
Acute withdrawal occurs during the detox process and can be dangerous depending on your level of addiction. When you decide to quit using, it’s critical that you seek professional help to get you through this phase safely. Symptoms will subside after some weeks or days depending on your personal condition. In extreme cases, this phase may last a month or more.
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Post-acute or protracted withdrawal
After the acute withdrawal symptoms have subsided, you’ll likely continue to experience symptoms as you go on through recovery. This stage of withdrawal is known as the protracted withdrawal phase, also referred to as post-acute withdrawal. Symptoms during this stage are less intense than those that occur in the previous phase and they mainly include psychological symptoms such as mood swings, lethargy, and cravings.
The post-acute phase may linger long after you have completed treatment, sometimes spanning for a year. During this time, external factors such as environmental cues or peer pressure may trigger intense cravings that may become a cause for a relapse. While this phase is less dangerous than the acute stage, you should never let your guard down if you want to maintain sobriety.
Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Symptoms: What to Expect?
A lot comes with withdrawal from drugs like benzodiazepines and it is our advice that you brace yourself for what is to come and hold on to the thought of breaking free when you choose to quit your use of these harmful drugs. Symptoms will gradually creep in when you go hours without the drug you have abused over time and they will increase in severity if you choose to maintain your abstinence.
If a loved one is about to quit their use of benzodiazepines, you should give them all the support they need and ensure they get help.
Rebound anxiety and insomnia
Benzodiazepines are prescription medications which are mainly used to treat conditions like insomnia and generalized anxiety disorders, among others. Many people who discontinue their use of a benzodiazepines that was prescribed experience the very conditions that the drug was used to treat, and sometimes these conditions become worse. This is known as the rebound effect.
Abusing a benzodiazepines for a long time will put you at risk of the rebound effect which may be accompanied by other withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, this effect occurs with regular use even when you take the drug as per your prescription.
Physical withdrawal symptoms
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty sleeping
The onset and severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person depending on the type of benzodiazepines abused, level of dependence and tolerance, and the health state of the addict.
Psychological withdrawal symptoms
Due to the effects of benzodiazepines on the brain and central nervous system, there are bound to be mental difficulties during withdrawal. These symptoms include panic attacks, irritability, hallucinations, mental confusion, cognitive impairment, psychosis, memory loss, depression, mood swings, lethargy, as well as intense cravings.
Duration of Benzodiazepines Withdrawal
The time it takes for benzodiazepines withdrawal to completely subside depends on the condition of each user. This is because the drug affects everyone differently and there are other factors such as how much of the medication a person has abused if they have abused a long- or short-acting benzo and how long they have abused it for. If you have abused a benzodiazepines for a long time, your withdrawal will last longer than someone who has only abused the drug mildly. Medical conditions and your body’s chemical make up can also influence the duration of your withdrawal.
Generally, however, severe withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside after a couple of weeks with psychological symptoms like cravings and mood swings lingering a bit longer. Protracted symptoms have been reported to last for months to a year or two in certain cases.
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Timeline of Benzodiazepines Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms will begin to take hold after a few hours to a day or two after your last dose, depending on how much of the drug you’ve taken, your level of tolerance, and your general health condition. The timeline for withdrawal will also depend on these factors, but there’s a general estimate of when these symptoms surface and subside.
Within several hours of discontinuing your use, symptoms will begin to emerge. This may take anywhere from 6-8 hours depending on whether you used a short or long-acting benzodiazepines, or if you used another substance in combination with the drug.
The first four days will see the rebound effect peak, where you’ll likely experience heightened discomfort from increased anxiety and insomnia. Other withdrawal symptoms that may be at their worst during this time include increased breathing and heart rate, nausea, and sweating. While this is typically the case with shorter-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax, people who have abused longer-acting benzos will begin to experience the onset of withdrawal during this time.
Withdrawal symptoms are normally present for at least 10-14 days before they begin to fade. For abusers of longer-acting benzos, this is when withdrawal symptoms may become intense, fading away in 3-4 weeks. For chronic abusers, symptoms may become protracted for months to a year or two.
What Is Benzodiazepines Detoxification?
Benzodiazepines detoxification is the process where your body gets rid of the drug you have abused. Removing benzodiazepines from the system after a period of dependence can be difficult and dangerous if not approached properly. Severe withdrawal symptoms may flare up during this time and result in health complications. This is why it’s always recommended that the process is carried out by a medical expert.
To get the best results, you should ideally undergo detox in a dedicated facility where you’ll receive round-the-clock care.
Benzodiazepines Detox Process
Detox will be carried out by a professional based on your personal situation. Your doctor will ideally begin the process by trying to understand your situation before adopting any kind of approach. Generally, it’s always better to detox from benzos by tapering down rather than quitting ‘cold turkey’. This will reduce the severity of symptoms that may occur and also save you from severe protracted withdrawal syndrome. If you abused a short-acting benzodiazepines, your doctor may switch you to a longer-acting drug to save you from intense symptoms that may cause seizures and other dangerous effects.
It’s never advised to abruptly discontinue your use of benzodiazepines, especially if you have been misusing the medication. Stopping use all at once may mean you suffer potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms like seizures and a coma. If your abuse has not resulted in addiction, there’s a possibility that you can quit from home. Nevertheless, you should consult your doctor on how to taper down your dosage gradually before you quit.
Why can detoxification at home be harmful?
Detoxing at home when your addiction is severe can put you at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening. This is because, in this case, you’ll need to gradually taper down. And, without medical assistance, you won’t know the ideal doses for your situation.
Medically supervised benzodiazepines withdrawal and detox
A medically-supervised benzodiazepines withdrawal and detox involve the adoption of medication therapies, as well as psychotherapy, to help the body get rid of the remnants of the drug in the addict’s system. The process is best carried out in a detox facility where you’ll be monitored by a medical team. During a medical detox, your attending physician will help you taper down the benzodiazepines that you have abused to reduce the severity of your withdrawal symptoms and avoid complications.
Medications will also be administered to counteract the effects of the benzodiazepines, as well as reduce the severity of symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, seizures, and nausea. You may be switched to a longer-acting benzo to help slow down the effects of withdrawal if the drug you abused has a short-acting nature.
Medications used during benzodiazepines detox
While it’s possible to gradually reduce the dosage of your drug until it’s safe to quit altogether, medications that lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms can be administered to further make the withdrawal and the detox process more bearable. Some of these medications include:
Flumazenil: This drug is mainly administered for the treatment of benzodiazepines abuse but it has proven helpful in alleviating the withdrawal symptoms of long-acting benzodiazepines. The drug has shown success because it also binds to the same receptors in the brain as benzos. However, Flumazenil is to be used with extreme caution because it initiates rapid detox by forcing benzodiazepines to leave the body quickly, which may trigger severe withdrawal symptoms.
Buspirone: Buspirone is often prescribed to people with a history of drug abuse who are also suffering from generalised anxiety disorder. While it doesn’t cure addiction to benzodiazepines, it can soften some emotional withdrawal symptoms. The only disadvantage of the drug is that it only starts taking effect after 2-3 weeks of intake. It is often administered when patients in detox facilities start to taper down from benzodiazepines.
Treatment for Withdrawal
Treating withdrawal requires expertise and experience in addiction treatment. You ideally need to get professional help whenever you want to quit using. This is because withdrawal can get serious in extreme cases and you may relapse if not treated correctly.
Withdrawing from benzodiazepines treatment methods and options
There are different treatment methods for dealing with withdrawal to benzodiazepines. These include, as previously discussed, quitting all at once or tapering down gradually. Tapering down is the safest way to quit, as discontinuing use all of a sudden may trigger symptoms of withdrawal that may cause permanent health damage. We also recommend that you go through treatment in a residential detox facility where you’ll be supervised round the clock.
Drug treatment for withdrawal
Drugs used to treat withdrawal symptoms should not be used to self-medicate, as they can cause complications if not applied expertly. Doctors are aware of any interactions and possible negative effects, which is one of the main benefits of medically assisted detox. If you’ve abused other substances like alcohol, heroin, or other opioids, please do not focus on your opioid withdrawal as some drugs used for benzo-only detox have a dangerous interaction. Always seek medical attention before you quit using any benzodiazepines.
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Guided benzodiazepines therapy
If you have chronically abused a short-acting benzodiazepines, you may be placed on medication therapy. This will reduce the potentially dangerous symptoms that may occur if you discontinue using the drug. Guided, in this case, means that you and every step that your detox takes are guided by a licensed medical professional.
Live a Sober Life Again
If your life or that of a loved one have become unmanageable as a result of an addiction to a benzodiazepine, you shouldn’t lose hope as there are remedies available that can help you both achieve recovery. While withdrawal symptoms are a reality that you have to face, with the right help, you can be guided through this stage safely. The first step to achieving sobriety is accepting the need for help. This will open up the road to a life free from addiction. Remember that just a phone call to a confidential addiction helpline can set you up to get the help that you and your loved ones need.
Benzodiazepines addiction treatment and rehab will arm you with the skills and techniques needed to maintain a sober life. However, going through rehab will not cure your addiction, as using again may restart your addiction cycle. You have to apply what you have learnt during rehab to fight off cravings and stay clean.
You can also join support groups around your locality to stay on track with new ways to beat urges and learn from the experiences of fellow people in recovery. Engaging in more one-on-one therapy sessions with your psychologist can also help you stand your ground in the face of triggers. You should also avoid a company that encourages drug use and swap them with friends and family who are supportive of your recovery.
Tips for handling cravings
Going through detox and treatment for your addiction to benzodiazepines is the best path towards recovery. However, you need to be alert to ensure you don’t fall victim to a relapse after your treatment has ended. Here are some tips that will come in handy when you’re done with treatment and are faced with urges:
Always seek help: if you have strong urges to use again, you can reach out to family members, friends, or even your therapist to get emotional motivation and professional help to beat the cravings and get through this hurdle.
Keep your mind engaged: idleness and boredom can cause you to fixate on using again. It’s advised that whenever you’re alone and idle and urges start to creep in, you pick up a book to read, go watch a movie or keep your mind occupied with another favourite hobby until the thoughts of using pass.
Remember your past ordeal: thoughts of what you’ve gone through in the past as a result of your addiction can help reinforce your determination not to use again when cravings arise.
Find a Treatment Centre
Undergoing treatment under the guidance of an addiction treatment specialist in a competent facility is your best chance at ending your addiction to benzodiazepines for good. However, with the stress of your condition, it may be difficult finding a treatment facility that has both the resources to adequately treat you and resonates with your personality. While this obstacle is genuine, you can get through it by contacting a confidential helpline, where you’ll be guided accordingly.
How long do benzodiazepines withdrawals last?
There is no definitive timeline for how long withdrawal from benzodiazepines will last. Every individual experiences addiction to benzos differently and this is also reflected in the way withdrawal manifests, how long it lasts, and how intense it can be. However, the duration of withdrawal can be estimated depending on the level of addiction as well as other factors particular to your general situation. As a consequence, your withdrawal symptoms may begin to dissipate within a couple of weeks or months. Generally, physical symptoms will subside after 10-14 days but psychological symptoms can linger for weeks and months. In severe cases, you can experience mild withdrawal symptoms up to a year or two.
Are there any home remedies for getting clean safely?
Detoxing from benzodiazepines is very difficult and can get dangerous if not tackled properly. While there are measures you can take at home when experiencing withdrawal symptoms that result from detox, it’s recommended that you go through a medically-assisted detox process in an addiction treatment facility. Also, you shouldn’t self-medicate when going through withdrawal, as benzodiazepines are known to have dangerous interactions with certain medications. Always endeavour to seek help if you have made the decision to put an end to your benzodiazepines abuse. This will help avert risks known to occur from withdrawal, especially when you have abused more than benzodiazepines.
How long does it take to detox from benzodiazepines?
As with withdrawals, there is no definite timeframe for the duration of detox. The amount of time it will take your body to dispel the remnants of the benzo you’ve abused will depend on a lot of personal factors like the rate at which your body metabolises the drug, and whether or not you go through a medically-assisted detox programme. If you have abused benzodiazepines chronically or in combination with opiates or alcohol, you detox may take longer than normal. Also, if your doctors adopt a tapering method, which is usually the best way to go about detox, it may take a while to completely ween you off the drugs.
Can you die from benzodiazepines withdrawal?
Benzodiazepines withdrawal is known to come with dangerous life-threatening symptoms. Without medical assistance, you may be putting yourself at severe risk. While benzo withdrawal on its own is rarely fatal, it can cause accidents that may end up taking your life, such as auto accidents and dangerous falls. Abusing benzodiazepines alongside alcohol, opioids, or Suboxone can result in health consequences that can lead to death. Some of the severe symptoms of benzo withdrawal, especially in polydrug abuse cases, include repressed breathing, suicidal thoughts, low blood pressure, and coma. Always ensure you get professional help to avert the risk of death that may arise from withdrawal.
Can medication help?
Yes, there are certain medications that can be administered to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Some of these medications include Flumazenil and Buspirone, which help to ease symptoms of withdrawal that may otherwise be severe. Other prescription medications can also be administered to directly tackle symptoms such as headaches, nausea, anxiety, and depression. In many cases, your doctor will follow a detox process in which the benzodiazepines that you’ve abused will be tapered down. These medication therapies are targeted at helping you detox safely without the risk of complications.
What is benzodiazepines withdrawal?
Benzodiazepines withdrawal is a set of discomforting symptoms that occur when you attempt to stop using a benzodiazepines that your body has become dependent on. If your body has also grown tolerant to the effects of the drug, withdrawal symptoms will manifest when you reduce your dosage drastically.
Is benzodiazepines withdrawal dangerous?
Withdrawal may come in the form of worse versions of the conditions you took the drug to treat. However, your withdrawal will not turn out to be dangerous if you go through a medical detox whenever you decide to quit.
Do benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms get worse even if time passes?
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is different for each individual. However, symptoms generally flare up after you go a while without renewing your intake. If you continue to go without the drug, symptoms will continue to intensify until they peak, which happens in a couple of days depending on the level of addiction and toxicity. As time goes on, and as your body continues to get rid of the drug, physical symptoms will gradually decrease.
Can I find help?
Yes, there are detox centres scattered across the UK and you can find one close to you. We recommend that you go through a detox clinic that is the right fit for you, whether close to home or in a discreet location. If you don’t know what to do concerning how to find an ideal detox clinic for yourself or a loved one, you can get in touch with a confidential helpline to point you in the right direction. Your GP can also be a good place to start, as there are free NHS community programmes that can get you through withdrawal and detox for free, although these programmes are outpatient based.
Are there ways to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms?
While we urge you to quit using, it’s not advised to self-medicate or go through detox at home without medical guidance, as these could possibly be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can be managed by medical professionals in detox clinics and possible complications that may arise from drug interactions will be averted as well.
Is detox from benzodiazepines dangerous?
Detox won’t be dangerous if you undergo the process under medical guidance, preferably in a detox facility. Instances, where detox will be dangerous without a doubt, are when you have abused a benzodiazepines in abnormally large doses over a long period and when you have abused the drug along with alcohol or other addictive medications.
What happens after the detoxification?
After going through detox, endeavour to go through a rehab programme where you’ll be treated psychologically and taught techniques that will help you stay sober in the long run. Without this, you’ll be putting yourself at risk as there’ll be a high chance of a relapse, negating your otherwise successful detoxification.
Is quitting cold turkey dangerous?
Discontinuing use abruptly can trigger dangerous and sometimes fatal symptoms. You can employ a tapering method, but you should do this with the help of a doctor to know how much is safe to reduce and at what time you should withdraw more doses.
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