Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Once hailed as a safe drug alternative in the 60s, benzodiazepines are primarily used to treat anxiety but are associated with many health risks. Long term use of benzodiazepines is likely to lead to withdrawal symptoms that may take months to overcome.  

While benzodiazepines have been commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, stress, depression and sleep disorders, they are not prescribed long-term because of the risk of developing an addiction.

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Regular, long-term abuse of benzodiazepines can result in serious side effects including confusion, slurred speech, seizures or convulsions, severe drowsiness or coma, shakiness, slow heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and severe weakness. Benzodiazepine addicts are also at-risk for developing dementia, an illness affecting the brain causing gradual memory loss and problems with language and motor skills.

Even more severe are the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction or overdose that contribute to emergency and hospital room admissions. Depending on the type of drug and its frequency, benzodiazepines differ in terms of what they are most commonly prescribed for and how long they continue to impact the brain.

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Addiction is hard, but recovery doesn’t have to be. Let us do the work, request a call now!

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How Benzodiazepines Affect the Brain

Benzodiazepines function is to reduce the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain. In short, it suppresses the body’s central nervous system. When combined with other medications, benzodiazepines can slow the brain’s functions creating surges of dopamine. Benzodiazepines impact the brain’s ability to function resulting in dopamine-producing neurons to release more dopamine than needed. This tricks the brain into creating greater dopamine surges and further addiction or drug abuse.   

What You Can Expect from Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Research shows negative effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal including cognitive complications that have affected visuospatial ability, a processing function, and verbal learning.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs include:

  • Increased anxiety, including panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle Aches

After months of continuous use, one’s cognitive abilities can become severely impaired to the point that benzodiazepine users will continue to experience confusion and impaired reasoning abilities.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

Although there is no documented research on the length of time involved with benzodiazepine withdrawal, factors for individuals vary and include:

  • Length of time on benzodiazepines
  • Dosage amount
  • Polysubstance use
  • Type of drug used/abused
  • The way in which benzodiazepines were taken
  • Current medical or health issues or conditions

If anything, time is needed to get off the drug fully. However; an individual also needs professional treatment and help to successfully move through all three stages from detox to outpatient care.

FIRST STAGE

The first symptoms start appearing within six-12 hours of discontinuing the drug. These symptoms can last anywhere from one to four days.

ACUTE STAGE

The second stage also known as the acute stage lasts anywhere from 10-14 days. Short term symptoms of acute withdrawal peak at week two and include insomnia, palpitations, sweating, headache, weight loss, tinnitus, anxiety and panic attacks, nausea and dry retching, flu-like symptoms, muscle aches and pains, abnormal body sensations as well as perceptual changes and hallucinations. After the week two mark, these symptoms will slowly begin to subside. Symptoms can last up to several months or even years if they are not addressed professionally. Symptoms can wax and wane in severity from day to day or week to week.

What Are the Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Treatment Steps?

Going through the detox process of benzodiazepine withdrawal can be extremely difficult especially if a user has been taking the drug long-term. A cold turkey withdrawal from benzodiazepine is not recommended as symptoms can be uncomfortable enough for the patient to relapse. Additionally, there is a real risk of seizure and even death due to sudden cessation from benzodiazepines.

Seeking treatment beginning with detox at a rehabilitation facility with medical intervention can help alleviate physical symptoms associated with withdrawal including vomiting, insomnia, flu-like symptoms, and hallucinations. Doing the full continuum of treatment with professional help is imperative. One cannot attempt to “get clean” alone for the process itself is complicated and painfully unpleasant and can result in seizures.

Unsupervised withdrawal can be fatal which is why one must begin a medically supervised tapering off of the drug while given another benzodiazepine such as Valium or Librium. This new benzodiazepine has a stabilizing effect depending on how one’s body metabolizes benzodiazepines. Working through a benzo withdrawal can take years involving post-acute withdrawal (PAWS) symptoms, which is why it treatment options like those offered at Arete Recovery can help stabilize the body while undergoing the necessary full continuum of treatment.

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Arete Recovery manages the process of drug recovery in patients addicted to benzodiazepine in the following way:

DETOX IS THE FIRST STAGE IN THE RECOVERY PROCESS

Detox is the first stage in the recovery process where users gradually decrease their dosage which can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms. During this phase, an initial assessment will be conducted whichincludes evaluating ongoing health issues or pre-existing conditions, a psychiatric evaluation as well as an assessment of one’s living environment. Anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant medication is usually prescribed to manage the onset of symptoms.

INPATIENT OR OUTPATIENT

Following successful completion of detox, the patient will continue with the next stage of treatment that leads him/her to either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. This includes treatment from intensive inpatient treatment to residential treatment where the focus is on instilling confidence and comfort in a patient

RESIDENTIAL

An addiction rehabilitation program which includes either an outpatient or inpatient residential programasdetermined by a treatment specialist after weighing the factors involved in the severity of one’s addiction. Severe addicts who have a long history of substance abuse or those addicted to multiple drugs will most likely benefit from a residential treatment center with 24-hour supervision, which is different from an outpatient setting that includes therapy sessions but without the 24-hour supportive environment of inpatient treatment by therapists, nurses, and physicians. These professionals provide mental health treatment and routine care designed to help the abuser towards resisting relapse and the causes of their benzodiazepine addiction.

GROUP OR INDIVIDUAL THERAPY

Group therapy treatment and/or individual therapy treatment options to help the addict get to the root cause behind his/her addiction. Some treatment centers favor group therapy over individual therapy commonly referred to a cognitive behavior therapy to help the user identify thinking patterns that ultimately help create new neurological pathways to the brain that result in new ways of thinking. Group therapy has been known to create a sense of unity around community and sharing stories in this way a user doesn’t feel at the mercy of his/her own addiction.

If You’re Suffering from Benzodiazepine Addiction, We Can Help

If you or a loved one is struggling to stay hopeful while dealing with a benzodiazepine addiction, know that you are not alone. We want to give you that hope! The caring, trained medical professionals at Arete Recovery want to help you get through every stage of your recovery journey successfully, from detox all the way to our outpatient program.

Call 855-781-9939 now to speak with one of our addiction specialists for more information.