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Benzodiazepine Detox

Benzodiazepines are addictive prescription drugs that are commonly misused. Whether you’ve been taking benzos as instructed by a doctor or you’ve been abusing them for recreational purposes, detox can be tough. In some cases, it’s dangerous. It’s important to have medical supervision during benzodiazepine detox.

What Is Benzo Detox Like?

Benzo detox is manageable with medical help. You should never try to stop benzos on your own. Even if you’ve been taking benzodiazepines for medical purposes, if you’ve used them regularly for more than a few weeks, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

Your risk of severe benzo withdrawal symptoms increases the longer you’ve been taking benzos and the higher the dosage. Some research shows that around 40% of people who’ve taken benzos for 6 months or more may have more intense or even severe withdrawal symptoms. Medically assisted detox is always recommended for people with benzodiazepine dependence.

benzo detox

Benzodiazepine Detox & Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be physically uncomfortable and psychologically disturbing. The severity of benzo withdrawal symptoms depends on your individual situation. These factors can impact the type and intensity of symptoms:

  • How long you’ve been taking benzodiazepines
  • The amount of benzos you take
  • If you mix benzos with other drugs or alcohol
  • Your physical health
  • If you have medical conditions
  • If you have co-occurring mental health disorders
  • If you’re taking short-acting or long-acting benzodiazepines

Benzo withdrawal symptoms vary by individual but could potentially include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of libido
  • Drug cravings

How Long Is Benzo Detox?

Like the severity of withdrawal symptoms, how long benzo detox lasts depends on individual factors. Your timeline for benzodiazepine withdrawal and detox may be longer than typical if:

  • You’re using high quantities of benzos regularly
  • You have co-occurring disorders
  • You’ve been abusing alcohol and other drugs as well

When Does Benzo Withdrawal Start?

If you’re a heavy benzo user, withdrawal may begin within hours of quitting. If you’re taking short-acting benzos, withdrawal typically peaks in the first few days. If you’re taking long-acting benzos like Valium, it may take several days for you to notice symptoms.

When Are Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms the Worst?

The most severe symptoms usually occur between one and three days after stopping the drug. Sometimes these symptoms can continue for up to a week. Some symptoms can be dangerous. That’s why it’s critical that you undergo benzo detox in a medical facility where staff can monitor your vital signs and intervene if you experience withdrawal symptoms like seizures.

When Do Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms Stop?

The most intense symptoms should subside within a week to a few weeks, depending on your individual situation. Some acute symptoms can linger for several months. These are less severe symptoms, but still concerning. They may include rebound effects from benzos like:

  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Rebound anxiety

This is known as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Up to 25% of people who’ve used benzos for months or years may experience protracted symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal for up to a year.

Is Benzo Withdrawal Dangerous?

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be potentially dangerous. Though rare, in certain cases, heavy benzo users can die from benzo withdrawal symptoms if they quit abruptly.

Factors that contribute to the danger of benzo withdrawal include:

People who have severe psychological symptoms when they stop taking benzos—for instance, suicidal ideation, depression, and psychosis—are at risk for self-harm or putting themselves in dangerous situations. It’s important to always consult a medical professional before you stop taking benzos. Medical detox is the safest route when coming off any type of addictive substance.

What Is Medical Detox for Benzos Like?

It’s not worth the health risks that can come from self-detoxing off benzos. At a drug detox facility, medical professionals will determine the safest and most effective detox process for you. This often involves tapering: decreasing your dose of benzos slowly. It may also include medications to ease withdrawal. For example, if you’ve been taking short-acting benzos like Xanax or Ativan, you may be given a long-acting benzo like Valium during detoxification from benzodiazepines.

Assessment

At a detox center, you’ll first have a physical exam by a medical professional. They’ll ask you about your drug use, substance abuse history, and medical history. A physician will determine the safest detox treatment plan for you.

Treating Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

There is no way to tell what specific symptoms you will experience until you begin the process. Some ways that your medical team may ease the benzo withdrawal process include:

  • Using a long-acting benzo like Valium to detox you off short-acting benzos like Xanax and Ativan
  • Tapering your benzo dosage over several weeks so you don’t experience severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Using a different type of benzo to ease withdrawal
  • As clinically appropriate, using other medications like carbamazepine, gabapentin, and propranolol and help insomnia with medications like trazodone and quetiapine
  • Behavioral interventions that promote calming and distraction

Monitoring Vital Signs

Drug and alcohol withdrawal can be hard on the body. You can experience symptoms like:

  • High heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Panic attacks

These should be medically addressed so they don’t become dangerous or deadly. In a benzo detox program, medical staff will regularly check your vital signs and make sure you’re medically safe.

Comfortable Setting

Some people imagine drug and alcohol detox will be like in the movies. On the big screen and on television, detox is often depicted as a painful process where you’re left to tough it out in a bare room by yourself. That is not the case when you choose medical detox. Inpatient medical detox takes place in a private or semi-private room. You’ll have a bed, television, and comfortable furnishings. Addiction professionals will check on you and are available around the clock.

Addiction Treatment Recommendations

After drug detox, it’s important to enter a professional addiction program to avoid relapse. Your treatment team at the detox center will recommend drug rehabs that fit your needs and life situation.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Detox

Some people require inpatient detox to safely eliminate benzos from their bodies. Others can detox with medical oversight on tapering. If you’ve been taking benzodiazepines as prescribed and aren’t abusing other substances, symptoms of withdrawal can typically be managed on an outpatient basis with your physician. If you’ve been abusing benzodiazepines in large quantities and/or taking other substances as well, inpatient medical detox is the safest option.

Why You Shouldn’t Detox on Your Own

Detoxing at home from any substance your body has become dependent on is a gamble no one should take. When you stop taking drugs like benzodiazepines or alcohol, your body goes into overdrive. Because your system is dependent on these substances, it thinks it needs them to function. This is why addiction is difficult to overcome. When you stop alcohol or drug abuse, your brain sends you messages that you need them to survive. This causes intense cravings. People who detox from benzos without medical help and addiction treatment and rehab are at high risk for relapse.

When you quit taking an addictive substance, your brain must rebalance and repair itself. Drugs and alcohol impact important brain chemicals and central nervous functioning. As your body tries to achieve homeostasis without substances, you can experience severe symptoms of withdrawal. Some can be fatal if not addressed medically. You should always consult a doctor before stopping benzos.

Need to Detox from Benzos?

Addiction is a disease that requires treatment from medical and behavioral experts. If you’re struggling with benzo abuse, call Vogue Recovery Center. We can help you safely detox from benzos and learn the skills you need for long-term recovery.

Vogue Recovery Center offers drug and alcohol rehab that includes:

Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.

References

  1. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2013/0815/p224.html
  2. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-015-0493-y
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7841856/
  4. https://journals.lww.com/em-news/fulltext/2001/12000/benzodiazepine_withdrawal__potentially_fatal,.13.aspx
  5. https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bcp.12023
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5896864/

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