Benzodiazepine Detox & Benzo Withdrawal – Symptoms & Process
What Is Benzodiazepine?
In recent years, the opioid epidemic has received notable attention in the media. But other prescription medications pose as much of a risk! One such class of medication is benzodiazepines, or benzos. On a positive note, benzodiazepines, or benzos, are effective in treating anxiety and insomnia. However, longer-term use of Benzodiazepines can lead to addiction. The number of drug dependencies and even fatalities from prescription drugs is increasing every year, and benzodiazepines are contributing to the toll.
Benzodiazepines are the most prescribed medications in the United States. Family care and primary care physicians tend to prescribe benzodiazepines for a longer period of time, despite the risk of dependence. Prescriptions for benzos have increased dramatically in recent years, and so has addiction to them.
In fact, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose from 3,300 in 1999 to 9,500 in 2018, or 288%. Overdose deaths from a combination of benzodiazepines and opioids rose from 700 in 1999 to 9,140 in 2018, or 1,300%!
Benzodiazepines are prescribed by physicians to treat primarily anxiety and insomnia, and some sub-classes (longer-acting) are used to treat alcohol withdrawal. Shorter-acting benzos such as Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valiumare more addictive.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants; the medicine produces muscle relaxation and lowers anxiety levels. They are used by individuals suffering from opioid dependence to “spike” their high as benzos exacerbate the effects of opioids. Stopping benzo use suddenly could lead dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and stroke. Consequently, benzos should be stopped only under strict medical supervision.
At the Center for Network Therapy, we have an expert team of medical staff with years of experience treating benzo withdrawal and performing benzodiazepine detox and are ready to assist individuals wanting to come off of benzos to enter recovery from substance abuse and return to their productive roles in their family, workplace, and community.
Dependence on Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines cause dependence in similar ways to opioids. Both are central nervous system depressants. Benzos are frequently co-abused with opiates or alcohol in order to spike the high! When co-abused with opiates or alcohol, the risk of overdose increases. Benzodiazepines are also notoriously known as “date rape drugs,” as it relaxes a person and helps to lower their guard.
If you or your loved ones are taking benzodiazepines for longer than 6 months or in more quantities than prescribed, please be aware of the following danger symptoms:
- Body Weakness
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty Breathing
- Dysarthria (slurred speech)
- Loss of Coordination
As sedative-hypnotics, benzodiazepines work on the central nervous system. The drug slows down brain activity and produces relaxation. When used for a long period of time, individuals can become dependent on them. When doctors suspect abuse and stop prescribing benzos, individuals who have developed dependence on the drug often shift to buying benzos off of the street, which can be dangerous as the composition of the pill they are buying on the street is unknown. When benzo use if stopped abruptly, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms begin to occur and benzo withdrawal symptoms can cause seizures or even stroke!
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal – Symptoms and Risks
When an individual dependent on benzos stops use abruptly, they can experience intense unpleasant physical reactions, known as withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include sleep disturbance, irritability, increased tension and anxiety, panic attacks, hand tremor, sweating, difficulty concentrating, dry retching and nausea, palpitations headache, and muscular pain.
The intensity of these symptoms depends on the duration and frequency of drug use. Unlike withdrawal from opiates, withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be dangerous as it can result in seizures or even stroke. Most of these withdrawal symptoms usually last between 10 and 14 days, but increased anxiety can last until medication-assisted detoxification is instituted.
- Anxiety and tension
- Concentration difficulty
- Hand tremor
- Insomnia and sleep disturbance
- Irritability and increased tension
- Muscular pain and stiffness
- Nausea and vomiting some
- Panic attacks
- Weight loss, palpitations
Benzodiazepine Detox & Benzo Withdrawal Management
As mentioned earlier, it is unwise to stop benzo use abruptly without medical supervision. CNT staff has deep experience with treating benzo withdrawal and performing benzo detox. CNT has been detoxing individuals off of benzodiazepines successfully for over 7 years. Benzodiazepine detox should only take place in a medical setting.
Librium is the most common medication used to help individuals with benzodiazepine withdrawal. Librium is a long-acting benzo and is less likely to cause dependence on its own. Rarely, an Ativan protocol is instituted when liver function is compromised.
At CNT, Outpatient Detox programs are designed to be safe and prevent any physical or psychological complications. Our trained and certified staff customizes protocols for each patient.
How To Address Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines could start within 24 hours of stopping use abruptly. One should never attempt to quit benzodiazepine use/abuse cold turkey by themselves, as withdrawal from benzos can cause seizures or stroke.
Another danger is the patient may ingest large quantities of benzodiazepines in order to obtain instant relief when withdrawal symptoms become unbearable, and risk overdose. It is highly recommended that the individual suffering from benzodiazepine dependence enter a detoxification program to not only obtain relief from withdrawal symptoms but also to wean off of benzodiazepines in a safe and effective manner.
THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT BENZOS
There’s no timeframe for the benzo withdrawal, but it can be dangerous. Medical professionals with experience in treating benzo dependence and benzo withdrawal should be the only clinicians who should be treating benzo dependence or benzo withdrawal and performing benzo detox. This will ensure that the benzo detox is safe for the patient.