Benzodiazepine Detox: Should You be Afraid of Withdrawal?

Many people with benzodiazepine addictions are afraid of going through withdrawal when they quit. This paralyzing fear is often what keeps them addicted to them for years. Perhaps you can relate, and you’re even nervous about the idea of going through detox.

You’re not alone if this is how you feel. It’s important to understand these medications and how dangerous they can be to quit. If you’re nervous about withdrawal, it may help you to learn more about what it’s like.

Detoxing from benzos the right way will help you stop these drugs safely. In fact, it can even minimize the severity of your symptoms. As you’ll see, it’s much more difficult to stop using these drugs cold turkey. Stopping them abruptly can also result in medical complications, which you certainly want to avoid.

What are Benzodiazepines and What are They Prescribed for?

Benzodiazepines are often called benzos on the street. They are medications that are typically prescribed to treat anxiety. However, some of them can also be used to treat insomnia and seizures disorders. They are psychoactive drugs, and at one point, they were the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. Some examples include:
  • Valium
  • Lorazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Xanax

These medications do have their therapeutic uses, and they can be very effective at treating anxiety. However, if they’re taken too long, or they’re abused, they can lead to an addiction.

Why do People Get Addicted?

It is extremely easy to form a benzo addiction. Taking this drug results in surging levels of dopamine in the brain. This occurs even after taking the medication just one time. When you experience alarmingly high dopamine levels, you get a wave of pleasure that is very rewarding. For many people, it’s also very hard to resist.

Researchers have often compared the addictive power of benzodiazepines to that of cannabis and opioids. They believe that as you continue to take these medications, they can result in significant changes in the brain. The receptors are made more susceptible to surges from other neurotransmitters. This makes future dopamine rushes even more intense.

Anyone who is prescribed benzos should not be on them for a long period of time. An addiction can happen in as little as six months of continued use. However, in some people, it may occur even faster.

Is Benzo Withdrawal Dangerous?

It can be extremely dangerous. This is especially true for those who have taken them for a long time. You may also experience complications if you suffer from pre-existing health conditions.

When you go through withdrawal, you may be at risk for developing seizures and psychosis. Seizures are of particular concern because they need to be managed medically. It’s possible for them to become progressively worse and hard to control as time goes on. They can even end up becoming fatal.

For anyone who quits using these drugs cold turkey, they also run the risk of rebound symptoms. This means that the symptoms that the drug treated may come back with greater severity. For instance, if you took benzos to treat anxiety, you may experience worse symptoms than you did when you started the drug. This may lead you to think about going back on the medication, which would be a relapse.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome may scare you, but it doesn’t have to. If you get professional treatment, your risk of developing complications can greatly decrease. It’s best to trust in a detox center to help you get through this challenging time.

Benzos are potent medications, and there may be a lot of information about withdrawal that you’re unaware of. For instance, did you know that:

  1. Withdrawing can be a very long, drawn-out process? It's possible to detox from Xanax in as little as seven days, because it's a short-acting drug. However, for a medication like Valium, it can take as long as three months. There are even some symptoms that can last as long as a year.
  2. The symptoms are extremely painful? It's common for benzo withdrawal to result in both physical and psychological pain.
  3. You should never quit cold turkey? The moment you discover that you're addicted to your medication, the logical solution in your mind might be to quit. However, this is the last thing you should do. You don't want to throw yourself into benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. It's better to get help from a detox program.
  4. Tapering off your medication is highly recommended? However, this shouldn't be something you try to do at home. You may taper off too quickly or too slowly. Your doctor will know the best way to arrange your doses.
  5. Tapering can reduce your risk for severe withdrawal? If you slowly stop taking your medications, you may be able to skip some symptoms entirely. Others may be much less severe.
  6. You may need to avoid other drugs or even supplements? You could have a negative experience if you use anything else that works on the brain's GABA receptors. You might even have a more difficult time if you take Vitamin D or Magnesium.
  7. You may need to avoid certain foods? There are some types of food that can make your symptoms worse. You may need to avoid caffeine, alcohol and artificial sugars, among other things.
  8. There isn't a truly safe way to get through withdrawals at home? You may see ads for natural detox methods or other products that you'd like to try. However, these can be dangerous, and they are never recommended.
  9. Your doctor may use medications to treat your symptoms? Some doctors may switch their patients to long-acting benzos to help control their withdrawals. Your doctor will discuss the right solution with you.
  10. You'll definitely need to give it time? There are so many great ways to treat your addiction. However, when it comes down to it, time is the best treatment available. It took you a while to get addicted, and it will take you a while to come off them.

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines are powerful medications, and they’re often prescribed despite their addictive qualities.
Benzo Detox Information

Once you stop taking them, you’re likely to experience various withdrawal symptoms, and these might include:

  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Sudden onset of Grand Mal seizures
  • Agitation or anger
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Excessive hot or cold sweats
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle weakness or pain
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Problems with your vision
  • Painful headaches
  • Feeling sensitive to smells, sounds and light
  • Bouts of dizziness
  • A feeling of detachment from the rest of the world

Some Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are merely annoying or inconvenient, while others require immediate medical care. For this reason, it’s important to stop using these medications under the supervision of professionals who can assist you.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can last for quite some time, but everyone is different in how they experience it. The length and severity of your symptoms will depend on a variety of different factors. These include:

  • The half-life of the drug – drugs that act quickly tend to have shorter half-lives, and also tend to leave the body quicker.
  • Whether or not you have a co-occurring disorder.
  • How much of the drug you have been taking.
  • Whether or not you have been drinking alcohol, or taking other drugs as well.
  • How long you have been using your medications.

When you go through detox, you can help your body get through this period much faster than it would if you were to stop taking them on your own. Those who stop using these medications cold turkey can expect to struggle with symptoms for several months. Also, there is always the chance of recurrent Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms as well; long after you’ve quit.

Most people experience their symptoms in three distinct phases. It’s important to understand what happens during each one.

The Early Withdrawal Phase – This phase may begin between a few hours to a few days of stopping your medication. Once it starts, it may last for a couple of days. During early withdrawal, you may experience more anxiety as your brain adjusts to not having the drug. You may develop insomnia as well. This is one reason why medical tapering is so often used.

The Acute Withdrawal Phase – After a couple of days have passed, you may begin acute withdrawal. This is the phase that generally lasts the longest. Your symptoms will become more severe, and your doctor may start you on other medications during this time. You could experience this phase for anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

The Protracted Withdrawal Phase – About 10% of people with benzo addictions will go through protracted withdrawal for several months or years. You may have random mood swings, muscle twitches and prolonged anxiety during this time. You may also suffer from other symptoms that come and go without much warning.

Could the Benzo Era be Drawing to a Close?

According to an article on Huffington Post, benzodiazepines are among the most popular drugs in the world. Xanax is the most highly-prescribed medication, globally. The number of prescriptions for this and other drugs in this classification has grown by 12% every year.

These medications have a reputation for being harmless and effective. However, research is showing that what we may have always thought was true about them is anything but. Scientists have discovered that there is a link between them and Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, the fact that they’re so highly addictive is a relatively new finding. In this way, they’re just as dangerous as street drugs like heroin and cocaine.

The problem is that doctors have always told their patients that these medications really have no downsides. They’re quick to assure them that they’ll experience relaxation and calmness when they take them. While this is true, there is so much more to be said.

There are fewer risks when people are placed on benzos for the short-term. The issue is that for many of them, a few months eventually turns into several years. So many people are getting addicted to these drugs completely by accident.

A lot of experts are referring to benzos as a quick fix, which is dangerous in and of itself. Their use has created a thought pattern of – feel bad, take a pill, feel better. The result is a world full of people who feel powerless over their anxiety without the pills.

Right now, researchers are working on developing withdrawal aids for benzodiazepines. They are also working to create drugs in the same classification that aren’t as addictive. It might not be long before we see these drugs meet the same fate as opioids.

How Can Detoxing Help You Quit?

If you have a desire to quit your use of benzodiazepines, detox is the answer you’re looking for. This should be the very first step you take as you recover. These drugs are very physically addictive, and you need to take the proper steps to get off them. Detoxing will help you do that.

During the time that you have been taking benzos, your body has gotten used to them. Some experts have even said that when you quit, your brain feels as though it’s being attacked. That’s what happens when you develop withdrawal symptoms. Going through detox is going to help you in a few different ways.

When you detox from benzos, you’ll find that you:
  • May be able to avoid experiencing any dangerous symptoms or suffering from any complications.
  • May experience a much shorter recovery time than if you were to quit cold turkey.
  • May have less severe withdrawal symptoms; even for the ones that are considered to be most common.
  • May feel better much faster than if you were to quit on your own.
  • May be able to achieve long-term sobriety as you learn other ways to deal with your anxiety.

It’s possible that you’ve considered using a detox kit to help facilitate your own at-home detox. Benzodiazepine detox kits have been on the market for several years, and not only are they quite expensive, but they’re also ineffective. There are a number of reasons why you should not choose this method, and these include:

  • Putting yourself at risk in the event of a medical complication during the detoxification process.
  • Not having the professional support you need as you quit.
  • Losing out on the overall health benefits of detox in a professional setting.
  • The risk of a higher rate of relapse, and possible overdose.
  • Being unable to obtain additional addiction treatment for your recovery.

The bottom line is that detox kits are dangerous. It’s much safer for you to stop using under the care and supervision of professional and medical staff. That way, you can get assistance and support throughout the process.

Your Doctor’s Approach to Benzodiazepine Detox Treatments

Your doctor will use a specific approach to help you go through the detoxification process. With cases like yours, it’s important to recognize that no two patients are alike. Even two patients with the same addictions might receive completely different treatment plans. That’s because you both experience drug dependence much differently.

Your doctor will talk with you in great detail about the best ways to handle your detox. You will probably experience a combination of the following methods.

Again, tapering off your medication is the best approach as you detox. With this method, you won’t have to put your brain through the shock involved with abruptly quitting. A medical taper should be very slow, and your doctor will know the best ways to proceed with it.

As long as the taper is slow enough, you should be much more comfortable during this part of the process. Your brain will slowly adjust to having less of the medication in your system.

You may be given medications to help you through the detoxification process as well. This is a form of treatment known as medical detoxification. As we mentioned previously, some doctors may place you on a longer-acting benzo to help. However, it may be necessary to get you off them altogether; especially if you’ve already been taking them a while. In that case, there are other medications they may try instead.

Their goal will be to try and control your symptoms of withdrawal. They may place you on an antidepressant drug if you begin to get anxious or having panic attacks. If you’re suffering from pain, they may give you an over-the-counter pain reliever.

You do want to be careful when you’re taking detox medications. Some of them can be addictive, even if their labels don’t indicate that they are. Talk with your doctor about any new drugs they want to put you on. Find out how long you should take them, and what the potential is of becoming addicted to something new.

You may also receive various holistic treatments for your benzo addiction. In many ways, non-medical options can be just as effective as medications. Some experts even believe they might work better for some people.

One of the biggest areas of concern for you will most likely be your diet. Coming off benzos may result in you not having much of an appetite, which means you may not eat as well as you should. It’s very important for you to keep your strength up as you go through detox. Eating the right foods will also help you by improving your liver and kidney functions. These are the organs responsible for flushing toxins out of your body. When they’re working well, the detox process does too.

You will likely receive nutrition therapy as one of your treatments. Talking with a nutritionist will help you better understand the vitamins and minerals your body needs. They’ll make sure your diet is comprised of everything it should be. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when your body is getting the fuel it needs.

Starting a regular exercise routine may also be incorporated into your treatment. Your body will process toxins out through your pores as you sweat as well. Aside from that, exercising can also naturally increase your body’s dopamine levels. In that way, it will give you a natural high that will make you feel good.

Rehab and Therapy for Addiction

Once your doctor feels that you’re ready, they’ll want to transition you into a Benzo rehab. This is where you’ll spend some time working on the psychological part of your addiction.

As you’ve continued to use these medications, your mind has come to believe you need them. A part of your hesitation right now may be because you’re worried that you won’t know how to function without them. That is where going to rehab is going to help you.

During rehab, you’ll receive many different types of therapy. You’ll work with a therapist in an individual and private setting frequently. You’ll also have group therapy and other forms of treatment.

Most people with benzodiazepine addictions also suffer from anxiety. This is called having a co-occurring disorder. It’s also possible that you could have another mental health condition that no one has diagnosed. It will be your therapist’s job to determine this, and then to treat you accordingly.

Some examples of other co-occurring disorders you may be suffering from include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Panic disorder
  • PTSD
  • OCD

Currently, you have been using benzos to medicate your symptoms away. However, this should never be done long-term. These drugs tend to become less effective as time goes on, which leads to physicians increasing dosages. However, you may have even increased how much you take on your own, without talking to your doctor.

It’s very important to treat both your addiction and your mental health condition at the same time. Your therapist will do this for you. This is called dual diagnosis treatment, and it’s the only effective way to treat a co-occurring disorder. If you don’t treat the mental illness, you will likely go back to using eventually. It’s possible you might even turn to another drug to help your symptoms as a way to self-medicate.

Types of Addiction Treatment Facilities

There are different ways that you can recover from your benzo addiction, but professional treatment is best. You’ll want to find the type of treatment program that will be most beneficial for you. This is different for everyone, but you do have several options.

There’s a reason why many professionals refer to inpatient rehab as being the “Gold Standard” of treatment. Most people find that they need a higher level of care when they’re recovering from addictions. You may find the same to be true for you.

In an inpatient rehab program, you’ll stay in the facility for about 30 days. While you’re there, you’ll participate in many different forms of therapy. You’ll be able to have visitors during your stay, and you may even take part in different patient outings.

An inpatient treatment center is a great option because it gets you away from your environment for a little while. You’re able to focus more intently on your recovery and meeting your goals. You’ll also get a lot of professional help and support.

Intensive outpatient treatment programs, or IOPs, are often very good. Some experts even indicate that they’re just as beneficial as inpatient programs. Going to an IOP would allow you to live at home while you receive treatment. You would attend your appointments several times a week for a few hours each time.

People often like the idea of going to an IOP because it means they can continue to work or go to school. A lot of programs offer evening appointments, which makes them very convenient.

If this is your choice, you will need to follow strict rules to remain compliant. Make sure you have a strong support system at home, and don’t miss any of your appointments.

Some people may find that they need a much higher level of care than an inpatient facility can offer them. For these individuals, residential treatment is often recommended.

You might need to go to a long-term care program if you have been addicted to benzos for many years. It may also be the best option for you if you have relapsed before.

A residential rehab would allow you to stay for a longer period of time. While you’re there, you’ll have access to detox treatments and therapy. Some programs may require you to obtain your own outpatient rehab, while others offer treatment in-house.

This type of treatment has a lot of benefits. You’ll have more time to learn how to live without being dependent on benzodiazepines. You’ll also get a lot of support, both immediately and when you’re ready to reintegrate back into society.

Eventually, you may begin going to an outpatient rehab program. However, this probably isn’t the best course of action for you if you’re new to recovery. This form of treatment involves working with a therapist one on one. Your appointments are usually once a week during the beginning, and there isn’t usually any type of group therapy.

Most people find that they need a higher level of care when they begin recovering from this addiction. Outpatient care is important, but it’s best to wait until you’re ready for it.

If you’re not prepared to go to a benzo rehab program right now, you may want to consider Narcotics Anonymous. This organization has been around for many years, and so many people have benefited from it.

NA meetings are run by other recovering addicts, so there is no professional interaction or support. You’ll be in a group of people, and you may have a discussion, or listen to a speaker. Don’t worry if you’re scared about talking in front of others. You won’t need to say anything until you’re ready to.

Continuing to Get Help as You Recover

It’s very important for you to continue to get help for your addiction after you’ve completed your treatment. If you’ve chosen an inpatient program, please remember that this is just the first part of your recovery. Whether you realize it or not, your addiction is a disease that is going to need ongoing treatment.

This realization might be difficult for you to take in at the moment. Please don’t misunderstand. You won’t need to remain in a treatment facility for the rest of your life. However, you may need to continue to get help and support long-term. For many people, their recoveries involve entering an inpatient program, and then transitioning to an IOP. Afterwards, they may move on to an outpatient rehab and NA meetings.

The goal is for you to remain clean long-term. The only way to do that is to continue to follow up with any recommendations your therapist gives you.

Amytal Addiction Treatment

How to Get Started with Benzo Detox and Addiction Treatment

Here at Northpoint Washington, we want you to know that we’re here to help you recover from your addiction. Benzodiazepines are such powerful drugs, and you shouldn’t trust your detox and recovery to just anyone. Not every doctor is experienced enough to know what you need. However, we do.

We would be happy to talk with you about the next steps you should take as you seek to recover. Our caring and helpful staff members would love to discuss your options for treatment with you.

Do you need to know more about benzo withdrawal, detox and treatment? We’re here to help anytime. Please contact us today.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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