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benzo withdrawal symptoms

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

While the truth is benzodiazepine addiction alone won’t result in death, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable. Most benzodiazepine users tend to combine the substance with other drugs or alcohol to enhance its effects. When this happens, it makes their withdrawal experience much more intense than with other substances. Plus, co-occurring disorders are often more challenging to treat and address in rehab, which is why seeking treatment at a specialized rehab facility is paramount for recovery.

Benzodiazepine use is widespread. In the past decade, benzo prescriptions rose by 67 percent. Benzodiazepine abuse is significant among all age groups, and almost half a million people in the United States were misusing sedative drugs back in 2016.

However, this popular anti-anxiety medication can be habit-forming, which means people develop tolerance and dependence. When this occurs, benzo withdrawal symptoms are bound to happen when they try to quit or treat their addiction.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzos are central nervous system depressants that help treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the nation. Some of the most popular brands are Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin.

People misuse and abuse these drugs for their euphoric and relaxing effects. However, even those who follow their doctor’s orders can develop a physical tolerance and linger the line of addiction. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone becomes physically dependent on benzos, their body cannot operate correctly without it. Suddenly stopping benzos can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

The benzos withdrawal process is challenging and even dangerous. People often feel on edge for several weeks, and their anxiety can return. Irritable feelings, hypersensitivity, and insomnia are some of the symptoms. Benzo withdrawal symptoms vary tremendously, and they might come and go throughout the detox process.

People can experience withdrawal symptoms in as little as one month of use. Those who take benzos for over six months, close to 40%, will experience moderate to severe symptoms, and the other 60% will suffer mild symptoms. 

Initially, people struggle with “rebound” effects or the initial short-term withdrawal symptoms. These often include:

  • Sleep trouble
  • Tension
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscular pain
  • Mild to moderate changes in perception
  • Cravings
  • Tremors

Those who abuse higher doses of benzos or used the drug for longer might experience less common yet more severe symptoms. Some of these side effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis episodes
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal ideation risk

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for benzo withdrawal varies tremendously. Symptoms from shooter-acting benzos will start sooner than those from longer-acting ones. For this same reason, short-acting benzos will produce severe withdrawal symptoms. Since long-acting benzos take more prolonged show withdrawal symptoms, people experience less intense signs. 

The timeline is different for everyone, but those who use benzodiazepines for at least a few weeks will likely follow a similar timeframe. 

First 8 Hours

The first signs of withdrawal are anxiety and insomnia and start within several hours after quitting. Those who take short-acting benzos will begin to notice symptoms in six to eight hours. However, it all depends on how low their bodies take to leave the system. 

Days 1-4

When people quit benzodiazepines or benzos cold turkey, the first 24 hours will be highly uncomfortable, with anxiety, depression, and dizziness symptoms. After a couple of days, people start to experience rebound anxiety and insomnia symptoms. Here’s when intense discomfort starts to set in. Other symptoms like sweating, nausea and increased heart rate appear. Those using longer-acting benzos start feeling withdrawal symptoms around this time. 

Days 10-14

By the second week, people still struggle with withdrawal symptoms. For some, mild symptoms might start to dissipate. However, symptoms from longer-acting benzos begin to peak during this time, and it’s when people feel the most uncomfortable. 

After 15 Days

Most long-term abusers will stop feeling withdrawal symptoms by the end of the second week. However, those who are heavily dependent on benzos may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These are severe withdrawal symptoms that can flare up even months after quitting. 

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), also known as protracted withdrawal, can continue even after six months of someone’s last dose. When this happens, people often relapse because they feel worse once they stop taking the drugs instead of better. These come and go as waves and might require medical attention to control. The most common symptoms include:

  • Intense and persistent anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Depression

Benzo Withdrawal Treatment Plan

The first step to help someone struggling with benzo withdrawal symptoms is to follow a detox protocol. Quitting cold turkey and by themselves can be life-threatening. A medical facility with supervision can help monitor and control symptoms like seizures and suicidal behavior. 

Benzo detox often involved tapering down from the drug. In this case, a physician will manage the dose reduction or prescribe a lesser potent benzo. The goal here is to determine the severity of addiction rather than the drug to understand the treatment plan fully. 

Sometimes patients enter medication-assisted programs to help their withdrawal process and reduce their symptoms. However, these are on a case-by-case basis and depend on a myriad of factors. 

Benzo Addiction Treatment Options

Unfortunately, benzo detox is rarely enough to help someone achieve a long-lasting recovery. Most people need to seek help from a drug rehab facility to find the right treatment. Depending on the severity of their addiction, a specialist might recommend either an inpatient or outpatient setting. Other modalities will include individual counseling and support groups to encourage recovery. 

  • Benzo Medical Detox: A clinically supervised detox process to ensure the patient’s safety and make the benzodiazepine withdrawal as comfortable and safe as possible. 
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Often, people who misuse benzos mix it with alcohol, struggle with opioid misuse, or have co-occurring mental health illnesses. A dual diagnosis treatment plan collectively and holistically treats the various ailments. 
  • Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment. 
  • Outpatient Programs: For those with mild benzo addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs: A form of drug rehab offers more flexibility to patients seeking addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving.
  • Medication-Assisted Programs: While rare, long-time benzodiazepine addicts might experience the worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent these symptoms from harming them physically and psychologically, a physician might recommend specific prescription medications to help through the withdrawal process under a medically supervised program.

Seek Substance Abuse Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepines addiction, don’t wait any longer. Countless treatment options can help them conquer their addiction and manage any withdrawal symptoms. Remember, quitting potent drugs like benzos alone can be life-threatening. It’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering customized drug addiction treatment plans. We look at each program on a case-by-case basis to cater to your needs to get better and walk towards recovery. From detoxification programs to group meetings and more, everyone in our team is committed to helping you win the battle of addiction. 

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