Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, & How to Handle it

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, & How to Handle it

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a group of drugs that depress the central nervous system. They are prescribed by doctors to help with anxiety disorders, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, sleep disorders, and seizures. There are several on the market, but some of the better-known benzodiazepines are Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Like some other prescription drugs, these medications do have a propensity for abuse and can be addictive.

When people take benzodiazepines for a prolonged amount of time, their body will start to become dependent on these drugs. The result is an addiction; the person will start to experience benzo withdrawal symptoms when the amount of benzodiazepines in their body is low or these drugs are absent from their system altogether. With another dose, these symptoms should go away, but because they can be so uncomfortable, these symptoms are often what lead many drug addicts to continue to fuel their addictions. Unfortunately, if you want to get sober, withdrawal is an inevitable first step in the benzo addiction treatment process.

Signs of Benzo Withdrawal

Symptoms of benzo withdrawal will differ depending on several factors such as the specific benzodiazepine, the severity of the addiction, the person’s individual health, and the interactions with other substances. They include both physical and psychological side effects that can vary in severity. Some people will be lucky enough to only experience mild symptoms, while there is a possibility that others could have serious complications as a result of withdrawal. Those who take higher doses and for a prolonged amount of time will usually experience the worst symptoms.

In general, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Sweating
  • Hand tremors
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle aches
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Drug cravings
  • Mood swings1

In more severe cases of addiction, some people may experience psychosis or seizures and should seek immediate medical attention. If psychotic symptoms persist, treatment at a mental health facility may be necessary.

 

How Long Do Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Just like the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, the benzo withdrawal timeline can vary and will be slightly different for everyone. The benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms will typically come and go in stages with certain symptoms peaking at different times.

The time of the first symptoms of benzo withdrawal will depend on the specific drug’s half-life, the time it takes for the body to break down half of the drug, but onset of withdrawal is usually several hours to a day after use stops. This first stage will usually last up to four days with anxiety and insomnia as the most prevalent symptoms. For the next few days, other benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms will appear or get more severe. These symptoms usually peak between 10 and 14 days.1 After this time, most of the symptoms will start to fade, but psychological symptoms especially can linger.  Benzo cravings and anxiety can reappear even years after use finally stops.

 

How to Handle Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines

Because benzodiazepine withdrawal can vary is severity, it is always better to detox under the supervision of professionals. The staff at our medical detox center in Palm Beach will carefully monitor symptoms to address any complications as well as help the patient be as comfortable as possible.

If you do try to detox on your own, try to slowly reduce the dosage of benzodiazepines you are taking to taper yourself off of the drug so that way you can avoid intense or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms from stopping cold turkey. Talking with a doctor about your situation is advised as they may change the benzodiazepine to assist with this process. During this time, you also need to ensure that you are taking care of both your physical and mental health. Stay hydrated, eat healthy, and try to do light exercise if possible. While the physical symptoms are bothersome, the mental symptoms are what drive many people to start using again. Practices like meditation, mindfulness, and dialectical behavioral therapy could help.

At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, also known as the Center for Alcohol & Drug Studies, we want to see our patients find lasting sobriety. To get started on your own journey or to learn more about our programs for a loved one, call us now at 888-280-4763.

 

Sources:

  1. Wiley Online Library – The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome

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