Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Detox

Since benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, are so widely prescribed people often don’t understand the risks of taking them. While the opioid epidemic is the priority in Colorado in terms of drug abuse, benzodiazepine abuse is also a significant problem.

One of the side effects of benzos like Xanax and other similar drugs is that you can develop a physical dependence on them. This can happen relatively quickly, even if you’re taking them exactly as prescribed by a doctor.

When you’re physically dependent to benzos, and you try to stop taking them, you go through withdrawal symptoms which can range from mild to severe. The withdrawal and detox period is one of the biggest hurdles to stopping the use of benzos.

The following provides information about benzodiazepine withdrawal including some of the primary benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, and how detox programs can help.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

What so many people don’t realize unfortunately is that even taking benzos for a short period of time by prescription may mean that you have withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

Some of the most common benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches including migraines
  • Pain and stiffness

There is also the risk of severe benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms including psychosis, seizures, and hallucinations.

The severity and extent of withdrawal symptoms during benzo detox depend on the individual as well as how long they abused the drugs and how much they were regularly using.

Unlike many other drugs, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, in particular because of the seizures that may occur. This makes it important that people who want to detox from benzos do so in a medical facility that follows very specific benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment guidelines. Sometimes benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment can follow a plan of tapering off the drugs, to keep the patient safer. This means the person would gradually take smaller doses over time to mitigate some of the more severe symptoms of withdrawal.

Another issue that has to be dealt with regarding a benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment protocol is the fact that people will often experience rebound symptoms when they try to stop using these drugs. For example, people often start using benzos to treat anxiety, so during withdrawal not only do they experience anxiety, but it’s worse than it was before they started using benzos.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

Below highlights in a general sense what you can expect regarding a benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline:

  • The initial signs of withdrawal from benzos will usually begin around 6 to 8 hours after the last dose is taken for people who take short-acting drugs. It can be anywhere from 24 to 48 hours before withdrawal symptoms appear for people who take extended release benzos. The severity of withdrawal symptoms is usually more with shorter-acting benzos like Xanax and Ativan as well, compared to Valium and Klonopin, which are longer-acting. The initial signs of benzo withdrawal include anxiety and insomnia.
  • During days one through four people can expect rebound symptoms of anxiety and also sleep disturbances. Other symptoms that may peak during this time include increased breathing and heart rate, nausea and sweating.
  • From days 10 to 14 people may have some symptoms remaining, and then by day 15 symptoms usually dissipate.

While this is the general benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline, for some people there may be something called protracted withdrawal syndrome, which refers to random withdrawal symptoms that appear months after someone stops using the drug. Participating in a medically-supervised detox program can help lower the risk of this happening.

Benzodiazepine Detox in Colorado

If you’re trying to detox from a benzodiazepine dependence, you should absolutely only do it under medical supervision. It’s one of the most dangerous classes of drugs to detox from, and whether you do an inpatient or outpatient program, it’s important that you have medical supervision. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers benzo detox program options for people in Colorado and from around the nation.

It’s rare to die during withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs, but it can happen. Another thing to consider here is whether or not you or your loved one is a polydrug user. This  means that multiple drugs are being abused at one time. With benzos, it’s common for example for someone also to be abusing alcohol, and that can make detox even more difficult and dangerous.

With polydrug abuse, there’s the risk of things like delirium tremens, which refers to full-body tremors and delirium as well as grand mal seizures.

The benzo detoxification protocol can look somewhat like the following:

  • First, at an accredited benzo detox treatment center, a patient will undergo an evaluation. This is an important time when the staff can gather necessary information and create a detox treatment plan and also start working on recovery planning. During this time there are tests done such as blood and psychological tests and a general medical health assessment.
  • After this time the benzodiazepine detox protocol can focus on helping the patient comfortably go through the process of having their body remove the drugs. In some cases, a patient may be given medicines or interventions to help them stay safe and more comfortable. Constant monitoring is done throughout this time.
  • After someone has successfully detoxed from benzos, they can move on to treatment. Detox is so important because it is often the most difficult part of recovery for many people, which is why professional help is essential.

For people in Colorado, there are benzodiazepine detox centers in Colorado like The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. We also operate detox centers in other states around the country as well.

Trying to go it alone when it comes to benzodiazepine detox is a bad idea for many reasons. It’s difficult, potentially dangerous and you’re less likely to be successful.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.