Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to help prevent panic attacks in those suffering from anxiety disorders. “Benzos” are Schedule IV controlled substances which may cause psychological or physical dependence.
If a person participates in long-term benzodiazepine use and abruptly stops taking the medication, withdrawal symptoms can occur.
To avoid benzodiazepine withdrawal, tapering off the drug may be required. If a person stops benzodiazepine use “cold turkey,” withdrawal symptoms can range in severity.
If a person experiences benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, treatment and management is necessary to avoid severe withdrawal.
How Benzodiazepines Work
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants used to help treat insomnia and anxiety caused by certain mental disorders. They bind to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, creating feelings of sedation.
In addition to managing anxiety, benzodiazepines act as an anticonvulsant to help those suffering from seizures.
Examples Of Benzodiazepines
Some examples of benzodiazepines which may be prescribed to you include:
- diazepam (Valium)
- triazolam (Halcion)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
When Do Withdrawal Symptoms Occur?
There are long-acting and short-acting benzodiazepines. Short-acting benzos pass through your body more quickly, which can lead to you experiencing withdrawal symptoms more quickly.
In fact, withdrawal may start 6-8 hours after the last dose is taken for short-acting benzos and 24-48 hours for long-lasting benzos.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may consist of:
- cravings for the drug
- increased anxiety
- difficulty sleeping
In addition to these common benzo withdrawal symptoms, more life-threatening health problems can occur depending on the severity of drug abuse which has taken place. Some of the more serious side effects of withdrawal include:
- psychosis or hallucinations
- confusion or disorientation
- blood pressure fluctuations
If benzodiazepines are taken in high doses over a prolonged period of time, the withdrawal symptoms can be more severe, requiring certain treatment and management techniques.
Treatment & Management Of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
The sudden discontinuation of the use of benzodiazepines may require treatment for withdrawal. Thankfully, there are several methods of treating withdrawal symptoms.
Medical detoxification is a process which helps allow your system to expel the unwanted chemicals and toxins in the body. With detox, a team of healthcare professionals will monitor you for post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and other severe symptoms.
Lowering Your Benzodiazepine Dosage
Your primary care specialist may recommend tapering off the benzodiazepine, lowering your dose in the process. By managing and monitoring your daily dose, you can follow-up with your prescribing doctor for continued treatment.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a timeline of acute withdrawal consists of 1-4 weeks or 3-5 weeks of gradually reducing the dosage, tapering off the benzodiazepine.
Certain medications such as buspirone (an anxiolytic) and flumazenil may be used during the withdrawal process, as they block the effects of benzodiazepines and can help with the discontinuation of the drug.
Additionally, those suffering from severe anxiety symptoms during withdrawal may be prescribed antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one experience benzodiazepine withdrawal, you may need addiction treatment. Addiction treatment centers, including Bedrock Recovery Center, offer a wide-range of treatment services like behavioral therapy, support groups, and mental health counseling.
We offer evidence-based care, inpatient options, and specialized treatment plans. To speak with a healthcare representative and learn more, please contact us today.
- Australian Prescriber — Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657308/
- National Alliance on Mental Illness — Risks of Benzodiazepines https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatment/Mental-Health-Medications/Risks-of-Benzodiazepines
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma10-4554.pdf
- World Health Organization — Withdrawal Management https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/