Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Detox
Benzodiazepines (commonly referred to as “benzos”) are often misused for their sedative effects, or to increase the high of other drugs taken with it. Benzodiazepine detox is the first step of treatment and recovery.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is often accompanied by physical and mental side effects as the body adjusts to lower doses or complete discontinuation of drug use. The withdrawal process takes time, so suddenly stopping benzodiazepine use can be dangerous.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment guidelines support the slow and steady decrease of benzos to reduce the risk of seizures or other negative effects. Learning about benzo withdrawal symptoms and detox recommendations is crucial for a healthy detox experience.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can vary from mild to severe, depending on the dose and frequency of misuse. The symptoms that can occur during the process are known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and include physical and mental symptoms. Some of the symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Weakness or dizziness
- In severe cases, psychosis or delirium
Some benzos, such as Alprazolam, can have more unpleasant withdrawal symptoms compared to other types. Switching to a different type of benzo before beginning detox to reduce the dose can improve the withdrawal process. Antiseizure medication can also be prescribed to reduce the risk of withdrawal seizures.
Benzo Withdrawal Timeline
The benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline depends on the starting dose and whether benzos have been used with other drugs or alcohol. The symptoms of withdrawal can start as soon as one to four days after reducing or stopping use.
There are no specific timelines for benzo withdrawal since dose and tolerance vary from person to person. In general, people starting at a higher dose (over 10 mg per day) can taper more quickly than people with a lower dose. However, once the dose reaches 10mg per day, tapering should be slowed.
Based on that tapering schedule, benzo withdrawal can last from several weeks to several months. The initial process of withdrawal is just the first step in recovery. Therapy and aftercare can continue for months or years after withdrawal symptoms end.
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Withdrawing from benzos is required to stop use, but there are some related risks. For anyone who has taken benzos for at least one to six months, stopping suddenly can be dangerous.
Risk factors for adverse withdrawal symptoms include starting doses higher than 10mg, other substance or alcohol use and a pre-existing, severe dependence. Patients who are withdrawing from benzos are also at risk of seizures, which can have long-term effects or could be fatal.
In addition to experiencing withdrawal symptoms shortly after stopping use, around 10% to 15% of people also experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS following benzo withdrawal can last months or years and can cause:
- Anxiety or depression
- Memory or cognitive problems
- Gastrointestinal issues
It’s unclear why PAWS symptoms persist beyond typical withdrawal symptoms, but PAWS is usually seen in people who have used benzos for more than 20 years.
Detoxing is the physiological process of benzodiazepines being removed from the body. Benzo detox can be unpleasant, and supervision is often helpful in monitoring symptoms and reducing the risk of relapse.
In some cases, fears of withdrawal symptoms can be a barrier to recovery. The symptoms of detox can be unpleasant and patients might feel anxious or worried about the withdrawal process.
Some people may feel more comfortable or safe completing the detox process in a medically supervised environment. Medically-assisted detox can take place in a hospital, detox facility or rehab center. The detox process is medically supervised and can also include benzodiazepine withdrawal medication. These benzo detox medications can help reduce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risks associated with benzo detox.
Tapering Off Benzos
The process of detoxing is much safer and more tolerable when the benzodiazepine dosage is reduced gradually. This gradual dose reduction is known as tapering and it is a safe way to stop using benzos.
Tapering should be done in increments, but the exact procedure will depend on a person’s usual dosage. As an example, the benzo taper process for someone taking 10 mg per day can include tapering from 5 mg twice per day, to 5 mg once per day, to 2 mg per day before stopping completely.
Each stage of tapering can take several weeks and the process should always be overseen by a medical professional. How to best taper benzos can be advised by a medical professional in a supervised medical setting.
Finding a Benzo Detox Center in Washington
Many treatment centers can help with different kinds of substance use disorders or addictions. Benzodiazepine detox centers are available around the country and offer services that promote safe and comfortable withdrawal.
The process of detoxing can be challenging and the support of loved ones or being close to home can be comforting. The Recovery Village Ridgefield’s medical detox center offers safe and supportive medical supervision for those detoxing from benzodiazepines. Located in Vancouver, Washington, the detox center is also accessible to residents Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
If you struggle with benzo addiction, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative about how addiction treatment can help you. The Recovery Village Ridgefield provides individualized treatment plans that address addiction alongside any co-occurring mental health disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
Ait-Daoud, Nassima; et al. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, March 12, 2018. Accessed July 18, 2019.
Brett, Jonathan; Bridin, Murnion. “Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence.” Australian Prescriber, October 1, 2015. Accessed July 18, 2019.
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.