Benzo Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Benzo withdrawal is a process that occurs when someone who is physically dependent on benzodiazepine drugs stops using them. This guide to withdrawal from benzos explains what to expect from the detox process and shows you how to engage with evidence-based treatment for benzo addiction. 

What to Expect Withdrawing from Benzos

Understanding what to expect during benzo (benzodiazepine) withdrawal is beneficial for anyone preparing to reduce or discontinue use of this Schedule IV controlled medication. Benzo withdrawal is a complex experience that varies greatly from person to person. That said, there are some general aspects you can anticipate.

Firstly, it is always advisable to undergo benzo withdrawal under medical supervision. Abrupt cessation can trigger severe rebound symptoms – a re-emergence of intensified symptoms like anxiety that benzos were used to treat. It is also helpful to have a strong support system in place to provide the emotional backing you need.

Expect to face psychological challenges during withdrawal from this class of medication. Feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and irritability often occur as the body readjusts to functioning without the medication. The duration and presentation of withdrawal symptoms can differ widely based on factors like the duration of benzo use, dosage, type of benzodiazepine, and individual health factors.

When you choose to detox from benzos under medical supervision, you can take advantage of a tapered reduction in dosage to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms outlined below. Medications and supportive care will streamline the entire process and reduce the intensity of benzo withdrawal. Read on to discover how you can achieve this. 

Benzo Withdrawal Timeline

Benzo withdrawal typically unfolds in three distinct phases, each with its own timeline. Undergo this process under the guidance of a healthcare professional and avoid abruptly stopping benzos without a well-planned strategy. How long do benzo withdrawal symptoms last, then?

1) Immediate benzo withdrawal

This phase begins soon after discontinuing benzodiazepines. The onset and severity of early withdrawal symptoms, often termed rebound symptoms, can vary depending on the benzodiazepine’s half-life. Short-acting benzos like Xanax can produce quicker onset symptoms than long-acting ones like Valium. People often experience a resurgence of the symptoms that the benzos were initially prescribed to treat – increased anxiety or insomnia, for instance. Gradual reduction in dosage and sometimes substitution with other medications can help minimize rebound symptoms.

2) Acute benzo withdrawal

This stage follows the initial withdrawal, usually starting a few days after cessation and lasting anywhere from 5 to 28 days, though in some cases, it may extend for several months. Acute withdrawal is often the most challenging phase, characterized by the most intense withdrawal symptoms. During this period, medical monitoring and potentially additional medications may be necessary to manage severe symptoms.

3) Protracted benzo withdrawal

Following the acute phase, some people may experience persistent withdrawal effects. Research shows that from 10% to 25% of those who use benzos long-term benzo face withdrawal symptoms lasting for 12 months or more. This is clinically described as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). Symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety, concentration difficulties, reduced libido, depression, and mood swings. These symptoms manifest unexpectedly and significantly impact quality of life. Management of PAWS usually involves supportive counseling, targeted therapies, and sometimes medications to alleviate discomfort and improve overall well-being. 

Benzos Withdrawal Symptoms

The range and intensity of benzo withdrawal symptoms is influenced by factors such as duration and dosage of usage. Individuals who have used benzos for shorter periods may experience milder symptoms, but the risk of severe withdrawal reactions still exists. Studies indicate that around 40% of those who use benzos for more than six months suffer from moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.

While the experience of withdrawal is unique for everyone, there are many common symptoms, which may include:

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Feeling as if bugs are crawling on the skin
  • Muscle spasms and twitching
  • Increased breathing rate or hyperventilation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Noticeable weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Increased anxiety and panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating and heightened sensitivity to stimuli
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns
  • Severe panic attacks and possibly tonic-clonic seizures
  • A sense of detachment from reality
  • Depression and mood disturbances
  • Hallucinations or delusions in severe cases 

Benzo Withdrawal Treatment

Treating benzo withdrawal requires a comprehensive approach that prioritizes safety and minimizes discomfort. The treatment typically involves the following strategies:

  • Medically supervised detoxification: This is often the first step in benzo withdrawal treatment. Medical professionals monitor vital signs and overall health, managing any acute medical issues that arise during detox.
  • Tapering off the medication: Gradually reducing the dose of benzodiazepines, rather than abruptly stopping them, helps prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. The tapering schedule is personalized based on individual usage history and health status.
  • Substitution with longer-acting benzos: In some cases, a short-acting benzodiazepine may be replaced with a longer-acting one to ease the withdrawal process.
  • Symptom management: Medications may be prescribed to address specific withdrawal symptoms such as sleep disturbances, anxiety, and seizures.
  • Supportive care: Adequate rest, a balanced diet, and hydration are beneficial during benzo withdrawal. Psychological support like counseling or therapy can also be useful in managing emotional and mental health challenges during withdrawal.
  • Talk therapies: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is effective in addressing the underlying psychological aspects of benzodiazepine dependence, helping to change thought patterns and behaviors related to drug use.
  • Relapse prevention strategies: Education about coping strategies, stress management, and triggers is crucial to prevent relapse.
  • Support groups: Groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery can offer peer support and a sense of community during recovery.
  • Holistic therapies: Techniques like mindfulness, yoga, and acupuncture can complement traditional evidence-based treatments by reducing stress and improving overall well-being.
  • Aftercare planning: Developing a long-term plan to maintain sobriety and manage any ongoing symptoms or mental health issues will reduce the chance of relapse in recovery.

Benzo withdrawal treatment should always be tailored to individual needs and circumstances, and it is most effective when conducted under the guidance of healthcare professionals. 

Get Treatment for Benzo Addiction at Ohio Recovery

If you or someone that you care about needs benzo addiction treatment, we can help you every step of the way and beyond at Ohio Recovery Centers.

We treat benzodiazepine addictions in an outpatient setting at our rehab center in Cincinnati, OH. This treatment delivery method enables you to maintain your everyday obligations without compromising your recovery.

All of our treatment programs offer personalized and evidence-based treatments that include talk therapies, counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and holistic interventions. Start addressing benzo addiction right away by calling 877-679-2132.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn