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.