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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Treatment

Read on to learn more about benzodiazepine withdrawal, including the common symptoms of benzo withdrawal and how the symptoms are treated.

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Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative-hypnotic drug that are mainly used in the treatment of anxiety or panic attacks, and are sometimes used to treat insomnia.2 While generally safe when taken as prescribed, benzodiazepines are generally recommended for short-term or intermittent use that does not exceed longer than a few weeks.5 This is because regular, long-term use of benzodiazepines (e.g., two months or longer) can result in experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, even when the medicine is being taken at therapeutic dosing levels.5

Factors that influence benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms onset and severity, which can range from mild and uncomfortable to serious and severe, include: dose, duration of use, duration of drug action, and the potency of the benzodiazepine.1, 5 Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and roughly 20 to 30 percent of those who go through sedative withdrawal untreated experiencing a grand mal seizure.1 Luckily, medically managed detox services can help those at risk of experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms detox safely and effectively.3

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines work by increasing the body’s inhibitory tone, effectively calming an overactive central nervous system.1 Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, meaning someone who takes benzos may experience similar side effects one might experience with alcohol, which is also a CNS depressant.1, 2

Side effects of benzodiazepines include the following:1

  • Feelings of drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Feelings of weakness or lethargy.

Benzos have a high potential for misuse, and long-term use or misuse can increase the risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms and of developing a substance use disorder.1 Additionally, those who take benzos concurrently with opioids or alcohol face increased risk of overdose of complications.6

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

When one stops using benzos after a significant period of time, they may experience benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.1 The severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal can vary greatly depending on the type of benzo that was taken.1 However, the longer a benzo was taken and the higher the dosage, the more severe the withdrawal can be.1 It’s important to understand that any degree of regular benzodiazepine use can spark a withdrawal syndrome, and that a person who’s been prescribed benzos and using them regularly should consult their prescriber before stopping use.1

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms of benzo withdrawal may include:1

  • Sweating.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Hand tremors.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.

Severe withdrawal can include grand mal seizures and delirium, which may be life-threatening

How Long Does Benzo Withdrawal Last?

There is no set timeline for how long benzodiazepine withdrawal will last. The timing of benzo withdrawal will depend in part on the type of benzodiazepine used.1 For example, benzodiazepines with a short-half life may begin producing withdrawal symptoms a few hours after the cessation of regular use, whereas longer-acting benzos may not cause symptoms until a few days after the cessation of regular use.1 How long the substance was taken, how larger the dose was, and how frequently it was taken will also affect the timeline of withdrawal.1, 3

Benzodiazepine Detox

Detoxification, or “detox” for short, is a set of medical interventions designed to help manage the withdrawal symptoms of those who stop using substances. Detox can occur in many different types of settings, ranging from hospital inpatient to outpatient detox. For benzodiazepine detox, whether one attends inpatient or outpatient detox will depend on the risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.3

Due to the potential for seizures and delirium during the withdrawal process, patients will likely require recurring assessments during detox.3 While behavioral therapies may be introduced during detox, medication management is one of the major benefits a medically managed detox program can offer during benzodiazepine withdrawal.3 Strategies commonly used include tapering, which is a gradual cessation of benzodiazepines, or substituting a long-acting benzo and then tapering use for someone looking to stop using short-acting benzos.3 These strategies help reduce the chances of severe withdrawal symptoms appearing.

Finding Benzodiazepine Detox Treatment

Detox is often just the first step in a larger continuum of addiction care. Comprehensive addiction care can lead to positive outcomes and help a person achieve and maintain recovery. If you’re ready to take the first step towards recovery, you’ll need to begin by finding a benzodiazepine detox facility.

A good first step would be to reach out to your doctor. They may be able to help you determine your medical needs and may be able to refer you to nearby addiction treatment facilities. Additionally, you may consider visiting the SAMHSA Treatment Locator. This tool allows you to search for addiction treatment facilities by zip code, helping you find nearby benzodiazepine detox programs.

You may also consider reaching out to an addiction helpline if you have further questions. Addiction helplines, like the one operated by American Addiction Centers (AAC), are 24/7 resources that can help those seeking answers about benzodiazepine detox. At AAC, our compassionate staff is waiting to help answer any questions you may have about the detox process. They can also help you find suitable detox facilities and help you verify your insurance benefits. Recovery doesn’t have to wait; call us today at .