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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Detox

Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that depresses the central nervous system and treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.

This medication can also cause an intense benzodiazepine withdrawal when discontinued.

Also known as “benzos,” these drugs are very commonly prescribed in the United States.

The most well-known brand names of benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin.

The main difference between these benzodiazepines is the length of time that they each stay in the body.

Generally used for legitimate (and legal) purposes, benzos are also often abused for their relaxing and euphoric effects.

Benzos help treat anxiety and seizure disorders, but the downfall is that they can cause serious physical dependence and benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Different Benzodiazepines and What They are Used for

Duration and Onset

  • Diazepam: Also known as Valium. Fast onset, begins working within 60 minutes. Duration of 1 to 3 days.
  • Clorazepate: Also known as Tranxene. Begins working within 30-60 minutes.
  • Oxazepam: Known as Serax. Has a slow onset.
  • Lorazepam: Also known as Ativan. Duration of 11 to 20 hours.
  • Alprazolam: Known as Xanax. Intermediate onset. Duration of 11 to 20 hours.
  • Clonazepam: Known as Klonopin. Same onset as Alprazolam.
  • Clorazepate: Also known as Tranxene. Short-acting agent. Lasts 3-8 hours.
  • Triazolam: Known as Halcion. Short-acting agent. Lasts 3-8 hours.
  • Clonazepam: Also known as Klonopin. Duration of 1 to 3 days.

Used for Anxiety Disorders

  •  Alprazolam (Xanax)
  •  Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  •  Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  •  Diazepam (Valium): Can also be used for help with muscle relaxation
  •  Lorazepam (Ativan)

Used for Seizure Disorders

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Clobazam (Onfi)
  • Diazepam (Valium)

Used for Insomnia

  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Quazepam (Doral)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)

Used for Alcohol Withdrawal

Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) helps aid in alcohol withdrawal.

The problem with using benzos for alcohol withdrawal is that they can cause a dependence on benzodiazepines.

This dependence, in turn, can cause a benzodiazepine withdrawal upon finishing the medication, creating a larger problem in the long run.

Used for Alcohol Withdrawal

Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) helps aid in alcohol withdrawal. The problem with using benzos for alcohol withdrawal is that they can cause a dependence on benzodiazepines. This dependence, in turn, can cause a benzodiazepine withdrawal upon finishing the medication, creating a larger problem in the long run.

Side-Effects of Benzodiazepines

Common side effects associated with benzodiazepines include:

  • Sedation
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Unsteadiness
  • Transient drowsiness
  • Feeling depressed
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Feeling irritable
  • Aggression
  • Excitement
  • Memory loss

Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?

Benzodiazepines all cause physical dependence. After a month of daily benzodiazepine therapy, you will feel the effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal.

This physical dependence means that benzodiazepines are extremely addictive both physically and emotionally.

How Quickly Does Benzo Tolerance Develop?

Tolerance to benzos can develop within a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. Typically anticonvulsant and hypnotic muscle relaxants develop a quicker tolerance, meaning under a few weeks.

There is evidence that after four months of continued benzodiazepine use, the drugs lose their anxiolytic properties. At this point, there is an addiction to benzos, and the only point of taking the drugs would be to avoid withdrawal.

What is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

If you are taking benzodiazepines for longer than a few months, do not stop therapy without the help of a medical professional. Suddenly stopping the use of benzodiazepines can produce seizures, tremors, muscle cramping, vomiting, and sweating.

Slowly tapering the dose of benzodiazepines will help avoid withdrawal symptoms. Under the guidance of a medical professional, you will begin to take less of your medication very slowly. Every week or month, depending on your doctor’s orders, you will take less.

Tapering off benzodiazepines can mean you will begin at 4mg daily, and move down to 3.75mg. It could also mean that you begin at 1mg daily, and move down to 0.75mg. Regardless of your usage, you will follow a schedule and slowly reduce your medication to avoid negative withdrawal symptoms.

What Makes Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Worse for Some Users?

The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on a few main factors. The first is your current dose. The higher the dose, the worse your symptoms will be. It also depends on how long you have been taking it and if you have any other substance problems.

If you take more than one benzo, other sedative drugs, or are quitting more than one drug, withdrawal symptoms will be much worse.

Effects of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzo withdrawal symptoms can include feelings of agitation, insomnia, and hopelessness.

Very Common Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Anxiety, trouble sleeping, restlessness, muscle tension, and irritability.

Less Common Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Nausea, blurred vision, night terrors, depression, tremors, twitching, or spasms.

Rare Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Hallucinations, delusions, seizures, ringing ears.
The risk of withdrawal seizures will be higher with a higher dose of benzo.

Benzodiazepine Abuse

From 1996 to 2013, the number of people filling benzodiazepine prescriptions increased by over 60%. More recently, in 2016, there have been estimates that state around 500,000 people misuse sedative drugs in the United States.

Benzodiazepine and Mental Illness

Benzodiazepines treat different mental illnesses, such as anxiety and panic attacks. The sedative effects of benzos provide the user with feelings of relaxation and relief from mental health problems. These problems can include anger problems, OCD thoughts, and PTSD.

Unfortunately, when stopping the use of benzos, the withdrawal triggers the onset of depression, anxiety, OCD symptoms, PTSD, and obtrusive thoughts.

The very mental disorders that the drug-treated will bring on the symptoms again in withdrawal.

Drug Interactions with Benzodiazepines

All benzodiazepines cause sedation in general. When combined with other medications such as alcohol, narcotics, tranquilizers, or barbiturates, the effects intensify.

Alternatively, the effects of both Alprazolam and Diazepam are reduced by drugs that slow the elimination of drugs in the liver. These drugs can include Prozac or Tagamet.

Reduced elimination is dangerous and can result in increased blood concentrations and side effects of benzodiazepines.

Antacids also can reduce the rate of absorption of benzodiazepines. To avoid this reaction, take antacids and benzodiazepines several hours apart.

Treatment for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment injects benzos intravenously into the body. During benzo withdrawal treatment, typically, Diazepam works best since it releases slowly over a longer period.

To avoid benzodiazepine withdrawal, taper off all benzodiazepines. The medication will need to decrease slowly to lower withdrawal symptoms and lower chances for seizures.

Cost of Benzodiazepine Treatment

The cost of benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment can range. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer free insurance verification for treatment. You will not be blindsided by finding out that your insurance does not cover the cost of your treatment.

Recovery is Possible

If you were prescribed benzos for General Anxiety Disorder or PTSD or developed an addiction on your own, you can get healthy again.

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer Outpatient Programs, Partial Hospitalization Programs, and Different forms of Medical Detox.

Call us at (855) 458-0050 to verify your insurance benefits and find out how we can get you on the path of recovery today.

Does your Insurance Cover Rehab?

At Resurgence, we accept most PPO insurance. Verify your insurance now.