The Dangers of Benzo Withdrawal
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are a group of CNS depressants, which slow activities in the brain.
They may be prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, panic attacks, and seizures.
Among the most popular of these prescriptions is Xanax or Alprazolam – as known in its generic form.
According to CBS News reports, it was the United States’ 11th most prescribed drug in 2011. Xanax is used in managing panic and anxiety disorders.
Xanax and other common benzodiazepines – Valium, Ativan, Restoril, and Klonopin function by elevating the activity of an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA.
The GABA inhibition of brain activity leads to effects like drowsiness and relaxation.
Benzos differ in their half-lives, or the duration they remain in the body.
This impacts how long the drug’s effects are felt by the person.
Benzodiazepines are sometimes abused for their euphoric and relaxing effects.
Benzos are usually prescribed only for short uses because users may become tolerant, dependent, and/or even addicted to them.
However, even at therapeutic doses, Xanax and other benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence and withdrawal.
Immediate Placement in Detox for Benzo Withdrawal
What is Xanax Withdrawal?
Benzodiazepine use has become widespread. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of individuals filing benzo prescriptions rose by 67%. Benzo abuse and dependence have become prevalent across all age groups, from teens to elderly adults.
In 2016, estimates suggested that about 500,000 people in the U.S. were misusing sedative drugs. In 2017, nearly 45 million prescriptions for Xanax were written by doctors. Indiscriminate prescribing practices have led to thousands of cases of abuse and dependence. A 2018 research shows that an estimated 5.4 million individuals, age 12 and above misused prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax.
Benzodiazepines are habit-forming. Anyone taking them consistently can develop tolerance and dependence. When one becomes physically dependent on a drug, it means the body cannot function normally without it. Sudden quitting or reduction in dosage can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax withdrawal or withdrawing from any other benzo can be quite difficult. Depending on the user’s dosage and how often they are using Xanax or other benzodiazepines, withdrawal experience can range between uncomfortable and very unpleasant.
Learn More About Rehab for Xanax Withdrawal
Dangers of Benzo Withdrawal
Given the high risk of addiction, the harms of continued benzodiazepine usage, and the potential for a markedly complicated and unpleasant withdrawal, many people require professional treatment to quit. Benzodiazepine usage for only a few weeks can lead to a real possibility of withdrawal symptoms. Longer usage periods and higher doses result in a higher likelihood of withdrawal and an even greater severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Benzo withdrawal can be a difficult, even dangerous process. Users can feel on-edge or anxious for several weeks. Hypersensitivity and irritability to the surroundings can be experienced. Insomnia is also common. Users can also expect physical symptoms, including headaches and hand tremors.
It can become medically serious too. If a user intakes Xanax or any other Benzo multiple times a day, then quitting will require some time, patience, and determination. Quitting cold turkey can lead to extreme and dangerous symptoms.
Grand Mal Seizures are the most severe withdrawal symptoms. 30% of individuals facing Xanax withdrawal or withdrawal from any other sedatives have been reported to have such seizures. Seizures are particularly dangerous especially when they occur in uncontrolled settings like when driving a car. However, regardless of setting, seizures can be potentially fatal. Paranoia and delirium are also among the dangers of benzo withdrawal. They can lead to delusions, hallucinations, or erratic, violet behaviors with potentially life-threatening consequences.
This is why formal detox treatment is absolutely necessary. At Emerald Isle, our detox treatment has helped patients facing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms to move on to better living quality. A more comprehensive list of withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle spasms
- Racing pulse
- Difficulty concentrating
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of unreality
Coping and Relief
Research has shown that the best way to quit benzodiazepines and avoid withdrawal is by tapering down the dose. Tapering means taking progressively smaller doses over a few weeks or months. Users can taper down on their own, however, it is best to seek the assistance of a doctor. At Emerald Isle, we ensure that all our patients get the best assistance for their benzo challenges.
Depending on the benzo a patient is currently taking, our doctors may want to switch them to a different one before beginning tapering. Due to their many uncertainties, short-acting benzos complicate withdrawal. The most common choice for dose tapering is Diazepam – a long-acting benzo. There are no standard tapering schedules to follow. Our doctors at Emerald Isle will help design an individualized tapering schedule based on the patient’s current dose and circumstances. Some people taper quicker than others. Tapering can last from within two to three weeks and several months.
During tapering, users may experience some withdrawal symptoms. This can occur after each dose reduction. When these symptoms become intolerable, tapering can be paused or slowed down by the physician. Users can also cope with these breakthrough symptoms by having a backup plan for dealing with anxiety. Some helpful strategies include exercise, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness training.
Professional Detox Programs
Although several treatment options for quitting benzodiazepine use are available, the main components of successful detoxification include gradual dose reduction, psychological support, and pharmaceutical management of symptoms, as necessary. Detox treatment can vary in duration, intensity, and setting depending on the patients’ needs. However, in all cases, except a doctor has confirmed that there is negligible risk of experiencing a complicated withdrawal, benzo detox and discontinuation should be medically supervised.
Several individuals with different withdrawal severity have improved their lives with our detox treatments here at Emerald Isle. Treatment usually starts with an assessment by a qualified medical expert who considers the severity of benzodiazepine addiction, the level of dependence, mental health disorders or co-occurring substance abuse, and life circumstances and motivation that can hinder or encourage personal treatment goals. Based on this evaluation and patients’ choices, a treatment plan is designed, which is individually tailored and adjusted over time.
Some of the most common settings for benzo detoxification include:
- Medical hospital: Subject to patient needs, detoxification treatment in a hospital setting may be carried out in a general medical, intensive care, psychiatric unit, or specialized chemical dependency unit. They are all equipped to deliver intensive inpatient detox services in a structured, medically monitored setting.
- Inpatient substance use disorder treatment center: There are various care levels in inpatient and residential settings. While some offer social detoxification, others provide more medically monitored detoxification. For patients in danger of benzo withdrawal symptoms like delirium or seizures, facilities equipped to medically manage such acute withdrawal phases will be required.
- Outpatient substance use disorder clinic: This involves properly licensed and credentialed care providers, including registered nurses or licensed practical nurses. They monitor patients’ care during sessions that take place at predetermined periods.
- Physician’s office: Trained clinicians can also commence treatment in their offices. Treatments, similar to outpatient detox usually occur at predetermined intervals. This setting is commonly used for patients who developed a dependence after the therapeutic use of benzodiazepines.
Cases of heavy, long-term use can take a few months to taper down a benzo dose to zero. As 24-hour care could be required, particularly for heavy benzodiazepine use cases, patients are advised to verify with a treatment expert if they are considering treatment in a doctor’s office or outpatient setting. Patients who begin treatment in an inpatient or hospital setting can be followed up with outpatient care once significant progress has been achieved. For patients on therapeutic doses, withdrawal often can be started and completed in an outpatient setting.
Minimal withdrawal symptoms can be experienced and may also be avoidable if dose tapering is executed at a “gradual enough” pace. But, how gradual is “gradual enough?” This is rather subjective and depends on factors mentioned above, including type and severity of benzo use and co-occurring problems. Accordingly, successful dose tapering can last from a few weeks to several months. While the more immediate objectives are successful benzodiazepine discontinuation and detoxification, complete, comprehensive substance abuse treatment can help mitigate further relapse risks. This will also allow caregivers to assess and take care of any protracted withdrawal symptoms.
Free Insurance Verification for Benzo Rehab & Xanax Withdrawal
The dangers of benzo withdrawal can be severe when not managed properly. Individuals who quit benzodiazepines without a taper may experience life-threatening grand-mal seizures. They are also at the risk of experiencing hallucinations and deliriums that can cause them to lose touch with reality.
Numerous drugs are safe to withdraw from personally, but not benzos. However, this does not mean that every patient requires inpatient care. Most people can handle tapering their benzos at home with the aid of their primary psychiatrist or care doctor. But, patients are advised to stay in touch with their doctors regularly during the tapering period, either via phone or frequent office visits.
Depending on patients’ situation, doctors may think it best to prescribe small, controlled amounts of medication per time. This prevents patients from altering the taper but it might result in regular trips to the pharmacy.
Individuals with histories of complicated withdrawals, severe mental illnesses, or seizures should best be treated in an inpatient setting. This implies that patients will live at a hospital or detox facility for several weeks where they can receive constant medical and psychological monitoring and support.
Quitting benzodiazepines means that underlying psychiatric symptoms can re-surface worse than ever before, including:
- Panic attacks
- PTSD symptoms
- OCD symptoms
- Severe anxiety
- Obtrusive thoughts
Inpatient treatments can be quite expensive, depending on the facility. However, it is covered by several insurance companies. Contact Emerald Isle for the best affordable inpatient treatments.
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