One hundred and twenty-seven million prescriptions. That is how many RXs have been filled in the U.S. for the wildly popular drug class, benzodiazepine—commonly referred to as “benzos”—according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Benzos are a Schedule IV controlled substance that include fifteen approved medications, including such brands as Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and Librium, to name a few. These drugs produce a calming effect by attaching to the brain’s GABA-A receptors, and are generally prescribed for patients with anxiety disorder or insomnia.
Benzos also happen to be widely abused, as they are extremely addicting. Tolerance to the drug’s effects builds rapidly, leading the individual to begin taking higher and/or more frequent doses to gain the same effect as originally experienced. This quickly advances into drug dependency, where withdrawal symptoms commence if the individual decides to discontinue use.
Benzo withdrawal is extremely dangerous, and potentially fatal, if not undergone under medical supervision. Doctors who specialize in benzo withdrawal are trained to manage the detox and withdrawal process carefully in order to avoid dangerous health events. By no means should anyone attempt to detox from benzos without the supervision of doctors who specialize in benzo withdrawal.
Benzos are a hugely popular drug classification that provides immediate sedating effects for individuals struggling with a variety of conditions such as anxiety, panic disorder, restless leg syndrome, epileptic seizures, and insomnia. The mildly tranquilizing effects of benzos are helpful for relaxing patients prior to a medical procedure or surgery. These medications are not intended for long-term use due to their propensity for becoming addictive.
Benzos are also used recreationally, usually via illicit routes of obtaining the drug. Some people purposely use both benzos and alcohol, a dangerous combination, for an enhanced sedative effect. Opioid addicts often take benzos with the opioid, another dangerous poly-substance habit. Benzos reduce respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, so taken with another depressant can be deadly. In fact, 30% of overdose deaths involve this combination, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Becoming physically dependent on the effects of a benzodiazepine can happen quickly. For instance, taking 4mg of Xanax a day for three months can likely result in drug dependency. This means that when attempting to stop taking the drug, the body immediately goes into withdrawal, prompting the person to return to the drug. The longer the drug use continues, the more difficult it is to withdraw from.
Medical Benzo Detox Process
When someone has an entrenched benzo dependency or addiction it is recommended that they obtain detoxification with the support of a medical detox program. To abruptly stop taking the drug after a lengthy history of use can cause serious, even fatal, health events such as seizures or psychosis. A medical detox program will have a tapering schedule to safely wean the individual off the drug over a two week period.
Withdrawal symptoms commence between 10-24 hours after the last drug dosing. This will vary depending on whether the individual is dependent on a short-acting benzo, such as Xanax, or a longer acting one like Valium. Withdrawal symptoms usually proceed in three stages, including early withdrawal, acute withdrawal, and protracted withdrawal, although only approximately 10% of individuals experience the protracted withdrawal stage. The symptoms peak around day ten before beginning to subside.
Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms when detoxing from benzodiazepines include:
Early withdrawal stage:
Acute withdrawal stage:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Blurred vision
- Trouble concentrating
- Foggy thinking
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
Protracted withdrawal stage:
- Tingling in arms and legs
- Muscle twitches
- Cognitive problems
- Mood swings
- Prolonged anxiety
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the length of history of benzo dependency, the amount of the drug consumed, and whether there is a co-occurring mental health disorder present.
Treatment for a Benzo Addiction
After the successful completion of a medical detox, the next phase of recovery from benzo dependency is treatment. Addiction treatment encompasses assorted therapies that provide a comprehensive approach to reshaping thoughts and behaviors and equipping the individual with sound coping skills and recovery tools. This multi-pronged treatment program will include:
- Individual psychotherapy, also called talk therapy
- Small group therapy sessions
- Classes that provide information about how addiction works
- Relapse prevention planning
- Adjunctive therapies, such as biofeedback, recreational therapy, yoga, meditation, and art therapy
- Recovery groups
Solutions 4 Recovery Have Doctors Who Specialize in Benzo Withdrawal
Solutions 4 Recovery is a full-spectrum addiction treatment program serving South Orange County, California. The highly trained detox team at Solutions 4 Recovery includes doctors who specialize in benzo withdrawal and management, safely guiding the client through the process and into their highly effective, customized treatment program. For more information about benzo detox and withdrawal and treatment, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874