Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

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What are Benzodiazepines?

Often referred to as benzos, benzodiazepines are a psychoactive class drug. The core of the chemical structure is a diazepine ring and a benzene ring. Chlordiazepoxide was the first drug of this type, accidentally discovered in 1955 by Leo Sernbach. Hoffmann–La Roche made the drug available in 1960, and began marketing Valium or benzodiazepine diazepam in 1963. Benzodiazepines became the most widely prescribed medication in the world in 1977.

Benzodiazepines are classified in the minor tranquilizer family of drugs. The drug enhances the effects of the GABA or neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid and the GABBA receptor. The result is the properties of a muscle relaxant, sedative, anticonvulsant, and anti-anxiety medication. When the shorter-acting version is taken, the result is often dissociation and amnesia. In the past, benzodiazepine was used for the treatment of:

  • Agitation
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Pre-op medication for dental and medical procedures
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia

Although considered safe in the past, the users of benzodiazepines often became addicted. In addition to becoming addicted, some of the users overdosed. Although effective when used for the short-term for a maximum of four weeks, the drug can cause cognitive impairment, behavioral issues and aggression. In some cases, the result is an increase in both panic and agitation. The risk of suicide increases with the use of benzodiazepines. Long-term use is considered controversial due to:

  • Higher risk of cancer
  • Physical dependence
  • benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
  • Higher risk of dementia
  • Decreased effectiveness

Stopping benzodiazepines use generally improves both mental and physical health, however benzodiazepine withdrawals are common and can be dangerous. The risk of adverse short and long-term effects is greater for the elderly. For this reason, the drug is completely inappropriate for older adults. There is a controversy among the medical community the drug is not safe for pregnant women due to concerns regarding potential cleft palate and neurobehavioral issues. Benzodiazepines have been shown to cause the symptoms of withdrawal in newborn babies.

If you use benzodiazepines and overdose, the result can be a deep and dangerous unconsciousness. The drug initially replaced barbiturates because they were considered less toxic. If the only drug used is benzodiazepines, death is fairly uncommon unless the overdose is severe. If you use this drug in addition to CNS or central nervous system depressants, opioids or alcohol, your potential for toxicity increases. This means you are at a higher risk of a fatal overdose.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most frequently abused drugs and often taken with other drugs with a high potential for abuse. Although not prescribed nearly as often as in the past, benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed for OCD and severe muscle spasms. This drug is often the first prescribed if the individual is experiencing hypnotic sedative withdrawal or delirium due to alcohol.

Since this drug has been in use since the 1960s, the interactions, withdrawal symptoms and side effects are well documented by the scientific and medical communities. The effects of the drug are effective and beneficial when taken according to the specifications of the prescribing physician for several different conditions. If the drug is abused, it is habit-forming and usually leads to addiction.

Benzodiazepines are not prescribed for the long-term due to the risk of decreased tolerance and addiction. Individuals given a legitimate prescription from their physician are at a lower risk of becoming addicted or using more medication than prescribed than those purchasing the medication illegally or on the street.

Dangers of Benzodiazepines

Even though this drug is effective initially, tolerance often occurs extremely fast. If you or a loved one are addicted to benzodiazepines, quitting without medical assistance is both incredibly difficult and dangerous. You can experience long-term complications due to your addiction including:

  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Underlying psychological issues become worse
  • Aggression
  • Impulsivity

There are specific symptoms and signs of a benzodiazepine addiction you can look for if you believe you or a loved one has become addicted including:

  • Poor impulse control and judgment
  • Stealing or asking for the benzodiazepine prescriptions of others
  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination issues
  • Mood changes and mood swings
  • Inability to taper off or stop using the drug despite the desire and consequences
  • Anger, aggression and denial
  • Issues with relationships and finances
  • Blurred vision
  • Legal problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Using benzodiazepines with other drugs or alcohol to achieve the desired effect

If you have a higher risk of addiction and tolerance to this drug, your risk of overdose increases whether accidentally or intentionally. The symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Difficult or slow breathing
  • Extreme confusion
  • Mental impairment
  • Blurred vision
  • Coma
  • Slurred speech
  • Death

The symptoms of withdrawal are potentially dangerous and painful. If you have become addicted to this drug and want to stop, you will need the support of your family and friends in addition to assistance from physicians and trained counselors and therapists. If you attempt to quit on your own, you need to understand it can be very dangerous. Going through medical detox, then entering a rehab facility is much more effective.

This article will cover the symptoms of withdrawal, the dangers of benzodiazepine and what you can do to receive the help you need for your addiction.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

There are three distinct and separate withdrawal phases for benzodiazepine. These are early, acute and protracted. The early phase starts as quickly as 24 hours after the last dose of the drug was taken. Symptoms usually peak at the acute or two-week point. This can lead to a protracted phase where your symptoms linger for months.

If you have taken large quantities of benzodiazepines or used the drug for a lengthy period of time, long-term benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can persist for years after you have successfully quit. You can significantly decrease the risk of experiencing symptoms of withdrawal for the long-term by getting help from a detox facility.

Physical Discomforts and Issues During Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

The majority of people given a prescription from their doctor for benzodiazepine for insomnia or anxiety will eventually start to abuse the drug. This usually leads to addiction. If the individual stops using the medication, a rebound effect is fairly common. This is when an initial medical condition becomes worse such as anxiety or insomnia.

Rebound insomnia is difficult to treat and extremely hard to endure. Some of the discomforts can be alleviated by doctors provided the person enters a medical detox facility. The most common physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Muscle pains, aches and stiffness
  • Tingling in the arms and legs
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

There is an increased risk of serious complications if you use benzodiazepines for the long term-term and experience sudden withdrawal symptoms. There is a possibility of experiencing dangerous seizures and tremors. If this occurs you must receive fast medical treatment or you can fall into a coma. The result is generally death.

Psychological Issues Experienced During  Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

The most common psychological issues during benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Irritability and agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Issues with regulating mood
  • Sensory distortions

As many as 10 percent of all individuals recovering from an addiction to benzodiazepine will experience protracted symptoms. This includes:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tingling in the legs
  • Mood issues

If proper treatment is not obtained, the risk of relapse or becoming addicted to another drug increases. It is extremely difficult to handle these symptoms without professional help.

Is Withdrawing at Home or Stopping Cold-Turkey Safe?

Absolutely not. If you are addicted to benzodiazepine, you need to have medical supervision to quit safely. If you stop using the drug suddenly, you are at risk for potentially deadly seizures and tremors. You require medical help through withdrawal or risk protracted withdrawal symptoms.

Medical supervision makes it much more effective and safer to stop using benzodiazepines. If there are any dangerous medical complications, physicians are available immediately to handle your symptoms quickly and efficiently.

Get Help Now (949) 763-3440

Being addicted to benzos is often a scary and traumatic experience. Call us right now to get the support and direction you need to end your active addiction.

What is Safe During Benzodiazepine Detox?

You can be prescribed sleep aids for the short-term by physicians to help with rebound insomnia. During the detox process, you can also take mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety medications. The risk of relapse or dangerous medical complications is reduced when legal and safe medications are accessible. If you attempt to recover from your addiction at home, you do not have the advantages of medical treatment.

You also increase the risk of having a seizure or the development of depression. Doctors in medical detox are able to safely wean you off the drug by providing you with a replacement medication or reducing your doses of benzodiazepines to decrease the symptoms of withdrawal.

What is Not Safe During Benzodiazepine Detox?

If you are alone during the process of recovery, you are not safe. This is because there is a potential for seizures, coma and even death. Many individuals attempt to alleviate symptoms with the use of alcohol or other drugs. This increases the risk of adverse health complications. When you are recovering from benzodiazepine addiction, you are also at a higher risk for suicide and depression.

What is Involved with the Process of Recovering from Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

The initial step is receiving an assessment for underlying health issues once you enter the facility. You are also assessed for polydrug use and mental health conditions. Depending on your specific circumstances, the amount of time you have been abusing benzodiazepines and your health profile, the length of time you need to remain in a detox facility and the medications for alleviating your withdrawal symptoms will be determined.

Benzodiazepine withdrawals take a long time. This means you might need to remain in a detox facility for a few weeks. The drugs will be completely cleansed from your system during detox. Once the detox process is complete, your therapists and doctors will make an assessment regarding any mental health issues. A determination is also made regarding your risk for depression episodes. More than 50 percent of all individuals entering drug rehab have untreated mental health issues.

It is difficult for physicians to determine if you were attempting to self-medicate a mental health issue or if your condition is the result of drug abuse. When you are in rehab, you will work with trained social workers and therapists to effectively and safely handle your mental health issues. You have the ability to work with your support team and counselors to create an ongoing treatment plan while in recovery.

When you have a customized treatment plan and mental health workers available, you significantly decrease the risk of having a relapse. If you do relapse, therapists, doctors and your personalized plan are used to deal with the issue quickly and efficiently. The experience of every person in detox and rehab is different because no two people are the same. The amount of time you have to remain in rehab or detox depends on several different factors including:

  • The specific circumstances
  • Length of time you have been using benzodiazepines
  • Health profile

Rehab facilities offer many different and effective treatment plans and are able to handle numerous types of physical and health issues. Different options are available such as family support and one-on-one or group therapy. The facilities offer many different amenities on-site you can use. These options are not available if you try to detox at home. Progressive, modern rehab centers are located throughout the country offering relaxation, games, and group therapies.

When you recover in a rehab facility, there are trained counselors available in addition to other people experiencing the same struggles. The feeling of purpose and camaraderie you experience in rehab is not available on the outside. There is staff to work with your insurance carrier, with the majority of rehab centers offering financing or payment plans for qualified applicants.

There are treatments available for benzodiazepine addiction regardless of your payment method or if you are unable to pay. If you or a loved one is addicted to benzodiazepines, talk to a licensed rehab counselor as quickly as possible at Asana Recovery. You can receive the help you need before it is too late.

Get Help Now (949) 763-3440

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and causes life-threatening symptoms. Don’t go through detox alone. Contact Asana Recovery today.

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