Identifying and Managing Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
What Are Benzodiazepines?
When experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, you must be taking a drug called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines, sometimes referred to as benzos, are sedatives or minor tranquilizers. This class of medication is considered a controlled substance meaning that to get and use this medication, a doctor must prescribe them.
Benzodiazepines act to slow down the nervous system and the brain, resulting in feelings of relaxation or sedation. This process works by telling the brain to release a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA’s job is to make the nervous system less active, thus, slowing down your body’s responses to anxiety, panic, or other bodily reactions.1
Types of Benzodiazepines
- Short-acting. Short-acting benzodiazepines have a shorter half-life of 1 to 12 hours. This means they work fast but leave the body faster than other types. Because of this, you may find yourself taking more of these medications frequently.
- Intermediate. Intermediate benzodiazepines have an average half-life of 12 to 40 hours. Meaning that these medications last longer than the short-acting ones but not as long as the long-acting.
- Long-acting. Long-acting benzodiazepines have a longer half-life of 40 to 250 hours. This means the medication takes longer to take effect and leave the body. So the effect you receive from the medication may last longer.
What Are the Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Use?
The symptoms, or side effects, of using benzodiazepines can vary depending on the person and the type of medication used. Medications affect people differently, but some of the common side effects of benzodiazepines include the following:4
Severe symptoms of benzodiazepine use can result in overdose and death. Though overdose and death are more common when using benzodiazepines with other substances like alcohol or opioids.
Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?
This type of medication can become habit-forming and has a high potential for dependence. Anyone regularly taking benzodiazepines can develop a tolerance and dependence. Because of the pleasurable effect that benzodiazepines have, there is a high likelihood that those prescribed the medication could misuse it.
In 2021, among those 12 years or older, 1.4% (3.9 million people) misused prescription benzodiazepines in the past year. Those between the ages of 18 and 25 had the highest percentage of misuse at 2.4% (787,000 people). Finally, those 26 years or older reported 1.3%, or 3.0 million people, misused prescription benzodiazepines in the past year.5
Misuse of benzodiazepines can often lead to dependence and addiction. This dependence can then result in withdrawal when you try to stop using.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
Withdrawal occurs when the body and mind become dependent on the substance. If you are taking benzodiazepines regularly and for a longer period of time, you may become dependent on them. This might cause you to feel as though you cannot function without them.
It does not take long for benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms to occur. For those who have taken benzodiazepines for six months or longer, 40% reported experiencing moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. The other 60% reported mild benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.6
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
Phases of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
- Body aches and pains
- Increased anxiety
- Muscle spasms
- Panic attacks
- Hypersensitivity to light or sound
- Memory loss
- Hallucinations or delusions
How to Manage Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
The recommended and safest way to manage benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms is to complete a medical detox. This involves tapering off the medication under the supervision of a doctor. This can be done at home or in a facility.
Detoxification At Home
Managing withdrawal symptoms at home can be more difficult due to their discomfort level and potential for relapse. If you prefer to detox at home, it is important to:
- Consult a medical provider
- Learn how to relax and reduce anxiety without medication
- Have a good support system
- Drink lots of water and eat healthy meals
- Know when symptoms need medical attention
Detoxification in a Facility
- Medical support for the management of symptoms
- A safe and supportive environment
- Treatment to address any co-occurring or underlying mental health concerns
- Learning skills to cope with symptoms, cravings, and triggers
You may consider going to a detox facility if you are struggling to stop using the benzodiazepines and/or experiencing severe symptoms like seizures.
How Essence Health & Wellness Can Help
Essence Health & Wellness provides specialized treatment programs for those struggling with addiction and mental health. We understand that every person is unique and goes at their own pace. At Essence, we establish a personalized treatment approach suited for your recovery journey. Our goal is to provide faster recovery and customized attention so our clients can get back to everyday life.
Personalized Treatment Opportunities
- Residential treatment
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
Reach Out and Begin Healing
For more information about the programs at Essences Health & Wellness, contact us 24 hours a day at (818)-491-7288. We are committed to helping individuals find hope and healing from their addictions. We will welcome you with open arms. We can’t wait to meet you!
- https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809 – uses
- https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/benzo-withdrawal – early-withdrawal