Identifying and Managing Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms involve various symptoms that occur when you suddenly stop taking the medication. Learn more about it here.

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

Benzodiazepine Uses

Because of this effect on the brain and nervous system, benzodiazepines have been used to treat:2

Types of Benzodiazepines

There are three types of benzodiazepines:3
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms tend to start 24 hours after the last use and can last from a few days to a few months. The severity and length of the benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can depend on the following:

Phases of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

There are three phases of benzodiazepine withdrawal, which include the following:

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Not everyone will experience the same withdrawal symptoms though some are more common than others. Some symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal are:7
  • Body aches and pains
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Panic attacks
  • Hypersensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Seizures
  • Cravings

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

A medical detox in a facility is recommended, as you will have 24/7 medical support to help manage symptoms. A detox facility may last between 3 to 7 days and can include:9
  • 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.

benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms

How Essence Healthcare Can Help

Essence Healthcare 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

If you, or a loved one, are seeking help managing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, Essence Healthcare can help. We provide a variety of programs, including:

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!

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.