Benzodiazepines, more commonly referred to as benzos, treat a wide variety of conditions. Anxiety, panic disorders, depression, muscle spasms, and insomnia respond well to benzo treatment. Unfortunately, benzos also hold a high potential for addiction. Sometimes a person shows signs of benzo withdrawal when not using the drug. This usually means they have developed an addiction to the drug. In fact, they will need professional treatment to come off it. Phoenix Rising can help them detox and stop using benzos.
What Is Benzo Withdrawal?
Common benzo medications include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. Short-term use of them usually happens without a problem. Alternatively, long-term use comes with a strong risk of developing an addiction. When used long-term, the brain becomes tolerant to the effects of benzos. This is because they stimulate the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. The brain begins to rely on this and reacts when the process stops.
As a result, when people reduce or stop their usage of the drug, they may feel the signs of benzo withdrawal. Consequently, they will feel unpleasant side effects of no longer using the drug. This commonly happens when someone with addiction quits taking any drug or drinking alcohol. Because this can be a dangerous time, withdrawal should be done under medical supervision.
Symptoms and Signs of Benzo Withdrawal
The brain becomes used to benzos with high-dose, long-term use. Consequently, when a person attempts to reduce or stop their benzo usage, they experience withdrawal symptoms. Signs of benzo withdrawal include:
- Racing pulse
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Sensitive to light and touch
- Irregular heart rate
- Muscle pain
- Blurry vision
- Trouble sleeping
- Seizures and tremors
- Feeling restless
The severity and duration of a person’s withdrawal symptoms depend on a variety of factors. These include the length of substance use, the dosage taken, and the frequency of use. Whether an individual combines benzo use with alcohol or other potentially addictive substances will also affect symptom duration and severity. Short-acting benzos tend to cause more severe withdrawal symptoms than long-acting types.
Timeline for Benzo Withdrawal and Detox
The timeline for benzo withdrawal depends on a few factors, as previously discussed. Certain short-acting benzos, such as Xanax, may cause withdrawal symptoms to start in as little as 10 hours. Longer-acting benzos like Valium typically cause withdrawal symptoms to start in 24 to 48 hours.
There is no such thing as a definitive withdrawal timeline. The following outline is a general guideline for benzo withdrawal phases:
- Phase 1: Signs of benzo withdrawal may begin 10-12 hours following the last dose of the drug. Most people have trouble sleeping and feel anxiety during this phase.
- Phase 2: Symptoms become more severe during this phase. Anxiety usually increases. Additionally, many people deal with nausea, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, and moodiness.
- Phase 3: Ongoing withdrawal symptoms may continue to appear over periods as long as 90 days. However, symptoms become less severe as time passes.
- Phase 4: The final phase of benzo withdrawal is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. PAWS can last several months and even years. During this time, doctors can provide medications and treatments to ease the symptoms.
Medications to Treat Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzos are classified as a Schedule IV drug. This means they carry a risk of becoming addicted to them. Signs of benzo withdrawal are treated in several ways. First, talk therapy can help a great deal. For example, it can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Second, medication can be used that also helps treat anxiety. Buspirone (BuSpar) is a prescription drug that can help ease feelings of anxiety.
Other drugs that can help with signs of benzo withdrawal include:
- Flumazenil (Romazicon)
It’s important for a person not to try to self-medicate. Any meds taken as part of going off benzos should be approved and given by a medical professional.
Risk Factors for Not Getting Professional Withdrawal
Benzo withdrawal symptoms can be quite uncomfortable. Additionally, in some cases, they can be dangerous and even fatal. As a result, it’s much safer to detox under professional care. As well, because withdrawal symptoms can be so difficult, most people who try to detox alone end up failing.
Other risks of detoxing without medical help can include:
- Severe mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts
- A higher risk of relapse
- Not receiving therapeutic support that helps a person learn why they became addicted
- Not learning healthy new coping skills to avoid relapse
- Developing a lower tolerance while not using, then risking overdose when taking that same amount again when relapse occurs
- Not receiving valuable aftercare that improves a person’s chances of staying sober long-term
Addiction Treatment for Signs of Benzo Withdrawal in Palm Springs
Do you or a loved one struggle with benzo addiction? If you show signs of benzo withdrawal when you try to stop using the drug, Phoenix Rising can help. Our team is here to provide the support, guidance, and care you need. We offer detox, residential, and outpatient programs to suit your specific needs. If you’re ready to take the first step, we will be happy to show you how. Visit our admissions page to learn more about your treatment options.