Discover safe and effective treatment options for benzodiazepine withdrawal in this informative article.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” is one of the most severe consequences of addiction. Not only is it intensely uncomfortable, but abruptly stopping benzodiazepines carries the risk of seizure and even death. As such, medical detoxification is required when benzodiazepine use stops, and certain drugs can vastly reduce the severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines refers to the set of symptoms that commonly occur when abruptly stopping benzodiazepines. Benzo withdrawal symptoms are some of the most intense among all addictive substances and can cause catastrophic damage if not treated by medical professionals. Fortunately, medication for withdrawal from benzodiazepines can reduce or even eliminate some of these symptoms.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that can significantly slow the body’s automatic, life-preserving functions. Dependence on benzodiazepines can happen when the body becomes accustomed to the depressant effects of the substance. As a result, the body increases nervous system activity in response to benzodiazepine use, creating a balanced state.
When benzodiazepine use stops, the central nervous system is suddenly greatly overstimulated, resulting in benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which includes several benzo withdrawal symptoms and intense drug cravings.
Withdrawal symptoms from benzos can be sudden, intense, and life-threatening. Research shows that after taking benzodiazepines for at least six months, 60% of people experience mild withdrawal symptoms, while 40% experience moderate to severe symptoms.1
The most dangerous benzodiazepines can lead to addiction and dependence in a matter of months, and stopping benzodiazepines becomes harder and more challenging in the face of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the signs of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome include:
Severe side effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal can even be life-threatening. The use of large quantities of the drug for an extended period can result in severe benzo withdrawal symptoms, such as:
People who experience benzodiazepine withdrawal seizures are in extreme danger, as they can be fatal. Medical supervision can help avoid or treat the occurrence of seizures and other dangerous effects.
While medications can be immensely beneficial, benzo withdrawal help comes in several forms. Some effective methods of coping with benzo withdrawal will be detailed below.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a time-tested, evidence-based method of helping people achieve benzodiazepine recovery. The core belief of CBT is that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all influence each other, and through deliberate effort, we can work to change them. As such, CBT can help people deal with the intrusive thoughts and urges that come from benzodiazepine use disorder.
Mindfulness meditation is a tool that can help people manage stress levels and anxiety. It is also incorporated into some of the best and most effective relapse prevention programs, as it can help people resist the urge to act upon their thoughts at once.
One study found that an eight-week mindfulness-based relapse prevention program resulted in a significant decrease in substance use cravings and an increase in self-awareness and acceptance.4
Exercise is a great stress reliever and can provide incredible relief from the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal. While not everyone is up to exercise during the benzo withdrawal timeline, those with excess energy can burn it off and find relief.
In addition, exercise can improve sleep during this crucial period and promote a healthy routine that can last a lifetime in recovery.
Between 2015 and 2016, approximately 30.5 million people in the U.S. used benzodiazepines. Fortunately, getting off benzodiazepines can be easier with targeted medications. Medical treatment is the best way to withdraw from benzodiazepines, as it is safe, effective, and has several options.2
Medication for withdrawal from benzodiazepines comes in several forms, but three main medications are used in benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment. These include:
Buspirone, like benzodiazepines, is a medication used to treat anxiety. However, unlike benzodiazepines, it has almost no potential for misuse and does not produce feelings of euphoria or pleasure. Buspirone works to treat just one benzo withdrawal symptom: anxiety.
Flumazenil is a benzodiazepine antagonist. It is commonly used in reversing benzodiazepine overdose, but it can also provide tangible relief from several benzo withdrawal symptoms. Furthermore, this medication can provide relief from long-term benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, improving the chances of stopping benzodiazepines for good.
Multiple studies show that flumazenil successfully alleviates withdrawal symptoms and significantly reduces relapse rates.3
Certain benzodiazepines are often used in benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment. Since suddenly stopping the use of benzos is dangerous, many detoxification centers will opt for a medically-controlled taper using drugs like diazepam. The difference between diazepam and benzodiazepines is minimal; diazepam belongs to the benzodiazepine class, but its effects last longer in the bloodstream than other common benzo drugs.
In a medical taper, detox professionals will administer benzodiazepines in a controlled fashion. The dose and frequency of administration will drop over the period of a week or so, ensuring that any dangerous side effects of withdrawal are minimized. This can extend the benzo withdrawal timeline but increases safety and comfort.
Benzo withdrawal is impacted by several different factors and can be either mild or severe depending on a few key factors, including:
No matter the risk factors involved, recovery from benzodiazepine use disorder can be challenging without the help of mental health professionals. Compassionate and professional care can reduce the risks associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal and guide people to safer coping mechanisms.
San Diego Detox provides premier medical detoxification services in sunny Southern California. Our diverse team of addiction and mental health specialists has decades of experience helping people achieve benzodiazepine recovery.
Contact us today at San Diego Detox to learn more about our extensive substance use disorder treatment services and how you could benefit from professional support.