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How to Safely Manage Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

managing benzo withdrawal symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal carries with it some of the most unbearable symptoms of any known drug. Along with the almost endless list of physical and mental symptoms, many abusers end up feeling the grueling effects for weeks, months, and even years. Plus, withdrawing improperly from benzos can lead to death. And while opioid abuse deservedly gets a lot of attention in the media today, the startling truth is that benzodiazepine use is on the rise, and kicking this habit can be fatal.

The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

It’s worth pointing out immediately that anyone considering detoxing from benzos should seek the medical advice of a trained professional. Going off of benzodiazepines without the proper guidance or knowledge is incredibly dangerous and can result in death. Benzodiazepines are quite common in healthcare, making their abuse even more likely. Here is a list of some of the most common benzos:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Restoril (clorazepate)

By choosing detox alone from any of these or any other benzodiazepines, you’re essentially risking your life. It’s simply not worth it.

Why Are Withdrawals from Benzodiazepines So Deadly?

Like coming off of other substances, benzo withdrawals occur due to your body not being properly prepared. Over time, our brains essentially get used to what we put into our systems, and they eventually start to compensate for them. This adaptation is the foundation for why we build up a tolerance. But when we take away these substances, our brains are still functioning as if they were still there. With benzodiazepine withdrawal, the neurotransmitter the drugs target (GABA) isn’t as powerful as it used to be. And since your brain is still working as if the effects of GABA were as intense as before, it tends to overcompensate. Think of it as if you were pushing up against a wall with all your might. If that wall were to disappear suddenly, you’d go flying through the room.

Similarly, your brain is launched into a flurry of over-activity after removing benzos completely, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms like anxiety, mania, sleep disturbances, and much much more. This state of heightened activity has also been shown to lead to severe and life-threatening grand mal seizures and is the main reason benzodiazepine withdrawal is so deadly. The benzo withdrawal seizure risk typically is highest the first two weeks into withdrawal and is much more likely to occur with abrupt cessation rather than gradual tapering.

The Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines has been reported by many to be excruciating. The physical signs of benzo withdrawal include:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Tremor
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Muscle twitches
  • Numbness
  • Aches and pains
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary difficulties
  • Skin rash

In addition to these physical symptoms, the psychological signs of benzo withdrawal below have been reported during Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin withdrawal, as well as with other benzodiazepines.

  • Excitability
  • Increased anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Perceptual distortions
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Poor memory
  • Depersonalization
  • Agoraphobia
  • Rage
  • Hallucinations
  • Obsessions
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Social phobia
  • Panic attacks
  • Intrusive memories

The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

No matter how long the benzo withdrawal duration, the process will typically move through two distinct phases: the acute and protracted phases. The acute phase is marked by the most intense bouts of the benzo withdrawal symptoms listed above and, depending on the benzodiazepine being abused, could last for several months. The protracted phase is generally longer and involves a bit more subdued symptoms than during the acute phase. While not everyone will go through this phase, there have been cases where the symptoms appear again later. Everyone will experience withdrawal from benzos differently and your experience might vary significantly. In general, the withdrawal timeline can look like this:

  • Xanax Withdrawal – Xanax’s half-life is around 6-12 hours, and withdrawal symptoms can begin any time after that point. For many people, the symptoms will reach a peak at around week two and may decrease in intensity from there.
  • Ativan Withdrawal – You’ll likely start experiencing lorazepam withdrawal after the drug’s 10-20 hour half-life. From there, most people will experience the most severe effects for at least a week though many experiences will differ.
  • Klonopin Withdrawal – Klonopin’s half-life is around 18-50 hours, and dependent users can expect withdrawal symptoms to happen after that point. As Klonopin takes 5-14 days to break down completely, many report that the most uncomfortable symptoms begin then.
  • Valium Withdrawal – Valium has the longest half-life of the group. Its active metabolite can remain active in your system for 36-200 hours. As such, the acute phase can start anywhere from 1-4 days after your last dose.

Discovery Northpoint Seattle’s Benzo Recovery Program

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be especially taxing, both physically and emotionally. The intensity of the bodily symptoms, the nerve-wracking psychological ones, and the incredibly long timeline all have a way of beating down on you. But when you choose to get the help you need, you can be sure that you won’t be going through it alone. What’s more, finding the right rehab for you means you’ll know that your safety is never in jeopardy. So take the first step. Reach out to Northpoint Seattle today by calling 425.414.3530.