You are scrambling to find one of your prescription bottles. With your final exam in only 10 minutes, you feel your heart racing as sweat beads on your forehead. How could you let this happen? You always have a stash of benzos around, but every bottle you find is empty. Your stomach lurches as you feel like you are going to be sick. How long has it been since you last took a pill? Was it yesterday night? All you know is that if you can’t get one soon, you won’t even be able to make it to the test.
Finally, you manage to find a bottle with some Xanax in it. You rush to find something to drink to take it, and you feel yourself calming down. Your heart begins to settle into a normal rhythm as you wipe away the sweat from your brow. You have just enough time to make it to class, but you can’t help but wonder to yourself – how will you ever stop taking these? How can you handle going through benzo withdrawal without feeling crazy?
In Florida in 2021, the benzodiazepine alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax) was present in 37.4% of deaths caused by substances. In Hillsborough County the same year, benzodiazepines were the cause of 63 deaths. Clean Recovery Centers has been helping Floridians for years with medical detox and addiction treatment. Our program uses a unique, three-phase approach unlike any other. We address all aspects of addiction – spiritual, social, physical, and mental. Our team is able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions alongside addiction as well. Our blog is a free resource for those wanting to learn more about substance use disorder and addiction treatment. Today, we are discussing benzo withdrawals, and how to stop using benzos safely.
What Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is a condition in which benzos are no longer in the body but the body is dependent. If you have been taking benzodiazepines for a long period of time and stop suddenly, withdrawal is likely to occur. Even if you reduce your dose, if the change is drastic withdrawal symptoms can still occur.
What Causes Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
Benzo withdrawal is the body’s way of signaling it needs the substance. Depending on the dose and frequency of taking the benzos, withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity and how soon they set in. The brain has become used to having benzos in the body and adjusts its chemical production to account for the medication. When benzos are stopped suddenly, the brain reacts by trying to create balance. This results in floods of chemicals that trigger withdrawal symptoms.
Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Dangerous?
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is not usually dangerous, however, the mental health symptoms it causes can be. Typical benzo withdrawal begins with increased anxiety and insomnia. The person will experience restlessness and tiredness at the same time, making it difficult to sleep and concentrate. As anxiety increases, the person may find it difficult to control their thoughts and emotions. This can lead to intense mood swings and irrational thoughts. If ever thoughts of suicide, harming yourself, or harming others occur, seek medical attention.
What Are the Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
There are numerous symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. While psychological and physical symptoms will be the most noticeable, behavioral symptoms can also pose unpleasantries. Agitation can cause bouts of yelling and heightened emotions. The person will seem to forget who they are talking to and treat their loved one completely differently than normal. This can cause relationship strain and loss of friendships, leading to more emotional turmoil.
Psychological Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
The psychological withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines are often the most difficult to cope with. Benzos are used to treat anxiety, which means they work with balancing dopamine to boost certain moods. Dopamine is the reward chemical and creates feelings of satisfaction, motivation, and pleasure. When taken away suddenly, the brain has to figure out how to balance dopamine without benzos. This causes intense mood swings and anxiety.
Other psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawal include panic attacks, mild depression, delusions, and hallucinations. The higher the dose of benzo, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms will be. In severe cases, psychosis, confusion, and seizures can happen. It is never recommended to go through withdrawal alone as the person can end up in dangerous situations without even knowing. Psychosis can lead to acting on behaviors you wouldn’t normally do, such as using other substances or having multiple sexual partners. This increases the risk of legal troubles, relationship strain, and possible STDs.
Physical Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
There are many physical signs of withdrawal from benzos. Some common symptoms include:
- Tingling in the legs
- Abdominal cramps
- Weight loss
- Muscle twitching
- Fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
Physical symptoms of benzo withdrawal are not typically life-threatening. However, if blood pressure and heart rate stay elevated for long periods, medical attention should be sought. When the heart is beating too fast for long periods, the risk of a heart attack increases.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline
Depending on the type of benzo you were taking, the withdrawal timeline will vary. Short-acting benzos tend to start the withdrawal process sooner, usually within three to five hours after the last dose. The initial symptoms of anxiety and insomnia begin first and usually last 1 to 4 days. The psychological and physical symptoms follow and usually last 10 to 14 days.
Long-acting benzodiazepines tend to delay withdrawal symptoms as they are still in the body for weeks after the last dose. It can take up to 3 weeks before symptoms begin. Similar to short-acting, anxiety and insomnia will be the first symptoms noticed, followed by the physical and psychological.
When Is Medical Detox Necessary for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
Stopping benzodiazepines should always be done under a doctor’s supervision. If you have been taking a prescription benzo, your doctor will help you reduce your dose at safe intervals to avoid full-on withdrawal. For those taking benzos recreationally, a medical detox is highly recommended. While withdrawal symptoms are not usually life-threatening, psychological symptoms can cause a mental breakdown. A medical detox will provide a safe environment for you to be comfortable and be surrounded by proper medical staff who are well-versed in detox care.
Get Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction in Tampa, FL
No one takes a medication hoping to become dependent on it, but it still happens to someone every day. The good news is there is hope, and there are people out there just like you managing the same issues. By finding a treatment for benzo addiction program, you will be surrounded by peers who have similar stories and can relate to you. Having this support is one of the key components of recovery, and will help you set yourself up for your future. Giving up benzos may seem impossible now, but once you take the first step toward recovery, your life will feel like it is just beginning. Rediscovering your passions and purpose will help you find the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you or someone you love is managing a benzodiazepine use disorder, it is not too late to reach out for help. Clean Recovery Centers has helped hundreds to get clean, live clean, and stay clean. Our program not only focuses on addiction but mental health as well. Our dedicated and compassionate team is able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many more. You may have been taking a benzo for anxiety, and our clinical team can help direct you to other treatments and options to help you manage it. There is no reason to be afraid. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our facilities and programs.