7 Things About Benzo Withdrawal You Might Not Know
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs typically used to help people reduce anxiety, prevent panic disorders, or promote sleep. But when someone becomes addicted to these drugs, the withdrawal process generally produces polar opposite effects.
What You Need to Know
Benzos are one of the most difficult drugs to withdraw from, partly because the severity and length of the withdrawal is so long and, often, unexpectedly difficult for the patient.
The good news is that there are certain things that can be done to help minimize these symptoms.
Here are 7 things you’ll need to know about benzo withdrawal:
A Long Withdrawal Process
For most people, benzo withdrawal isn’t a matter of days, but months or even years. The withdrawal time generally varies according to the type of benzodiazepine. A short-acting drug, like Xanax, has a short acute withdrawal phase, usually lasting around 7 days. A long-acting benzodiazepine, like Valium, can cause acute withdrawal symptoms lasting around 90 days. Some protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can last up to one year, while some may occasionally persist indefinitely.
The Symptoms are Painful
Some of the most common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:
- Moderate to severe depression
- Extreme anxiety
- Sensory hypersensitivity
- Poor memory
- Heart palpitations
- Sweating, night sweats
- Muscle twitching
Cold Turkey is Never Recommended
It might seem logical to immediately stop using a drug causing physical damage, but symptoms like anxiety and panic can become excruciatingly painful when you try stopping cold turkey. Additionally, when levels of the medication become too low in the bloodstream, withdrawal seizures are a very real possibility. Research shows withdrawal seizures have occurred with short, medium, and long half-life benzodiazepine, if discontinued abruptly. With that in mind, it’s always recommended patients seek help from a medical doctor with experience in benzo withdrawal.
Consider a Slow-Taper Detox
Once the body is dependant upon a consistent supply of benzos, many experts and rehab facilities utilize a slow-taper detox program. This allows a person to detox slowly and avoid severe withdrawal symptoms.
Tapering off of a benzo generally involves a doctor prescribing increasingly smaller amounts of the drug over time or prescribing a different benzodiazepine that is less potent. For example, if someone is dependant a short-acting benzodiazepine like alprazolam (Xanax) or lorazepam (Ativan), a doctor could convert the dosage into an equivalent dosage of a long-acting benzodiazepine like diazepam (Valium). Metabolized slowly, thanks to its long half-life, diazepam allows a consistent, slow decline in concentration while tapering the dosage taken over time.
Other Medications That Make Withdrawal Worse
When coming off a benzodiazepine, it’s important to avoid drugs or herbs that work on the brain’s GABA receptors. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and other medications can often have a negative impact. Even vitamins such as D, B, and magnesium have been known to exacerbate withdrawal symptoms.
Avoiding Certain Foods
Several food and food items can also make withdrawal symptoms worse including alcohol, caffeine, artificial sugars, food additives, honey and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Getting Clean is Possible
You can too: Although benzo withdrawal can be uncomfortable at best and painful at worst, millions have successfully done it and gone on to live healthy, sober lives.
Learn more about the treatment process for benzo addiction.
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