Benzodiazepine Detox: Safe and Effective Solutions
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Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a broad class of anxiolytic, sedative, and sleep-inducing medications. They are also effective anticonvulsants and possess muscle-relaxant properties. Benzodiazepines slow down brain and nervous system activity and are the drugs of choice to relieve psychological and physical symptoms associated with anxiety. Additionally, benzodiazepines detox help to treat insomnia, epilepsy, and seizure-related disorders.
However, benzos also come with a warning. Taking them over long periods or in excessive doses can lead to addiction, a higher risk of dangerous drug interactions, and severe withdrawal symptoms. It may become necessary to detox and safely come off your medication.
Which Benzos Require Detox?
Benzodiazepines can be long-acting (clonazepam, oxazepam, prazepam, temazepam), intermediate-acting (chlordiazepoxide, lorazepam), and short-acting (alprazolam, diazepam, estazolam). Long-acting benzodiazepines have a longer half-life, meaning they take a while to kick in, as your body needs more time to process them. Conversely, short-acting medication works much faster, but its effects wear off after a few hours.
Generally, patients take short-acting benzodiazepines as sleeping pills or short-term tranquillisers. In contrast, intermediate and long-acting ones are typically used to treat epileptic fits, anxiety, or depression, along with antidepressant medications.
Western medicine prescribes short-acting and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines (like Xanax and Ativan) to manage panic attacks and sedate patients. These are also the benzos that generate the most severe withdrawal symptoms due to their short half-life. Because the body eliminates the drug quickly, it has less time to adapt to functioning without it.
Short-and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines commonly necessitate detox when they are overused. Still, long-term medications carry risks and can be challenging to quit safely. The most dangerous benzodiazepines are those prescribed for epilepsy and seizures, as severe epileptic fits may occur during withdrawal, meaning medical supervision is required.
While all types of benzodiazepines are habit-forming and abruptly discontinuing their use may result in severe withdrawal symptoms, in some cases, it can be life-threatening. It is not just about the benzo itself, but how and for how long the patient used it.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepines Detox Withdrawal
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is characterised by physical and psychological symptoms that vary in intensity from person to person. Patients experience physical discomfort and pain associated with mental distress, such as severe mood swings and anxiety attacks, as well as depressive states and manic-like reactions.
Common benzo withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Extreme headache
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle spasms (cramps)
- Excessive sweating.
It is important to note that withdrawal syndrome symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Mild benzo withdrawal syndrome symptoms include but are not limited to the following:
- Mild anxiety
- Muscle cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Tension-type headache
- Weight loss
- Sleep disruptions
- Cognitive impairment.
These symptoms are typically considered minor, not life-threatening, and withdrawal medications alleviate them quickly.
In cases of severe withdrawal syndrome, the symptoms are more pronounced and last longer. We watch out for the following:
- Perceptual disturbances
- Seizures (fits)
- Generalised tremor
- Uncoordinated movement
- Increased sensitivity to tactile or auditory stimuli, known as hyperesthesia
- Body aches
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Migraine and intense headache.
Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms last up to three weeks, but sometimes they may persist for several months. Mixing benzos with alcohol or other sedatives exacerbates withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and duration of the withdrawal syndrome vary depending on the particular benzodiazepine, the disorder it treats, and the length of treatment.
A few hours – a few days: Acute withdrawal. These symptoms will often start gradually and increase in intensity as time passes. Along with classic benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, you may also go through rebound symptoms in which symptoms of the condition you were treated with benzodiazepines reemerge.
Up to two weeks: Your symptoms will develop over the following week or two, usually peaking in the second week. This timeframe is when you will experience the most challenging symptoms and where support is vital to help you navigate through without relapsing.
After two weeks: After the peak, you may still experience symptoms but at this point, they should be much more manageable and continue to taper off in intensity. While you may be feeling better for quitting, it isn’t uncommon to experience occasionals wobbles, as well as more serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
After a month: If you are still experiencing symptoms at this point, you may be dealing with a post-acute withdrawal syndrome. These can include mood problems and a general sense of dissatisfaction. If you’re experiencing this, you should seek further support to help you through this period and avoid relapse.
Common Fears About Benzo Detox
Many people are apprehensive about benzo detox. They worry about withdrawal, which the media portrays as a drawn-out, painful experience. They may feel overwhelmed by the thought of living without the drug and fear their quality of life will suffer. The most challenging step for patients is to admit they need help with addiction or dependence.
Feelings of shame and stigma can stop people from opening up about their struggles with benzo misuse or abuse. If you or someone you care about feels this way, rest assured that professional help is available from experienced experts who will not judge you.
What is Medically Assisted Detox?
Quitting benzos is far from easy and can even be dangerous. Going through the withdrawal process without medical supervision is rarely the best action.
Medically assisted detox provides a structured way to cut back on benzodiazepines and helps rid the body of the drug safely. The healthcare professionals will assess the symptoms closely, design a personalised treatment plan, and monitor the drug detox evolution with care and attention.
In addition to taking withdrawal medication, the patient can begin therapy as soon as they are ready. Combining medical treatment with psychological guidance will help to reduce their physical and psychological symptoms quickly and effectively.
Benefits of Benzo Detox at Inpatient Rehab
Like any other addiction, benzodiazepine dependence falls under the heavy influence of environmental factors. In some cases, particular environmental cues make it exceptionally difficult to cease using the drug. Often, even familiar smells or faces can bring on cravings. Anything associated with drug use can be a trigger for relapse.
Inpatient rehab offers medical assistance and safety to the patient and the opportunity to remove themselves from the environment contributing to their addiction. It also provides a platform for connecting with people in similar situations, allowing them to share experiences and help each other begin anew. At Smarmore Castle, patients have the space and time to relax and engage in enjoyable activities; its spa facilities and location make it a wonderful place to unwind.
Benzo Detox Medications
Usually, the approach to detoxification is to gradually and safely reduce the drug intake until the patient can quit altogether. However, withdrawal medications may help manage symptoms and maintain health. Among the most popular withdrawal medications for benzodiazepine detox is Buspirone, an older drug used to treat generalised anxiety disorder, which is also effective in dealing with the psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawal in those who suffer from anxiety.
Taking Buspirone during rehabilitation is safe, though it takes a few weeks before its effects show. Patients usually start taking it while tapering off benzodiazepines.
If a patient needs swift benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome relief, drugs like Flumazenil act quickly to ease the withdrawal symptoms of long-acting benzos. However, extra care and a thorough diagnosis are required when considering this type of treatment for a patient in detox, as it rapidly removes the benzodiazepines from their system, which could have dangerous consequences and result in more extreme symptoms.
Continuing Recovery After Benzo Detox
Detoxification does not cure addiction or guarantee the patient never relapses. Maintaining sobriety requires a comprehensive approach. The root cause must be identified and addressed carefully to ensure it stays away for good.
What causes a patient to abuse prescription drugs and become dependent on them? In the case of benzodiazepines, analysing the prehistory is key. It’s essential to explore questions such as: Why were they prescribed? Why did they begin taking too much medication? Did the patient have adequate resources to manage their disorder?
Once the detoxification process is complete, patients can embark on the next phase of their addiction treatment programme – personalised therapy work.
Once the withdrawal symptoms have subsided and the detox process is complete, the patient commences a series of therapies adapted to their needs. At Smarmore Castle, patients have a wide range of therapeutic choices: from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Reality Therapy and Trauma Therapy, Family Therapy, and LGBTQ+ Aware therapies. No matter the patient’s issues, there’s something here for them. The intensive therapy treatment lasts for 4 to 8 weeks.
Along with primary therapies, there are complementary therapies to help patients reconnect with their interests, unleash their creativity, expand their perspectives, and help them relax. These include structured activities such as art therapy, meditation and creative writing.
Recovery doesn’t stop after leaving rehab. On discharge, the patient must spend time consolidating things they have learned during their residential rehab programme when back in their home environment. Having a solid support network and the continued help of specialists is key to long-term recovery.
Overcoming Benzodiazepine Addiction
The most complex challenge when overcoming benzodiazepine addiction is withdrawal. For instance, elderly patients may suffer a heart attack or stroke if they cut off the drug abruptly. Each case is different. Factors such as length and type of usage significantly influence the patient’s condition during withdrawal. Those battling polydrug addiction will live through a more complicated withdrawal process as they must wean off multiple drugs and take different medications to manage their symptoms.
Health professionals often recommend decreasing benzodiazepines intake gradually. However, this approach doesn’t work every time. Those who choose to go through outpatient treatment and taper their drug intake can become overwhelmed and resort back to their regular dosage quickly.
The realities of withdrawal can be daunting, and the temptation to delay it may become irresistible. For those struggling with benzo addiction, this is especially true when high doses of medication are involved. That’s why inpatient treatment with medical detox is often the best choice for overcoming benzodiazepine addiction. It reduces the odds of relapse and enables complete cessation by slowly decreasing the dosage over time.
But flushing the drugs out of the system is not enough to treat addiction. Long-term psychotherapy, or, in some cases, other forms of medical assistance, are necessary to re-establish mental and emotional balance.
Over 40 Years of Experience Treating Addiction
Detox purges all traces of benzodiazepines out of the body, but it does not mean withdrawal symptoms disappear simultaneously. Symptoms like insomnia, irritability, and restlessness can last anywhere from one to three months.
Without appropriate treatment, though, the prognosis can be rather grim. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and require ever-increasing dosages to satisfy a patient’s cravings. In as little as two to three years of misuse, the body can no longer handle the strain, and cardiac or respiratory arrest may result from everyday use.
It’s important to remember that with the right support, recovery is always possible. The patient can reclaim their life within a few months with proper treatment and support.
Treatment for Benzo Addiction at Smarmore Castle
At Smarmore Castle, we offer an extensive addiction treatment programme that follows the 12-Step Model.
The journey starts with a thorough medical evaluation to get an accurate diagnosis and select the best plan of action to achieve lasting sobriety. As noted earlier, it is necessary to identify the reason for prescription and subsequent overmedication for a successful recovery.
The sources of addiction vary greatly and can range from personal history to underlying disorders necessitating benzodiazepine treatment. The root cause may be an imbalance in brain chemistry contributing to the addiction. That is why our addiction treatment programme includes a complete biophysical assessment.
Following their assessment, patients meet with a senior therapist who explains the treatment approach and answers any questions.
Smarmore Castle’s medical team provides a haven for each individual’s recovery. Our experienced professionals are here to guide every patient through detoxification with sensitivity and care. They are always present to answer the most pressing questions, explain what will come next, and make this journey comfortable. We strive to create an environment where patients feel heard and supported through the rehabilitation process.
Therapeutic Treatment Programme
Once the patient has completed detox, rehabilitation can start. The goal for the patient is to return to a state of both physical and psychological equilibrium. We provide a unique programme tailored to each individual’s needs which helps them address the psychological issues related to addiction. Our specialists will teach patients to live comfortably without drugs and use cognitive behavioural therapy to eliminate problem patterns. Building solid relationships with family is also crucial, as they could be a source of support to prevent relapse.
At Smarmore, we use a variety of methods to help patients recover quickly from the effects of the long-term use of benzodiazepines. Patients can return to peak physical condition through yoga, swimming, and outdoor sports.
The diet also plays a crucial role in healing. Eating right can reduce cravings and make one feel more energetic. We serve three delicious and wholesome meals daily. Snacks and beverages are also available throughout the day.
When in recovery from addiction, it is crucial to learn how to gain satisfaction from the naturally fulfilling things in life, such as appreciating simple things, cultivating hobbies, and exploring new interests. The various therapies available at Smaremore can help distract from the worries of withdrawal, reduce stress, and create a foundational structure for life after drugs. Our facility’s location provides an ideal atmosphere for our patients to start fresh.
Continuing Care Programme
We provide all patients with a one-year continuing care plan when they complete their treatment with us. This aftercare support is essential to make sure they have all the resources and tools they need to maintain their sobriety and reintegrate into their daily lives.
Aftercare typically includes access to the following:
- Free group therapy (or online 1:1 therapy for those who do not live close to one of our locations)
- Relapse group
- Family group
- 1:1 therapy via Zoom (paid-for)
- Referral to local support services.
If you, or someone you care about, are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, don’t wait any longer. Reach out to us today and start your journey to recovery. You can reclaim and enjoy your life.
+041 214 5111
Do Benzodiazepines Need To Be Tapered Off?
Abruptly quitting benzodiazepine is dangerous. Tapering off the dosage over a few weeks is recommended for those taking the drug for two weeks or longer. Yet, tapering may not be effective for everyone, as some people experience a relapse shortly after beginning the process. It is essential to consult a specialist before tapering and follow an individual tapering plan they prescribe.
Does Your Brain Go Back To Normal After Benzodiazepines?
The repercussions of prolonged and unregulated use of benzodiazepines are distressing. One’s emotional and physical health deteriorates, as well as cognition. Long-term memory is the most affected. Moreover, benzos can obstruct the brain from forming new memories by casing anterograde amnesia.
Fortunately, there is hope for a full recovery. With the proper treatment and care, patients see significant improvements in as little as three to four weeks after benzodiazepine withdrawal. Recovering brain functions and feeling alive again is entirely possible in just a few months. Human bodies are amazingly resilient. They can restore themselves under the right conditions. Time, patience, and dedication help overcome even the most severe damage.
Is Gaba Good for Benzo Withdrawal?
GABA (or gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a chemical messenger that moves from nerve cells to the brain and blocks specific signals. GABA has properties similar to benzodiazepines without serious side effects.
Although many people use GABA supplements to ease their benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, it is essential to consult a physician first. Interestingly, evidence suggests that GABA is, in fact, ineffective for benzo withdrawal as the problem is not a shortage of GABA but rather a difficulty in synthesising it. Research also links low levels of GABA to anxiety disorders.
- Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (2023): Medications and Supplements of Concern on Benzodiazepines, During Cessation and After Withdrawal – Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. Available at: https://www.benzoinfo.com/medications-and-supplements/.
- Editorial Staff (2023): The Dangers of Benzo Withdrawals. Available at: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/benzodiazepine/dangers-of-withdrawal.
- Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (2023a): Benzodiazepine Tapering Strategies and Solutions – Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. Available at: https://www.benzoinfo.com/benzodiazepine-tapering-strategies/.
- Griffin, C.E., III (2013): Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System–Mediated Effects. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/.
- Comparing benzodiazepines. Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/sleeping-pills-and-minor-tranquillisers/comparing-benzodiazepines/.