Benzodiazepines are arguably some of the most gripping and life-threatening addictive drugs on the market. Prescribed to treat panic disorders and anxiety, benzos may first seem like a saving grace but for patients who don’t use them as prescribed and for those who abuse the pills without a prescription, they can quickly create a deadly addiction and put the user at risk of overdose.
It may seem like stopping use of benzodiazepines when there’s a clear abuse or addiction issue is the right idea – and it is. However, it is not recommended that anyone attempt an at-home detox if they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking benzos. Unfortunately, serious medical complications can result in some cases, and the chances of experiencing a potentially life-threatening medical emergency increase if the person is already struggling with underlying medical problems.
Signs of Benzo Detox
Signs of detox from benzodiazepines are impossible to miss. Within a few hours of the missed dose, the person will begin to experience serious withdrawal symptoms that may be both psychological and physical in nature, according to a study published in the journal Addiction. They may include:
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle stiffness and pain
Seizures, full-blown psychosis, and medical emergency resulting in death are worst-case scenarios as well.
In most cases, there are two parts to benzodiazepine addiction detox, according to the study. The first phase begins with “rebound” anxiety and insomnia, often the same symptoms experienced by the patient prior to starting use of the pills but far more intense. This can last for up to four days and then may be followed by the second phase, which is defined by any combination of the above withdrawal symptoms and can last for up to two weeks. These symptoms are believed to be most serious among patients who take high doses of benzodiazepines or short-acting versions of the drugs. Additionally, dependence upon alcohol or other drugs may intensify the detox experience.
Patients are advised to seek treatment for these symptoms at the onset of detox and prior to experiencing any serious withdrawal symptoms. If one cannot secure a spot in detox before stopping use of the drugs, then enrollment within the first couple of days is recommended.
- Xanax (e.g., alprazolam)
- Klonopin (e.g., clonazepam)
- Valium (e.g., diazepam)
- Rohypnol (e.g., flunitrazepam)
- Tenox, Restoril (e.g., temazepam)
- Halcion (e.g., triazolam)
Benefits of Professional Treatment
Professional detox and addiction treatment to address a chronic benzodiazepine abuse problem or addiction can protect the patient from unexpected issues. Stabilization upon entering treatment is available if necessary to help manage overwhelming symptoms at the onset of detox, and medical monitoring ensures that immediate medical care is available if needed throughout the detox and treatment process.
Additionally, if there are other issues that require psychiatric or medical intervention, substance abuse treatment professionals are available and able to help begin the healing process. In the same way, enrollment in a professional treatment program means that patients get more than just medical assistance; they also receive the psychotherapeutic treatment and support necessary to stabilize in recovery without drugs of any kind for the long term.
Further Reading About Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.