The benzodiazepines withdrawal stage can be dangerous and life threatening, especially if done “cold turkey”.

Benzodiazepines are used to treat a wide range of conditions, including anxiety and insomnia. They are psychoactive drugs and work by triggering a tranquilizing chemical in the brain. When someone feels particularly anxious, neurotransmitters with tranquilizing effects send messages to the brain to help slow down activity to reduce anxiety. Benzodiazepines help enhance the human body’s calming effect and the GBA neurotransmitter and allow the mind to remain in a more tranquil state.

Short term use is considered safe for alleviating anxiety, reducing seizures, relaxing muscles, and inducing sleep. They are a widely prescribed medication in the United States, especially in older patients.

Long-term use of benzodiazepines can build tolerance, dependence and cause other adverse effects. When mixed with alcohol or other medications, they can be lethal. Since 1998, hospital admissions for misuse of this drug have tripled.

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Symptoms and Signs of Benzodiazepines Addiction

Benzodiazepine addiction is common due to its widespread availability and the addictive nature of the drug. Side effects can include drowsiness and dizziness, but the severity can depend on the amount taken.

Changes of behavior that affect relationships, appearance, and work performance are signs of addiction. Individuals with this addiction may also “doctor shop” or seek out pills from family members, friends, and classmates. They may also participate in risk-taking behaviors such as driving after using or combining their usage with alcohol and other medications or begin buying benzos on the street. This can lead to overdoses as many counterfeit pills contain Fentanyl, a potentially deadly opioid.

Benzodiazepines can also mimic the symptoms that it was prescribed for – like insomnia, anxiety, anorexia, weakness, and headaches. Below are several signs of acute toxicity:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking and making poor judgment
  • Blurred vision
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of coordination
  • Weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal

Withdrawal from benzos such as Xanax can be dangerous and life threatening, especially if done “cold turkey.” Withdrawal symptoms can be emotionally and physically painful. The severity of these symptoms can depend on the length of use and how high of a dosage a person was taking. There are many variables when it comes to benzodiazepines withdrawal and the severity will vary through the whole withdrawal phase.

Below are the most common symptoms seen during the “rebound stage”, which occurs between one to four days after use has stopped. Rebound symptoms can last from two to three days while all withdrawal symptoms can last up to ten days. The difference between rebound and withdrawal symptoms is that during rebound, the body is reverting to how things were prior to the beginning of the use, such as anxiety and insomnia.

During benzodiazepines withdrawal, the body is struggling to adapt as the use of benzodiazepines has come to an end. Below are common benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Increased tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stiffness or muscle discomfort
  • Hand tremors
  • Perception changes from mild to moderate
  • Cravings

In severe benzodiazepines addictions, symptoms like hallucinations, seizures, psychosis, or psychotic reactions as well as suicidal thoughts are common. When recovering from chronic benzodiazepines abuse, it is important to work with your doctor or enter into a drug rehabilitation program.

It can be beneficial to have support from family and friends at this stage. Steps should be taken during this stage to reduce the chances of seizures and the discomforts that come with withdrawal. If there is concern of an intentional overdose, working with a psychiatrist may be necessary as well as inpatient treatment.

The duration of withdrawal will vary with by brand, dosage, and length of use. Those that are considered shorter acting benzos will take a shorter amount of time to leave the body than a longer acting one. For shorter acting benzos such as Xanac, Doromonct and Halcion, withdrawal symptoms can be noted within six to eight hours, while longer acting benzos such as Valium, Klonopin and Librium, can have withdrawal symptoms occurring between 24 hours to 48 hours.

Benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms will peak around 10-14 days and will eventually fade between 3-4 weeks from the day use has stopped. However, individuals who were heavy users may suffer from post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS. These are random spikes of withdrawal symptoms occurring after day 15 and can last up to two years.

Individuals may suffer from depression, insomnia, anxiety, trouble concentrating and completing tasks as well as loss of sex drive. Working with a doctor during the benzodiazepines withdrawal and benzodiazepines detox stage can help reduce the chances of PAWS. It is important to note that it is highly recommended to taper use with the help of a doctor rather than going “cold turkey”, which can be dangerous especially in higher levels of use.

Are you or a loved one suffering from a benzodiazepines addiction? You are not alone. We are here for you and we are here to help.