Benzodiazepine Detox: Symptoms and Treatment

Benzodiazepine Detox

Benzodiazepine detox is one of the scariest detoxification forms that exist for an individual with substance abuse disorder. The return of the weight of crushing anxiety caused by the absence of benzos is often more than an individual can handle.

Combine that with the fact that detoxing from benzos creates a genuine risk of death, and you have an addiction that creates a stranglehold on anyone unfortunate enough to deal with it. In fact, benzos are joined only by alcohol in the category of substances that can cause deadly withdrawal symptoms.

The reality is the dangers of these medications aren’t highlighted in the same manner as illegal narcotics like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Because of their legality, the dangers of benzodiazepines often go unspoken.

However, dangers are only understood through proper knowledge and education. Sadly, this lack of knowledge leads to many individuals dealing with benzodiazepine detox and addiction without even knowing a risk for these things exist.

What is a benzodiazepine, and how does it act on the mind and body? How are these legal medications causing such high difficulty levels for patients looking to abstain from them?

What Is a Benzodiazepine?

A benzodiazepine is a prescription drug that acts on the central nervous system to prevent and ease the side effects of anxiety and panic disorder. Multiple types of benzos currently exist on the prescription drug market.

Certain types of benzos may differ from others in the length of effectiveness or how fast they begin to work, but all of them act on receptors in the brain. Benzos attach to the gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A) receptors to make the nerves in the brain less sensitive to stimulation. The result is a decrease in anxiety and an overall calming effect.

Types of Benzodiazepines

There is currently a fairly large amount of benzos that exist on the market. Each specific type of benzodiazepine has a brand name that it’s marketed under and a generic name that describes the specific form of the drug. Listed below are some of the brand names and their generic names.

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Versed (midazolam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)

At one point, benzos were known as “mother’s little helpers.” Prior to benzos’ release into the prescription drug market, barbiturates were the standard-issue medication for anxiety and panic disorder.

Eventually, physicians ceased writing prescriptions for barbiturates because of the dangers they pose and accidental deaths. The most common demographic of individuals receiving barbiturate prescriptions were stay-at-home moms, and benzos filled the gap created when the former was pulled from the market.

Despite the large variety of benzodiazepines on the market, a small handful are more commonly written than others. Three of the most popular forms of these medications are Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin. What are the differences and similarities between these three drugs?

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Ativan vs. Xanax vs. Klonopin

Three of the most popular forms of benzos are Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin. Each of these medications is typically prescribed to individuals with a different range of symptoms and acts uniquely.

Ativan

Ativan is normally used to combat temporary or short-term anxiety. One of the main selling points of this medication is the fact that it has a lower risk for adverse interactions with other drugs. Typically, Ativan is written with certain types of antidepressants.

Despite the chances of negative results after mixing with other medications, Ativan doesn’t come without its pitfalls. The potential for severe withdrawals is much higher with this benzodiazepine.

Xanax

Xanax is one of the most popular benzodiazepines and also one of the most commonly abused. This medication is known for its fast-acting relief and is commonly used for anxiety associated with depression.

The fast-acting results are what make Xanax a preference. However, the potential for abuse is extremely high.

Klonopin

Klonopin is a benzodiazepine that is more commonly known for its length of effectiveness. While Xanax is effective for a period of four to six hours, Klonopin may provide relief for up to 12-hours.

Additionally, Klonopin is also used in certain situations to combat epilepsy. Some physicians also use this medication to relieve symptoms associated with alcohol detox.

For individuals seeking recovery from benzodiazepines, the detox process is one of the most crucial steps involved. Let’s examine the process of benzodiazepine detox.

What is the Process of Benzodiazepine Detox?

The process of benzodiazepine detox begins anywhere from 12 to 24-hours after the last ingestion. Withdrawal symptoms associated with detox increase in severity as time goes on, peaking somewhere around the second week and lasting up to one month. The worst of the symptoms may subside, but retracted withdrawal symptoms may persist for quite some time.

Detoxing from benzodiazepines is extremely difficult, and facing this battle alone isn’t recommended. Normally, individuals attempting to recover from benzodiazepine abuse disorder relapse once withdrawal symptoms become too intense.

However, the detox process is crucial in order to reverse the negative side effects of long-term benzodiazepine use. In the following section, we’ll highlight the details of these side effects.

Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

There are multiple side effects associated with long-term benzo use. Many of these side effects may subside or disappear completely once an individual engages in recovery. The most significant side effects include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Blacking out
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Low blood pressure

Many of the long-term negative effects of benzos are unknown due to the medication’s relatively short amount of time on the market. Originally released in the 1970s and hitting high levels of popularity in the 80s and 90s, many original recipients of these medications are still actively engaged in use.

However, one thing that is understood is the severity of the withdrawals from benzos. What are some of the most severe symptoms associated with benzo detox and withdrawal?

Withdrawal Effects of Benzodiazepine Drugs

Withdrawals from benzo drugs are some of the most severe an individual can experience. The acute withdrawal phase is defined as the immediate side-effects of benzo detox. These withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of depression
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Heart palpitations

Because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, there are major risks involved with benzodiazepine detox. It’s important to be aware of these risks when deciding on the appropriate course of action for detox and rehab.

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Risks of Detox from Benzodiazepines

Some of the major risks involved with detox from benzodiazepines include:

  • Rebound anxiety. Rebound anxiety is when the body is used to mask anxiety symptoms for a long period. When the use of medication that masked these symptoms is discontinued, rebound anxiety is the result. This is the sudden return of the most severe panic and anxiety disorder symptoms.
  • High blood pressure. Side effects of detox and rebound anxiety include a spike in blood pressure.
  • When individuals discontinue benzo use, there is a high risk of seizures. Typically, this risk exists between days three and six.
  • There is a risk of death associated with benzo detox. Complications occurring from seizures and other withdrawal symptoms have led to brain damage and other deadly side effects.

The reality is that benzo detox requires the help of medical professionals. Medical detox measures should never be underestimated, and finding an appropriate facility is critical.

Importance of Medical Detox Measures

Medical detox for benzos is crucial for avoiding the most dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. Clients are placed in a medical environment where they will be monitored around the clock.

Nurses are constantly present to measure vitals and administer medications that provide relief for the most severe detox side effects. When individuals choose not to participate in medically assisted detox, emergency assistance could be too far away to provide the help that’s needed in an emergency.

The constant presence of medical professionals ensures fast action is taken if an emergency arises. This decreases the chances of life-threatening side effects that can take place during the withdrawal phase.

Establishing a tapering schedule can be effective in combatting the worst symptoms of detox. A tapering schedule includes a specific plan for cutting down the dosage amounts of these medications. Gradually, individuals will lower the dose they’re used to until they abstain completely, hopefully relieving the severity of detox.

Benzodiazepine Treatment Centers

Many rehab facilities offer programs that specialize in benzodiazepine detox. At Icarus Behavioral Health, we’re equipped with all of the necessary elements to assist individuals through the roughest part of the detox process.

Additionally, resources are provided to assist in long-term recovery from benzodiazepines. Through education and counseling, as well as treatment for dual-diagnosis, we’ve helped countless amounts of clients overcome benzodiazepine abuse disorder. How is long-term recovery from benzodiazepines achieved?

Long-term Recovery from Benzodiazepines

Long-term recovery from benzodiazepines is possible with the right measures in place to promote this result. Dual diagnosis is one of the most important initial steps in this process.

Dual-diagnosis includes identifying and treating mental health issues associated with benzo abuse. Many times, depression, bipolar disorder, and other challenges exist in conjunction with an addiction to benzos.

It’s also vital that clients learn how to manage anxiety without benzos. This may seem impossible, but managing anxiety without benzos is achievable through the right direction and customized plan.

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Managing Anxiety Without Benzos

Customized detox planning for benzo drugs will assist in managing anxiety without these medications. The proper management of anxiety without benzos may include the following courses of action:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Medications such as beta-blockers (blood pressure medicine), SSRIs (antidepressants), and non-addictive anxiety medications such as Buspirone may be effective in terms of medication options for managing anxiety.

It’s important to note that one of the main goals of treatment is learning to manage anxiety without medications. Although certain medications may provide temporary relief and management, it’s vital to have an end goal that doesn’t include a regimen of prescriptions.

Dual diagnosis is an important process on the path of long-term benzo recovery. This identifies the root of the issues that led to benzo dependence initially.

 Dual Diagnosis and Benzos

Dual diagnosis uncovers and allows mental health professionals to treat the underlying causes of any substance abuse disorder. Each case is different, with several forms of therapy being administered during dual diagnosis treatment.

When any substance abuse disorder is present, it’s important to treat the cause and not the symptom. This is what dual diagnosis accomplishes in terms of benzo abuse.

Once detox has taken its course, it’s important to have a plan for steps to take afterward. In the following section, we’ll discuss steps to take after detox.

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Steps to Take After Detox

After detox, clients have a major decision to make. Do they continue treatment in an inpatient facility or attempt outpatient options?

Inpatient treatment provides a controlled environment that increases the odds of successful recovery. Outpatient rehab has its benefits, but the chances of relapse are much higher.

Choosing the right option for rehab is vital for long-term recovery. Other measures are critical in the long-term fight for recovery.

Post-treatment and aftercare services are just as important as detox and treatment programs. This is when clients resolve, and willpower is truly tested. Consider becoming active in the following programs to remain successful after treatment and detox:

  • Support groups for benzodiazepines. These support groups may include in-person or online-based recovery forums. The advantage of these groups is engaging with peers who can relate to what you’re going through.
  • Continued attention to mental health. Making regular appointments with mental health professionals is important for continuing to address underlying mental health challenges. These issues never disappear, but issues surrounding these challenges may remain dormant through proper counseling and talk therapy.
  • Strong support systems. Having the right pillars of support in place is vital for post-treatment. Family members and loved ones should remain active in the encouragement of recovery.
  • Emotions Anonymous is an important group for benzo management. This group is similar to Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous but is targeted at the mental health management space. Locate these groups near you or find resources to engage with them online as a means of long-term recovery and support.

Establishing an efficient plan for detox, treatment, and long-term recovery is mandatory for a successful recovery. None of these elements should be underestimated or left out, as they are all equally as important.

Planning for benzo detox can be stressful and downright frightening. However, with a referral to detox and continuing treatment at Icarus Behavioral Health, the worst of the side effects are manageable.

Nobody should ever go through detox or recovery alone. If you’re ready to take the next step in the recovery from benzodiazepine abuse disorder, contact the intake staff at Icarus Behavioral. We’re happy to answer any questions regarding admissions and the recovery process.