Benzodiazepines are a group of central nervous system depressants used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Benzodiazepines (or often referred to as benzodiazepines) are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the country. There are several different types of benzos sold under popular brand names such as Valium, Xanax and Klonopin.
The main difference between these drugs is the length of time they stay active in the body. Benzos is sometimes abused because of its relaxing and euphoric effects. However, even at therapeutic doses, benzo drugs can cause physical dependence and withdrawal.
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Overview of benzodiazepine withdrawal
The use of benzodiazepines has become widespread. From 1996 to 2013, the number of people dispensing benzo prescriptions increased by 67%.The abuse and dependence of benzodiazepines has become more severe in all age groups from teenagers to the elderly. In 2016, it is estimated that approximately 500,000 people in the United States abuse sedative drugs.
Benzodiazepines may form a habit. Anyone who takes them every day will develop tolerance and dependence.
When you are physically dependent on a drug, it means that your body cannot function properly without it. If you suddenly stop or reduce the dose, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Getting rid of benzos can be a difficult or even dangerous process. You may feel anxious and nervous within a few weeks. You may feel irritable and allergic to everything around you. Insomnia is also very common. In the first week, you may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches and shaking hands.
Benzo withdrawal can be managed by gradually reducing the dose, which can lead to milder symptoms that come and go in waves. Please note that if you use benzophenes for more than 6 months, stopping them suddenly can cause seizures and delirium-which is why it is best to involve your doctor or healthcare professional in your withdrawal process.
Signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal
Even with small doses of treatment, withdrawal symptoms may appear after one month of use. Among people who have been taking benzophenes for more than 6 months, approximately 40% will experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly quit smoking. The other 60% have mild symptoms.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms is related to many factors, including:
- Your current dose
- How long have you been taking it
- Are you taking more than one type of benzo
- Whether to take other sedative drugs
- Any substance use problem
- Do you abstain from more than one substance at a time
The onset of benzodiazepine withdrawal depends on the specific medicine you take. Short-acting drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan) leave the system faster, which means withdrawal symptoms may appear in as little as 8 to 12 hours.
Long-acting benzene drugs such as clonazepam (Klonopin) can stay in the system longer, which means it may take one to two days or even longer before withdrawal symptoms begin.
Possible symptoms include:
- Hand tremor
- Muscle cramps
- Racing pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Aches and pains
- Panic attack
- Allergic to irritation such as light and touch
- Physical paresthesia (crawling skin, goose bumps)
- Attention and memory problems
- Visual impairment (flashing lights or blurred vision)
- Auditory, tactile, or visual hallucinations
- Unreal feeling
- Grandiose epilepsy
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), withdrawal symptoms of short-acting benzoic drugs peaked on the second day and improved on the fourth or fifth day. However, some people find that they last for several weeks.
It is estimated that 10% to 25% of chronic benzo users have experienced so-called long-term withdrawal.
Long-term withdrawal is a long-term withdrawal syndrome that may last for several months.
Symptoms will be milder than acute withdrawal symptoms and can disappear for several weeks at a time. Long-term withdrawals rarely last more than a year.
Coping with benzodiazepine withdrawal
The best way to get rid of benzophenones is to avoid withdrawal by asking your doctor to gradually reduce your dose. Gradually tapering means gradually reducing the dose over the course of several weeks or months.
You can reduce the dose yourself, but it is best to cooperate with your doctor. Depending on the benzodiazepine you are currently taking, your doctor may want to switch to another before you start to gradually reduce the dose. Short-acting benzo drugs complicate withdrawal due to too many ups and downs. Diazepam, a long-acting benzo, is the most common dose reduction option.
There is no standard reduction schedule for you to follow. Your doctor will help develop a personalized tapering plan based on your current dosage and specific conditions. Some people will reduce it quickly and complete it in two to three weeks. Others gradually become thinner over the course of a few months.
During the tapering period, you may still experience some withdrawal symptoms. This may happen after each dose reduction.
If your symptoms are unbearable, your doctor can pause or slow down the taper. Most doctors choose not to reverse the taper and increase the dose to deal with withdrawal symptoms.
In order to cope with these breakthrough symptoms, it can be helpful to develop a backup plan for coping with anxiety. Useful strategies include:
Benzodiazepine withdrawal warning
If not handled properly, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous. People who are at risk, that is, quitting benzene and not declining may experience life-threatening epileptic seizures. If you enter a withdrawal state without gradual reduction, you may also experience delirium and hallucinations that cause you to become disconnected from reality—a terrible and dangerous experience.
Some drugs can be safely quit on their own, but benzodiazepines are not. However, this does not necessarily mean that you need to be hospitalized. In fact, with the help of primary care doctors or psychiatrists, most people gradually reduce benzodiazepines at home without a problem. You should plan to keep in touch with your doctor regularly over the phone during the tapering process or during office visits.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may think it is best to prescribe a small amount of medicine at a time. This will prevent you from changing the taper, but it may mean frequent visits to the pharmacy.
Some people, such as those with a history of complex withdrawal, seizures, or severe mental illness, may be more suitable for hospitalization. This may involve living in a detox facility or hospital for several weeks, where you can receive continuous medical monitoring and psychological support.
Quitting benzos means that the underlying psychiatric symptoms may be worse than ever. These may include:
Hospitalization can be very expensive, depending on the facility, but many insurance companies cover it.
If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, please discuss your plan with your obstetrician or psychiatrist immediately. The use of benzodiazepines during pregnancy brings some risks, but any form of discontinuation during pregnancy has its own risks. Your doctor can help you weigh the potential risks and benefits of using benzodiazepines and pregnancy.
Long-term treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal
Long-term treatment after benzo withdrawal will depend on why you took them in the first place and why you quit smoking. If you have a mental illness managed by benzos, you will need an alternative plan to manage your condition. Usually, this is a combination of treatment and medical support.
If you quit smoking because of abuse of them or uncontrollable use, then you may need further drug abuse treatment. This is especially true if you also give up other substances, such as alcohol or opioids.
Psychotherapy can help you understand the root cause of substance abuse problems.
It can also help you learn to identify the psychological triggers that may cause you to relapse so that you can avoid them in the future.
Your best resource for quitting benzos is your prescribing doctor. However, if you prefer other people, any primary care doctor or psychiatrist can help you reduce your dose.
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Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs that are very useful in the short term, but if you have been taking them for a period of time, there are potential risks and side effects, such as sedation and cognitive problems. For many people, quitting benzodiazepines is like waking up from a long dream.
Of course, waking up is not always easy. For optimal health, discuss with your doctor the best way to quit smoking and how to maintain long-term success.