Benzodiazepine detox is the process through which an individual is withdrawn from any drug in the benzodiazepine class. Benzodiazepines are sedative tranquilizers, primarily prescribed for the purposes of treating anxiety and insomnia. Working to enhance the effects of GABA in the brain, benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Some of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include:
- Xanax (Alprazolam)
- Klonopin (Clonazepam)
- Ativan (Lorazepam)
- Valium (Diazepam)
- Halcion (Triazolam)
Because Benzodiazepines work on GABA, by enhancing it’s effects, withdrawal from these drugs often causes rebound effects which mimic the symptoms they are intended to treat.
Benzodiazepines are not generally intended for long term use because they do produce physical and psychological dependency in individuals who take them for a prolonged period of time. After usage of benzodiazepines for several months or years, it is necessary that an individual be gradually tapered off of the drugs over a period of time. Depending on the benzodiazepine used, and the length of time an individual has been taking it, the time period for tapering can vary from several days to several weeks.
The tapering process of benzodiazepine withdrawal is important because of the withdrawal symptoms associated with sudden cessation or drastic reduction of taking them. Some of these symptoms can include:
- Severe anxiety
- Severe mood swings
- Psychotic reactions
Most common to high doses of short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin, seizures can be very dangerous, and even deadly if they occur during the withdrawal process.
When an individual undergoes a benzodiazepine detox, he or she is likely to experience the most common effects, which are increased anxiety and insomnia. If the individual has been prescribed benzodiazepines to treat anxiety and/or insomnia, these symptoms are likely to persist until such time that some form of replacement therapy is instituted. It is not uncommon for individuals detoxing from benzodiazepines to opt for a more holistic form of therapy to treat their symptoms of insomnia and anxiety.
In general, the benzodiazepine detox process begins 1-4 days after the last dose, and lasts 10-14 days. This time line varies, based on several factors which include:
- The type and dosage of benzodiazepines taken
- The nature of benzodiazepine use (medical or recreational)
- Use of other addictive, and/or depressant drugs
- The individual’s physical health condition
- Presence of mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, bipolar, and other mood and personality disorders
In many cases of short-acting benzodiazepine detox, an individual can be given other, longer-lasting and less potent benzodiazepines to help lessen withdrawal symptoms. In this case, drugs like Valium or Librium, both of which are less potent and longer lasting, still effect and enhance GABA in the brain, but do so on a much less intensive level than other benzodiazepines. This allows the brain to continue to experience the presence of benzodiazepines, while a medical doctor tapers the individual from the more potent drugs without severe symptoms of withdrawal. Typically, benzodiazepines are tapered at a rate of 10%/week from the normal dosage of the individual going through detox.
Benzodiazepine Detox For Addicts?
Because benzodiazepines produce physical and psychological dependence in users, the process of a medically supervised detoxification is appropriate for most individuals who have been taking these drugs for an extended period of time.
However, those who do abuse, and are addicted to benzodiazepines run a much higher risk of a dangerous withdrawal symptoms for a number of reasons.
Benzodiazepines Are Commonly Abused With Other Dangerous Drugs
Most drug addicts are what is considered to be poly-abusers. Poly-abusers use more than one drug recreationally, or non-medically. Benzodiazepines are rarely the primary drug of choice for any addict, but are very frequently abused with other depressant or stimulant drugs that are primary for the individual.
For those who abuse, or are addicted to depressant drugs like alcohol, heroin, and painkillers, benzodiazepines can enhance the effects of these drugs. Depressant drugs slow the central nervous system, and have effects like:
- Shallow breathing
- Reduced heart rate
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Lowered inhibition
- Poor judgement
Among many other effects depending on the substance, depressant drugs can lead to dangerous consequences such as respiratory failure, stroke, and death. When combined with other depressant drugs, any one of the drugs in this class can significantly increase the effects, and quickly lead to a fatal overdose. Many individuals who abuse alcohol, heroin, and/or painkillers, also abuse benzodiazepines, and tend to do so with the most potent and shortest acting drugs of the class. The drugs most often used to enhance the effects of other depressant drugs are Xanax and Klonopin. A recent study offered by United States National Library of Medicine states, “co-users report seeking BZD [benzodiazepines] prescriptions for the purpose of enhancing opioid intoxication or “high,” and use doses that exceed the therapeutic range”.
Another way in which benzodiazepines are abused is with those who abuse stimulant drugs like cocaine, meth, and crack. Many individuals who abuse these stimulant drugs use benzodiazepines in an attempt to equalize the “speedy” feelings commonly associated with stimulants. Although benzodiazepines are often effective in providing a calming effect for individuals who are high on stimulant drugs, the non-medical use of benzodiazepines often results in taking dangerous amounts which increase the risk of overdose and dangerous drug interactions.
Even if the primary drug of addiction is not a benzodiazepine, a benzodiazepine detox is still necessary, and may need to be performed in conjunction with detox from other drugs as well.
After Benzodiazepine Detox
Once benzodiazepine detox has been completed, it is often recommended for individuals to remain abstinent from the drugs in the future. For individuals who have been prescribed benzodiazepines for a legitimate medical purpose, such as insomnia, they can opt for more holistic methods of treating their condition that do not involve pharmaceutical substances.
Individuals who have been abusing benzodiazepines alone, or in combination with other drugs should participate in some form of drug addiction rehabilitation program.
Drug rehab programs can help addicted individuals to learn how to cope with life, stress, and others without the use of dangerous and addictive drugs. A rehab program after benzodiazepine detox provides a powerful transition from sobriety to sustained recovery for individuals struggling with addiction.
Because addiction is a progressive disease with no cure, the only way to survive is to adjust the behaviors associated with addiction. These behaviors are destructive, compulsive, and can come from a variety of conditions such as:
- Poor coping skills
- Low self-esteem
- Poor communication skills
- Personality and/or mood disorders
Drug addiction rehabilitation aims to assist addicts in identifying the source of their inner turmoil and/or emotional unrest, as this is usually a major contributor to addictive and destructive behaviors.
With the assistance of individual and group therapy, addicts learn a variety of tools and skills to improve their ability to cope with life with new, constructive and positive behaviors.
It is important to understand that addicted individuals should not cease all form of treatment after benzodiazepine detox. While this is a first, and crucial step in recovery from addiction, the benzodiazepine detox process is only the beginning, and is not enough to address the behaviors behind addiction.
If you, or someone you love is addicted to benzodiazepines or other drugs in conjunction with benzodiazepines, and in need of detox, please contact us now for help. Call us at 1 (866) 445-4137 to speak with a trained counselor about the nature of the problem, and the needs and preferences of the individual in need of detox. We will work with you to determine the type of detox and treatment necessary for your specific situation. We understand that there are dozens of forms of addiction treatment, all of which are tailored to address individual needs and preferences. Based on the individual and his or her needs, we will help you narrow down the best options for an addiction treatment program that will work for you or your addicted loved one to maintain sobriety and recovery from addiction.
Please don’t wait for addiction to get any worse, and if you just need to get off of prescription benzodiazepines, detoxification is a safe and effective method. Benzodiazepines can be effective when used medically, but they are not intended for long-term use, and more holistic forms of treatment are available as effective alternatives.
Please call us now, and let us help you find the best ways and therapies to have the life and health you need and deserve. We are here to help however we can, so please call us now.