Benzodiazepines are a type of medication known as sedatives or tranquilizers. They are commonly prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, and/or certain seizure disorders. Benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system by increasing the levels of a certain neurotransmitter called GABA. This causes extreme relaxation and produces a sense of calmness. An article published by the Australian Prescriber noted that:
Any patient who has taken a benzodiazepine for longer than 3–4 weeks is likely to have withdrawal symptoms if the drug is ceased abruptly. The risk of inducing dependence can be reduced by issuing prescriptions limited to 1–2 weeks supply.
Benzodiazepines are highly addictive, so they should only be prescribed and taken on a short-term basis. Some of the names of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin.
Safe Methods for Benzodiazepine Detox
Benzodiazepine detox should be done either under the care of a doctor or in a medically supervised treatment environment. It is not safe to do this on your own. A doctor could taper an individual off of benzodiazepines over a 2 to 6 week period. Some of the steps he may take to successfully and safely detox an individual might be to first start them off with a longer-acting benzodiazepine dose for 1 to 2 weeks. Decrease their dose to once daily after 1 to 2 weeks. Then they may reduce their dose to ¼ of the original dose after 2 more weeks. Completely discontinue the medication after a period of about 2 to 6 weeks.
Medical Detox for Benzodiazepine Addiction
The doctor may also prescribe the individual an anticonvulsant to take while they are at the maintenance dose along with a sleep aid and an SSRI antidepressant to help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or insomnia. The doctor may also recommend non-drug therapies such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and psychotherapy to help with anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. A doctor could also recommend a slower taper over a 3 to 6 month period depending on the benzodiazepine that the person is taking. The steps that may be followed for this slower taper could include switching the individual from a short-acting benzodiazepine to an equivalent dose of a long-acting benzodiazepine. Then they may reduce the daily dose by 5-10 % each week in divided doses. Then decrease the dose once a month once the person has reached ½ of the original dose. They may prescribe other medications to help with the bad sleep, anxiety, and depression symptoms and also recommend non-medicinal therapies such as exercise, deep breathing, and psychotherapy. The absolute safest way to detox off of benzodiazepines is in a medically supervised treatment environment. Benzodiazepine detox can be very dangerous due to the possibility of grand mal seizures. There are certain situations where a person’s doctor may recommend a detox facility for benzodiazepine withdrawal. Some of these instances can include: someone that is taking very high doses of benzodiazepines, someone that has had issues with withdrawal in the past, the individual meets the criteria for severe substance use disorder or they have a significant level of physiological dependence, the person is elderly, or they have other medical or psychiatric issues.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
Taking benzodiazepines over an extended period can result in dependence and possibly addiction. Once someone becomes dependent or addicted to benzos, withdrawal symptoms will occur if the medication is suddenly stopped. Some of the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines are:
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Hand tremors
- Nausea or vomiting
- Elevated pulse
- Heart palpitations
- Psychomotor agitation or repetitive purposeless movements
- Grand mal seizures
A person going through withdrawal can also experience delirium. Delirium is characterized by visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations. Disturbances in consciousness and cognition can also be experienced. Abruptly stopping benzodiazepines is very dangerous and can be deadly. There is a great risk of the individual experiencing grand mal seizures.
Treatment for Benzo Dependency
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction issue, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Evoke Wellness assists men, women, and families throughout the country that are struggling with substance abuse and are searching for benzodiazepine addiction treatment. We can help you get on the road to long-lasting recovery. You don’t have to suffer any longer.