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What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are used to treat a variety of conditions to include anxiety, panic attacks, muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety, and alcohol withdrawal. Usually prescribed by a physician, they are also some of the most widely abused drugs, and often mixed with other substances. Combining alcohol with a benzodiazepine is very dangerous.
Examples of oral benzodiazepines are:
- alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR)
- clobazam (Onfi)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- clorazepate (Tranxene)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- diazepam (Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat)
- estazolam (Prosom is a discontinued brand in the US)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- oxazepam (Serax is a discontinued brand in the US)
- temazepam (Restoril)
- triazolam (Halcion)
It is very difficult to recover from benzodiazepine addiction because these drugs change the chemistry of the brain.
Onset of Withdrawal
Benzodiazepines are not intended to be taken long-term, prolonged use or abuse can cause the brain to become physically and psychologically dependent on them. Withdrawal symptoms, ranging from a return of uncomfortable psychological symptoms to physical symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, may occur when the drugs are removed from the bloodstream.
Individual taking benzos for several months or in high doses are likely to experience more withdrawal symptoms that last longer than those taking smaller doses for a shorter length of time.
If you stop taking these medications abruptly you may experience withdrawal symptoms that include:
- Problems concentrating
- Sleep problems
- Increased anxiety and tension
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremors
- Dry heaving and vomiting
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- A host of perceptual changes
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on amount and duration of benzodiazepine use. Withdrawal symptoms can be deadly.
It is rare to fatally overdose on benzodiazepines unless they are combine with another central nervous system depressant such as opioids and alcohol. Misusing benzos with other central nervous system depressants increases the risk of central respiratory depression, coma, and fatality.
Some of the following are symptoms of a benzo overdose:
- Severe dizziness
- Lack of coordination
- Profound confusion and altered mental status
- Blurred vision or other visual impairments
- Extreme agitation
- Abnormally low blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
Benzodiazepines are commonly used in conjunction with other drugs and/or alcohol. This is called poly-substance abuse and can heavily influence the withdrawal severity and timeline.
Stopping benzos on your own without medical assistance is not recommended. Supervised detox is required for all benzodiazepine addictions.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal may occur in three main phases: early withdrawal, acute withdrawal, and protracted withdrawal.
The early withdrawal phase usually starts within a few hours to a few days of stopping the medication and may last a few days. An individual may experience a return of anxiety and insomnia symptoms as the brain rebounds without the drugs. Symptoms the benzos worked to suppress will come flooding back.
This phase is the bulk of withdrawal. Symptoms may include anxiety, panic, insomnia, muscle spasms or tension, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, seizures, hallucinations, short-term memory impairment, trouble concentrating, clouded thinking, mood swings, agitation, drug cravings, twitching, and weight loss due to a decreased appetite. Suicidal thoughts and actions may also occur.
Studies have shown 10 percent will experience protracted withdrawal syndrome that can extend several months or even years after stopping use of a benzodiazepine. Individuals may experience tingling in their arms and legs, muscle twitches, prolonged anxiety and insomnia, and cognitive deficits as well as depression and mood swings that may be difficult to manage. These symptoms may appear randomly and without warning. Mental health services and support beyond detox include therapy and counseling to manage protracted withdrawal symptoms. When a mental health disorder is also present, called co-occurring disorders, specialized treatment that caters to dual diagnoses may be beneficial during recovery.
Managing Symptoms in a Detox Facility
During benzodiazepine detox, the drug and all other toxins are removed from the user’s system. Quitting abruptly can be lethal and even fatal. Grand mal seizure can occur in up to 20-30% of users going through withdrawal untreated. New Outlook Detox provides you a medically supervised environment and allows patients to remain safe and comfortable.
Benzodiazepine detox can be a long, ongoing process but is necessary to overcome the addiction. If you or a loved one need help. Please contact New Outlook Detox today and speak with a dedicated treatment specialist.