Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are a class of psychoactive drugs that enhance the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA which result in a sedated state. These drugs are also sleep-inducing, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, and even have muscle relaxing properties. The original benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide or Librium, was discovered in 1955 accidentally and made available to the public by 1960. Since then, benzodiazepines have become some of the most prescribed medications in the world.
With several distinct classes of benzodiazepines, short, intermediate, and long-acting, these drugs can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions. With short and intermediate-acting benzos typically used for insomnia, long-acting benzos are used primarily for the treatment of anxiety conditions. However, these medications are highly addictive and many times are abused.
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Benzodiazepines are extremely addictive. Medications such as Xanax or Valium fall into this category of drug. Benzos act as a central nervous system depressant, causing sedation, lowered levels of anxiety, and muscle relaxation. This state of relaxation and calm is the desired effect the individual abusing the benzo is seeking. Over time, with continued use, an individual may develop both a physical and psychological dependence on the drugs.
Since the very purpose of benzodiazepines is to enhance GABA, the over-stimulation of this neurotransmitter ultimately changes the very chemistry of the brain. It is thanks to the presence of the excess GABA that the central nervous system begins to feel the sedative effects of the medication, and often people must use higher and higher doses in order to attain the same effects.
It is during this process that the body becomes dependent on the medication, and full-on physical addiction occurs. Consistent exposure to benzodiazepines causes neural adaptations to develop which results in the bodybuilding a tolerance and ultimately a dependence.
Many times, people who abuse benzodiazepines experience complete amnesia, which has made benzos popular choices for date rape drugs. Users also undergo feelings of drowsiness or lethargy, slurred speech, confusion, severe memory problems, impaired balance, and ultimately a worsening of depression or mood disorders.
While there are currently more than 2,000 different types of benzodiazepines that have been produced, only 15 are currently FDA-approved in the United States. Some of the more common benzos you may come across are:
- Klonopin is a type of benzodiazepine used to treat seizure disorders or panic However, like other benzos, it can be easily abused and result in addiction.
- Xanax is another type of benzodiazepine that is primarily used to treat people with severe anxiety, panic, and depression disorders. Nearly 50 million prescriptions for Xanax are written per year,
- Librium is a type of benzodiazepine that is commonly used in the withdrawal process. Counterintuitive, Librium is actually highly effective in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Ativan is intended to treat people with anxiety disorders as well. Ativan is also seen used in combination with Haldol as an injectable for use in psychiatric hospitals for patients who may be agitated and potentially dangerous.
- Valium is typically used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawals, and seizures. It is also used as a sedative before various types of medical procedures.
All of these medications have a high propensity for abuse and should never be combined with alcohol. Combining benzos and alcohol can result in a potentially fatal outcome. Since both are central nervous system depressants, the combination could result in over suppression of the central nervous system and respiratory depression.
What to Expect from Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Going through benzodiazepine withdrawal is often one of the more difficult withdrawal experiences among drugs. Drugs and substances (such as alcohol) that have sedative effects tend to cause dangerous and sometimes even fatal withdrawal symptoms if a regular user attempts to stop cold turkey without the help of a medical professional.
At the very least, the physical and mental benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms often result in users relapsing just to feel better. Like many drugs, the addiction transforms from trying to elevate normalcy to just trying to maintain normalcy.
Here are some of the significant withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines:
- Suicidal Ideations
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle twitching
- Memory problems
- Motor impairment
- Muscle pain
- Sensitivity to sound, light, and touch
- Restless Leg Syndrome
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline
The timeline for benzodiazepine withdrawal will vary depending on several factors since addiction affects each person differently. The severity of the addiction, the dosage and length of time you used benzos, your gender, age, weight, and unique physiology will all play a part in how you experience benzodiazepine withdrawal.
With that being said, here is the typical benzo withdrawal timeline:
You will likely start experiencing the withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, restlessness, depression, and aching muscles after about six hours have elapsed from your last dose of benzos.
At this point, you will probably start feeling prolonged and severe physical withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, intense sweating, pain in the muscles, and seizures. On top of that, the anxiety and depression will likely increase, causing some to develop suicidal thoughts during this phase of the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline.
At this point, the withdrawal symptoms will be at their most severe. This is the phase in which the symptoms can be too much to bear or can even become fatal. Many end up relapsing if they attempt benzo detox at home. After the second week, you should see the symptoms subsiding slowly.
Just because the physical withdrawal symptoms have subsided, doesn’t mean that withdrawal is over. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and depression can linger for months or possibly even more than a year after your last dose. Benzodiazepines deeply affect how the brain functions and have an extremely long half-life, so detox and withdrawal, while necessary, can be difficult.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Treatment
For those that are struggling with an addiction to benzodiazepines, the outlook could seem grim. But the best thing to do is not give up hope and to find quality addiction treatment at a credentialed facility. Medical professionals and clinicians alike will help you get through withdrawal and help you take the right steps to live a clean and sober life.
The first step for those that have an addiction to benzos is invariably a medically supervised detox. This has a marked difference from quitting cold turkey, as there will be medical professionals monitoring your physical state throughout. Additionally, you will likely be weaned off of your dependence through a tapering method in which your dose is gradually reduced throughout the detox period.
The next step will be to live at a residential facility to participate in a daily, structured treatment schedule. Returning home to the same routines and addiction triggers is often not the best route to take directly after detox. By staying at a residential facility, you will be able to go through therapy in a safe and comfortable environment free of the stressors and people that may have encouraged your addiction. In therapy, clinicians will make use of evidence-based methods to work with you to identify the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that led you to addiction.
After you have mastered the coping skills taught in residential, you may be ready to start winding down the intensity of your treatment. There are three main levels of outpatient, all allowing you to live at home: partial hospitalization, which is more than 20 hours of therapy per week; intensive outpatient treatment, which is nine or more; and outpatient, which involves fewer than nine hours of treatment per week.
If You’re Suffering from Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, We Can Help
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with addiction to benzodiazepines, Ocean Breeze Recovery can help. By calling us 24/7, you will be connected with an addiction specialist who will be able to sympathize with your struggle as well as get you the help you so desperately need.
Don’t delay, call us now and start your journey to recovery, today!
f you or someone you care about is currently suffering from an addiction, don’t wait until it’s too late! Call Ocean Breeze Recovery at 855-960-5341 to speak with an addiction specialist about getting the professional help and support needed to pursue the path to substance-free life!
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