Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are common among those who stop taking this drug. Benzodiazepines are depressants that control the central nervous system. They treat a wide array of symptoms and conditions, like seizures, anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders. Benzodiazepines can even treat alcohol abuse withdrawal symptoms.
Studies show that physicians prescribe, on average, benzodiazepines to at least 15% of their patients. 5% of patients receive a fairly high dose. The high dose can have a huge effect on the body and may alter brain chemistry. Even when taken as prescribed, patients may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication.
If you believe that you have an addiction to benzodiazepines, it’s important to act quickly. Get help from a drug rehab center. They will introduce you to a wide variety of different treatment options. The treatments will be tailored to your needs. Here’s a look at withdrawal signs and symptoms, as well as the best ways to manage them.
The Different Brand Names of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are common prescription medications. A large number of prescriptions are written each year. From 1996 to 2013, the percentage of American adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by about 30%. 5.6% of American adults had a benzodiazepine prescription in 2013. 56% of these prescriptions were for anxiety. The rest were for other mental health disorders and conditions.
To cater to the demand, the amount of benzodiazepine medications that were available doubled. More and more brand names started to pop up. Some of the most common and popular brand names for benzodiazepines include:
The different brand names come with unique side effects and uses. For example, Ativan is used to treat short-term anxiety disorder and anxiety that’s associated with depression. Xanax, on the other hand, is approved for all of the above uses, and can also treat panic disorders and panic attacks. It has more uses in comparison to Ativan. Xanax, however, should not be prescribed to those struggling with a bipolar disorder. The medication can increase the risk of excitability, insomnia and mania.
What Are Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms?
Benzodiazepine misuse and abuse will lead to physical and psychological dependence. The body becomes hooked on the drug. Chemical changes in the brain and body causes the body to rely on the drug. Those who try to quit or wean off of these medications will then experience benzodiazepine withdrawal signs and symptoms. Depending on the type of benzodiazepine being abused, these withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on how drug addicts quit. Those who slowly wean off of the benzodiazepines usually have a much easier time. In fact, most addiction treatment will use this method. Those who quit cold turkey will have a much more difficult time. Some of the most common benzo withdrawal signs and symptoms include:
- Anxiety, agitation and panic
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Irritability and mood swings
- Muscle aches, pain and stiffness
Poor concentrationProfuse and excessive sweatingSensory distortionsTremorsSleep problems, like insomniaVomiting and nausea
In worst case scenarios, serious complications may arise. Some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms include seizures, psychosis and delirium tremens. Drug abusers who mix benzodiazepines with other substances or alcohol are at a higher risk for experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. The severity of the addiction will also influence the intensity of the benzo withdrawals. Medical professionals will recommend treatment options based on the condition of each patient.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Although not all, approximately 10% to 15% of drug abusers may experience a prolonged or protracted withdrawal. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can last anywhere from several months to up to a year. Most of these symptoms are more psychological than physical. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of PAWS include:
- Chronic anxiety
- Difficulties sleeping
The intensity and duration of the benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms will differ from person to person. Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can be treated at many recovery centers. Depending on the intensity of the symptoms, medical detox may or may not be necessary.
If the symptoms are not treated or managed, they can progressively get worse. The symptoms can become difficult to control. In worst-case scenarios, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. The benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline will vary from individual to individual.
How to Ease Withdrawal Symptoms
While the treatment centers will do as much as possible to help you get through a benzodiazepine addiction, you’ll still have to face and deal with the withdrawal symptoms alone. Some patients will have no problems with the withdrawal symptoms. Others might find them difficult to handle. If you’re having a difficult time, consider the following tips and tricks recommended by medical professionals.
Tip #1: Rely on Medical Detox
Benzodiazepine withdrawal and detox is often treated with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Otherwise known as medical detox, this part of the recovery process is the first step towards addiction recovery. It is recommended for patients who choose either inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. This drug addiction treatment usually lasts anywhere from 7 days to a month at an inpatient rehab.
The medications are only prescribed when patients run into problems with the taper method. There are many different types of medications that may fit the bill. Some of the most common medications used in this type of drug detox include:
- Anticonvulsants, like carbamazepine or valproate
- Antihypertensive medications, like clonidine or propranolol
- Benzodiazepines with a longer half-life, like chlordiazepoxide or Klonopin
- Sedating antidepressants like trazodone
Doctors prescribe antihypertensive medications to patients who experience autonomic consequences when dealing with symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawals. The nursing staff administers the medications at any point of time during the drug detox. The goal is to help patients enjoy a smooth and hassle-free transition into recovery. To avoid the risk of complications, patients need to be under constant supervision during the withdrawal process. Medical professionals will constantly check up on patients to ensure their safety.
Medical detox is not the only treatment method used to deal with a benzodiazepine addiction. It’s vital that the medications are paired with psychotherapeutic treatment, like behavioral therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in treating benzodiazepine abuse.
Substance abuse treatment should also deal with dual diagnosis. This is when patients struggle with both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Many benzodiazepine addicts struggle with co-occurring disorders. For example, they may also struggle with anxiety disorders.
Tip #2: Use Healthy Distractions
Another way for easing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms is to use healthy distractions. It’s impossible not to experience any withdrawal symptoms at all. The aim is to not spend your time focusing on the symptoms. Keep yourself distracted and you’ll find yourself cruising through the withdrawal timeline. The goal is to keep your mind preoccupied with something else. Healthy distractions include:
- Spa treatments
- Taking a bath
- Listening to music
- Watching a movie
- Going to the museum
- Hiking or spending time in nature
This is a good time to pick up a new hobby or activity. When receiving treatment from a recovery center, the recovery center will usually expose you to a wide array of different activities. They will also provide you with a strict schedule to follow. The goal is to help you build better discipline and character. It’s also to help you stay preoccupied, so your mind won’t wander off to drugs.
Tip #3: Accept the Cravings
This may sound ironic and counterproductive, but stop trying to fight your cravings. During the benzodiazepine detox process, you will be bound to experience cravings. This is the same for all types of substance abuse. While the benzodiazepine treatment at detox centers will help you manage the withdrawal symptoms, the cravings will never completely disappear.
One of the best ways to lessen the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms is to recognize that the cravings are there. It’s important to realize that cravings are normal. The cravings will probably linger around for some time as well. Don’t try to fight or resist the cravings. If you do, it will only create more tension. Instead, accept them and try to move forward. As physical dependency weans, the intensity of the cravings will lessen.
You can work through the cravings by attending support groups. Share your personal experiences with others and get advice from others who have been in the same situation. These support groups are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, which is highly recommended for alcoholism treatment.
Get Professional Help and Addiction Treatment
A benzodiazepine addiction can be challenging to overcome. However, the symptoms aren’t necessarily overbearing. If it’s your first time treating this addiction, you might benefit from an inpatient rehab, like Amethyst Recovery. We have a lot to offer in terms of treatment options. Pick up the phone and give us a call to get more information our facility and the treatments we provide.
Our addiction specialists can answer any questions you may have about this type of drug addiction. Generally, we recommend slowly tapering off of the benzodiazepines. In the event that you experience any unsavory side effects or withdrawal symptoms, our medical staff will assess your condition and determine whether to commence medical detox.