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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal | Symptoms, Timeline, & Detox

Published on March 29, 2021
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal | Symptoms, Timeline, & Detox

Benzodiazepines are depressants that help relieve anxiety, prevent seizures, and treat those with sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are taken orally, but can also be crushed and snorted.

Nerve pills, downers, and benzos are common slang terms used for benzodiazepines. These types of drugs are prescribed for short-term use in most cases. However, there are instances where doctors might prescribe benzodiazepines for longer use.

Popular brands of benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax (name-brand for alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (name-brand for clonazepam)
  • Ativan (name-brand for lorazepam)
  • Valium (name-brand for diazepam)
  • Restoril (name-brand for temazepam)
  • Librium (name-brand for chlordiazepoxide)

With long-term use, benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence and addiction, setting in motion severe withdrawal symptoms further down the road. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

When dealing with benzodiazepine withdrawal, one might experience a wide array of symptoms ranging from uncomfortable to quite painful. A benzodiazepine withdrawal seizure can occur, which can be life-threatening.

Here are some symptoms caused by benzodiazepine withdrawal:

  • blurred vision
  • tremors 
  • dysphoria 
  • suicidal thoughts
  • racing heart
  • psychosis
  • headaches 
  • insomnia 
  • anxiety 
  • panic attacks
  • poor concentration

In addition to these symptoms, another potential side effect of benzodiazepine withdrawal is benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which comes with its own set of problems such as muscular pain, increased tension, and heart palpitations. 

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can also wreak havoc on your mental health or lead to further substance use.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

Those with benzodiazepine addiction may discover they have a higher tolerance than when they first started using. This means the person with the substance use disorder must use more and more of the drug in order to achieve the “high” they seek. 

When addiction gets to this point, they may feel overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the demands of the drug. After taking the drug repeatedly, it is never advised to quit cold turkey. 

Quitting medication or any drug cold turkey can cause disastrous results and excruciating side effects. Once the drug is stopped, the person will likely go through withdrawal in various stages. 

First Three Days

Only 6 hours after stopping your dose, you may feel effects such as nausea, vomiting, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms usually last for the first 3 days after stopping usage.

Days Four To Seven

During days 4-7, most of the physical symptoms will have subsided. However, you still might feel exhausted from dealing with so many side effects.

After The First Week

Over the next week, the symptoms you experience will primarily be psychological. You may develop anxiety, become easily irritated, or even develop night terrors.

The Final Two Weeks

For the next two weeks, you’ll likely start to see symptoms go away, while others might linger. At this point, the medication should be completely out of your body.

Factors That Affect Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

There are several factors that can affect withdrawal from benzodiazepines. For instance, a person taking high doses of the medication will most likely experience more severe withdrawal symptoms than someone who takes low doses.

Each person can be affected differently due to the following reasons:

  • the dosage prescribed or abused
  • how often the person takes the drug
  • if the person is abusing other benzos or opioids
  • the manner in which the person takes the drug
  • if the person has any underlying health conditions
  • if the person uses alcohol

Benzo withdrawal symptoms can differ from person to person including how long they last. However, the withdrawal process can be quite difficult for many and in some cases, life-threatening. That’s why it’s so important to undergo detox.

Benzodiazepine Detox & Taper

In order to get the necessary treatment and care, it’s important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals and doctors you trust. Tapering off the drug is the only safe way to avoid as few withdrawal symptoms as possible.

Professional detox programs can help you better manage your withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision. Although these programs don’t treat drug abuse or addiction, they help you overcome benzodiazepine dependence and prepare for treatment.

At Ark Behavioral Health, we offer both inpatient and outpatient programs. To learn more about our substance abuse treatment options, please connect with us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Drug Enforcement Administration - Benzodiazepines
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Benzodiazepines and Opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?
National Library of Medicine - The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health - Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System Mediated Effects

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