If you have been prescribed benzodiazepines for a long time or suspect you’ve developed an addiction, you may be looking for ways to stop using them. A medical benzo detox allows people to taper their benzodiazepine usage in a safe, controlled setting.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Before delving into benzo detox, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how these drugs work. Benzodiazepines (or “benzos”) are a class of depressant medications used primarily to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizure activity. They function by slowing down brain activity and filtering messages in the nervous system. To accomplish this, they attach to certain receptors in the brain and induce a magnified calming effect.
Several types of benzodiazepines exist, such as:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Restoril (temazepam)
- Halcion (triazolam)
Furthermore, some of the above medications affect people for different amounts of time. Short-acting benzos are typically those that target sleeping issues, while longer-acting benzos treat anxiety, though some exceptions exist. Short-acting benzos also tend to have more intense withdrawal effects and addictive qualities of the two.
Side Effects of Benzodiazepines
As with most medications, benzodiazepines carry the risk of inducing certain side effects. One of the reasons someone may wish to undergo a benzo detox could involve their experience with these unwanted ailments.
For instance, benzo side effects may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Slowed or difficulty breathing
- Dry mouth
- Slurred speech
- Low blood pressure
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Someone who takes benzodiazepines for longer than two or four weeks may exhibit additional side effects. These are unique to long-term benzo usage and tend to be cognitive in nature. For example, someone may experience difficulty concentrating; memory problems; or feeling dulled, numb, or slow.
Besides unpleasant side effects, why might someone wish to undergo a benzo detox? Unfortunately, in prolonged use of benzodiazepines, the risk of running into substance abuse problems increases dramatically.
The addictive qualities of benzos tie into the pleasurable feelings of calmness and relaxation they enable. People may start to take them more often than prescribed to chase those feelings, or not wish to stop taking them even when it’s time.
This can cause problems. Benzodiazepines aren’t designed to be permanent solutions for anxiety and insomnia. They work best as short-term answers to acute episodes. Some are prescribed for chronic conditions, but those are beginning to lose popularity as people grow more aware of their dangers.
Risks of Benzo Detox
However, stopping benzo usage isn’t as simple as quitting cold turkey. This is due to concepts known as tolerance and dependence, which serve as the core components of many addictions.
Everyone’s body works to maintain chemical balance. When a foreign substance is introduced through a drug, it may disrupt this balance or help to correct it, depending on its purpose. In either case, if someone regularly takes that drug for a long period of time, the body starts to acknowledge it as the “new normal.”
In other words, the body comes to rely on the drug to maintain balance. Therefore, when someone tries to stop using the drug, its absence throws their body off-balance once more. As it scrambles to correct itself, someone may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms during benzo detox.
Withdrawal symptoms introduce an element of risk to detoxes. They are not dangerous when completed under medical supervision, but those interested in benzo detox should be aware of why it is not recommended to attempt it alone.
Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Before beginning a benzo detox, it’s important to conduct research and ask questions to learn the specifics of withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, most are not life-threatening, and few people experience complications. Even so, the withdrawal process can still be quite uncomfortable, so it helps to be prepared.
Common withdrawal symptoms that occur during benzo detox include:
- Restlessness and agitation
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Muscle cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
In rarer cases, someone may encounter more severe symptoms as well. These include seizures, auditory and visual hallucinations, and suicidal ideations. If left untreated, the risk of dangerous complications arising increases. For this reason, seeking medical assistance before attempting to detox is the safest method.
Most symptoms appear within the first six to eight hours of benzo detox. Their intensities typically peak sometime in the first three to five days. However, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can last up to two weeks, and even longer in the case of severe benzo addictions.
Rebound Anxiety and Insomnia
Also known as the rebound effect, rebound anxiety and insomnia may occur when someone stops taking benzodiazepines. In many cases, when these symptoms re-emerge, they present in more severe ways than before. This can increase the likelihood of fast relapse as people take action to stop their rising anxiety or sleep difficulties.
The rebound effect makes benzo detox even more of a challenge. Coupled with other withdrawal symptoms, someone may simply try to stay on benzodiazepines for as long as possible to manage their conditions. However, this is not a sustainable solution, as their tolerance for benzos will continue to increase over time.
Though difficult, a benzo detox is the best option for those who have taken benzodiazepines for longer than two weeks. Many treatment facilities, including The Blackberry Center, provide medical detox services to make it an easier, safer process.
Benzo Detox Treatment
The Blackberry Center offers a medically supervised benzodiazepine detox program to help people stop using benzos for good. Patients are evaluated by a team of physicians and addiction specialists, after which they work together to create an effective detox plan.
Our medical staff focus on patient safety during detox. They know the warning signs of severe symptoms like seizures, and they can leap into immediate action to keep patients stable and at ease. This may involve the administration of additional medications to ease symptoms, but know that we will never force anyone to take medications against their will.
We keep our patients in a calm, sober, and secure environment throughout their benzo detox. This eliminates their risk of immediate relapse, and it removes external stressors that may distract them or cause additional anxiety.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping the reality that withdrawal is not an enjoyable experience. However, with the proper resources and care, patients can avoid the anxiety of potential complications and remain as comfortable as possible.
Detox from Benzos at The Blackberry Center
The Blackberry Center is a mental health and addiction rehab center designed to help those in need. Our treatment programs are carefully curated to contain only the best evidence-based treatment options. For those with substance abuse problems, treatment begins with medical detox and extends all the way through discharge and aftercare planning.
Furthermore, we prioritize connecting our patients with motivating support groups and rebuilding their bonds with friends and family members. The battle against substances or mental illness does not need to be won alone. We know the importance of human connection and peer encouragement.
Our benzo detox program places patients under the diligent supervision of a licensed team of medical professionals. Trained physicians minimize the impact of adverse withdrawal symptoms and ensure our patients remain safe and comfortable throughout the process.
If you’re interested in learning more about benzo detox, call us at 888-512-9802 or submit a confidential contact form. We would love to answer any questions and provide as much information as we can to help you make safe, informed decisions about your body and mental health.