Benzodiazepines Addiction: Common Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines or Benzo are a group of drugs called central nervous system depressants, used to treat anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, panic disorders, and seizures in people. Approved by the FDA, benzodiazepines are most commonly prescribed by medical professionals for treating off-label conditions, such as alcohol withdrawal, tic disorder, and bipolar disorder. What is a benny drug, according to a Public Health England analysis published in September 2019, 1.4 million people in the UK received a prescription for benzodiazepines. 

Also, benzodiazepines are manufactured under several names, including Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, and Ativan. And Valium is the most widely used benzodiazepine in the UK. Though they are considered safe and effective when used for a short period of time, prolonged use can result in benzodiazepine tolerance, dependence, addiction, and other negative effects. Nevertheless, the dependence also puts people at a higher risk of experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal during abrupt cessation. While most withdrawal symptoms begin within 24 hours of the last use, they may last for a few days to several months. 

What is a benny drug? This slang term refers to benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for conditions like anxiety and insomnia, with sedative effects on the central nervous system. Understanding this colloquial term is crucial for informed discussions on its usage and potential risks.
When dealing with benzodiazepines addiction and the common signs and symptoms of benzo withdrawal, consider the benefits of an intensive outpatient program available in Tucson for comprehensive care and support.

What is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

When people suddenly stop taking benzodiazepines, they may experience withdrawal. It happens when regular users of benzodiazepines develop tolerance, and it gets stronger with time. As a result, they crave higher doses of benzodiazepines to feel the euphoric effects, and withdrawal symptoms emerge when they don’t get it. And these symptoms affect everyone equally, whether someone is taking prescription benzos or abusing them without a prescription. It also makes doctors hesitant to prescribe benzos for long-term use because of their addictive nature and intense benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms.

Factors Influencing Benzos Withdrawal

No definitive guide can explain the timeline, severity, or symptoms of benzo withdrawal; each individual may experience benzodiazepine withdrawal differently. However, the factors that influence benzo withdrawal include the following:

  • Usage length and dosage: Individuals who take benzos for several months or more at higher doses than those who take lower doses for a shorter period.
  • Misusing Benzodiazepines: Due to the addictive nature of benzodiazepines, the risk of misuse is higher, resulting in increased potential for dependence and withdrawal.
  • Ingestion Method: The method of using benzodiazepines also decides the severity or timeline of the addiction. For example, injecting or snorting benzos have an almost immediate effect because it goes directly into the bloodstream. On the other hand, ingestion of a pill results in less intense symptoms and high.
  • Underlying Health Issue: Those who have pre-existing mental health conditions or physical health issues are more likely to misuse benzodiazepines, which results in tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.
  • Mixing Other Substances with Benzodiazepines: If an individual use benzodiazepine with alcohol and other drugs, it affects the severity and timeline of withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepines are depressants prescribed to treat or ease the symptoms of mental health issues and physical pain. But, they are not meant for long-term use or misuse because doing so results in physically and mentally crippling withdrawal symptoms that may turn severe due to abrupt abstinence. The most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Racing pulse
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Hand tremors
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Hyperventilation
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Auditory, tactile or visual hallucinations
  • Hypersensitivity to stimuli like touch and light
  • Panic attacks
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Abnormal bodily sensations
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Visual disturbances 

Also, benzodiazepine withdrawal may occur in three stages: early, acute, and protracted.

Early or Immediate Withdrawal

Also known as rebound symptoms, early withdrawal symptoms arise immediately after stopping the substance use. During this stage, those conditions re-emerge, for which benzodiazepines were first prescribed to the user. For example, anxiety and insomnia symptoms can return or get worse without the medications. Also, other drugs or methods that aid with withdrawal symptoms can make the early withdrawal symptoms mild and more manageable.

Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal symptoms begin after the initial or early withdrawal symptoms, lasting anywhere from five to twenty-eight days. In this most challenging phase of the withdrawal process, people may experience suicidal thoughts and behaviours. As a result, doctors usually prescribe medications or use therapy and support groups to minimise the risk of relapse.

Protracted Withdrawal

Also known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS, protracted withdrawal causes its own set of signs and affects only specific individuals. For example, people who used to misuse benzodiazepines for longer than recommended and form an addiction are more likely to experience PAWS. These symptoms may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

Also, post-acute withdrawal symptoms cause extreme distress.

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Treatment Options

Instead of going cold turkey, individuals should seek professional help from a physician or addiction specialist before quitting benzodiazepines. And benzodiazepines detox is an ideal treatment option for people with:

  • Mental health disorders
  • Poly-substance use disorder
  • Elderly patients
  • Severe dependence
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • History of withdrawal complications

Also, treatment options and coping strategies provided at benzo rehab for withdrawal include:

Medical Detox is usually the first step in effectively managing withdrawal symptoms. It allows physicians to assess an individual’s condition 24/7 and quickly react to possible withdrawal complications.

The tapering down method also helps with benzodiazepine withdrawal. In this process, the dosage of the drugs is slowly reduced and prepares individuals for complete abstinence. 

Other medications are usually prescribed in severe withdrawal cases. For example, flumazenil is recommended by doctors to help with severe withdrawal symptoms, and buspirone is prescribed to manage severe anxiety symptoms. 

Therapy such as addiction counselling or cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) also helps manage withdrawal symptoms without relying on other drugs.

Summary

Like any other substance abuse, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be stressful and uncomfortable but necessary for those who wish to quit the drug. Likewise, the severity of withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person and starts a few hours to days after the last use. Also, one should consult a healthcare professional before abruptly quitting drug use. Because benzo withdrawal causes severe symptoms and reactions, working with a professional can help manage them. 

So, if you plan to quit benzodiazepines or want to help someone you know, ask them to contact benzo rehab for quick treatment options, such as benzodiazepine detox today.

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