As benzodiazepines (benzos for short) are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States, many people are not aware of the potential dangers they pose. In addition to developing an addiction to benzos, people taking them for prolonged periods are at risk for developing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
Common side effects include:
- Feelings of depression
- Impaired memory
Benzodiazepines were originally intended for short-term use, typically two to four weeks in duration. However, long-term use of these medications is becoming more popular. People taking these medications for longer periods are at high risk of developing physical dependence. Once a person develops a physical dependence on a benzodiazepine, he/she will begin taking larger doses more frequently to achieve the same desired effect. This cycle can quickly spin out of control, and before the person knows it, he/she has developed a substance use dependency (SUD).
What Happens When a Benzo-Dependent Individual Tries to Stop Using?
People suffering from SUDs are extremely addicted to these medications, and the option for discontinuing use becomes more difficult. If an individual continuously takes benzos for longer than a few months and suddenly discontinues use, he/she is at risk for withdrawal symptoms. These include but are not limited to seizures, vomiting, tremors, muscle cramping, and sweating.
People who have developed an addiction to any benzodiazepine shouldn’t attempt to discontinue using the medication alone at home. Seeking medical assistance to safely taper off the medicine is crucial. Quitting “cold turkey” puts one at risk for severe health complications due to the withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal symptoms
As previously mentioned, benzodiazepines were developed for short-term use to alleviate anxiety and insomnia. These medications are considered safe when taken at the proper dosage and duration advised by a physician. However, many people enjoy the calming effects of these medications and begin abusing them.
Taking a benzo for longer than prescribed, increasing the dose without approval, or taking benzos when they’re not prescribed to you are considered forms of benzodiazepine abuse. Those abusing these drugs put themselves in a great deal of danger. Taking these medications in conjunction with opioids or alcohol is also considered to be extremely risky behavior.
Signs of overdose include:
• Blurred vision
• Slurred speech
• Lack of coordination
• Difficulty breathing
Due to the elevated risk for developing a dependency, people must be honest with their doctors about their benzo usage. The more transparent you are, the better we can help you in overcoming addiction.
How are Pregnant Women Affected by Benzos?
Pregnant and/or nursing women should avoid taking these medications as they have been linked to birth defects. Studies are indicating a link between long-term usage of benzodiazepines in older people (65 years of age and older) and an increased risk of dementia.
Patients reporting drowsiness and grogginess to benzodiazepines are at greater risk for falls. Impaired memory and the inability to learn and retain new information have been linked to using these drugs. It’s important to note that older individuals are more likely to experience these side effects.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline
Benzo withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on a variety of factors including the type of medication, dosage, and the length of time the drug was used. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after the last dose. See below for the timeline of withdrawal symptoms.
1 – 4 Days:
This is the beginning stage of benzo withdrawal symptoms, which often mimic the symptoms the medication was intended to treat. People may experience anxiety, sweating, headaches, and panic attacks.
5 – 19 Days:
Symptoms peak at the two-week mark during the acute benzodiazepine withdrawal phase. This is when withdrawal symptoms are most severe. People may experience insomnia, palpitations, seizures, muscle aches and pain, perceptual changes and hallucinations, depression, flu-like symptoms, nausea, and dry heaving and weight loss.
Months – Years:
At this point, benzo withdrawal symptoms may come and go and lessen in severity. Reduced symptoms can persist for up to one year or more depending on the severity of the addiction.
Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction
The first step towards treating benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal is admitting that there’s an issue. Be honest and true with yourself. If you are taking these medications in conjunction with alcohol or opioids, you must disclose this information. The team at Harmony Ridge Recovery Center understands the dangers one faces when attempting to taper down from an addictive medication.
Each patient admitted to our nationally recognized drug and alcohol rehabilitation center receives a tailor-made treatment plan designed to meet their specific needs. Patients are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, and we make every effort to make our patients comfortable during the detoxification and treatment process.
From the moment a person picks up the phone to ask for help, we are here for them during their entire journey towards recovery. We provide full support with processing insurance, arranging transportation to our recovery center, and introducing patients to our licensed medical team. We also give patients the lifelong tools and techniques needed to achieve a life free from the restrictions of addiction.
Detox is generally the first step of a benzodiazepine addiction treatment plan. Detoxification is the process your body undergoes as it rids itself of harmful chemicals accumulated through substance use. Our medical team will monitor your withdrawal symptoms around the clock. If necessary, licensed professionals may prescribe FDA-approved medication to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. A detox allows you to start treatment with more of a clean slate so that you can focus on the underlying mental and emotional roots of addiction.
Medication for Withdrawal Symptoms
As mentioned above, doctors may prescribe during detox to lessen the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. If symptoms become dangerous, such as a risk for seizures, medication may be necessary to keep you safe and healthy. It’s important to note that we take the use of medication very seriously. Our medical team will monitor the patient’s use of medication and their accompanying symptoms throughout the entire process. Medication will also be combined with many evidence-based methods, such as therapy and holistic care.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment: Inpatient and Outpatient Care
Inpatient Treatment Programs
Inpatient treatment is the highest level of care that our recovery center offers. Patients in inpatient treatment will receive daily addiction care with a structured routine while living at the facility. This routine will include evidence-based therapy, holistic care, and support groups, as well as other resources that target benzodiazepine addiction. Inpatient treatment will also address any co-occurring disorders.
Partial Hospitalization Programs
A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is the level of treatment below inpatient treatment. Members of our partial hospitalization program will travel to the facility for treatment and then have the opportunity to return home afterward. Treatment will take place several hours each day, three to five days per week. If you have a stable environment at home or obligations you must take care of, then partial hospitalization may be a great option. You’ll have the flexibility to create your schedule while receiving plenty of drug and alcohol treatment services.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
Outpatient treatment offers the most flexibility for recovering individuals. Standard outpatient treatment allows patients to decide how many hours of treatment they’d like to receive every week. Outpatient care can be especially helpful when it comes to individuals with serious obligations outside of treatment. Perhaps you’re taking care of a child at home or have work responsibilities that must be taken care of during the week. In either case, we’ll work with you to create a schedule that suits your needs.
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a more intensive form of outpatient treatment. Recovering individuals in IOPs are required to commit to nine hours of therapy each week. However, both levels of outpatient care will provide the highest quality of addiction treatment and support.
Seek Help From Our Dedicated Addiction Treatment Team Today!
It’s completely understandable for a person to be nervous or reluctant to reach out for help. That’s why we’re here. It’s our goal for every patient to feel safe, secure, and welcome during their time with us. The Harmony Ridge Recovery Center team is 100% committed to your success and goes above and beyond to ensure every patient receives the dedicated care that he/she deserves.
When you choose Harmony Ridge Recovery Center for your drug rehabilitation treatment, you will enjoy many amenities in a serene atmosphere. Patients enjoy the breathtaking mountain views, outdoor activities, full cafeteria, fitness room, and an indoor heated pool. This is a true refuge for those seeking treatment who want to maintain complete focus on their recovery. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly.
American Psychiatric Association (2018, December 17) Increasing use, and misuse, of benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181217081756.htm
Nordqvist, J. (2019 March 7) The benefits and risks of benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809.php
WebMD (2019) Benzodiazepine Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/benzodiazepine-abuse#1
Harvard Health Publishing (2019, March 15) Benzodiazepines (and the alternatives). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/benzodiazepines_and_the_alternatives
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018, March) Benzodiazepines and Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids