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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Why It Gets Slept On

by Landmark Recovery

December 29, 2022

Anyone with an addiction to Benzodiazepines, alternatively called benzos or downers, is likely to wrestle with a physiological dependence to the drug and experience a withdrawal syndrome marked by sleep disturbance, irritability, panic attacks and a host of perceptual changes.  As such, benzodiazepine withdrawal challenges those starting their recovery journey in such a way that it’s advised they do so under medical supervision.  

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms 

Benzos are depressants commonly prescribed to those diagnosed with anxiety disorders, insomnia or seizures. These were the most prescribed medications in the world back in the late 1970s, before selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors cut into their market share. Medical science recognizes benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome by the following symptoms: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Dry heaves 
  • Hand tremors Girl detoxing in bed from benzodiazepine withdrawal
  • Headache 
  • Increased tension 
  • Irritability 
  • Muscular pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Palpitations 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Perception variance 
  • Perspiration 
  • Stiffness 
  • Weight loss 

Obviously, anxiety is both a condition treated with benzos and a symptom of benzo withdrawal. Perception variance, meanwhile, is the condition in which one’s senses don’t consistently perceive anything at the same level they normally would. This could be changes in how effectively the five senses operate, or it could alternatively be the brain’s inability to receive signals from them at a constant rate or quality. However, this doesn’t necessarily extend to the severity of hallucination.  

Rare & Adverse Benzo Withdrawal

In rarer circumstances, the above symptoms may not be the full extent of what one would experience from benzodiazepine withdrawal. While those symptoms represent the clinically accepted norm for benzo withdrawal, other cases have reported different adverse reactions and effects. 

These adverse reactions typically correlate with a high-dosage category of users. For them, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be more serious and more detrimental to their health. In particular, these users experience psychotic reactions and sometimes suffer seizures.  

Even though benzodiazepines can put users through awful, gritty withdrawal, their overdose mortality rate isn’t that high on their own. However, this is primarily because three in four benzo overdose deaths involve opioids also.

3 Patterns for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms 

There are a number of symptomatic patterns that have been linked to benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. The most common pattern is the ephemeral rebound, which is a brief bout with anxiety and insomnia. It starts within the first four days of discontinuation. How fast the onset comes is based on the half-life of the specific variant of benzodiazepine taken.  

A less common pattern is more often viewed as “full-blown withdrawal,” though. This pattern typically sets in around the same time based on the version of benzos taken, but it lasts anywhere from 1.5 to 2 weeks.  

Lastly, a third pattern proves least common. It defeats the purpose of having ever taken the drug in the first place. It presents as a return of anxiety symptoms, which then last until some kind of treatment can be administered to counteract the effects. In other words, without some form of medical intervention, this form of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome isn’t going anywhere.  

Medical Mysteries of Benzodiazepine Dependence 

Pharmacists studying benzos to discern the answers to the medical mysteries of benzodiazepine withdrawalIt’s well understood that with benzodiazepines, as with many other medications, physiological dependence is a possible, adverse outcome to afflict those prescribed prolonged treatment regimens. Even though they’re on a therapeutic dose prescribed by a physician, that prescription assumes a slight risk because of this potential.  

What’s worse: it’s difficult even for medical scientists to discern what proportion of patients are even predisposed toward or likely to experience benzodiazepine withdrawal. The industry also struggles to discern, therefore, how much the risk for anyone to develop physiological dependence is based on the minimum duration of exposure to the drug. They can’t pin it to a dosage level either. The available data today suggests that it’s an entirely case-by-case basis, unique to the individual.  

What’s most concerning about this for users is that this means no one can have any assurance that they won’t or haven’t developed a problem. Likewise, they also have no way of knowing for sure that they won’t experience withdrawal symptoms if and when they quit. 

Should You Go to Detox for Benzo Withdrawal?

Yes. Starting your withdrawal from benzos at a certified detox facility puts you in the safest environment. It should be noted that alcohol dependence has been correlated with increased risk of benzodiazepine dependence. The same can be said of dependence on other sedatives, too. If you’re banking on being able to casually use benzos without getting addicted, you may already have a problem. You’re also likely to develop withdrawal syndrome when you quit. 

However, it’s important that you free yourself of addiction if that’s your situation. The drug represents not only a somewhat exorbitant, recurring cost but also a threat to your health. Reach out to Landmark Recovery or call 888.448.0302

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.