It seems harmless, taking a pill that you or someone you know got from a doctor to help them calm down. It just doesn’t make sense that a doctor could give you something that could be addictive or even deadly. However, in the case of benzodiazepines, and especially when they are used other than how prescribed, addiction and death are a real threat.
Benzos are most commonly used to treat:
- Muscle Spasms
- Alcohol and Opioid Withdrawal
- Panic Disorders
More often called downers or benzos, depressants are some of the most commonly abused prescription medications on the market. What has become one of the most popular “party drugs” among people under 30; benzodiazepines are bringing with them, not only a probable blackout but also a brutal benzo withdrawal.
Typically, users will pop a few of them alone, or in conjunction with stimulants, alcohol, opiates, and even hallucinogens. They are addictive even when prescribed, and even more so when taken recreationally. Some of the most well-known depressants are prescription drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, Restoril.
The Dangers of Benzo Withdrawal
It’s the same with any hard or liquid drug. Over time, and with continued use, these substances that were designed to be potent and designed to work, develop a tolerance in the brain and body. The brain becomes accustomed to having high levels of these substances at all times, and when they aren’t present, it sends hormone receptors into a mild state of shock. Hence, benzo withdrawal.
For people that use benzos on a daily basis, whether as prescribed or not, the chemistry of the brain actually begins to restructure itself to rely on the drug being present. Therein, when it isn’t, the Serotonin and Dopamine levels plummet, creating intense anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Anywhere from 2 months to multiple year use of these drugs can cause:
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased Anxiety
When these drugs are combined with other medications or recreational substances, it can cause even more of a problem for the user when they experience the benzo withdrawal.
If a person who frequently uses these medications decides to suddenly stop, those receptors fly off the radar even farther. This is what commonly sends people into seizures, stroke, psychosis, and commas.
What to Expect from the Withdrawal
Even users who have only been taking benzodiazepines for a month, the risk of tolerance and addiction can already have started. For this reason, it is always wise to speak with your doctor before you stop taking your medication, and seek a professional and medical detox center when you do plan to go through benzo withdrawal.
The most common withdrawal symptoms of these medications are:
There isn’t really a specific timeline that benzo withdrawal follows as it is largely dependant on how long the person has been using them, the dosage, other drugs used, the prevalence of mental illness and their overall health when they choose to stop.
Most benzo withdrawal symptoms start to occur within the first 24 hours and can sometimes have lingering effects that can last a few months. The most intense or the “acute phase” usually lasts around two weeks. This is the most dangerous time for people undergoing benzo withdrawal, and the symptoms can peak after the last dose.
- The Early Phase – anywhere from a few hours to the first few days after the last use.
- Anxiety, insomnia, and depression return or occur
- Users can experience a “rebound” effect of everything they used the drug to cover up
- This process is usually managed through a tapering process at a detox center
- The Acute Phase – A few days to a few weeks
- Anxiety, panic, insomnia, aggression, irritability
- Muscle spasms, tremors, tension, sore muscles, and even seizures
- Vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, nausea
- Trouble concentrating, decreased appetite, intense cravings for the drug, and even hallucinations
- Post-Acute Withdrawal – lasting anywhere from a few months to several years
- Mood swings, trouble concentrating and difficulty managing emotions
- Suicidal thoughts
- Cravings for the drug
- Tingling sensation in hands, arms, legs, and feet
- Experiencing anxiety, insomnia, depression
It’s not a fun process, and the thought of going through benzo withdrawal is often what keeps people from stopping using the drug. However, not everyone who takes or has abused these drugs experiences all of these symptoms and for that entire length of time. Again, it is often dependant upon how long they used, what other mental disorders might be present, other drugs used in conjunction, and if they choose to utilize treatment and therapy.
Detox, Detox, Detox
There are two major substances known throughout the medical community that are considered to be absolutely vital to detox in a professional setting for and that is alcohol and benzodiazepines.
There are more deaths from benzo withdrawal than from any other substance besides alcohol, and there continue to be more and more cases of people becoming addicted to them. The environment of the rap game has pushed Xanax abuse on millions, portraying it into a light of “the cool new drug.” Meanwhile, teenagers and young adults by the thousands are checking into substance abuse facilities with an accidental addiction to a drug they got from a friend or from their family medicine cabinet.
The tricky thing about benzos is that some people really do need them and really are helped by them. This is what allows the drug to remain in circulation, however, these drugs were made to be temporary band-aids that are supposed to be used in conjunction with aggressive psychotherapy and counseling. They aren’t supposed to be a lifelong cure.
If you or your loved one is struggling with an addiction to benzodiazepines and would like more information on the process of benzo withdrawal or where to get help, Harmony Ridge can be an ally. It is always a good idea to speak with your medical provider to discuss other options if you are taking the medication as a prescription for a mental or neurological disorder, as there are other options for medications.
Benzo withdrawal is no fun and truly can be deadly. Going through this process in a professional detox setting may not be the first choice of “fun things to do” on most people’s lists, but it sure beats a funeral and a comparison to lil peep.
Getting Help for Benzo Addiction
If you or loved one is in trouble with benzo abuse, there is a safe and comfortable way out. Our benzodiazepine treatment center is customized to treat several types of addiction including all types of addiction. Our drug treatment center can take your patient history, help you slowly detox in a safe and controlled manner, and help you build the path away from addiction.
Benzo abuse is a real problem in the US, but you don’t have to be a number about growing abuse – get help today.