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Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Table of Contents

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are used to help people struggling with anxiety. These drugs, which include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, were prescribed by doctors 50 million times in the United States alone. While benzodiazepines—commonly known as benzos—can be very effective in treating anxiety, they are also highly addictive. For those who may be struggling with an addiction to benzos, they may try to quit on their own through various self-detox methods. While understandable, benzo withdrawal symptoms or detoxing from benzodiazepines may lead them back into active use.

If you or a loved one is addicted to benzodiazepines, you may have a substantial fear of benzo withdrawals. While the symptoms associated with withdrawal can be unpleasant, knowing what you are facing will make the process more tolerable. The following article explains the general timeline of benzo withdrawals and what measures can be taken to help you recover.

Understanding Detoxing and Withdrawal from Benzos

For many struggling with benzo dependence, the first question that is asked when they contemplate quitting is “how long will withdrawal symptoms last?”.  The length of benzo withdrawals is dependent on a number of factors which include the following:

  • Type of benzodiazepine(s) used
  • Time benzos have been used
  • Amount taken in each dose
  • Presence of other drugs in one’s system
  • The method of administration (oral, smoking, snorting, etc.)
  • Family and personal history of addiction
  • The presence of co-occurring mental disorders

Another important factor is the type of benzodiazepine that is being abused by users. Withdrawals can start after the drug stops being active in the body. Benzodiazepines are classified as either short-acting or long-acting. Short-acting benzodiazepines such as Ativan completely leave the system in less than 24 hours. On the other hand, long-acting benzos such as Xanax and Klonopin can remain in the body for more than 24 hours.

How Long Do Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The physical and psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawals begin after the drug leaves the body. Withdrawals usually begin within a few hours to a few days of stopping benzo medications and can last anywhere between 1 to 5 days. During this initial phase, users will often experience the return of their anxiety and associated symptoms such as insomnia. For those who used short-acting benzos like Ativan, withdrawal symptoms will be felt sooner and more intensely while longer-acting benzos like Xanax will have withdrawals that will be delayed and gradual.

After the initial withdrawal stage, users will move into the acute withdrawal stage. Those withdrawing from benzos often experience the following benzo withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Wide mood swings
  • Increased agitation
  • Weight loss

Depending on the user, this acute phase of benzo withdrawal can last for up to a few weeks and users will start to feel better. However, this is not the case for all people who are addicted to benzos. It is estimated that 10 percent of benzo users will experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms that can last for months—and even years. Anxiety and insomnia—the most common benzo withdrawal symptoms—usually diminish within 6-12 months as brain chemistry returns to normal functioning levels.

However, there may be other withdrawal symptoms that may be more protracted in nature. These can include memory and cognition problems, gastrointestinal issues, uncontrollable shaking, cramps, burning sensations in the limbs and tinnitus. While these symptoms gradually dissipate within a year, users can experience these withdrawal symptoms intermittently for several years after ceasing use of benzos.

How to Overcome Benzo Withdrawal?

Since benzodiazepines significantly alter brain chemistry, quitting benzos abruptly can create major issues. While not life-threatening on their own, the physical and psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawals can be extremely painful and uncomfortable to endure. If you or a loved one are struggling with benzo dependence or even addiction, it is important to undergo intensive treatment at a reputable treatment facility.

In order to recover from benzo abuse, you must first undergo medical detoxification. During the detox process, experienced treatment personnel will administer various medications that will help make the withdrawal process more tolerable. In the case of benzodiazepines, this simply can mean a gradual tapering off of medications you or a loved one are currently taking or abusing.

Once physical and psychological stability is achieved, you will transition into intensive inpatient treatment. If you are experiencing a co-occurring mental disorder such as anxiety, finding dual diagnosis treatment will be crucial. In addition to therapy, 12-step group interventions, and other therapies, dual diagnosis treatment also features mental health professionals that will provide the appropriate counseling, therapy and other interventions that will help give you or a loved one the tools needed to thoroughly address any mental health issues.

Dealing with Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

As already stated, certain symptoms associated with benzo withdrawals can be experienced for months and even years after you successfully complete a benzo addiction treatment. Because of this fact, you will need to have certain coping skills and resources in place to help minimize effects. To help with lingering anxiety or panic attacks, it is good to have learned simple mindfulness meditation techniques such as focused breathing. By being able to focus on the present moment, you are better able to calm your mind.

To help with aches and pains, engaging in regular exercise will be of great help. Exercise helps keep your body toned and releases dopamine which is the body’s natural “feel good” neurotransmitter. Because quitting benzos can create wide swings in mood, it is helpful to seek professional counseling and therapy. Sometimes people who are recovering from benzo addiction can experience suicidal thoughts and professional intervention is crucial in helping maintain mental balance.

If you or a loved one needs help recovering from benzo abuse and need Benzodiazepine detox, contact NuView Integrative Recovery Center today. Our experienced treatment personnel has effective programs in place that can be tailored to meet your unique needs.

Don’t let benzodiazepines ruin your life…call NuView Integrative Recovery Center right now.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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