Overview of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines, or “benzos” as they are commonly referred to, are medications prescribed for a wide variety of ailments and issues and can alleviate symptoms of acute anxiety. Benzos are also prescribed to assist with withdrawal symptom management for those detoxing from alcohol and other drugs. Because of their multiple medicinal uses, benzodiazepines are among the most prescribed drugs in the United States, and because they tend to foster feelings of calm, serenity and even euphoria, benzos also happen to be one of the most abused drug categories.
Benzos are considered “depressants” due to their inhibiting action on the nervous system, brain function and spinal cord activity. Benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, due to the fact that alongside their significant contribution to medical treatment, they also carry with them the potential for physical and psychological dependence.
Benzodiazepine dependence develops alarmingly fast in individuals who use them even for a few weeks. Tolerance builds rapidly which means those who take benzos regularly will soon need more and more of the drug to get the same effects. Withdrawal or “discontinuation syndrome” happens when someone’s physiology has adjusted to account for the drug’s presence. When drug levels are depleted due to the body’s natural detoxification process, the individual experiencing this will start to have noticeable symptoms, both physically and psychologically.
Withdrawal symptoms and experiences vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including but not limited to the type of benzodiazepine a person uses, be it short-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting.
Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines can include the following:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Intermittent hallucinations which can be visual, auditory, or even tactile
- Restlessness or irritability
- High blood pressure
- Increased or decreased body temperature
- Increased pulse rate of greater than 100 beats per minute
- Tremors in the hands
The shorter-term effects of withdrawal typically begin within the first 24-48 hours after someone has stopped using the benzodiazepine and can include any of the above listed symptoms. Additionally, folks in this first phase of withdrawal can experience insomnia, fever, chills, depression, confusion, appetite loss, diarrhea, and cravings for the drug itself. These symptoms typically reach their apex after a few days. An extended period of withdrawal following this apex can and often does occur as well. This period of withdrawal can last several weeks and usually involve less severe symptoms than those that initially occurred. The potential to experience seizures throughout this period remains high and presents medical risks in and of itself.
Although one can physically kick benzo addiction within a few weeks, many have reported lasting psychological and emotional challenges pertaining to withdrawal that can include depression, cravings for the drug, moodiness, irritability, depression, and low motivation.
Detox vs. Withdrawal
With benzodiazepines, is important to make the distinction between detoxification and withdrawal management. Detoxification refers to the body’s natural ability to rid itself of toxic substances. The liver does the lion’s share of the work here, regardless of whether or not a person is also abusing drugs. Withdrawal management has to do with assisting individuals experiencing withdrawal. A physician-assisted withdrawal management program, such as that offered here at Positive Recovery, will incorporate a number of effective interventions to control and alleviate withdrawal symptoms SAFELY.
Don’t Go It Alone
Benzodiazepines are particularly dangerous to try withdrawing from on one’s own. For this reason, it is highly recommended – by medical and mental health care practitioners alike – that anyone with a dependence on benzodiazepines that has been active longer than even a few weeks undergo detox and withdrawal management under the care of a physician and/or treatment team.
When you are admitted to one of our two detox programs, our staff will complete an evaluation to determine your physical and psychiatric needs. If we find that you have complex treatment needs that extend beyond the capabilities of our detox center, we will provide a referral to an acute care facility. Otherwise, we will collaborate with your doctor, family members, and other support individuals to develop a detox and aftercare plan that addresses your needs.
How Long Does Detox Take?
Our safe, medically-monitored detox treatment is provided under the care of our Medical Director or attending physician. Nursing care is provided 24/7 and our experienced staff will work diligently to support you during detox from benzos. You will be seen daily by a doctor or nurse practitioner and our counseling staff will conduct brief individual sessions. Once you are physically able, our staff will also guide you in completing some recovery work and assignments.
Our highly individualized medical detox programs usually last five to seven days, and this may vary on a case-by-case basis. Once you have completed detox, we will provide recommendations for the next level of care, if needed.
About Our Medical Detox Program
The medical management of the detox and withdrawal process we provide often involves careful monitoring and specifically weaning someone off the benzodiazepine with enough time for the individual to adjust to the decreasing amounts of the drug. This provides those struggling to overcome benzo addiction with a reliable, safe and relatively symptom-free detox process. It’s often the case that more treatment is needed following benzo detox. Many report that engaging in regular individual therapy, group therapy, or a recovery community and/or outpatient program for substance use disorders is a helpful next step. You can learn about our 13 outpatient addiction treatment centers in Texas here.
Benefits of Medical Benzo Detox
- 24-hour medical care in a safe environment
- Treatment designed to meet the specific needs of each client
- One-on-one counseling and preparation for ongoing treatment in rehab
- Reduced risk of relapse due to a substance-free environment and supervision
- Collaborative care to support the best possible outcomes
If you or someone you love is grappling with addiction and is in need of treatment, call Positive Recovery Centers at 713-904-4699. We are experts, we are here to help, and our detox and addiction treatment teams are committed to the health and safety of all our patients.