Benzodiazepines, often referred to as “benzos,” are a class of prescription medications commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia and certain seizure disorders. While these drugs can be highly effective when used as prescribed, they also carry the risk of physical dependence and addiction.
For those who find themselves in the challenging process of benzodiazepine detoxification, it can be physically and emotionally demanding. But, it’s important to know that this is only temporary. A medically-supervised detox is the best way to ensure a safe and successful withdrawal process.
Let’s shed light on what it’s like to detox from benzodiazepines and offer insights into the process and its challenges. This way, you can prepare yourself or a loved one for the journey ahead.
Understanding Benzodiazepine Dependence
Before we delve into the detox experience, it’s essential to understand why benzodiazepines can lead to dependence. These medications work by enhancing the effect of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a calming effect on the brain. Over time, the brain can become accustomed to the presence of benzos, leading to physical and psychological dependence.
Over 2,000 benzodiazepines have been produced, but only around 15 are approved by the FDA. These drugs are classified by how long their effects last. Short-acting benzos include Xanax and Ativan, while long-acting benzos include Klonopin and Valium.
Even when used as directed, benzos still have the potential for addiction. Due to their toxic effects and widespread availability, these drugs are often combined with other substances to produce a greater effect. These combinations can be extremely dangerous – and even lethal.
The Onset of Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, depending on factors such as the type of benzo, dosage, duration of use and individual differences. Symptoms can start as soon as a few hours from the last dose, or they can take up to a few days.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Muscle tension and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Hallucinations or seizures (in severe cases)
Most withdrawal symptoms are over within 1-4 weeks, though some may linger. Typically, the biggest problem for those working through benzodiazepine recovery is rebound anxiety. Many people who stop taking benzos experience increased restlessness and anxiety as their body adjusts. This is why a tapering approach is often recommended.
The Tapering Approach
To manage benzodiazepine withdrawal safely and effectively, a gradual tapering approach is ideal. This involves slowly reducing the dose of the medication under the supervision of a medical professional. Tapering helps to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.
Detoxing from benzodiazepines is not just a physical ordeal; it also takes a toll on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. Anxiety and mood swings are common, and individuals may experience heightened feelings of fear and vulnerability during the process. Support from mental health professionals or therapists can be crucial in addressing these emotional challenges.
Furthermore, the support of friends and family is invaluable. This is why people who detox at home, under the supervision of a medical professional, often see the best results. They can access the support they need to manage their withdrawal symptoms safely while also staying in a familiar environment with family support.
At-Home Detox for Benzodiazepines
Detoxing from benzodiazepines can be a successful journey when you receive the right support and resources. To learn more about starting an at-home detox, contact Spearhead Health at 310-561-1704. Our caring, compassionate case managers are ready to help!