Long Term Benzo Use
What happens when you use benzo long-term? How can you support yourself during the process of detox from benzodiazepines? Research over the past few decades has shown that people who use benzos for a long period develop a dependence which leads to the natural body’s response – withdrawal symptoms – whenever a dose is missed or the medication is discontinued.
Here, we offer quick-n’-easy responses to the most commonly asked questions by people detoxing from a benzo. In fact, we’ve taken them from real life questions submitted by real people to our blogging network. If you too have any questions or concerns about detox and withdrawal from benzodiazepines, please post them in the comments section at the end or call 1-877-706-2159 for free and confidential info on benzodiazepine detox and treatment help.
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Benzodizepine Withdrawal Causes
Many benzodiazepine stories begin similarly: You are facing a problem with anxiety, panic attacks, or can’t sleep well, so you see your doctor and they prescribe you a medication that can help. And these medications work like a charm for treating these conditions…but many times they are prescribed for periods longer than indicated.
Let’s check the facts on benzos.
First, these medications are recommended only for short term treatment for 1-2 consecutive weeks.
Second, using Xanax, Valium, Ativan, or Klonopin (or other benzos) for months and years changes the way your brain and body work.
Thirds, While each individual and type of benzo drug are different, dependence usually develops after 2-4 weeks or more of regular dosing.
Upon cessation or dose reduction, uncomfortable and sometimes even serious symptoms can manifest, including:
- difficulty concentrating
- disturbed sleep
- heart palpitations
- irregular heart rate
- muscle pain and stiffness
- panic attacks
- short-term memory loss
This is why is it very important to follow a specific regimen for tapering when you want to quit benzos. Quitting can be made easier if you are prepared for what to expect. Be sure that you are equipped with the right information about what benzo addiction is and how you can find the best addiction treatment program for you. Fore more on what the rehab process includes, check out our description of benzo treatment programs here.
Why Is Benzo Withdrawal Scary?
Benzodiazepines damage GABA receptors in the brain. Without enough working GABA receptors to calm down the excitement from glutamate (a neurotransmitter that excites things into action), our central nervous system (CNS) goes into overdrive. The limbic system – the region of the brain responsible for fight or flight – gets overly stimulated into action…and we experience:
- debilitating panic
…and these are just a few of the debilitating symptoms that can occur from taking a benzodiazepine. Moreover, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be life-threatening due to grand mal seizures that may result in coma or death in heavily dependent individuals that stop taking benzos suddenly and abruptly (cold turkey).
Benzo Withdrawal Help
Ready to detox from benzodiazepines?
Medical detox from benzodiazepines is the safest way to cleanse your body of the drug. At a detox clinic, you receive around-the-clock care in order to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible and do not relapse due to withdrawal effects.
Medical detox often involves tapering benzodiazepines. This treatment approach involves cutting back doses gradually and slowly to allow time for your body to stabilize and adapt to each smaller dose. Tapering can also be done by switching from a short-acting like Xanax to a long-acting benzodiazepine such as benzodiazepine (Valium) or clonazepam (Klonopin) and tapering those down, as suggested by your doctor. In general, it takes most people about 10 weeks or more to finally stop taking tapered doses and fully detox from benzodiazepines.
So, if you catch yourself thinking “I’m afraid to enter treatment because I don’t want to go through withdrawal”…there’s no reason to be afraid of treatment. Detox and withdrawal can be challenging but there are reputable facilities that provide on-site detox and are staffed with licensed medical teams that will closely monitor you for signs and symptoms of withdrawal. By progressing through the detox progress, withdrawal symptoms tremendously diminish.
6 Questions and Answers About Benzo Withdrawal
#1 QUESTION: Do benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms get worse even if time passes?
Answer: It gets worse before it gets better…
Withdrawal symptoms generally peak around week 2 after you stop taking your benzodiazepine medication. During weeks 3 and 4 of withdrawal, the intensity of symptoms lessens and the condition becomes more manageable. Symptoms, however, can persist for months and years after quitting (PAWS).
But, each individual’s withdrawal experience can be different, with its duration and intensity depending on several factors, including:
- Abuse of other drugs or alcohol along with benzodiazepines.
- Dosage amount.
- Family history and/or previous drug or alcohol dependency.
- Length of time taking benzodiazepines.
- Mode of administration of benzodiazepines.
- Type of benzodiazepine used/abused (short acting, long acting, intermediate acting).
- Underlying medical or mental health issues.
Please note that not everyone taking a benzo will experience the same withdrawal symptoms or go through a horrific withdrawal period.
#2 QUESTION: How long does withdrawal take?
Answer: How long the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can last will vary by person. In general, the longer you take the medication, the harsher and longer the withdrawal symptoms will last. So, depending on variable factors, acute benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can persist for anywhere from 2 weeks and up to several months.
#3 QUESTION: What should I do at this time?
Answer: When you decide to quit benzos or are at an early stage of withdrawal – seek medical help. Doctors can help you put together a tapering schedule, prescribe medications, and suggest over-the-counter medicines for short-term use that can help ease withdrawal symptoms. You can also call the local pharmacy to speak with a pharmacist that can suggest appropriate over-the-counter meds or herbal remedies. In fact, you can check out the Ashton Manual that has helped many struggling with benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Plus, there are many other ways you can help yourself:
- Wear comfortable clothes and take a warm baths or showers to provide some relief of body aches and pains.
- If you have sleep problems, try relaxing and unplugging for 2-3 hours before you go to bed each night. Play some soft music, drink a cup of chamomile tea, read a relaxing book, or use pleasantly scented oils or candles.
- Experiences of anxiety and panic attacks should be reported to your doctor. But you can practice mindfulness, avoid situations that trigger your anxiety, and know what relaxes you in those occasions.
- People recommend taking Potassium and Zinc supplements to treat symptoms of restlessness.
If your doctor recommends you enter a detox clinic and/or a benzodiazepine addiction treatment program afterwards, you can get a direct referral to licensed hospitals and rehab facilities, or call 1-877-706-2159 for assistance in locating appropriate help.
#4 QUESTION: What helps better: resting or activities?
Answer: It is recommended that you stay active and move your body despite the desire to do nothing. Stretching or doing yoga have been extremely helpful for some people. Or, if you have the opportunity, do low impact exercises such as aqua aerobics or swimming.
#5 QUESTION: Why I feel that I am falling into depression when I lay on my back?
Answer: Some individuals are prescribed antidepressants to help with depressive episodes during benzodiazepine withdrawal. Depression is a common symptom of benzodiazepine withdrawal. It might be best to seek the help and advise of a doctor should these feelings of depression continue. If you feel a worsening of depression, you can ask for medical help immediately.
#6 QUESTION: Do the amino acids help or make things worse?
Answer: Amino acids should help benzodiazepine withdrawal. Other remedies that can help the symptoms (especially muscle aches and cramps) include taking imodium and Vitamin B6, as well as massages.
Got more questions?
If you’d like to learn more about benzodiazepine withdrawal, what to expect, and how to treat it…please post in the comments section below. We value your feedback and try to provide personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries.