Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Symptoms
It must be noted that for long-time abusers of benzos, abruptly ending their use will do more harm than good. Benzodiazepine withdrawal should start with reducing the doses gradually; otherwise, the withdrawal symptoms may be as severe as grand mal seizures or even delirium.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms vary based on the type and dosage of medication, the abuser’s age, physical build, and the duration of abuse. Besides, for drugs with short elimination half-lives and short-acting types, symptoms may appear as early as 6-8 hours of the last use.
Furthermore, these symptoms may last for days, or in the case of long-acting drugs, they may continue for weeks. This is also one of the primary reasons you need to get the treatment for benzodiazepine dependence from a certified medical professional.
Withdrawing from benzos can be a difficult, even dangerous process. You can expect to feel anxious and on edge for several weeks. You might feel irritable and hypersensitive to everything around you. Insomnia is also common. During the first week, you can also expect physical symptoms like headaches and hand tremors.
Most of the withdrawal signs are easy to manage by gradually reducing the dose, causing the symptoms to become milder with time and disappear in waves. However, for persons who were on benzos for more than 6 months, sudden cessation can lead to grand mal seizures, delirium, etc. It is also one of the main reasons why should get proper help from medical professionals.
And, it does not take a long time to show withdrawal symptoms. You may be taking the medication as prescribed by your doctor; still, you can exhibit withdrawal signs after just one month. For long-time users, about 40% of them can display moderate to severe symptoms of quitting suddenly. The rest will face mild symptoms of benzo withdrawal.
Factors Affecting Your Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms List
Benzo withdrawal insomnia or other symptoms and their severity can be associated with various factors like:
- The drug dosage
- The period which you have been taking it
- Whether you are consuming more than one kind of benzo
- Are you using just benzos or is there polydrug abuse?
- If taking other drugs, are there any sedatives?
- Are you trying to quit more than one benzo at the moment?
Benzodiazepines mechanism of action differs for each kind of drug. So, for a specific drug, benzodiazepine withdrawal protocol will vary from the same for others. For example, Xanax or Ativan (alprazolam and lorazepam), which are short-acting drugs can disappear from your system faster than other kinds, within approximately 8-12 hours. In comparison, long-acting drugs like Klonopin (clonazepam) stay for a longer time in the body, meaning, it maybe 2 days or more before benzo withdrawal syndrome can set in.
Benzo withdrawal symptoms timeline may go up to several weeks or even months for chronic users, per the American Psychiatric Association. This period is called the protracted withdrawal stage, which is seen in up to 25% of long-term abusers. But here, the symptoms will be much milder.
Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Timeline
1 – 4 Days
- Panic attacks
5 – 19 Days
- Racing pulse
- Muscle spasms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dry retching
Months – Years
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Visual disturbances
- Sensory perceptual changes
- Grand mal seizures
Rebound Anxiety and Insomnia
Since benzos are mainly given to treat people with insomnia, anxiety, and other related disorders, quitting the drug can bring back the symptoms of such issues. This phase is known as rebounds. The rebound effects may last for 2-3 days, but the main difference between these and withdrawal signs is that rebound brings back the original symptoms that existed before starting the benzodiazepine use. On the other hand, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is just your body coping with the absence of the drug.
Some Shocking Statistics
- About 10-25% of people that are chronic benzo users experience protracted withdrawal (withdrawal syndrome lasting for several months).
- Per studies, 12.5% of American adults (nearly 30.5 million people) use benzodiazepines.
- Over 95% of hospital admissions are due to the overdose caused as an effect of addiction to benzodiazepines.
- American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that every year, around 50 million benzodiazepine prescriptions are written by doctors in the U.S.
- National Surveys on Drug Use and Health used patient tracking information to confirm that the majority of people using benzos take them to relieve tension or for relaxation.