Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. They are commonly referred to as ‘benzos’ for short. In fact, many experts are warning that the next major drug crisis will be a benzodiazepine epidemic, making the need for benzo detox more vital every year. This is because of several factors, including the incredible rise in benzodiazepine prescriptions. From 1996 to 2013, the number of Americans who were prescribed benzodiazepines increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million — the equivalent of 67%. A large majority of these prescriptions are coming from primary care doctors rather than mental health professionals. Unfortunately, not everyone prescribed this type of medication will take it as directed. Benzodiazepines are currently playing a major role in opioid overdose death rates as well, with 30% of fatal opioid overdoses involving benzos.
Commonly Prescribed Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines help treat anxiety disorders. However, they are also taken for off-label purposes such as alcohol withdrawal and seizures. In the United States, the most common mental illness is anxiety, with approximately 40 million people (or 18% of the population) experiencing it. This is the primary reason that benzodiazepines are so readily available, as millions of people are prescribed them each year. Some of the most common benzodiazepines include:
Benzodiazepines increase GABA in the brain when taken as prescribed. GABA is able to minimize activity in parts of the brain that control rational thought, emotions, memory, and physical functions like breathing. Benzodiazepines produce a sedative effect, allowing for a decrease in symptoms of anxiety. Unfortunately, benzodiazepines are extremely dangerous when abused.
Benzodiazepine Addiction and Dependence
People addicted to benzodiazepines regularly seek these drugs. They are also likely to engage in behaviors that stem from their addiction, such as:
- Withdrawing from others
- Sudden loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Mood swings
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Deceptive behavior
Benzodiazepine addiction has the potential to cause a person to lose their job, get a divorce, lose custody of their children, and cause irreparable harm to themselves and others. Arguably the most concerning effect of benzodiazepine addiction is the development and continuation of dependence.
Dependence occurs when a person has used benzodiazepines to the extent that their body can no longer function without it. When a person stops their benzo use or decreases how much they are consuming, withdrawal symptoms develop. Benzo withdrawal is notoriously painful, as it often includes symptoms such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid breathing
- Poor concentration
Additionally, benzo withdrawal produces what is known as a “rebound effect.” This means the cessation of benzodiazepines triggers the onset of anxiety symptoms. This can become overwhelming, causing a person to use again just to stop feeling anxious. The back and forth of using and then attempting detox is extremely dangerous and, in many cases, deadly.
Someone who is dependent on benzodiazepines will experience some level of withdrawal when they stop using it. Unlike most other drugs, the sudden cessation of benzo use can be fatal. Seizures, in particular, are the most deadly threat to those detoxing from benzodiazepines. However, people who detox under the care of medical professionals will avoid life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
There is no doubt that addiction is an insidious disease, however, that could not be more obvious when it comes to some of the withdrawal symptoms that people can experience after detoxing. For example, some symptoms like depression and anxiety can continue on for a few years after ending use. The risk of suicide will increase significantly when these conditions are not properly treated.
If you are addicted to Xanax, hooked on Ativan, or can’t stop combining Klonopin with other drugs of abuse, A Forever Recovery benzo detox in Battle Creek, Michigan can help.
Process of Benzodiazepine Detox
Benzodiazepine detox is completed through gradually tapering a patient off of the substance. To explain, doctors will slowly reduce the dosage of benzodiazepines over a period of several weeks. Typically, tapering is done at a rate of about 10% per week. This may vary depending on the individual and severity of his or her symptoms. It can also be difficult to gauge how to taper an individual since the symptoms tend to wax and wane. This could mean that one week, withdrawal symptoms may seem to be manageable, and the next week, an individual may be suffering from the most severe symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Also, depending on the type of benzodiazepine an individual has been taking, a longer-acting, and a less potent drug may be used for the tapering process. Some benzodiazepines are more powerful and short-acting, such as Xanax (Alprazolam) and Klonopin (Clonazepam). For individuals who need benzo detox from drugs like these, medical professionals may prescribe a drug like Valium (Diazepam) or Librium (Chlordiazepoxide). Both of these benzodiazepines are long-acting, and remain active in the brain for several more hours than short-acting benzodiazepines, allowing for a gradual reduction without severe withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Phases
According to the National Library of Medicine, benzodiazepine detox must be able to manage three major phases of the withdrawal process from benzodiazepines.
These phases include:
- One to four days after discontinuation of benzodiazepines often results in rebound effects, such as insomnia and increased anxiety.
- Full-blown benzodiazepine withdrawal lasts an additional 10-14 days. This includes the symptoms mentioned above, although there are dozens of more potential symptoms an individual may experience.
- Some examples are:
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
- Electric shock sensations
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Flu-like symptoms
- Chest pain
- The protracted symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, which are most notably a return of anxiety and insomnia once again, and until some alternative therapy is instituted. These prolonged symptoms can linger for several weeks or months, depending on the length and severity of benzodiazepine use.
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Detox
Benzodiazepine detox does not always result in life-threatening physical symptoms, such as seizures. However, without medical supervision, an individual who is attempting a benzo detox may become a danger to themselves or others. This is due to some of the mood and perceptual distortions associated with the withdrawal symptoms.
For example, the increased agitation, anxiety, and paranoia that many individuals experience during benzodiazepine detox are often too unbearable for them to abstain from acting aggressively, and violently towards themselves or (more commonly) others. Although increased aggression and agitation necessitates the gradual tapering from benzodiazepines to prevent these severe acute withdrawal symptoms.
Another common danger associated with benzo detox can occur with individuals who become addicted to benzodiazepines and do not comply with the detoxification instructions. Since benzodiazepine detox is often a long, multiple-week-long process, most people complete it on an outpatient basis, checking in with their general practitioner regularly throughout the process.
Outpatient Treatment Risks for Benzodiazepine Addicts
- Engage in doctor shopping and obtain prescriptions for benzodiazepines from multiple physicians, eliminating any chance for the completion of detox.
- Obtain more benzodiazepines from overseas online pharmacies, which can be very dangerous. Online pharmacies operate overseas, where lax drug standards and enforcement may allow the sale of benzodiazepines with dangerous drugs in them that are not allowed in the benzodiazepines sold in the United States.
- Lie about the severity of symptoms to the point of which a doctor may feel obligated to slow the tapering process, or prescribe dosages of benzodiazepines not intended for detoxification.
In cases of benzodiazepine addiction and abuse, many people experience paradoxical effects. For example, this means they have increased energy and lowered inhibitions. Although rare (less than 1%), this can result in self-harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Do You Need Benzo Detox?
If you are addicted to benzos, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to reach out for help. Detoxing without any professional help or supervision can be deadly. It does not matter if you have a Librium addiction, a Xanax addiction, or an addiction to any other type of benzo. Asking for help from a benzo detox can save your life.
So do not wait any longer. Reach out to A Forever Recovery located in Battle Creek, Michigan right now. Regain control of your life once and for all.