Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos” or “benzies,” are prescribed medically to treat anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms and seizures. These drugs are found in many forms, including Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam). When abused, dependency can develop, and the ensuing addiction can be challenging to overcome. In fact, many people who abuse benzodiazepines have been prescribed them for legitimate reasons.
In the United States, these drugs are one of the most prescribed medications of any type, with almost 50 million prescriptions written each year.(X) What’s more alarming: benzodiazepines are commonly used with alcohol or opioids. In 2015, 23% of fatal overdoses involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines.(X) This deadly combination of drugs impairs cognitive functions, sedates users and suppresses breathing.
A medically-supervised detox for benzodiazepine abuse is crucial, as withdrawal symptoms can be severe. A benzodiazepine detox that gradually weans a user off of the drug while being closely monitored by a team of medical professionals ensures safety, comfort and a fighting chance for long-term sobriety. Trying to benzo detox at home is unpredictable and extremely risky.
Long-term benzodiazepine use can lead to impaired thinking, memory and judgment, confusion, disorientation, muscle weakness and lack of coordination. Additionally, long-term use can cause the drug to store up in the body’s fatty tissues, lengthening the amount of time it takes for the body to eliminate the drug.
Detox, especially from benzodiazepines, is a physically demanding process. We put a great deal of attention into each client’s detox program. We prioritize client comfort and safety and serve as a much-needed resource for families who want to be sure their loved one is receiving the highest quality care.
Our benzodiazepine detox services include:
- Medication management
- 24/7 onsite clinical and medical care
- Relapse prevention training
- Family program
A medically-supervised detox that gradually reduces the amount of medication ingested until the dose is so low that a person doesn’t feel discomfort isn’t just recommended–it’s necessary. At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center, a medication regimen is safely administered by a medical professional and slowly tapers off the benzodiazepines.
Because benzodiazepine detox can be so difficult, we make the process as comfortable as possible by using an appropriate amount of medication and maintaining a relaxed, warm environment. We also encourage family to be a part of the detox and recovery process and provide practical training on how they can support their loved one moving forward.
How Long Does Benzo Detox Take?
The physical and psychological effects of benzodiazepine use vary from person to person. Detox usually lasts 7-10 days. Many clients who complete the detox process benefit from continuing their recovery in residential or inpatient treatment programs.
An individual’s detox plan depends on several factors, including:
- History of addiction
- Severity of addiction
- Medical history
- Co-occurring disorders or conditions
- The person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being
Benzodiazepines work by affecting a key neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The presence of GABA slows or stops neuronal activity, but benzodiazepines enhance GABA activity, thus slowing down the central nervous system. In addition to dependency and addiction, long-term use of benzodiazepines can deteriorate physical and psychological health.
For a person who has used a short-acting benzodiazepine, such as Xanax (alprazolam), the withdrawal period lasts a few days. Long-acting benzodiazepine use, such as Valium (diazepam) tends to lead to a more extended withdrawal period. Common withdrawal symptoms that occur within days of discontinued use include:
- Head and body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased perspiration
- Panic attacks
Less common, more severe symptoms can occur up to 2 weeks after halting use are:
- Suicidal thoughts
Typical substance withdrawal processes are characterized by a steady decline in symptoms over time, but benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms during benzo detox are entirely different. They come and go, varying in intensity and frequency throughout all stages of the withdrawal process. Because of this, medically-supervised detox isn’t just recommended–it’s necessary.
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