Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos” or “benzies,” are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, muscle spasms and seizures. These drugs are found in many forms, including Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam). When prescription sedatives are abused, dependency is liable develop, and the ensuing addiction can be extremely challenging to overcome. Many individuals who abuse benzodiazepines were initially prescribed the medication for legitimate reasons.
In the United States, benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed medications, with almost 50 million prescriptions written on an annual basis. It has been repeatedly reported that benzodiazepines are often used in conjunction with alcohol and/or opioids. In 2015, 23% of fatal overdoses involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines. This dangerous combination of chemical substances impairs cognitive function, sedates users and leads to respiratory depression.
A medically-supervised detox will be crucial for those who have been struggling with a benzodiazepine addiction, as withdrawal symptoms are often severe. An adequate continuum of clinical care will focus on gradually weaning a patient off of the drug while he or she is closely monitored by a team of medical professionals. This will ensure a safe withdrawal, increased comfort levels and a the opportunity to obtain long-term sobriety. Attempting to detox from benzodiazepines at home is highly dangerous, and can lead to a host of life-threatening complications.
Long-term benzodiazepine use can lead to impaired thinking, memory and judgment, confusion, disorientation, muscle weakness and lack of coordination. Additionally, long-term use may cause a build-up of the drug in the body’s fatty tissues, lengthening the amount of time it takes for the body to eliminate the drug.
Benzodiazepine detox is a physically and psychologically demanding process. At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center, we put a great deal of attention into each client’s detox program. We prioritize the comfort and safety of each individual client, and we provide much-needed resources and support for family members who want to ensure that their loved one is receiving the highest level of quality care.
A medically-supervised detox that gradually reduces the amount of medication ingested isn’t just recommended–it is necessary to safety and comfort. At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center, a medication assisted treatment regimen will be safely administered by a medical professional, and will work to slowly and safely taper a patient off of benzodiazepines.
Because benzodiazepine detox can be so taxing, we do everything in our power to make the process as comfortable as possible by utilizing medication assisted treatment and providing a comfortable environment. We encourage family members to be involved in the detox and recovery process, and we provide practical training on offering support to loved ones moving forward.
How Long Does Benzo Detox Take?
The physical and psychological effects of benzodiazepine use vary from person to person. In most cases, detox will last from 7-10 days. Once medical detox is complete and a patient has been cleared to move onto the next appropriate level of care, we will work to find an ideal residential or inpatient treatment program – or an outpatient program, as the case may be.
Individual detox plans will depend 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 and ultimately slow down the central nervous system. In addition to the likely development of dependency and addiction, long-term benzodiazepines use will eventually result in issues with physical and psychological health.
For a person who has been abusing a short-acting benzodiazepine, such as Xanax (alprazolam), the withdrawal period lasts a few days. Long-acting benzodiazepines, such as Valium (diazepam), tend 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
More severe psychological and physical symptoms can occur up to 2 weeks after the last use, and include:
- Suicidal ideation
The typical substance withdrawal process is characterized by a steady decline in symptoms over time, however, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are an exception. They come and go, varying in intensity and frequency throughout all stages of the withdrawal process. Because of this, medically-supervised detox is not simply recommended–it is necessary.
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