Detoxing From Benzodiazepine — What You Need to Know

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on February 16, 2021.

Despite benzodiazepines' ability to ease anxiety or insomnia symptoms, long-term benzo use without medical supervision can cause dependency. If you or a loved one has used benzodiazepines for a long time, stopping cold turkey could cause severe withdrawal effects. You need to know what happens during withdrawal and how to safely detox from drugs within this category.

The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that includes many drugs. Doctors frequently prescribe these to briefly treat medical and mental health conditions. However, even when taking any of the prescriptions in this category under a doctor's supervision, dependency can appear in only three to six weeks. Additionally, the longer you use the drug and the specific type of benzodiazepine you take will affect how long you will require for withdrawal and what happens during each stage of the withdrawal timeline.

Physical dependency on a drug means that you will develop withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking it because your body has adapted to needing the substance for daily functioning. Some common symptoms during withdrawal from benzodiazepines include:

  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Shaking hands or tremors
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and dry heaving
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

Some of the above symptoms can be severe, such as psychosis and seizures. Those taking high doses or using benzos for a long time will have a greater chance of these most dangerous symptoms. However, because you only have to take these drugs for a few weeks for your body to become dependent on them, you should not attempt to stop taking benzodiazepines cold turkey, especially without medical oversight.

The Phases of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine withdrawal happens in several phases after you stop taking the drugs. The immediate, acute and protracted symptoms have different onsets and lengths. However, they have similar impacts on your body and mind.

1. Immediate

Immediate withdrawal symptoms' timing varies depending on:

  • Whether you take long-acting or fast-acting benzos.
  • If you take any other drugs in the class.
  • If you also use alcohol.
  • How long you've taken the drugs.
  • The current amount you take.

For example, taking short-acting benzos could cause early withdrawal symptoms within a day of quitting because most of these have half-lives of one hour up to two days. The short half-life means the drug leaves the body faster, resulting in withdrawal symptoms appearing sooner.

Common symptoms you may feel soon after stopping the drug include symptoms that prompted you to take the medication in the first place, such as insomnia or anxiety.

2. Acute

Acute symptoms can last from five through 28 days of stopping benzodiazepine use. These include the more severe physical and mental symptoms that peak around two weeks into withdrawal:

  • Muscle twitches
  • Sensation of crawling skin
  • Hypersensitivity to lights, sounds or smells
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety symptoms such as rapid heart rate, dizziness, sweating and insomnia

While a return of anxiety is typical in the early withdrawal stages, additional symptoms — such as muscle twitching or unusual skin sensations — indicate a physical withdrawal from benzodiazepines, instead of a return of anxiety. Therefore, these physical symptoms may appear during the acute stage a few days into withdrawal.

When quitting high doses of benzodiazepines, you have a higher chance of severe symptoms such as seizures, delirium and psychosis. Tapering the dose can reduce these symptoms' severity. Psychotherapy can ease mental issues, such as anxiety or depression, that can happen during benzo withdrawal.

3. Protracted

Common long-lasting symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include ear ringing, numbness, muscle pain and stomach upset. Symptoms that generally ease after a year include depression, anxiety and insomnia. However, some physical symptoms such as nerve pain, muscle tremors or pains and gastrointestinal distress may last indefinitely. By undergoing withdrawal slowly with medically supervised tapering and getting psychological support, you can reduce the chances of protracted symptoms and their severity.

The longest-lasting withdrawal symptoms are those that last a year or longer. People experiencing these may ask themselves, "Is benzodiazepine withdrawal permanent?" The good news is that only 10 to 25% of those who quit using these drugs have protracted withdrawal symptoms. Plus, these symptoms may gradually taper off for some people with time.

How to Reduce Benzodiazepines With Detox

To carry out successful detox therapy, you should have care that includes incidental medical services. At Diamond House Detox, we are one of the few providers that meet the strict criteria for this type of care. The California Department of Health Care Service acknowledges that we do the following in supplying supplemental medical services:

  • Take client medical history
  • Check and monitor your current health
  • Conduct tests for substances to guide the detox process
  • Monitor patients who have medication they must give themselves
  • Provide detox and recovery services from substance use

Detoxing from benzodiazepines typically involves slowly tapering off the drug, instead of quitting all at once. A typical tapering process relies on the doctors knowing the type of benzodiazepine you used. Then, they will switch you to another drug in the class with a longer half-life. The drug's half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for half the active ingredient to remain in your body. Longer half-lives correlate to withdrawal symptoms appearing later. Benzos with longer half-lives allow you to have smaller amounts of the drugs in your body, easing withdrawal severity.

Besides the above medical aspects of detoxing from benzodiazepines, we also offer various therapies and a comfortable setting to address the mental hurdles of recovery as you go through detox and beyond.

With slow tapering in a controlled site with medical monitoring and supervision, you can safely pass through the dangerous detox phase to continue your road to recovery.

Learn More About Support for Tapering off Benzodiazepines in California

With help from medical professionals for benzodiazepine withdrawal management, you can successfully and safely wean yourself off these drugs. Medical supervision is crucial due to the chance of severe withdrawal effects when quitting on your own. You deserve to have support for your physical and mental health when you stop using benzos. Choose now to get help from us at Diamond House Detox in California to begin your recovery. We want to give you the support you need to get through the challenging, uncomfortable stages of benzodiazepine detoxing.


Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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