What Are Withdrawal Symptoms Like With Benzodiazepine?
Withdrawing from benzodiazepines is a physically and emotionally taxing process, with a variety of painful symptoms. If someone stops using benzos cold turkey and without any medical intervention, the most severe symptoms can even become life-threatening. People with a long history of use or who have been taking higher doses of a benzodiazepine will have the worst withdrawal symptoms. When someone is withdrawing from benzos, they will experience symptoms including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Tremors of the hands
- Physical tension
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Stiffness and muscle pain
- Drug cravings
Some people experience much more severe symptoms alongside the common ones listed above. The worst cases of benzodiazepine withdrawal may involve:
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Psychotic episodes
- Increased risk of suicidal ideation
Another element to consider is the “rebound effect.” Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines primarily to address the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and to help people with insomnia sleep. When someone stops taking them and enters detox for benzos, they are likely to experience an increase in anxiety and develop feelings of intense restlessness.
It’s essential to distinguish between the rebound effect and the symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms appear as the body struggles to adapt to functioning without benzodiazepines, whereas the rebound effect is a return of symptoms that someone struggled with previously.
Estimated Withdrawal Timeline
While there is no definitive time frame for benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, individuals can expect this estimated timeline:
- Early or immediate withdrawal: Early withdrawal or rebound symptoms occur soon after an individual stops taking benzodiazepines. While your exact withdrawal reactions will vary, the symptoms you were using benzodiazepines to treat may start returning. By tapering, you can make early withdrawal symptoms more manageable.
- Acute withdrawal: Acute withdrawal typically begins within a few days, though it may last for several months. Most withdrawal symptoms occur during this phase.
- Protracted withdrawal: While most symptoms subside after acute withdrawal, there may still be lingering side effects. Some protracted withdrawal symptoms include mood swings, depression and anxiety.
Why Does Quitting Benzos Lead to Benzo Withdrawal?
Benzos can cause you to develop a physical dependence, which is when your body becomes overly reliant on the drug to function normally. As you try to break your addiction, you will begin experiencing benzo withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts without the drug.
Which Benzos Require Detox?
Many drugs have a half-life, which is how long the drug takes to reduce to half of its original amount in your system. Benzos with a shorter half-life tend to require a more significant detox process and are more likely to lead to relapse. There are three different types of benzos, each with a different half-life:
- Short acting: Short acting benzos like triazolam have a half-life of one to five hours.
- Intermediate acting: Intermediate acting benzos such as alprazolam have an average half-life of 12 to 40 hours.
- Long acting: Long-acting benzos like diazepam have an average half-life of 40 to 250 hours.