What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines (also called benzos, zannies, blues, tranks, footballs, or chill pills) are a type of central nervous system depressant that belongs to a classification of drugs commonly known as “tranquilizers.” This synthetic medication is most commonly prescribed in pill form by doctors for the treatment of anxiety disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are also used to treat insomnia and various other mental health issues. Plus, they can be administered by a doctor intravenously as a sedative prior to surgical procedures.
Without getting too scientific, let’s just say that benzodiazepines have a powerful sedative effect on the mind and body. They work by affecting a neurotransmitter in the brain called Gamma-aminobutyric Acid – also known as “GABA.” GABA is used by the brain’s neural network to send messages. Benzos increase the production of GABA, which quiets overactive nerves and calms the system, effectively sending messages to the body to “chill out.”
The problem is, when people chill out on benzos, they can fall in love with the feeling. This can lead to a so-called benzo addiction, which can wreak havoc on even the strongest person. Family problems, financial difficulties, issues at work, and legal challenges are all very real consequences of benzodiazepine addiction.
Commonly Abused Benzodiazepines
Believe it or not, there are more than 200 different types of benzodiazepines in the world. Most people have never heard of most of them because they are only used for surgical procedures or they are not available in the United States.
Typically, these are the most commonly prescribed and abused benzodiazepines in the United States:
Southern California luxury rehab
Benzodiazepine Abuse Can Lead to Addiction
The truth is that benzo addiction is all too common. While some people become physically addicted to this medication as prescribed by their doctor, others buy benzos on the street and abuse them to get high. They cause a very relaxed, tranquil, calm feeling. Most people pop large numbers of these pills to get this effect. Others crush them up and snort them up their nose. Some people dilute these tranquilizers and shoot them up with needles.
Because benzos lead to physical dependency, people who take them regularly quickly build a tolerance. This means they need to take more and more of the medication the get the same effect. Before long, the body begins to physically crave the drug between doses. As a result, the user just continues to up their dosage and take more pills.
People love benzos because they love the way they make them feel. What they don’t realize is that – if they are not careful – they can get hooked without even realizing it. This drug has a way of creeping up on people.
Once someone becomes physically addicted, they will go into withdrawal if they suddenly stop taking benzos. Let’s talk about what this means and why it keeps users going back for more.
The pain of withdrawal (also known as detox) is often what keeps people stuck in cycle of addiction for months or even years. Many people have a sincere desire to stop using powerful substances like Xanax or Valium, but they quickly find that they are unable to remain abstinent for any length of time. This is because they cannot bear the physical agony and mental torture that accompanies withdrawal – not to mention the unrelenting cravings that come with it.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal happens when you have been taking this substance for an extended period of time and you abruptly stop taking it. When you abuse tranquilizers, your brain and body need them to function.
By quitting your drug of choice, you interrupt natural processes that rely on the drug’s chemicals to get through the day. You could say this makes your brain and body very angry, and they respond in violent protest by producing withdrawal symptoms.
Here are just a few benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms:
Addiction experts agree that benzodiazepine withdrawal is not only an incredibly unpleasant experience, it is also life-threatening and should be approached with extreme caution.
You SHOULD NEVER try to detox from benzos on your own cold turkey. This could be a fatal decision. We cannot stress enough that benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous and life-threatening. This is why we recommend a professional medical detox.
How Long Does Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Last?
This is a very important question and we wish we could give you a definite answer. However; everyone detoxes from benzos at a different rate of speed. How long and how much you have been using, your overall general health, your metabolism rate, genetics, and other factors all play a role in your withdrawal process. However; we recognize that understanding benzo detox is important to your recovery process, so let’s go deeper.
There are two phases to benzodiazepine withdrawal – the acute withdrawal phase and the post-acute withdrawal phase.
Acute Benzodiazepine Withdrawal:
This is the first phase of . It happens approximately 12 to 36 hours after you take your last dose of the medication. Acute withdrawal can last anywhere from three days to two weeks. However; the average person completes this phase of withdrawal in an average of seven days.
During this period, withdrawal symptoms will be extreme – even unbearable. Most people do not stay sober through this phase of the withdrawal process because it is simply too painful. Acute withdrawal is the most dangerous part of the detoxification process. Seizures, coma, and death are all very real possibilities during the first week.
Post-Acute Benzodiazepine Withdrawal:
This is the second phase of detox. Generally, once someone survives the pain of Phase One, they are no longer at risk for having seizures or other major health complications. At this point in the process, withdrawal symptoms begin to subside and become more bearable. However; there is still a long road ahead.
Many people experience post-acute withdrawal for as long as six months after they have stopped taking benzos. With time, the body and brain will begin readjusting to normal functioning – but this is an ongoing process. Most people complain of extreme anxiety, depression, sleep problems, hostility, and cravings for some time after they quit using tranquilizers.
Why A Professional Medical Detox is the Best Way to Go for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
At AToN, we offer detoxification services for those who have made the brave decision to stop using benzos. We believe this lays a solid foundation for ongoing recovery and eliminates the fear of benzo withdrawal for our clients.
A professional medical detox involves round-the-clock monitoring and evaluation by a team of compassionate addict experts to ensure safety. As explained, benzo detox can be extremely dangerous and cause premature death. We offer peace of mind by providing quality medical care to reduce the likelihood of health complications.
Also, a professional medical detox involves the use of certain medications to promote wellness and comfort. We believe every client who undergoes the withdrawal process should be afforded the opportunity to detox with dignity and compassion. The medication assisted treatment we provide keep clients comfortable, rested, stabilized, and safe.
Another reason we promote a professional medical detox is that it kickstarts the recovery process and improves the chances of ongoing sobriety. Many people kick benzos on their own and stay sober for a few months. But, they don’t have the tools to manage their lives for any length of time without returning to the drugs. At AToN, we provide a continuum of care after detox. This empowers our clients to promote long-term recovery.
Why bite the bullet and go cold turkey when you don’t have to? Why quit on your own and put your life at risk when you have access to our team at AToN? We have helped hundreds of clients safely and comfortably navigate benzodiazepine withdrawal with minimal risk. We can help you too.
Detox is Just The Beginning of the Recovery Journey
After the benzodiazepine withdrawal process is complete, there is a long road ahead and work that needs to be done. Many people think they can just stop taking benzos and get on with their lives. We wish it were that simple.
Once someone has struggled with an addiction to drugs like Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin, they will always be vulnerable to a relapse. The brain remembers how good drug use feels and it wants to experience that feeling again. It can take years for cravings to go away entirely. To enjoy continued sobriety, people in recovery from addiction need to learn how to live a life that is not centered around drugs. This is what happens here at AToN – we teach our clients how to sustain a healthy sober lifestyle.
Do You Have a Problem With Benzodiazepine Addiction?
This is a question only you can answer. If you are hooked on benzos and have tried (and failed) to stop on your own, chances are you are addicted. If you are, we believe you need a professional benzo addiction treatment program to arrest the cycle of addiction. You don’t have to do this alone.
No matter how hopeless or helpless you may feel right now, we want you to know that YOU CAN recover from a substance abuse of benzodiazepines. We can help you get your life back on track with so you can experience freedom from the bondage of addiction.
If you’re ready to find a new way to live, we have a place for you. At AToN, you will receive evidence-based treatment that drives positive results. Our credentialed staff will design a highly customized treatment plan just for you. When you’re ready to start your exciting new recovery journey, we stand ready to get you on the right path.
The first benzodiazepine was chlordiazepoxide, and it was introduced in 1960 to treat insomnia, general anxiety disorder (GAD), seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and panic attacks.
Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA. The drugs contain chemicals that aid in the calming effect already produced by the human body and keep the brain in a more tranquilized state.
Common name brands include:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Clobazam (Onfi)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Estalazom (ProSom)
- Flurazepam (Dalmane)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Midazolam (Versed)
- Oxazepam (Serax)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
Benzodiazepines are controlled substances and a classified as schedule IV drugs. When combined with other drugs or alcohol there is a significant drug interaction leading to a synergistic effect. (Synergism is the combined effect of adding similar types of drugs together, but their sum is greater than if the drug was used individually.) Benzodiazepines and alcohol, which are both depressants, when taken together, can be deadly. Benzodiazepine overdoses are very common; however, the incidence of death from an overdose when the drug is used by itself is rare.
There are three different classes of benzodiazepines: Short-acting – Triazolam, intermediate-acting – Alprazolam, and long-acting – Diazepam.
The use of Benzodiazepines for more than 3-6 weeks may lead to physical cravings and tolerance. Long-term use of 6-12 months could lead to addiction. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can begin within 2-3 days after cessation. Signs and symptoms can include:
- Autonomic hyperactivity, e., diaphoresis, tachycardia
- Grand mal seizures
- Hand tremor
- Nausea or vomiting
- Psychomotor agitation
- Transient auditory, tactile, or visual hallucinations or illusions
Benzodiazepines should be tapered off by a doctor or a hospital over a period of 4-6 weeks. However, complete withdrawal may take months to years. If someone has become dependent on benzodiazepines, it is crucial that they do not suddenly stop cold turkey.
Flumazenil – Has been used as an antidote in the treatment of benzodiazepine overdoses. It reverses the effects of benzodiazepines by competing with the benzodiazepine on the binding site of the GABAA receptor. Flumazenil is used to reverse the sedative effects of a benzodiazepine during surgery or other procedures. Flumazenil is also used to treat benzodiazepine overdose.
It is very difficult to recover from benzodiazepine addiction because these drugs change the chemistry of the brain. Contact a drug addiction treatment center if you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction.
Johnina Noar, CADC-II
AToN Center 888-535-1516