Benzodiazepines — or “benzos” for short, are not only particularly addictive, but also prone to abuse. As a result, the need for benzodiazepine addiction treatment is at an all-time high in the United States. Unfortunately, many people attempt to treat their addiction on their own, often with dangerous consequences.
Not to mention, rehabilitation success rates are much lower for those who try to white-knuckle their detox and treatment. Whether it’s for benzodiazepines, alcohol, or other drugs, at-home withdrawals come with a significant amount of risk.
Today, we’re going to discuss those risks, as well as detox safety and success rates of benzodiazepine treatments.
But before we get to that critical information, let’s first discuss the basics of benzos, including side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and how exactly this class of drug works.
Benzos are a class of prescription drugs often prescribed for the treatment of mental health disorders including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and insomnia.
Unfortunately, what often starts as a well-intentioned treatment option for these difficult conditions results in an even more dangerous addiction to the substance.
How Do Benzos Work?
Much like alcohol, benzos work by elevating levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in the brain. The brain produces this neurochemical naturally in moments of stress to calm the brain in response to stressors.
In disorders like PTS and the others we just listed, this response is often limited or non-existent. To get the same effect, benzodiazepines may be prescribed.
Like many drugs, long-term use of benzodiazepines leads to a greater tolerance for the drug resulting in the need for higher doses. All too commonly, it also results in addiction.
Benzodiazepines Side Effects
Besides the highly-addictive nature of benzos, they also come with many scary side effects.
Before we discuss the more serious side effects, these are some of the common side effects you may experience while taking these drugs.
- GI issues including nausea, constipation, and vomiting
- Weight gain
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Reduce libido
- Dry mouth
On top of abuse and dependency, benzos are also associated with several serious, and potentially even lethal side effects:
- Respiratory depression
- Extremely low blood pressure
- Increased or decreased heart rate
Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
Any discussion of benzodiazepine addiction and abuse is also a good time to discuss the dangers of alcohol and benzos. As both of these substances are depressants and enough to have dangerous effects on their own, a combination can be deadly.
In addition to the side effects of benzos we just covered, these are some of the effects of mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines worth noting:
- Slurred speech
- Erratic or slow breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Aggression and violence
- GI upset
- Impaired cognition and motor skills
- Withdrawal symptoms
We discuss the dangers of mixing these substances–as well as why it is never considered safe to do so–in greater detail in this article.
Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Even when used as prescribed under medical supervision, using benzodiazepines may result in a dependence to the drug. There may be a number of other side effects indicating dependence, but experiencing withdrawal from a substance is a strong indicator of a dependence on it.
As for benzos, the withdrawal symptoms may be extreme, much like its habit-forming nature.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Muscle tremors, pain, and stiffness
- Dry heaving and vomiting
- Psychotic episodes
Addiction Treatment for Benzodiazepine Drug Abuse
As you can imagine, experiencing any of the withdrawal symptoms without medical supervision can not only make the detox process more difficult, but potentially deadly.
Addiction treatment for benzodiazepine drug abuse can not only help you manage the withdrawal symptoms you might experience, but also a more successful recovery outcome.
Risks and Success Rates of At-Home Detox
The risks and success rates of at-home detox speak for themselves.
According to American Addiction Centers, 62.4% of those who receive help are in remission after three years. This number falls to 43.4% for those who did not get help.
After 16 years, remission rates for those same people who were sober at three years after seeking help sit at 60.5%. On the other hand, after 16 years, those who do not get professional addiction treatment have a remission rate of just 42.9% at 16 years.
Similar studies also find in-patient detox and rehabilitation may result in a shorter duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepines Detox Safety
In-patient treatment options are beneficial for a number of reasons. Unlike at-home detox, they tend to focus on recovery beyond detox, including counselling and family therapy. Not to mention, detox safety itself is a primary concern in these programs.
Benzodiazepine detox that isn’t medically supervised can prove deadly. When users stop “cold turkey” at-home on their own, this decision could result in their death.
Withdrawal symptoms from short-acting benzos like Xanax can appear within just six to eight hours. For long-acting benzos like Valium, it may take 24-48 hours.
Consider this statistic from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed:
A grand mal seizure may occur in perhaps as many as 20-30 percent of individuals undergoing untreated withdrawal from these substances.
Whether it is a grand mal seizure or another severe withdrawal symptom, medical supervision can mean the difference between life or death during benzo addiction recovery.
How Does Medically Supervised Detox Work?
Rather than cutting off access to the substance entirely, medically supervised benzodiazepine detox usually involves tapering the dose. This could be done either by reducing the dose of the same benzodiazepine or switching to a less potent option.
In addition to the tapered dose of benzos, other medications may be used to manage withdrawal symptoms.
Buspirone: This drug may be used during medically supervised detox, but it can take a few weeks to experience its full effects. Buspirone is an anxiety medication, often noted for its ability to reduce symptoms like sweating and jittering. It can be helpful during benzo detox to control emotional withdrawal symptoms, and it isn’t habit-forming.
Flumazenil: While it’s known for its use in treating overdoses, Flumazenil may also be used during benzodiazepine detoxification. It not only helps block the effects of benzos, but it can also ease withdrawal symptoms.
At Just Believe Recovery Center in Florida, most in-patient detoxes involve a five to ten day stay. The length of your stay and your detox protocol depend on many factors, including:
- The substance of use
- The amount of use
- The frequency of use
- Duration of the addiction
- Your overall health
We work hard to make the detoxification process from any substance as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Along with the medications that can be used to aid your recovery, we also offer other comfort measures to treat withdrawal symptoms.
Would you like to learn more about our medical detox protocol and what to expect? Visit this link.
What Happens After Detox?
Undergoing medically supervised benzodiazepine detox is one of the first and most important steps in the recovery process. But the work doesn’t stop there. To increase both your long and short-term recovery success rates, subsequent treatment is important.
At Just Believe, the detox process is a necessary step before admission into our recovery center. Then, during your residential treatment with us, we will approach your recovery from a number of angles. Our rehab programs are created on an individualized basis to ensure the program is tailored to your unique needs.
Your treatment could include a combination of:
- Individual therapy sessions
- Mental health treatment
- Underlying issues treatment
- Family therapy
Our Port Saint Lucie benzodiazepine detox treatment program is an ideal recovery resource for individuals who have developed a benzodiazepine addiction. The need for these treatments is at an all-time high, and we are here to help. To learn more about our detox and recovery treatment programs, contact us today.
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