Benzodiazepines or benzos are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every 100 individuals in the U.S., there were 37.6 prescriptions of benzodiazepines in 2012.¹
Benzodiazepines are commonly referred to as “benzos,” and are strong medications that slow central nervous system activity down. Benzodiazepines are often used to treat:
Benzodiazepines can be extremely effective as a treatment for various conditions like insomnia and anxiety. While they can be very helpful for individuals with these conditions, they can also quickly lead to dependency. Once a person becomes dependent on benzos, it can be tough for them to stop taking them since they’ll likely experience unpleasant benzo withdrawal, which can be potentially dangerous. If this does occur, there are benzodiazepine detox programs that can guide them through their benzo withdrawal safely and help them reclaim their lives.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), SAMHSA, and other professional sources report that when individuals misuse or abuse benzodiazepines, they’re not typically the main drug of abuse. Benzodiazepines are frequently abused together with other drugs.²
The most common types of drugs misused or abused with benzodiazepines are alcohol, prescription painkillers (particularly opiates), and other benzos.
Taking two benzos together will increase the effect individuals usually experience and could cause dangerous side effects, even death. Individuals also have a higher risk of overdose.
Alcohol is the most commonly abused depressant with benzos. Sometimes, individuals don’t even realize they’re doing it. They happen to drink alcohol while being on a drugtheir doctors prescribe thems. The side effects suddenly come on without them knowing they’re abusing the drug.
Benzos like Xanax and alcohol affect the gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter that’s in charge of slowing nervous system activity down and causing a sedative effect. When individuals mix the two depressants, it can lead to oversedation and death.
Each day, almost 200 people in the U.S. die from opioid overdoses.³ Combining benzos and opioids can increase a person’s risk of overdose since both types of drugs can lead to sedation, suppress the individual’s breathing (what causes overdose fatality), and impair cognitive functions.
When benzodiazepines and opioid medications are combined, it increases a person’s risk of overdose, which leads to emergency medical care. Around 16% of overdose fatalities that involved opioids in 2020 also involved benzodiazepines.³
While physicians prescribe benzos to individuals to help relieve their anxiety and stress, this group of medications can damage the body and brain. When individuals take benzos recreationally or in bigger doses than what’s prescribed to them, it can lead to:
Even when benzodiazepines are used as prescribed, they can cause physical dependence and addiction. However, benzodiazepines like Xanax are still the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medications in the U.S. Fortunately, gaining an understanding of the effects of benzos can help decrease the use of these drugs and this can help tackle prescription drug addiction and abuse.
Benzos are slowly eliminated from the body, so when a person repeats dosages over a prolonged time period, it can lead to substantial accumulation in fatty tissues. Therefore, some “overmedication” symptoms can occur over time, such as:
The total time it takes for a benzo withdrawal to last will depend on certain factors like how many benzos the individual used, the type of benzo they take, and how long they’ve been taking the drug. Certain benzos like Valium have a much longer half-life than others like Ativan, therefore, Valium withdrawal would last much longer.
There are three primary stages of benzodiazepine withdrawal:
Some people can experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) which is where symptoms of benzo withdrawal linger long after the first two stages have passed. It can be hard to deal with PAWS, even after treatment, which is why it’s important to seek professional treatment. There are aftercare programs that can help patients cope with PAWS and reduce their risk of relapse to ensure they stay on the right path to recovery.
People struggling with benzo addiction should reach out to a professional treatment center like Inland Detox. Our benzo programs are tailored to each unique patient and their specific needs. Our team of healthcare professionals will ensure each client is as comfortable as possible during their time with us.
When patients first arrive at the treatment facility, they’ll first sit down with a consultant psychiatrist who will conduct a comprehensive medical assessment to determine their specific needs. The psychiatrists will look at the individual’s health overall as part of the assessment process and will weigh up requirements for medication if there are any.
If the patient is taking any other drugs, which include alcohol and prescription medications, it’s very important that they tell the psychiatrist and support staff since these can impact their detox medications. The medical team can make the individual stay more comfortable during their personalized care plan the more information the patient shares with them.
There are both emotional and physical components to benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. While regaining physical balance is the initial goal of treatment, psychological factors need to also be taken into consideration. Frequently, benzos are prescribed as a mental illness treatment, and these medications can be abused in the person’s attempt to gain temporary relief or to self-medicate. Benzos also disrupt the natural reward circuitry system of the brain, which encourages users to continue taking the drugs in order to achieve the same euphoric or pleasant results.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one-half of those who suffer from a severe mental illness and a third of those who suffer from any mental illness also abuse substances. Also reported by NAMI, one-half of all people who abuse drugs suffer from mental illness.⁵
When a person experiences two disorders simultaneously, the disorders are referred to as co-occurring and require a specialized integrated treatment plan to produce the best results. Doctors use evidence-based treatment models to treat both disorders simultaneously which incorporates clinical experience, personal preferences, and scientific research.
Because benzodiazepines are frequently prescribed to patients because of their calming effects, psychotherapies that center on decreasing anxiety and stress, and that offer patients with new life skills and healthy coping mechanisms are highly regarded. Behavioral therapies are often used to identify potential environmental or emotional triggers that can:
Peer support groups help provide participants with a safe place to create a positive social network and share circumstances. Participants should educate themselves and their families on what’s to be expected during the detox process and recovery so that everyone can get an understanding of the whole process and limit potential surprises that may be faced. This helps to make the process easier and smoother to navigate.
A peaceful and serene environment away from day-to-day stressors can be most desirable during an individual’s stay at a comprehensive residential detox. Inland Detox fosters the body, mind, and spirit in a peaceful and quiet environment to provide a tranquil place for clients to heal in peace.
It’s not recommended that people attempt to benzodiazepine detox at home since it can be dangerous. They can experience benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms that may be severe and possibly even life-threatening. Therefore, it’s always best for benzo detox attempts to be made under the care of healthcare professionals.
Also, attempting to detox off benzodiazepines from home can also increase a person’s risk of overdose. This frequently occurs when a person stops taking the drugs for a period of time, but their symptoms of withdrawal become too much for them to handle so they relapse. However, during their abstinence period, their tolerance to benzos decreases. So, when they take the same dose of benzos as there were previously taking, their body isn’t able to handle it any longer and this can lead to overdose.
The best way to ensure a person’s safety is inpatient benzodiazepine detox, particularly if they’ve been using the benzos for a long time, if their past attempts to quit using them were unsuccessful, or if they are also dependent on opiates, alcohol, or other drugs. Healthcare professionals also recommend inpatient benzo detox if the individual has other medical problems or mental health issues, or if they’re pregnant.
Benzodiazepine detox facilities provide many benefits that help increase a person’s likelihood of long-term success, which include:
People may be provided antidepressants to help ease depression or safer medicine to ease anxiety while they detox from the benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines detox “cold turkey” is never an ideal solution, since withdrawal can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Sometimes, people can experience seizures as well as other life-threatening symptoms when they attempt benzos detox without the supervision of a healthcare professional.
For people who have become addicted to benzos, the safest way for them to detox is to have their dosage reduced little by little (tapering) with the guidance and advice of a healthcare professional until they’re drug-free. Symptom intensity is significantly reduced with slower withdrawal. Some people who slowly taper from benzodiazepines experience very mild symptoms or they don’t experience any symptoms at all.
The protocol for benzo detox will vary depending on certain factors depending on:
The healthcare professional may recommend that the patient takes doses throughout the day at regular intervals rather than waiting for times when they’re feeling stressed. This will allow the level of benzos in their bloodstream to stabilize before the dose is lowered, thus reducing the severity of the benzo withdrawal symptoms.
The healthcare professional may recommend that the patients stay on a reduced level for several days or weeks before they reduce their dosage again. Or, they may prescribe the individual a shorter-acting benzodiazepine before they adjust their dose, depending primarily on how they’re feeling. Following each reduction, they may experience a temporary symptom increase.
There are a number of ways that benzodiazepines detox can benefit a person. Some include:
Benzos can be tricky substances to gain a full understanding of. They’re medicinal and legal, but extremely addictive and potentially dangerous. Fortunately, benzodiazepine treatment programs can help individuals overcome their benzo addiction so they can move on to live a successful, thriving life without prescription drugs.
Inland Detox can help any person who is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse and want to quit. Our professional staff has helped many patients detox from benzos, learn to beat their addictions and get back to living a quality life.
Benzodiazepines detox is only the first step a personl will take in their recovery journey. In addition to detox, they’ll need to enter an inpatient rehab program where they’ll receive further treatment. This can include addiction counseling, therapy, and other forms of support that will help them address the psychological components of their condition.
Once they return home, they’ll then need to attend aftercare to continue working on their recovery. This typically includes regular group therapy sessions that help the person stay on track.
Inland Detox is a successful substance abuse treatment facility that works on a variety of alcohol and drug addiction types, including an addiction to benzodiazepines. When you’re going through benzo detox, it can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable, and our team will provide you with the best possible care. We also understand that your family and loved ones will be involved too and we show the utmost compassion for all individuals involved.
We provide a number of treatment options in our benzodiazepines detox center for every one of our clients during their recovery process of rehabilitation. The primary goal of our detox facility is to ensure each one of our clients successfully achieve recovery from their addiction and starts living a quality life that’s free of alcohol or drug use.
Recovery doesn’t stop at benzodiazepine detox. Individuals should go through a comprehensive benzo addiction treatment program which typically involves benzo detox, inpatient residential stay, outpatient care, and aftercare.
Our Temecula recovery treatment team will work closely with you to create a unique discharge plan that provides you with further levels of care. This will give you all the tools you require to start your recovery journey and begin living a life free from benzodiazepines or other drugs or alcohol.
Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with our recovery professionals.
Charles E. Griffin, III, MD,* Adam M. Kaye, Pharm D,† Franklin Rivera Bueno, MS,‡ and Alan D. Kaye, MD, PhD. Ochsner J. 2013 Summer; 13(2): 214–223.