Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription drug that can cause the formation of habits. They’re used to treat a number of different conditions related to stress, such as epilepsy, insomnia, and anxiety disorders. In some cases, they’re even prescribed for alcohol withdrawal. Often referred to as “benzos,” non-proper use of these medications can lead to addiction. After addiction sets in, it’s very difficult to go through detox. This is why benzo detox can be so severe to the body.
When benzodiazepine withdrawal begins, your body and brain both begin to get rid of the drug still in your system. This can cause your body to go into a shocked state. “Cold turkey” and sudden stopping of benzos can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The main reason for the reaction, experts explain, its because of the way the drug affects an individual’s neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters: The Reason Benzo Detox Has Such Severe Effects on the Body
When benzos work, they impact your gamma aminobutyric acid, also referred to as your GABA receptors. These receptors were not designed to respond to artificial stimulants of GABA like benzos. The brain experiences this sudden influx of artificial GABA receptors and believes there is no longer a need to create natural GABA receptors. All of a person’s GABA receptors come from the effects of the benzos.
As the individual stops taking the benzos, this necessary acid is suddenly depleted from the body. The brain isn’t making any natural acid to replenish it, because the brain has been fooled into believing it doesn’t need the acid anymore. This leaves a person’s body completely without GABA receptors.
The Main Symptoms and Signs That You’re Experiencing Benzo Withdrawal
Benzos have an impact on both the body and the mind. In the same vein, the withdrawal symptoms will affect both body and mind. These symptoms can vary in severity depending on how long the person was using the drug, what dose they were taking, and how they ingested the drugs. Other factors influencing the symptoms are their current level of dependency on the drug both physically and emotionally. Common emotional and psychological symptoms are:
- Depression and anxiety
- Confusion and memory loss
Physical symptoms include:
- Vertigo, dizziness, and impaired vision
- Tremors, seizures, and heart palpitations
- Muscle pain, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and flu-like symptoms
- Slurred speech and insomnia
The Timeline of Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Each individual who has been misusing a benzodiazepine drug will go through different detoxifying reactions. Some people’s detox may last for a few weeks. In other cases, detox might last for several months. Everyone has to go through the process at their own pace, and it shouldn’t be rushed. The safest option for detox is to go to a detox center where you’ll have medical supervision and medication to ease the pain.
Through the first three days, your brain and body are fighting to rid your system of the drugs. Some individuals begin to experience the withdrawal symptoms in just six hours after their last dose. It’s common to experience vomiting, nausea, dry heaving, and insomnia at this point.
The rest of the first week might see the physical symptoms starting to lessen. The person might continue to experience cravings, but the worst part of the physicality is over. Some people feel completely exhausted and burned-out from the stress of the withdrawal, but the worst of the intensity has passed.
During the second week, psychological symptoms will typically begin to set in. People might be irritable and anxious. Their brain is trying to compensate for a sudden lack of GABA receptors. These receptors were originally important for regulating emotions, particularly anxiety. It’s common for people to have unpleasant dreams, nightmares, and difficulty with sleep.
For the rest of the first month, an individual can expect their psychological symptoms to come and go seemingly without warning. They still need to undergo treatment for the psychological effects of the addiction. Addiction is a mental illness, and recovery cannot be achieved until people understand the root of their illness. But after the first month, the drug itself should have completely left the individual’s system.
Factors Impacting the Withdrawal Duration
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to the length of withdrawal. A number of factors might affect the intensity of the symptoms and the duration for which they last. Some of these factors include:
- Dosage – People who took higher dosages will typically have a longer detox period, because their body is massively depleted of its GABA receptors.
- Addiction Length – People who have been addicted for a long time will have a longer detox period for the same reason. Their brain has become reliant on the artificial GABA receptors.
- Individual Body Chemistry – Some people have a more intense reaction to benzos and benzo withdrawal than others. Their genetics may be at play regarding the makeup of their brain and body. Oftentimes, individuals with family history of addiction will have a longer detox process.
- Method of Detox – No matter what expert you speak to, they’ll agree that your safest method of benzo detox is with medical supervision. Detox centers and rehab facilities have the best amenities to help with withdrawal, including personalized treatment plans and medication to manage the symptoms.
The Treatment Options for Benzo Withdrawal
Your detox should be medically supervised for the sake of your physical health. Unsupervised detox might lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms. In addition, medically supervised detox has a much higher rate of recovery, while other detox forms have high relapse rates.
You can have your detox medically supervised at a hospital, but you’ll probably find better emotional care and support at a detox center. The trained experts there know how to help you. If you want to learn more about detox, you can speak to one of our counselors at 877-497-6180