Anxiety and stress are often hard to manage. For most people, handling stress is akin to overcoming any life challenge, but for others, standard coping techniques aren’t enough. When everyday stressors become too much to bear, medical interference is often recommended. In response to individuals with anxiety disorders who are unable to live normally, psychiatrists frequently prescribe anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines, colloquially known as benzos, are among the most commonly prescribed, working within the central nervous systems to stimulate a more appropriate response to stressful situations. Benzos include trade names like Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan, as well as many others. Many of these drugs, if taken over an extended period of time may require benzo detox.
For the millions  of individuals prescribed anti-anxiety drugs each year, medications like benzos can make the trials and tribulations of daily life more bearable. For others, however, access to benzos can be the start of a crippling cycle of addiction. A few pills before or during anxiety attacks can lead to a full blown psychological and physical dependency, essentially transforming one problem into another.
Addiction to medications like Xanax isn’t as well publicized as dependency on more notable substances, like cocaine, but benzo abuse is extremely serious. If you or someone you love is addicted to Valium, Ativan, or any other benzo, no one can help you like we can with professional benzo detox. With comprehensive inpatient support to carry you through a benzo detox and rehabilitation, our team is prepared to help you take the first steps toward sobriety.
Call 513-909-2225 today to get started with one of our trained intake counselors for Benzo detox.
What Are Benzos?
Benzos are a part of a class of drug knows as tranquilizers and are generally given for anxiety disorders. As one of the most prescribed drug types in the United States, benzos are used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. While addicting for many patients, benzos are not dangerous as compared to other drugs and are thus categorized as Schedule IV controlled substances.
In order to produce stress-fighting results, benzos target Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, or GABA, receptors in the brain. These receptors are part of the GABA system, a complex structure within the central nervous system that addresses stress signals. In high anxiety times, the GABA system releases additional molecules designed to stimulate calming feelings and reduce the physiological effects of anxiousness.
However, in some individuals, the GABA system doesn’t work as it should, causing severe and ongoing anxiety in normal situations. Benzos stimulate the body’s natural stress management techniques, allowing those with anxiety disorders to live a normal life.
The term “benzodiazepine” applies to numerous medications, of which roughly 15 have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These drugs can be divided into three distinct classes: short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting.
Short-acting benzos include Versed and Halcion and act extremely quickly once within the body. Responses are fast, and peak onset is often within an hour or less. Intermediate-acting benzos, like Xanax and Ativan, take a little longer to take effect, peaking within a few hours. These medications are often best for insomnia, due to the fast-acting behavior and quick effects.
Long-acting alternatives like Valium, on the other hand, take longer to affect the body, but results have a longer duration. Long-acting benzos can trigger more severe withdrawal symptoms for those who develop usage dependencies.
Medications like benzos specifically target brain chemistry, altering mood through artificial generation of molecules that can bind to receptors. Due to these true physical changes, long-term users may be at risk for benzo addiction. Short-term use is approved by most physicians, but use over years is hotly contested, largely due to the physical changes within the function of the nervous system. In time, even casual users may find it more challenging to overcome stressors without medical interference.
Over time and with regular use, a tolerance builds up within the body. This requires more medication to achieve the same results and is often the first sign of benzo dependency. Increasing dosages can intensify side effects and make it much harder to cease use. For most users facing a benzo addiction, breaking the habit is almost impossible without help from trained benzo detox professionals.
Signs of Benzo Addiction
Many benzo users believe that benzos are safe to take regularly because they are legally available through a doctor’s prescription. However, this is not true. Benzos can be very addictive, and can turn into a life-changing habit when left unmonitored over a long period of time.
If you or someone you care about is benzo dependent, these symptoms may be visible:
- Amnesia or memory loss
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Dizziness or muscle weakness
- Stomach cramps or vomiting
- Blurred or double vision
- Hostility or aggression
Due to the differences between the numerous forms of benzos available, symptoms may differ from person to person and pill to pill. In general, high doses can lead to loss of inhibitions, trouble focusing, and erratic driving.
Benzo overdose is possible, but rare. In general, an overdose will cause slow, shallow, or labored breathing, severe fatigue, and weakness. Overdoses rarely cause death or coma, unless mixed with other substances, like alcohol, but death rates are on the rise . Those who take benzo are cautioned against mixing substances, but those with an addiction may be less likely to follow a doctor’s recommendation.
As with most addictions, quitting benzos often triggers withdrawal symptoms. Due to the physical component of dependency, long-term users are especially at risk. In most cases, quitting Valium, Xanax, Ativan, or their peers requires medical intervention from a trained physician. Severe anxiety is a frequent side effect of withdrawal in all benzos, making the compulsion to keep using extremely strong.
Severity of withdrawals will depend both on the medication in question, body chemistry, and length of use. Some benzos are less intense than others, making it easier to detox. Others, especially long-acting medications like Valium, can be especially challenging.
Some common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Severe anxiety or worry
- Muscle weakness
- Confusion or headaches
- Agitation or aggression
In order to make withdrawal as easy and comfortable as possible, detox in a certified and accredited rehabilitation facility is strongly recommended.
The Importance of Benzo Detox
One’s ability to independently quit an abused substance is one of the biggest fallacies of addiction. Put plainly, addiction is not a choice, and addicts cannot quit alone. This is especially true of brain-altering medications like benzos; benzo detox can be quite dangerous and requires medical supervision in order to guarantee patient safety.
The nature of benzos makes detox an uphill battle; while some patients, especially those taking short-acting variations, may need a few days to get over withdrawal symptoms, others, especially those taking medications with a longer half-life, like Valium, may take multiple weeks to begin feeling normal once more.
In order to guarantee a safe recovery, medically-supervised benzo detox is absolutely essential. The withdrawal process can occasionally trigger severe side effects, like seizures, extreme anxiety attacks, or chronic insomnia, that may require intervention by a doctor to alleviate.
Undergoing Benzo Detox
Detox, short for detoxification, is what most rehab facilities call the first stage in inpatient rehabilitation. This begins as soon as patients are admitted, and is often undertaken away from other recovering addicts without access to distractions, like music, television, or Internet access. This allows patients to work one-on-one with medical staff to focus on nothing but recovery.
This time can be unpleasant, but appropriate supervision can make this easier. Doctors and nurses will provide healthy food, adequate hydration, and medications to minimize withdrawal symptoms as necessary. Detox programs can span from three days to a week or more, and are generally customized based on a patient’s unique needs.
The process of withdrawing from benzos is classified into two stages: acute withdrawal and PAWS. Detox programs generally only address the first stage, although both will likely be a significant part of overcoming addiction. Acute withdrawal can last from a week to three months, depending on the severity of benzo addiction, and is often when recovering substance abusers feel the most significant side effects. PAWS is short for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and refers to the lingering effects that endure after initial withdrawal symptoms fade. PAWS can last from several months to several years, and generally causes increased anxiety. PAWS side effects are not permanent and do decrease in time.
The first week to two weeks of benzo detox are often the worse for those with benzo addiction. Symptoms will appear within the first two days, and will become more severe over the next five to ten days. Most patients will exhibit a full range of side effects in this time, including sweating, anxiety, muscle pain, and insomnia. From this point, the effects of acute withdrawal will become more manageable, fading away withing three to five weeks.
How your benzo detox time period will proceed depends on your specific benzo addiction and the severity of your dependency. However, programs follow one of two pathways.
The Benefits of Benzo Detox
Many individuals who try and fail to quit the drugs to which they are addicted often feel defeated, or as if they don’t deserve sobriety. This is not true. Overcoming addiction is extremely challenging, and trying to quit alone is nearly impossible.
If you have tried and failed to quit, or you are afraid to try, detox is the best possible way to improve your chances of success. With medical supervision, you can learn the best ways to stay mentally strong, resist cravings, and stay calm and focused throughout the process. Working with doctors and nurses provides a resource when times get tough and ensures access to medications like Flumazenil, as well as other aids like sleeping pills or anti-seizure drugs should problems arise.
After detox is complete, working with a licensed rehabilitation facility can provide other benefits to recovering addicts. Once withdrawal symptoms have dwindled, patients have the opportunity to learn coping strategies, explore ways to handle stress naturally, and work with other patients in recovery to build a supportive network of peers.
Rehabilitation can also make assimilation into the outside world easier, providing tools that can help you stay strong against cravings and psychological pressures. Patients will experience individual and group therapy sessions designed to boost self-esteem, teach coping techniques, and guide those in recovery toward a brighter future without addictive substances.
Fighting Back Against Addiction
The number of people receiving treatment for prescription drug addiction has tripled since 2002 , painting a tragic picture of the state of drug abuse in the United States. If you or someone you love is faced with benzo addiction or benzo dependency, or is showing worrisome signs associated with use, you are not alone.
When you need help or guidance through addiction, we are here to help. Our dedicated team of professionals includes doctors, therapists, and counselors who are eager to help you find your footing while overcoming addiction. Our intake counselors are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in order to provide help at a moment’s notice. Call 513-909-2225 to get started on the road to a brighter future.