Benzodiazepines (benzos) can be very effective in treating various conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. While they can be incredibly useful for people with these conditions, benzo use can also quickly lead to dependence. Once you become dependent on benzos, it can be very difficult to stop taking as you will most likely experience unpleasant and potentially dangerous benzo withdrawal. At Sanctuary Lodge, our benzo detox programmes have guided many people through benzodiazepine withdrawal and helped them reclaim their lives.
What is benzodiazepine detox?
Benzodiazepine detox is the process of stopping benzo use and allowing the body to rid itself of the drug. This can be done through tapering (gradually reducing benzo doses) or cold turkey (stopping benzo use abruptly). Benzo detox can be uncomfortable and even dangerous because of benzo withdrawal so it is most safely done under the care of medical professionals at a specialist detox centre.
Why does quitting benzos lead to benzo withdrawal?
Benzodiazepines depress the CNS (central nervous system) by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA. This action results in the characteristic benzo effects such as relaxation, drowsiness and sedation. When you suddenly stop taking benzodiazepines, your body has to readjust to the lack of GABA activity. This can result in a number of uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous benzo withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms
Benzo withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person as do the length and severity of those symptoms. There are a number of factors which determine the benzo withdrawal experience including the type of benzo taken, duration of use, dose and method of quitting.
In addition to extreme cravings, some common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness and aching
- Racing heart
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Inability to focus
- Amplified emotions
All of these can be very uncomfortable and some of them, such as seizures, are potentially life-threatening. This is why benzo detox should always be done under the care of medical professionals.
How long does it take to go through benzo withdrawal?
The total time that benzo withdrawal lasts will depend on individual factors like the type of benzo taken, how much you were using and for how long. Some benzos like Valium have far longer half-lives than others like Ativan, so withdrawal from Valium can last much longer.
There are three main stages to benzo withdrawal:
Stage one: This is the acute phase and usually starts within twenty-four to forty-eight hours of your last dose. This is when most benzo withdrawal symptoms will peak.
Stage two: The second stage begins to set in a few days after the acute phase as your body starts to readjust to life without benzos. You may still experience some benzo withdrawal symptoms during this phase but they will be less severe.
Stage three: The final stage of benzo withdrawal is the post-acute phase which can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. During this time, you may experience some residual benzo withdrawal symptoms but they should be much milder than during the acute and second stages.
Some people may experience PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) which is when benzo withdrawal symptoms linger long after the acute and second stages have passed. PAWS can be very difficult to deal with but Sanctuary Lodge will help you cope with them long after you have left our facility through our aftercare programme. This will reduce the risk of relapse and ensure you stay on the road to recovery.
How to go through benzo detox safely
If you or a loved one is struggling with benzo addiction, the best thing to do is reach out to a specialist detox centre like Sanctuary Lodge. Our benzo detox programmes are tailored to each individual and our team of medical professionals will make sure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the process.
When you arrive, the consultant psychiatrist will perform a thorough medical assessment to determine your specific needs. As part of our assessment process, our psychiatrists will look at your health overall and weigh up requirements for medication should you require any.
If you are taking any other drugs, including prescription drugs and alcohol, it is very important that you share this information with our psychiatrist and support staff as these could impact detox medications. The more that is shared with us, the more comfortable we can make you during your personalised care plan.
What are the benefits of benzodiazepine detox?
There are many ways that detoxing from benzos can benefit you. These include:
- Clearing your body of benzos and other toxins
- Reducing benzo cravings
- Improving your sleep
- Restoring your appetite
- Increasing your energy levels
- Improving your mood and outlook on life.
- Recovery from the physical effects of benzo abuse
- No risk of overdose or serious health issues
- A chance to focus on your mental and emotional health in further benzo treatment
Which benzos require detox?
At Sanctuary Lodge, the most common benzodiazepines that we provide detox for are:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
Is benzo detox right for me?
If you have been taking benzos for more than a few weeks, it is likely that you will experience benzo withdrawal if you stop. Benzo detox under medical supervision can help you safely manage benzo withdrawal and get through this difficult time.
If you are unsure whether you need benzo detox, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have I been taking benzos for more than a few weeks or longer than you were prescribed?
- Do I feel like I need benzos to function?
- Am I experiencing any benzo withdrawal symptoms when I try to stop taking them?
- Am I taking benzos recreationally or other than how they are prescribed?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, benzo detox may be right for you. Get in touch with Sanctuary Lodge today and we can help you get the support and assistance you need.
Can I detox from benzos at home?
We do not recommend benzo detox at home as it can be very dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and potentially life-threatening, so it is always best to detox under the care of medical professionals.
Another potential danger of home benzodiazepine detox is an increased risk of overdose. This often happens when someone stops taking benzos for a period of time but the withdrawal symptoms get too much so they relapse. During their period of abstinence, however, their tolerance to benzos decreases. When they take the same dose they were taking before, their body is no longer able to handle it which can lead to an overdose.
Common fears about benzo detox
One reason that some people fail to get the help they need is that they are afraid of going through benzo detox. There are various reasons for this but it is important to know that many preconceptions are actually misconceptions. Here are some of the fears we hear from people and the reality behind them:
“I’m afraid of benzo withdrawal symptoms”
This is a common fear but it is important to remember that benzo withdrawal symptoms will peak during the first few days and then start to improve. At a professional detox centre like Sanctuary Lodge, you will be under 24/hour medical supervision during detox so if you do experience any severe benzo withdrawal symptoms, they can be quickly dealt with.
“I’m afraid of being judged by the other people in benzo detox”
This is another common fear but there is no need to worry about what other people think. Everyone in benzo detox is there for the same reason – to get clean and restart their lives. The other clients will be going through the same things as you so they are likely to be very understanding and supportive. At Sanctuary Lodge, all of our therapists have been through detox and recovery themselves so they also understand how you are feeling and will do everything they can to support you.
“I will relapse as soon as I return home”
This is a common fear but it is important to remember that benzo detox is just the first step on the road to recovery. At Sanctuary Lodge, we will provide you with all the tools and knowledge you need to stay clean and sober when you return home. We have an excellent aftercare programme that has been designed to reduce the risk of relapse and ensure you stay on the right track to recovery.
Is benzo detox alone enough for recovery?
Benzo detox is just the first step of the recovery journey. Alongside detox, you will need to enter a benzo rehab programme where you will receive further treatment. This may include therapy, addiction counselling and other types of support to help address the psychological aspects of your condition.
Once you return home, you will then need to continue to work on your recovery through aftercare. At Sanctuary Lodge, this includes attending regular group therapy sessions to help you stay on track. To find out more about our comprehensive benzo recovery programmes, get in touch with us today. We will be with you on every step of your recovery journey.