There’s an incredibly addictive class of drugs on the market that gives some of the calmest, serene and laid-back feelings they’ve ever had. Most of these substances allow many people to function in society in ways they never have and temporarily rid themselves of most feelings of anxiety and panic.
However, the addiction to these drugs creeps in without warning. Before they know it, a user is completely dependent on them, and missing a dose means experiencing withdrawal that manifests seizures, vertigo, and possibly even death.
Think again if this sounds like the type of drug users purchase in some seedy motel or on a street corner. The distributor of these particular drugs is a licensed practitioner, and they’re completely legal.
Benzodiazepines were originally synthesized in 1955, and by the mid-1970s, were considered a “miracle drug” and topped nearly every pharmacy’s most prescribed list. However, by the 80s and 90s, new concerns arose regarding the potential health risks surrounding benzos. Millions of people had been prescribed these anti-anxiety medications with little to no information regarding their harmful side effects and potential for withdrawal.
What ensued was an entire generation of patients becoming addicted to these prescription medications and a subsequent generation becoming fascinated with their recreational potential. Most people don’t understand that benzodiazepine detox is only one of two forms of detox that can be lethal.
Joined only by alcohol, the potential for life-threatening side-effects during abstinence is real, and it claims the lives of many people every year. The following article outlines different forms of benzos and their accompanying withdrawal risks and symptoms during detox.
What Is Benzodiazepine Detox?
Benzodiazepine detox is the process of completely ridding the body of all traces of any of these medications in the hopes of further addiction treatment. However, it’s worth noting that attempting to navigate the detox process alone is a lethal gamble that no user should take.
The process of benzodiazepine detox varies in severity depending on several factors. One of the heaviest-weighing factors is the length of addiction and consumption volume. Additionally, the specific types of benzos a user is addicted to may also play a vital role in the detoxification process.
There are multiple types of benzodiazepines, and many uniquely act on the psyche. Each specific brand has its claim to benefits, marketing toward a unique group of patients suffering from a specific category of symptoms. The following section outlines different types of benzodiazepines and crucial information surrounding them.
Types of Benzodiazepines
Currently, there are several different types of benzodiazepines available for prescription. Although they may act uniquely based on the length of effectiveness and how fast-acting they are, they all have a common goal.
Prescribed to treat a wide variety of symptoms, normally, these medications combat anxiety, panic attacks, epilepsy, insomnia, muscle tension, and other anxiety-related conditions. Some of the more popular benzos include:
Different types of benzodiazepines generally get classified based on how long or short-acting they are. Short-acting benzos include Xanax, Dormonoct, and Halcion. Alternatively, long-acting choices are Valium, Klonopin, and Librium.
Many benzos receive comparison to one another, with arguments based on strength and length of effectiveness. The following section outlines some of the most commonly compared types of benzodiazepines.
Xanax vs. Ativan vs. Valium
Xanax, Ativan, and Valium are currently three of the most highly-written medications in the benzo category. What are the specific characteristics outlining the differences of these types of benzodiazepines?
Xanax is considered effective at treating anxiety symptoms and, more specifically, written in cases of anxiety associated with depression. Doctors also commonly write Xanax prescriptions for patients that suffer from chronic panic attacks.
The fast-acting formula is what makes Xanax so popular among patients. Out of all the different types of benzodiazepines, Xanax may be the most commonly abused and sold on the black market.
Ativan is aimed at occasional and short-term anxiety and marketed to have lower interactions with other medications. Commonly written in combination with anti-depressants, patients on multiple medications usually prefer Ativan.
Despite its ability to coexist with other prescriptions, Ativan has a huge downside. Compared to other drugs in the same category, the potential for withdrawal is much higher.
Valium is commonly used as a remedy for anxiety and muscle spasms. A high potential for dependence exists with Valium, with many patients quickly requiring higher doses to obtain the same benefits.
Many medications have bad interactions with Valium, as it’s not commonly mixed with many prescriptions. However, Valium is known to have significantly less severe withdrawal symptoms than other benzos.
Each of these three medications is considered short-acting benzodiazepines. What about long-acting formulations?
Klonopin vs. Librium
Librium and Klonopin are used to combat anxiety symptoms and are considered long-acting benzos. However, each of these medications is unique because they are written commonly for other conditions.
Klonopin treats long-term and chronic anxiety or panic disorder. Considered one of the longest-acting benzos, normally, this medication is only required once or twice daily.
Many physicians also use Klonopin to treat symptoms of epilepsy. For this use, Klonopin is prescribed to adults and children.
Librium combats several symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, and traditional stress. Dosages and strengths vary depending on the specific condition for which Librium gets prescribed.
Additionally, Librium is also the only benzo typically used to combat alcohol detox symptoms. It’s not uncommon for physicians to write a Librium prescription to patients during the physical withdrawal stage of alcohol.
Benzos for Alcohol Detox
Not many types of benzodiazepines end up being used to combat alcohol detox. However, Librium is used in certain cases, and Klonopin may also rarely make it into the regimen of an alcoholic during withdrawal.
Like benzos, the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol can be deadly. Patients commonly suffer from shaking and severe tremors, as well as earth-shattering bouts of anxiety and depression.
Many physicians and rehabilitation facilities use benzos as a form of treatment for the above conditions. However, benzos may only remain available for a short time, usually until the physical withdrawal symptoms cease.
Because benzos are legal and written by trusted physicians, it is difficult to gauge when someone needs detox or rehab. While it’s easy to deduce that someone illegally abusing benzos needs detox and help from treatment, prescription holders aren’t identified as easily when help is needed.
Who Needs Benzo Detox?
Identifying who needs benzo detox is crucial in assisting someone you know to receive the help they need. The following portion of the article outlines individuals who may need benzo detox.
- Individuals that illegally abuse benzos and obtain them through sources without a prescription most likely make good candidates for benzo detox. These individuals may be especially unaware of the dangers of taking these medications because they aren’t sourced from a licensed professional.
- Patients that have a long history of benzo prescriptions (a year or more) most likely need medically assisted detox.
- In most cases, individuals who display drug-seeking behavior or shop for multiple sources for different benzos need a detox.
- Any individual that is prescribed benzos and clearly requires them to function daily is most likely physically dependent. When questioned regarding their dependence, if any denial is present, this level of addiction typically requires medically assisted detox.
Understanding who needs benzo detox is the first step in obtaining help for individuals with benzo addiction. However, when presented with evidence of addiction, many users will ask the question, “can I detox from benzos alone?”
Can I Detox from Benzos Alone?
It’s not uncommon for prescription holders and black market benzo abusers to attempt detox alone. Not only does this not promote a healthy and stable recovery, but it’s also incredibly dangerous from a medical standpoint.
Users that attempt to detox from benzos without the assistance of certified medical staff are playing a deadly game. There are significant medical risks involved with this behavior, and action should be taken against it at all costs.
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Detox
There are many dangers of benzodiazepine detox. Besides the excruciating discomfort of symptoms like restlessness, nausea, vertigo, and other issues, a marked potential for seizures and death exists.
Two of the most significant risks of the detox process include rebound anxiety and insomnia. What is rebound anxiety, and why is it so dangerous?
Rebound anxiety is a condition that past users of benzos suffer from after ceasing their everyday regimen. This condition is defined by a quick and severe return of past symptoms involved with anxiety.
The sudden return of these symptoms all at once presents mental dangers and a physical risk as well. When these past symptoms come rushing back with little to no buffer, users run the risk of the following outcomes:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Cardiac arrest
Because of these risks, access to medically assisted detox becomes a priority. One of the other dangers of benzodiazepine detox includes insomnia.
Insomnia is one of the most common side-effects of benzo withdrawal and one of the most detrimental. Without a medically managed detox program, users in recovery most likely have little to no options regarding sleep aid.
Over-the-counter remedies like melatonin and Tylenol PM offer little relief, and in some cases, may increase the severity of the issue. Aside from the extreme discomfort associated with insomnia, the following physical and mental risks are present:
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Short-term psychosis
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Weakened immune system
- Potential for cardiac issues
Without proper sleep, the body is unable to remain strong enough to combat other symptoms of withdrawal. One of the other dangers of benzodiazepine detox that must be medically managed is post-acute withdrawal symptoms. However, these often come much later for users in recovery.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are issues that persist far after the main effects of physical detox cease. These symptoms can sometimes remain for as long as six months after abstinence from benzos. The following symptoms may persist during this phase of recovery:
- Persistent, chronic anxiety
- Chronic insomnia
- Difficulty staying on task
- Extreme lack of concentration
- Lower sex drive
With therapy and alternative medical remedies, users can still find relief from post-acute withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to understand the benzo withdrawal timeline in order to gauge what phase of recovery a patient is in.
Example Benzo Withdrawal Timelines
The following section outlines examples of benzo withdrawal timelines:
First 6-8 Hours
Depending on the half-life of the specific drug of choice, patients may experience regular anxiety and insomnia.
Rebound anxiety and severe insomnia begin to manifest during this period. Night sweats and restlessness become intense, and users of long-acting benzos enter the initial phases of withdrawal. Seizures most commonly occur during this range.
Symptoms begin to fade during this period, with the most severe effects subsiding. Anything that lingers during this time will most likely completely vanish within 3-4 weeks.
Days 15 and Beyond
Management for post-acute withdrawal symptoms is important during this period. Although these symptoms come in waves, it’s important to have a plan for managing them.
During this timeline, medically supervised detox for benzos is vital. Without the assistance of medical professionals, users’ chances of success significantly decrease, and health risks increase.
Medically Supervised Detox for Benzos
Medically supervised detox for benzos includes stabilizing a patient in a professional setting. Patients are monitored around the clock to ensure their vitals remain in a healthy range.
Additionally, medical staff can take measures to prevent seizures and combat them in the event of an onset. Patients receive a range of different medications to promote a more comfortable period of detox. Many patients miss out on the benefits of medically supervised detox for benzos because of a lack of funding.
How to Pay for Benzo Detox
Most medically assisted detox centers accept multiple forms of insurance. Rarely do patients ever pay on a cash basis for these services. If a patient doesn’t have personal insurance, many locations take Medicaid and other government-provided insurance coverages.
In rare cases, patients may not have access to these insurance privileges. Some organizations and charities provide grants for individuals seeking medically assisted detox. There are many ways patients can find resources to pay for benzo detox.
After detox, it’s recommended that patients enter some form of a residential treatment facility. This gives users the greatest odds for long-term recovery.
Long Term Benzodiazepine Recovery
Residential stabilization in an inpatient rehabilitation center is vital for long-term recovery. Patients must find treatment facilities to accommodate their needs specifically to remain comfortable.
Proper mental health services are also vital for the long-term recovery process. A proper diagnosis and available alternatives to benzos will provide the greatest form of relief.
Dual Diagnosis and Benzo Alternatives
Dual diagnosis is the process of identifying other addictions and conditions that accompany benzo dependence. This process may entail treatment for other substances as well as mental health counseling for underlying conditions.
There are several benzo alternatives that users in recovery will find useful. Buspirone is beneficial for anxiety symptoms, while medications like Flumazenil work to alleviate the symptoms of benzo withdrawal. Calming exercises exist that also provide a substantial amount of relief for users in recovery and detox.
Calming techniques may be employed and taught by counselors and psychiatrists. These may include different mental exercises to relieve feelings of anxiety and breathing techniques to combat negative side effects of withdrawal.
The Best Benzo Detox for Orange County California
If you are suffering from benzodiazepine dependence, it’s important you find the best benzo detox for Orange County, California, and beyond. Circle of Hope Treatment Center has provided recovery options for many individuals suffering from the very same plight. If you’re anywhere in the United States and need a premier benzodiazepine detox, Circle of Hope will provide the resources and space that you or your loved one need for a full, long-term recovery.