Get help! Speak with an addiction specialist today.
Call (928) 723-1202
Updated on November 10, 2022

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Detox (Benzo Detox)

Overview: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Detox

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are prescription drugs that treat anxiety and panic attacks. They are also used as muscle relaxers.

Benzos are safe and effective when used correctly, but carry a risk of addiction. If a person develops a dependence on benzos, they might experience withdrawal.

Sponsored

Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

Detoxing From Benzos

Medically supervised detox includes tapering down the dosage of benzodiazepines. Reducing the dosage in increments lowers the risk of serious side effects. 

Detoxing from benzodiazepines can be life-threatening without proper medical supervision. Seizures and suicidal behaviors are the two most dangerous risks. 

Approximately a third of people receiving treatment may experience grand mal seizures. Quitting cold turkey can also increase the risk of seizures. 

The detox and recovery process for benzos can last several months. This depends on the duration of use.

Detox Timeline for Benzodiazepine

A detox induces withdrawal symptoms, which begin after 24 hours. Symptoms can last for a few days up to several months. This depends on the abuse length and benzo's strength.

Withdrawal symptoms can worsen by the second day and improve around the third day. Users of short-acting benzos (valium) may experience withdrawal symptoms sooner and with more intensity

Acute withdrawal from short-acting benzodiazepines might last between 2 and 4 weeks. On the other hand, acute withdrawal from long-acting benzos can last between 2 and 8 weeks.2

Should You Detox at Home?

Detoxing from benzos requires proper care and attention for it to be successful. Without proper care and treatment, the withdrawal symptoms from benzos can be dangerous. At worst, it can be fatal.3

With that in mind, doctors do not recommend detoxing from benzos at home. Without medical intervention, there is an extremely high risk of suffering from the negative consequences of benzo withdrawal.

3 Benzo Detox Medications

Several medications are used to ease benzo detox symptoms. Three of the most common include:

1. Buspirone

Buspirone is for people taking benzos for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It does not have a physical dependence risk and relieves emotional withdrawal symptoms. It takes two to three weeks to take effect.

2. Flumazenil

This drug is mainly used to treat benzodiazepine overdoses. There is also some evidence that it reduces the withdrawal symptoms of long-acting benzos. 

It works by blocking the effects of benzos and relieving withdrawal symptoms by attaching to the same pleasure centers in the brain.

3. Clonidine

Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that has shown promise for treating benzo addiction. It blocks chemicals in the brain that trigger activity in the sympathetic nervous system. 

People who use clonidine experience less uncomfortable detox. Clonidine is also known to reduce anxiety, and some believe it shortens the detox process.

Questions About Insurance?

Addiction specialists are available 24/7 to help you navigate costs, insurance, and payment options

Learn More Who answers?
Man giving thumbs up

Benzodiazepine Poly-Drug Abuse

Benzodiazepine abuse is dangerous alone but even more so in combination with other drugs. Benzos are typically co-abused with other drugs due to their euphoric effects. 

One of the most common drugs abused with benzos is opioids. The combination has negative consequences for general health, overdose lethality, and treatment outcome.8

The negative effects of poly-drug abuse include:

  • Brain damage
  • Coma
  • Heart problems
  • Seizures
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Liver damage and failure
  • Heatstroke
  • Suppressed breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Death

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

The time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to occur depends on what type of benzos was taken. The longer someone has been using, the worse withdrawal symptoms will be.

  • 8 to 12 hours: For short-acting benzos (Xanax, Dormonoct, Halcion).
  • 24 to 48 hours: For long-acting benzos (Valium, Klonopin, Librium).

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased tension
  • Mental health issues
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscular stiffness or discomfort
  • Mild to moderate changes in perception
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cravings
  • Hand tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies

Short-acting benzos trigger more intense and severe withdrawal symptoms. Long-acting benzos trigger less intense withdrawal symptoms. 

How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The duration of withdrawal depends on the dosage and length of use. Symptoms from the mildest addictions resolve within seven to ten days.

Severe addictions can result in withdrawal symptoms that last up to three months. This is due to the slow tapering process of the drug, which helps prevent potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.

Rebound symptoms are possible when someone stops using benzodiazepines. These symptoms “rebound” because the disorders were present before the medication. Rebound symptoms usually last about two to three days.

Who Is At Risk of Benzodiazepine Addiction?

Millions of people take benzodiazepines every year, all of whom are at risk of developing an addiction. Doctors usually only prescribe these drugs for short-term use because of this risk.

Symptoms of benzo abuse and addiction include:

  • Anorexia
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems

Get Personalized Care

The best treatment is one that works for YOU. An addiction specialist can answer your questions and guide you through your options. Get the help YOU need today.

Learn More Who answers?

Benzo Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for benzodiazepine withdrawal varies from person to person. In general, withdrawal occurs according to the following timeline:

Eight to Twelve Hours after the Last Dose

The first symptoms of withdrawal are anxiety and insomnia. These occur as the medication leaves a person’s body.

Days 1 to 4

Rebound anxiety and insomnia reach their peak during this time. Detoxification can trigger the following: 

  • Intense discomfort
  • Increased heart
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Sweating 
  • Nausea

The first withdrawal symptoms begin during this period for people who use longer-acting benzos.

Days 10 to 14

Withdrawal symptoms from short-acting benzos begin to taper off around this time. For those using longer-acting benzos, symptoms will continue for approximately three to four weeks.

Days 15 and Onward

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) might occur during this time. PAWS triggers sharp withdrawal symptoms long after a person has taken their last dose. This can last for as long as six months

Following a tapering schedule can reduce the risk of PAWS. Symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Persistent anxiety
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Depression

Benzo Overdose Risks & Symptoms

Overdose is a risk when abusing benzodiazepines. Mixing benzodiazepines with other drugs increases the risk of overdose. This is especially true for substances that affect the central nervous system (e.g., alcohol). 

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Physical weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Poor decision-making abilities and poor judgment
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of motor coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to defend oneself in the case of an attack or threat
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing

Fatal overdoses can occur when benzos are mixed with alcohol or an opioid.

Treatment Options

Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction does not end after detox. Long-lasting sobriety requires ongoing therapy and support. 

Additional treatment options include:

The best treatment is one that works for you. An addiction specialist can answer your questions and guide you through your options. Get the help you need today.

Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
background wider circles

Resources

MORE
LESS
Arrow Down Icon
  1. Benzos and Overdose: Be Aware of the Risks and Signs.” Stop Overdose BC, 2019. 
  2. Yasaei R, Saadabadi A., “Clonidine.” StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
  3. Jonathan B., Murnion B. “Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence.” Australian prescriber, 2015.
  4. Benzodiazepine dependence and its treatment with low dose flumazenil.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015. 
  5. Mader, et al. “Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Catatonia, Delirium, and Seizures in a Patient With Schizoaffective Disorder.” Journal of investigative medicine high impact case reports, 2020.
  6. Withdrawal effects of benzodiazepines” mind.org.uk, 2021.
  7. Lerner, A., & Klein, M. “Dependence, withdrawal and rebound of CNS drugs: An update and regulatory considerations for new drugs development.” Brain Communications, 2019.
  8. Jones, Jermaine D et al. “Polydrug abuse: a review of opioid and benzodiazepine combination use.” Drug and alcohol dependence, 2012.

Related Pages