Benzodiazepine Detox & Withdrawal

in Detox
Published Oct 1, 2020
benzo detox and withdrawal

Once a person stops using a benzodiazepine, a period of adjustment called withdrawal follows. It can be distressing both physically and psychologically, as the body and brain need time to adjust and recover. During this period, a strong support system of medically trained professionals and recovery support is important. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe, even dangerous, if a person stops taking the drug too abruptly.

How long does benzodiazepine withdrawal last?

The answer to this question depends on the elimination or half-life of the benzodiazepine. Typically, withdrawal begins within one to three days of the last dose, but it can take weeks. There are a number of factors to consider with withdrawal, such as the dosage the person is on, how long they have been taking it, and whether they have been taking a short-acting benzodiazepine. Also, some benzodiazepines can accumulate in the bloodstream after repeated administration, so this may cause prolonged withdrawal symptoms. Initial symptoms include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and increased heart rate and blood pressure, feeling agitated, and changes in appetite. 

The acute phase of withdrawal, known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, is said to last between five and 28 days. The person usually experiences a peak of severity around one to two weeks post-withdrawal, after which symptoms return to a pre-withdrawal phase. In some cases, the person may experience a protracted withdrawal (also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or “PAWS,” for short), which can last for months or longer.

What are the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal?

Stopping benzodiazepine medications without professional intervention, such as medical detox, can cause a number of unpleasant and prolonged side effects. Benzodiazepines alter the brain’s chemistry, causing things to slow down. Therefore, abruptly ceasing long-term benzodiazepine use can cause too dramatic a change in brain activity, leading to unpleasant side effects including:

  • Nightmares
  • Delusions
  • Convulsions
  • Seizure
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Intense anxiety
  • Irritability


Risks of home detox

In this instance, detox is the process of stopping using substance and detoxifying the body at home without medical intervention. Due to the number of health risks associated with home detox, it is not advised by medical professionals. It can be particularly dangerous to suddenly stop drinking or taking drugs cold turkey, rather than tapering off.

Home detox is rarely successful because the side effects of stopping are so unpleasant that the risk of relapse is high.

It is strongly advised by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to seek professional intervention, especially if the person has been using substances persistently, to ensure they overcome risks of home detox.

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon the principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.” SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

Again, there are a number of risks with home detox—particularly in the cases of alcohol and benzodiazepines. Medically-monitored detox centers are a crucial aspect of the recovery process. They ensure that the person is treated safely and also reduce the risk of complications that might arise from the detox process. According to SAMHSA, almost 80 percent of professional detoxification use medication to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Gallus also offers a unique outpatient benzodiazepine taper support program with medical supervision, MD visits, and individual therapy.

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432