Benzo Withdrawal: How Long Does It Take?

Benzo withdrawal is a process that can last for days, weeks, or months at a time, depending on the individual.

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a type of prescription medications that are most commonly used to help treat anxiety disorders. They are also approved for the treatment of sleep disorders and seizures. Popular benzos include Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin, all of which are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. 

Currently, about 40 million Americans are living with an anxiety disorder. Whether it is social phobia, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or another type of anxiety disorder, benzodiazepines can help treat symptoms across the board. 

Benzodiazepines are in a class of drugs known as central nervous system depressants, or CNS depressants. Medications that fall into this category produce mildly sedative effects when taken as prescribed. This is extremely helpful for those who grapple with anxiety disorders, as symptoms such as racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, and intrusive thoughts often regularly occur. When benzodiazepines are taken as prescribed, they can help to limit these symptoms so that individuals can experience an improved quality of life. 

Unfortunately, however, benzodiazepines are extremely addictive substances. Taking them outside of the prescribed guidelines for any reason at all can quickly lead to a slippery slope. Because benzos produce feelings of relaxation and relief, it is understandable why so many people find themselves overusing them. But, doing so can lead to the development of a full-blown addiction, which is far more dangerous than an anxiety disorder. Those who do find themselves addicted to benzos as a result of their own doing or not can become dependent on them, making ending use nearly impossible to do without the help of professionals. 

Benzodiazepine Dependence

Dependence refers to the body becoming completely reliant on the presence of a substance in order to function. Those who are dependent on benzodiazepines will find themselves growing uncomfortable and agitated when the pills wear off, signaling this very dependence. In order to prevent these and other distressing withdrawal symptoms to develop, the easiest thing to do is to use once more. But, just because it is the easiest thing to do does not mean that it is the best thing to do. Benzo addicts often find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of use that seems to pick up speed whenever withdrawal symptoms start to develop. These symptoms are the body’s way of communicating that it is not getting what it wants/needs. If a benzo addict stops their use entirely, their withdrawal symptoms will become worse and potentially deadly. This is why it is imperative to seek professional help through a detox center to ensure viability at this time.

Benzo Withdrawal 

Withdrawing from any mind-altering drug comes with its challenges — benzo withdrawal is certainly no different. While most drugs can be stopped cold turkey without the risk of severe complications, benzodiazepines cannot. In fact, ending use immediately and without tapering off of the drug first can be life-threatening. Doing this can lead to seizures and other psychotic reactions that can result in death. These symptoms, while possible, are not as common as other symptoms associated with benzo withdrawal. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea and dry heaving
  • Irritability
  • Shaky hands
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle pain
  • Problems concentrating
  • Weight loss

Each person experiences benzo addiction differently, meaning that their withdrawal experiences will differ from one another’s, too. The severity of benzo withdrawal often depends on factors such as what dose of benzos was being abused, how often was the abuse occurring, and for how long this type of abuse lasted for.

How Long Does Benzo Withdrawal Take?

Benzo withdrawal can vary in terms of the length of time it takes to start feeling better. For some, benzo withdrawal goes by quickly. But for others, some of the symptoms that developed during the withdrawal period can continue to linger for weeks, months, or even years. In general, however, the average benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline looks something like this:

  • 6-12 hours after last use — first symptoms set in and include nausea and irritability
  • 12 hours – two weeks after last use — first symptoms increase in severity while new symptoms develop, some of which can include heart palpitations, panic attacks, muscle pain, and seizures
  • Post two weeks — symptoms tend to subside 

Those who go through benzo withdrawal can start to feel much better after hitting that two-week mark, but some go on to continue to struggle with symptoms. This is known as protracted withdrawal, and it occurs in many who have a past history of benzodiazepine abuse. In most cases, symptoms such as anxiety and depression can linger on for weeks or months past the initial withdrawal. Some people continue to experience those symptoms for years. The most important thing a person can do in the event that they develop protracted withdrawal is to seek professional psychiatric care to learn how to manage symptoms and obtain medication if necessary.

Drug Detox in San Francisco

If you or a loved one is struggling with a benzo addiction, reach out to us right now. We recommend seeking professional care prior to stopping any benzo use to prevent fatality. At Marina Harbor Detox, we can help make this difficult process easier. So, call us today.

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