An Introduction To Benzo Withdrawal Syndrome
Benzo withdrawal syndrome occurs when a person becomes dependent on a benzodiazepine. Our brains and bodies habituate what we put into them. If we consume a benzo regularly, our body integrates the benzo into its natural processes. When we stop we experience withdrawal symptoms. Benzo withdrawal syndrome can prove hard to handle. But even in the most dire circumstances, recovery remains possible.
In this post, you will learn:
- What are benzodiazepines?
- What are benzodiazepines prescribed for?
- What is withdrawal? What is benzo withdrawal syndrome?
- How do we treat benzo withdrawal syndrome?
- What if I still have questions about benzo withdrawal syndrome?
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Chemist Leo Sternbach created the first benzodiazepine in 1955. Pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche marketed it as Librium in 1960. In 1963, diazepam increased the presence of benzos in pharmacies. We know diazepam better under the name “Valium.”
Other common benzodiazepines include:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Traxene (clorazepate)
- Restoril (temazepam)
How Do Benzodiazepines Work?
Our brains make a chemical called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). Brain researchers refer to GABA as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means that GABA blocks some of the brain’s many tiny processes. As a result, GABA helps balance our moods, thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Benzos interact with the GABA amino acid in the brain. Benzos make GABA more effective. This helps regulate the messages passing from the brain to the body. When used correctly, benzos can be helpful for things like short-term or occasional treatment of anxiety or panic attacks. The highly addictive nature of benzos has been a cause for concern for many physicians however.
What Are Benzodiazepines Prescribed For?
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons for a benzodiazepine prescription. Benzos can lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms. When taken, benzos get to work on the double. Someone in a panic may feel relieved almost instantly. We mentioned the amino acid GABA above. GABA helps moderate our sleeping and waking cycles. So, a physician might also prescribe a benzodiazepine for insomnia. Doctors also use benzodiazepines to treat those suffering from epilepsy. Because of the way benzos impact the brain, they can minimize seizures.
Benzodiazepines And Alcohol Withdrawal
Benzodiazepines aid in easing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. When treatment centers detox those suffering from alcohol withdrawal, they often employ benzos. Alcohol withdrawal causes immense discomfort, pain, and confusion. It can even become fatal. Because benzos act on the amino acid GABA, they can mitigate some of these symptoms. Seizures account for another symptom of alcohol withdrawal. As previously mentioned, benzos can control seizures. This makes another reason why treatment providers use them when assisting those suffering from AWS.
What Is Withdrawal?
When a person consumes a drug for a certain period of time, they become dependent on it. Dependence means that the person cannot function properly without the drug. If a person has become dependent on a substance, they may suffer withdrawal. When the body has been deprived of the drug for too long, withdrawal results. Symptoms of withdrawal cover a wide range of physical and emotional conditions. They range from mild irritability to respiratory failure.
What Is Benzo Withdrawal Syndrome?
Withdrawing from benzodiazepines presents a complicated circumstance. It happens often enough to have a given name: benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. You may see this phrase abbreviated as BZD withdrawal or BWS. The fast onset of benzos contributes to BWS. When consumed, benzos take effect almost instantly. People who take them report feeling changes right away. This study recommends that prescribers limit supplies of benzos to 1-2 weeks. Furthermore, the study states that any patient taking benzos for longer than 3-4 weeks can withdraw. Long-term benzodiazepine can cause a decline in mental faculties.
Some symptoms of benzo withdrawal syndrome include:
- Rebound anxiety: feelings of fear, panic, or distress (that resulted in the benzo prescription in the first place) can come back stronger than before
- Sleep problems
- Heart palpitations
How Do We Prevent Benzo Withdrawal Syndrome?
Preventing benzo withdrawal begins before you stop taking the medication. To avert benzo withdrawal syndrome, view your benzo prescription as a short-term solution. As listed above, long-term benzo use has harmful effects. Even people taking benzos for a single month bear a risk of withdrawal. Best practices tell us to taper clients off of benzos. Tapering involves gradually reducing your prescription over an extended period of time. Exercise mindfulness and pay attention to the changes in your prescription. Likewise, report any sudden shifts in your mood or wellbeing to your treatment provider.
Are There Medications That Help With Benzo Withdrawal?
A few medications have shown some effectiveness in treating benzo withdrawal.
- Anticonvulsants: drugs used in the treatment of epilepsy, many of which do not fall into the category of benzos
What Can I Do To Avoid Benzo Withdrawal?
If a healthcare provider prescribes benzos for you, take them as instructed. Take only the prescribed dose. And take it in the manner your provider recommends. Consume your medication within the outlined time frame. For example, if your prescription says 2mg daily by mouth twice a day, then stick with it. You must adhere to your prescription regimen. Do not stray from it simply because of how you feel at a particular moment. Always follow your provider’s guidance. Never stop taking your medication cold turkey. Should you desire to make any changes to your medication plan, first clear it with your provider. That said, express yourself openly to your treatment provider. If you have concerns about your medication, speak up! If the medicine makes you feel bad, then say so! You pay your treatment provider to help you. Use their knowledge as a resource to educate yourself on what you put into your body.
What If I Still Have Questions About Benzo Withdrawal Syndrome?
In this blog, we examined benzo withdrawal syndrome. We learned about the purposes of benzodiazepines. We gained wisdom about how to ease benzo withdrawal syndrome. We even listed several benzo withdrawal medications. But at Blue Hills, individual recovery begins with our Admissions process. If you or someone that you live struggles with addiction to benzodiazepines, give Blue Hills a shout. Tap the phone button to call us. If you’re not quite ready to talk, that’s ok. Fill out the contact form below to send us an email.