Withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop using an addictive substance \u2014 whether it is alcohol, a prescription medication or an illicit drug \u2014 can range from being uncomfortable to excruciatingly painful and debilitating, or even deadly. Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a category of drugs that can lead to particularly troublesome and potentially serious symptoms during the withdrawal process. Benzodiazepines are a type of medication typically prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia or seizures, and are sold as generics and also under the brand names Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Restoril and Klonopin. Withdrawal from this type of medication can be so difficult and potentially dangerous that the process has its own name: benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, or benzo withdrawal syndrome. Benzodiazepine Risks: Tolerance, Dependency, and Addiction Benzodiazepines affect the entire central nervous system, including the brain. Benzos are the top-prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States and, in fact, one of the country\u2019s most prescribed medications of any type, with nearly 50 million scripts written in the U.S. each year. Benzos aren\u2019t intended for long-term use \u2014 partly because extended use can actually exacerbate certain conditions. Some experts feel these medications are not very effective in treating the conditions for which they are most commonly prescribed. Yet, for a variety of reasons (cost, insurance, limited access to alternative medications or non-medication-based therapies, lack of warnings about benzodiazepine risks), benzos tend to be overprescribed and overused. The risk of overuse \u2014 whether too high a dose or too long a course of treatment, or both \u2014 can lead to physical tolerance to the medication. Once physical tolerance develops, a person may feel the need to increase their dose to get the same effect. As the dose increases, so do the risks for dependency and addiction. A further complication is that withdrawal symptoms may begin to manifest between doses. If this happens, a person may begin to take their doses closer together in an effort to relieve symptoms such as increased tension, anxiety and sleeplessness, among others. This is a vicious cycle that spells trouble for many users. Benzo Withdrawal Syndrome Basics Experts emphasize that not everyone who tries to cut back on or quit benzodiazepines will experience a terrible withdrawal process. Because benzos affect every individual somewhat differently, people can have varying symptoms and experiences during withdrawal. It is estimated that roughly 50% to 80% of people who have taken benzos for at least six months will experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting or reducing their dose. Not everyone reducing dosages or quitting benzos will experience full-blown benzo withdrawal syndrome, but since it is always a risk, dose-reducing or quitting should be done only under the supervision of a licensed psychiatrist or medical doctor who has direct and extensive experience with benzodiazepines. Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms Withdrawal symptoms and their duration can vary, depending on whether a person has been taking a short-acting or a long-acting benzo, how high the dose and for how long. With short-acting benzos, the withdrawal phase is typically short and acute, lasting several days. With long-acting benzos, the withdrawal phase can be significantly longer, with moderate to acute symptoms lasting 90 days or more. The more common and less severe benzo withdrawal symptoms are \u201crebound\u201d symptoms that manifest within one to four days of discontinuing benzodiazepines, depending on which benzo medication was used. These withdrawal symptoms can last up to 10 days or so and may include: \tsleep disturbance and irritability \tincreased tension and rebound anxiety or panic attacks \thand tremors \tsweating \tdifficulty concentrating \tnausea and vomiting\/dry-retching, which can lead to weight loss \tpalpitations \theadache, muscular pain and stiffness \tmild to moderate perceptual changes \tdrug cravings Less common but more severe symptoms can occur about 10 to 14 days after quitting or reducing the medication, and this is the pattern of symptoms referred to as benzo withdrawal syndrome. These more serious symptoms can include: \thallucinations \tpsychosis or psychotic reactions \tseizures \tincreased risk for suicide Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms Post-acute withdrawal symptoms may continue to occur over the next three to six months, during which an individual can experience repeated bouts of anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability and depression. A phenomenon of benzo withdrawal syndrome is that, unlike other substance withdrawal processes that are characterized by steady decreases in symptoms over time, benzo-related withdrawal symptoms are highly variable and can come and go. They may vary in severity and frequency through all phases of the withdrawal process. It should be noted that people who take benzos long-term may even experience negative symptoms while they are still taking the medication without realizing these are connected to the medication. For example, they may suffer from other physical or mental health problems without realizing that these issues stem from the benzodiazepines in their system. A person undergoing withdrawal from benzos may experience additional withdrawal symptoms associated with these mental and physical ailments. Treating Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome The complexity and unpredictability of benzo withdrawal syndrome makes it challenging to treat, but successful treatment and recovery are possible. To ensure your safety as you detox, addiction experts recommend that you seek medically assisted treatment (MAT) where medical staff can safely taper you off the medication while monitoring you and making you more comfortable as you gradually detoxify benzodiazepines from your system. In a MAT program, medical staff will be on hand to assist you if you encounter any of the more severe symptoms. Once acute detoxification has been completed and your condition is stabilized, you can transition to the rehabilitation phase of your treatment. Benzodiazepine treatment is available in various settings, including outpatient or intensive outpatient (IOP) programs, residential\/inpatient, luxury rehab, or independent counseling and treatment with a psychiatrist or addiction specialist. Duration of treatment may be 14, 30, 60 or 90 days or longer. Post-treatment counseling and support are recommended to help you sustain long-term recovery. Therapy Options for Treatment Approaches to treatment that have the highest probability for successful recovery are those that offer MAT, individualized treatment planning to meet each client\u2019s unique needs, a range of medicine- and non-medicine-based therapy approaches to ensure healthy withdrawal and recovery, individual and group counseling, relapse prevention measures and support, as well as information about preventing overdose in the event that you relapse. Larger treatment centers and more comprehensive programs typically offer multiple types of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy, as well as other services, including dual diagnosis and treatment to address any co-occurring disorders. Some therapies offered might include: \tCognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) \t 12-step group sessions \tFamily therapy or couples counseling \tStress management therapy \tRelapse prevention planning Many centers also offer nutritional plans that help diminish withdrawal symptoms and rebuild health, and alternative or experiential approaches to recovery such as yoga, mindfulness, neurofeedback, art therapy, and animal therapy, among others. Even if you don\u2019t find all of these services in one place, you might seek classes in these modalities in your local community to enhance your treatment. The important thing to know about benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is that help is available to help you deal with it, and many people who have experienced it have healed and achieved recovery. Frequently Asked Questions - Benzo Addictions Are benzodiazepines dangerous? When taken as prescribed to treat anxiety, panic, insomnia, and convulsions, benzos are safe. \u00a0Always make sure the use of a benzo prescription drug like Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), or Librium (chlordiazepoxide) is closely monitored by your doctor.\u00a0\u00a0Research shows some people become physically dependent on benzos like Xanax (alprazolam) if they take large doses or long periods of time. Benzodiazepines are dangerous when you abuse them. They're also dangerous when you combine them with other substances like alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports: \t32% of ER visits involving benzodiazepines resulted in serious outcomes like hospitalization or death \t44% of ER visits involving benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers resulted in serious outcomes \t\u00a044% of ER visits involving benzodiazepines and alcohol resulted in serious\u00a0 outcomes \t50% of hospital emergency visits involving benzodiazepines, opioids, and alcohol resulted in serious health outcomes \t70% of ER visits involving people 65 or older who used benzodiazepines with alcohol and opioid pain relievers resulted in serious outcomes Drug overdose involving benzodiazepines like Ativan (lorazepam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Valium (diazepam) and Xanax\u00a0(alprazolam) quadrupled between 2002 and 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are benzodiazepines prescribed to treat? Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs that treat: \tAnxiety disorder \tPanic disorder \tInsomnia \tSeizures \tMuscle spasms \tAlcohol withdrawal symptoms in alcohol detox What types of drugs are benzodiazepines? Benzodiazepines are also known as \u201cbenzos\u201d or \u201cbenzies.\u201d These drugs are found in many forms, including: \tXanax (alprazolam) \tValium (diazepam) \tLibrium (chlordiazepoxide) \tTranxene (clorazepate) \tPaxipam (halazepam) \tCentrax or Verstran (prazepam) \tKlonopin\/Clonopin (clonazepam) \tDalmane (flurazepam) \tSerax (oxazepam) \tAtivan (lorazepam) \tRestoril (temazepam) \tHalcion (triazolam) How do benzodiazepines work? Benzodiazepines work by enhancing GABA receptors (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA receptors are responsible for depressing the central nervous system. They help you feel calm and relaxed. GABA-enhancing drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) treat anxiety, panic disorder, and other issues. What are the short-term effects of benzodiazepines? Benzodiazepines can have a number of short-term effects. These may include: \tDrowsiness \tDizziness \tDecreased alertness \tPoor concentration \tLack of coordination, falls and injuries (especially in the elderly) \tDecreased libido and sexual performance problems \tNausea \tBlurred vision \tEuphoria \tNightmares \tChanges in appetite \tDepression \tHypotension and suppressed breathing (when injected intravenously) What are the long-term effects of benzodiazepines? Long-term use of benzodiazepines can be dangerous. It can lead to adverse physical and mental health effects, including tolerance and dependence. Severe symptoms usually occur with abrupt or rapid withdrawal, so most professionals recommend a gradual reduction. \tTolerance develops quickly with long-term use of benzodiazepines. This can lead to benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal symptoms. The most frequent withdrawal symptoms are: \tInsomnia \tGastric problems \tTremors \tAgitation \tMuscle spasms \tFearfulness \tLess common withdrawal symptoms are: \tIrritability \tSweating \tDepression \tPsychosis \tSuicidal behavior \tSeizures \tOther adverse effects of long-term benzodiazepine addiction can include a general deterioration in physical and mental health like: \tCognitive impairments \tBehavioral problems \tAnxiety and depression \tLoss of sex drive \tAgoraphobia \tSocial phobia \tAltered perception \tInability to experience or express feelings \tChronic, recreational abusers may experience: \tAggression \tViolence \tImpulsivity \tIrritability \tSuicidal behavior Long-term drug abuse with benzodiazepines may require residential or intensive outpatient rehab. This allows you to safely detox from taking the drug. You'll learn relapse prevention skills and healthy self-care habits. Call us today .