Author: James Anderson

A Secret Weapon for Stopping Benzodiazepines Safely

how to get off benzos

There’s the teenager who realizes he can skim some Xanax from a parent without being noticed. There’s the busy professional borrowing a friend’s Klonopin (clonazepam) to alleviate work stress and anxiety. There are people who move from using these drugs as directed to abusing them as they build a tolerance and as a result, continue taking more and more to get the same effects. However, this method poses several serious health risks and is not encouraged.

  1. A 2018 analysis also revealed that drug misuse accounts for about 17% of benzodiazepine use among adults in the United States.
  2. Other therapies, including counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may be helpful for people looking to manage symptoms without relying on other drugs.
  3. Brett, Jonathan; et al. “Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence.” Australian Prescriber, October 1, 2015.
  4. Although many symptoms subside after the acute withdrawal phase, lingering side effects are possible.
  5. It is recommended to conduct this method alongside a doctor so that safe amounts are removed each week.

Along with these symptoms, the person may experience severe cravings for the drug or other drugs to sedate them. Withdrawal symptoms may begin after as little as 3–6 weeks of use, even when a person uses the drugs as the doctor directed. People who have been through acute withdrawal often say that this phase is the most difficult.

How we reviewed this article:

A benzo taper can sometimes rid someone recovering from withdrawal symptoms. This is because tapering allows the central nervous system to adjust to the drug’s removal slowly. Over time, the medication you are substituting with is tapered down until you can safely stop it. Common side effects include slurred speech, memory loss, confusion, sleepiness, and increased fall risk. If people become tolerant, and as the dose is increased to get more therapeutic benefit, the side effects get worse, too.

By this time, some people may start to feel psychological symptoms like anxiety and irritability on top of their remaining physical symptoms. People may begin to experience insomnia or unpleasant dreams when they are able to fall asleep. Direct tapering is when you continue to use the same medication you have become dependent on but at lower doses over time. Doing so allows your body time to gradually adjust to having less and less medication in your system throughout your taper. This can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and decrease the likelihood of relapsing.

An addiction treatment facility or specialist can also help with this process if your doctor is not available or you’d like additional treatment or support. Weaning yourself off a benzodiazepine without medical supervision can be complex. If you accidentally taper too quickly, your doctor can adjust the schedule to ease breakthrough withdrawal symptoms. Also, make sure your doctor knows all other medications you are taking so they can prepare the best plan for you. There are several options that can help when you are tapering off benzodiazepines.

how to get off benzos

There is a risk that people who quit benzodiazepines without a taper may experience a life-threatening grand mal seizure. If you go into withdrawal without tapering, you also risk experiencing delirium and hallucinations that cause you to lose touch with reality—a terrifying and dangerous experience. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be risky, so it is best to work with a doctor. Depending on which benzodiazepine you are currently taking, your doctor may want to switch you to a different one before your taper begins. Short-acting benzodiazepines complicate withdrawal with too many ups and downs.

According to the classification, these drugs have a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may be mild in people who take the drugs for short periods. However, there is still a possibility of severe reactions and withdrawal symptoms. The best resource in your quest to quit benzodiazepines is your prescribing doctor. If you prefer someone else, any primary care physician or psychiatrist can help you taper your dose.

Treatment and support

There are many different formulations of benzodiazepines, along with many different brand names. Often nicknamed “benzos,” these drugs can become highly addictive if they aren’t used properly. They can design a taper schedule to decrease your benzo dose gradually. This may involve prescribing lower doses of medication(s) so you do not need to cut up higher-dose pills.

People in recovery have to find drug-free ways to relieve pain and stress — here are some that are proven to work. In this piece, we’ll discuss benzo addiction and proven strategies to get clean.

What makes benzodiazepine withdrawal so dangerous?

For those of us working in the mental health field, it may not be surprising to hear that psychological support makes a big difference. However, studies like these are important as they establish that what we do works. People wanting or needing to stop benzodiazepines can do it with appropriate help—and it may just take a handful of visits with a trained primary care provider or mental health provider. Tapering the drug by slowly reducing the prescription strength may help make withdrawal symptoms much easier to manage. Additionally, medical supervision allows doctors to respond much more quickly to potential side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from benzodiazepines can be a difficult, even dangerous process.

Benzo Detox at FHE Health

Buspirone provides a non-benzodiazepine option for treating these instances, and its effects are considered similar to benzodiazepines but without the potential for physical dependence. Many people can trace their hesitation to stop benzos to the withdrawal symptoms. At its core, tapering is about slowly familiarizing the body to live without benzos while making withdrawal manageable. People with mental health problems may end up needing more intensive treatment, but as of now their rates of successful stopping with or without psychological support are not known. Clearly, we need to know more about how to make the stopping process, also called “deprescribing,” easier.

When benzos are removed from the system, it leads to higher-than-normal GABA levels, which leads to overexcitement of the CNS. To do so, researchers pooled results from several published clinical trials and performed a metanalysis. In people with co-occurring substance use disorders, they are also very risky. Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs interact with opioids and other sedating drugs, and their combination perpetuates overdose and death. In severe cases, benzodiazepine and Z-drug withdrawal can be life-threatening, causing seizures and hallucinations. It’s no wonder that many people who make an attempt to stop quickly give up the fight, resigning themselves to being on them long-term.

Benzodiazepine, or benzo, withdrawal happens when a person suddenly stops taking benzodiazepine drugs, which doctors do not recommend. The withdrawal symptoms, which vary in severity, typically begin within 24 hours and may last from a few days to a few months. Short-acting benzodiazepines, like triazolam, pass quickly through the body, so you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms sooner — sometimes within a matter of hours. Even if you don’t experience the severe — and potentially fatal — end of the list of benzo withdrawal symptoms, quitting without help is highly unlikely to be successful. Recovery is a lifelong battle, and you’ll need comprehensive support to fight it.

Diazepam, a long-acting benzodiazepine, is the most common choice for dose tapering. The best way to quit benzodiazepines is to avoid withdrawal by asking your doctor to taper down your dose. Tapering means taking progressively smaller doses over the course of a few weeks or months. The onset of benzodiazepine withdrawal depends on the specific medication you are taking. Short-acting drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) leave the system quicker, which means withdrawal symptoms can appear in as little as eight to 12 hours. When tapering off benzodiazepines, you’ll always want to work with a trained healthcare professional who can monitor you for side effects and adjust your pace accordingly.

If you stop or reduce your dose suddenly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. People with benzodiazepine tolerance may take supratherapeutic doses because the recommended range no longer provides relief for their symptoms. The higher dose may help ease your symptoms, but it can also increase your risk of overdose and severe withdrawal symptoms. It’s incredibly important to follow your doctor’s guidance when you stop taking benzodiazepines. If you stop taking them “cold turkey,” or all at once, you may experience severe, even life threatening, withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines are habit-forming prescription drugs used to treat several stress-related conditions, such as anxiety disorders, insomnia, epilepsy and even alcohol withdrawal.