Benzodiazepine Detox and Withdrawal

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Benzodiazepine withdrawal occurs when someone suffering from Benzodiazepine addiction stops. This can trigger life-threatening health complications. A medical detox in a hospital is recommended for safe withdrawal from Benzodiazepine.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are classed as anti-anxiolytic drugs which affect GABA receptors within the brain. In Australia, they are available via prescription only (S4) and commonly prescribed as a short-term measure in the treatment of anxiety, muscle spasms and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are classified as short or long acting.

It is recommended that benzodiazepines be prescribed for short term use because they can become physically and mentally addictive when used long term, with the dosage needing to be increased to achieve the desired effects.

Often benzodiazepines are used in conjunction with other substances, for example, alcohol, and illicit substances such as methamphetamines, cocaine, and ice.

When patients present with an addiction to benzodiazepines in addition to other substances, also known as poly drug use, detoxification from each substance should be clinically initiated in a hospital setting.

There are various patterns to benzodiazepine use amongst individuals in addiction. Patients using high doses of benzodiazepines regularly over long periods of time may experience a withdrawal syndrome.

Withdrawal syndrome is dependent upon the type of benzodiazepine that is being abused and what other substances of addiction are being used in tandem.

Features of dependence include:

  • Withdrawal history (if a patient has tried to withdraw from benzodiazepines and experienced seizures, they are less likely to want to stop)
  • Increased tolerance to effects of drug
  • Withdrawal symptoms if drug is removed
  • Inability to control use despite negative consequences

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawing from benzodiazepines in a hospital setting is planned according to what other drugs of addiction the patient may be dependent on. Poly drug use will present complexities in the withdrawal process that are often not present with a single drug withdrawal.

How dramatic the symptoms of detox are from benzodiazepines depend on whether they are short or long acting. Withdrawal symptoms for short acting benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax) will start within six hours of ceasing the drug use and often be more intense than the symptoms of withdrawing from longer acting forms, for example, diazepam (Antenex, Valium). In particularly severe cases, patients may need to be swapped from short to long-acting benzodiazepines before a complete detox from the drug can occur.

When someone detoxes from benzodiazepine use, they can expect to experience the following:

  • Rebound anxiety and insomnia
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Seizures
  • Excessive sweating
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • “Benzo” belly – alternating diarrhoea and constipation which can persist in the longer term.

How Long Does Benzodiazepine Detox Take?

The time needed to detox from benzodiazepines hinges on the type of benzodiazepine and degree of addiction, with milder cases taking a week or so to detox, while more severe benzodiazepine addiction taking up to twelve weeks, which is important to reduce to onset of life-threatening side effects as described above.

How to Safely Treat Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

If poly drug use is present, detox must be initiated in a hospital environment for the patient’s safety.

Hader Clinic Queensland Private hospital is Queensland’s only specialist detoxification hospital that manages substance abuse addiction. The hospital specialises in complex detoxification processes that are the result of poly substance abuse. Additionally, the hospital provides an in-patient psychosocial rehabilitation program to kickstart long term recovery from the disease of addiction.

Referral can be made through your GP or psychiatrist with immediate admission available.

Enquire Now

For more information about our detox and withdrawal programs please get in touch.

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Hader Clinic Queensland Private Hospital is HDAA accredited and complies with the requirements of the National Safety & Quality Health Service Standards. Certificate number 1316NSQ1.